I don't know if it was delayed jet lag, the change in weather, or just my brain slowly trying to switch from Italian to Austrian (I don't want to admit how many times I responded 'si' out of habit). Whatever the reason, I found myself quite disoriented when I first got to Vienna. I'd planned a walk through the city, but after blinking at my notes for a full two minutes, I gave up and just joined a walking tour. It felt pretty good having someone else decide where I was going, for a change!
I spent the rest of my time in Vienna creating some of the experiences that the city's known for. My top three:
1. Whiling away a few hours at one of the old coffee shops. Did you know Starbucks had plans to majorly enter Vienna, given the Viennese seemed so fond of their coffee houses - but had to stop after just 30 odd shops because the locals just weren't interested? Looking at the naturally elegant crowd around me, I could quite understand.
2. Walking through the Vienna Woods, a branch of the foothills of the Alps. Vienna's divided into districts - which reminds me of Hunger Games - and you get a nice view of the city and the wine gardens in Grinzing below + an easy entryway into the woods from Kahlenberg in District 19. I was fascinated by the fact that we weren't really that far from the city, and yet it was a whole other world. Actually, the same can be said for Austria in general - it's like suddenly stepping into a whole other century.
3. I stood/sat in line for five hours to get tickets to Nabucco at the Vienna State Opera. It's the work which established Verdi's international reputation as a composer and I was thrilled to recognize the chorus of the Hebrew slaves. I can't believe I'm saying this, but it was worth the wait. I also listened to the Vienna Symphonic play Beethoven, Gershwin and more at a concert arranged by the Mauthausen Committee to celebrate the anniversary of liberation. Let's just say it was aptly called the Festival of Joy. There's something really special about college kids in suits and old people holding burgers all sitting around waiting for the music to begin. A child who couldn't have been more than 10 played Brahms on his ipod! Music is clearly respected here; whether it's played at the Staatsoper or on the subway.
I have no idea how a city this posh gets away with not being snooty, but it isn't. Vienna is majestic, and secure with its place in the world. I'd move here in a heartbeat, it's the calmest big city I've come across... and I love the bike lanes and the very informative digital displays in the trams. The latter probably tells you all you need to know about Vienna - it doesn't rest on its laurels; there isn't just a has-been sense of grandeur here. Vienna's glory-day is still very much in progress!