Vienna and Venice

I always find it rather overwhelming to contemplate writing complete updates of exciting adventures, especially when they’re 10 days in length. I mean, I wax on for the equivalent of two pages on a relatively boring weekend. What will my tally then be for an exciting 10 days? So then I put it off… and before you know it, I never did give you an update. So instead, I try to be concise. Clear. To the point. Shan’t use a word more than necessary. I shall be the soul of brevity, giving you only so much information (as is dictated by my wisdom and experience as an English major graduated from the august educational institution that is Connecticut College) as I consider to be elucidating and interesting, and critical to the story of our adventures, or, as they may be called, misadventures. I shall take no tangents, and my clauses (if I have any) shall be short and unparenthetical. Indeed, when I am done with this update, you shall all be comparing the sparseness of my prose to that of Hemingway, or others of the great sparse authors. Every sentence, every word, every syllable shall be key to the telling of the tale, and well-considered before being allowed entry into my tally.

Aw hell. Or maybe I’ll just use bullet points.

The journey in
We left work. We cleaned house. We finished packing. We took a taxi to the airport. We boarded our plane. The horrors! Seats! They were in the middle! Would sleep be ours? We feared.

Indeed, worst fears were realized. Sleep came but slowly. When at last it settled upon leaden lids, true tragedy struck. A woman in front of us had a heart attack, just over the point of no return. Doctors worked furiously for over an hour. She departed — we are told with good chance of recovery — when we landed in Shannon, Ireland.

We missed our connections. We slept not. We did not arrive in Vienna until 8 hours after our intentions. We were not met at the airport as promised.

The first encounters of Vienna.
Weary, we sought sustenance of the Austrian sort. Guided by hotel clerk, we went to the Cafe Wiemar. Write that down, friends, for if ever you find yourself in Vienna, it should be your first stop. Had hungarian goulash soup and wiener schnitzel. Had to bodily prevent husband from proposing to waiter who brought him hungarian goulash.

The time before the three Hacken struck
Our first full day, saw many dead bodies. Went to the imperial crypts. Saw increasingly ornate coffins of kaisers. Went to St. Stephens — creepiest cathedral in the known world, where even the statues frown menacingly down upon you. Went to catacombs below St. Stephens. Somewhat surprised that they seemed friendlier than the church. Saw really creepy pit where plague victims were indiscriminantly thrown, ossuaries, and rooms simply stacked with bones.

Then saw Roman ruins under the city.

Encountered that which is known as “creme schnitte”. Life will never be the same again, nor would I have it be. Made conversation with two short gay Jewish guys from New York.

Went back to room to dress in finery. Looked great. Shoes a tragic mistake. Like Cinderalla’s, they kept slipping off. Had tapfenspitz for dinner. Quite good. Gamers will come to know well in future days. Went to opera. Husband nearly killed me for picking such unpractical shoes. Opera quite as fantastic as hoped. Seats were amazing. There were even supertitles, to our everlasting relief. Came to the quick conclusion that the heroine of “The Flying Dutchman” a complete nutcase. Opera proceeded to last another 4 hours. After opera conclusion, had famous chocolate after-opera cake. Didn’t like it as well as creme schnitte, but ok.

Next day fewer dead bodies. More instruments of killing. Spent morning looking at the collection of arms and armour at the imperial palace, followed by the early instrument collection. Bought a toy morningstar in gift shop — plush. Bashed husband with it, playfully.

Went to Cafe Wiemar for fortification with Hungarian Goulash Soup. Husband spent time making up odes to it. Bought me some jewelry when thus softened by its paprika-y goodness. Went back to hotel to meet old college friend, “The Overlord of the Balkans” (TOOTB) — Mr. Hackett.

The strike of the Three Hacken
After feeding with the fine hungarian goulash of Cafe Wiemar, took Tootb to downtown Vienna where a run-in was had with Die BackenMeister. Boys barely dissuaded from trying to break into catacombs — probably by lack of liquid fortification. Using Tootb’s unerring sense, we located a bar called “Das Three Hacken”. Took this as a sign. Went in. Ordered three beers known as Edelweiss.

Having completed quota, proceeded to another bar. Ordered another Edelweiss. Came to the stunning and urgent conclusion that there were Irish songs that needed singing. Stopped a man on a street to ask way to nearest Irish pub. Happened to be (we think?) Irishman. Demanded to know the recipient of our votes before helping him. From directions given, unsure whether he was a democrat or republican. Eventually found bar anyway. Sang Irish songs loudly and badly, fortified by additional application of Guinness.

Came to realization we were too drunk to stumble home. Wisely ordered cab.

Tootb left following morning early, a stronger man than we. We slept until noon.

Further adventures in Austria
Upon waking, we went to medieval art museum at Belvedere. Then to a palace with labrynth and beautiful building high on hill called “Gloriana”. Watched sun set over good Austrian coffee in the Gloriana. Glorious. Went back to Cafe Wiemar for further application of Hungarian Goulash.

Managed to figure out how to rent a car, and do so. A Smart car. Breathing sighs of great gratitude that at least we already knew how to drive a standard, departed parking garage. Realized 10 minutes later that following signs for “Einbahn” with arrows was unlikely to lead to freeway since Einbahn means one way. Administered dope slaps, and got on freeway. Drove past spectacular scenery to city of Graz. Where parking costs more than even in Boston. Went to cool armory. Saw thousands upon thousands of bladed weapons, armor and early guns. (Matchlock!) Actually got to see a real, live, true version of exactly what I imagine my character’s weapons to be. Had argument with husband who insisted it is a flail. Told him I knew my own weapon when I saw it. Bought little copy of morningstar/flail in giftshop, along with roughly 4000 other books. Attempted to get to ancient Roman ruins, but were thwarted by the only mean Austrians to be encountered the entire journey. Returned weary to Vienna.

Next day, having concluded that if I did not take my husband to the Papyrus Museum I would hear about it for the rest of my natural life, we began with a quick trip to the Voltskirk (a favorite), and the Papyrus Musum. Itch scratched. Got back into car and begin to drive to Alps. Absolutely gorgeous. Babbling streams. Ruined castles. Bucolic fields. Turning leaves. High fabulous mountains. Hairpin turns. Fun driving. Got husband swiss hat. High point of entire vacation. Happily, only day of good weather in Austria was most important.

The journey to Venice
Took train to Venice. Many stops along the way. Spotted many exciting castle ruins. Need to go back to investigate. Wonder if next week would be too soon. Came up with corrolary, “In the dark, everything’s a castle!”. Alps beautiful, but train mostly went under, not through. Landscape suddenly flattened — suddenly Roman aquaducts make sense. Arrived in Venice late and carried luggate roughly 30 miles in search of hotel. Venice much more difficult to navigate than Vienna. Many bridges to go up and down. Found eventually, and collapsed.

The city of bad street signs
Next morning, went out to see St. Marks. Noticed high water in canals. Got to St. Marks square. Entire thing under 2 feet of water. Got onto duck walk. Ended up in Doge’s palace instead of St. Mark’s Cathedral. Saw many more ways of killing people (another armory) and far more roccoco baroque works with little cherubs than already weakened constitutions can handle. Fled from crowds and confusion in square. Noticed the impossibility of going and returning the same way in Venice. Resolved to return after dinner.

Had fine dinner, cost of which might have fed entire sub-Saharan Africa. Returned hopefully to St. Marks cathedral, having been assured that St. Marks was always open. After 2 miles of walking, found it closed. Sat looking longingly at it. Returned defeated to hotel.

Next morning, arose bound and determined to see St. Marks regardless. Square only full of 1 foot of water upon arrival. Managed to get in, hear some of mass sung in latin, see some works. Saw only reference entire trip to pifarri — a high, out-of-the-way drawing showed them. No other Venetians seemed to ever have heard of them. Finally, got to get into St. Marks. As glorious, golden and delightful as imagined. Maybe more. Took fill of mosaics. Spent nearly 4 hours. Finally emerged hungry but satisfied.

The closing of the chapter
Returned by yet another route to hotel and spent remainder of night reading Wodehouse in bathtub. Would recommend reading “Picadilly Jim”. Packed.

Awoke at 3 am. Went to airport before it opened. Went to Amsterdam. Had darn good nap on floor. Flew home. Arrived to find cats safe, and Red Sox still in it.

Philosophical reflections
Find self refreshed, renewed and restored — not only by the vacation, but by 10 days thinking of other things. Energy and spirits are high. Not even dreading winter with usual vigor. The holiday was well-conceived, and was wonderful. Wish all of you could have same.

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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