Week 11: Vienna and Feeling Like I’ve Adjusted
Vienna, Austria is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to.
History seeps out of every alleyway and cobblestone crack, as it was the seat of the Hapsburgs and an incredible cultural crossroads connecting the East to the West. I visited the St. Stephen’s Cathedral (no photo I took did it justice), the Schönbrunn Palace (the summer imperial residence), countless churches, saw a few place where Mozart lived, learned a few local legends, and—oh man—those Christmas markets were ridiculous! They were so beautifully decorated and festive! With sugar-coated donuts (the size of your face!), Nuttella-soaked waffles, punch stands, shiny glittery blinky things, candles, woodwork, giant Christmas trees, merry-go-rounds, dolls, and on and on. I wouldn’t have picked a different time to have been there. As Vienna is a relatively wealthy city (in terms of architecture, culture, and money), my favorite thing to do there was simply walking through the streets.
Speaking of which…
Things I’ve come to learn and recognize:
I’ve become a great walker. I can walk for six hours in a day on concrete and still feel pretty good about it. I hope to find reasons to keep walking when I’m back in Orlando where I am pretty car-bound. I kind of love it.
Traveling on weekends to other countries is becoming easier and easier. Having been to more and more countries, I’m feeling much more confident and aware while navigating each new cultural atmosphere. It’s like relationships: the more people you come to know and connect with, the easier people are to understand and interact with later on. That’s exactly it.
Cities are like people. They each have their own languages (literal languages), ways to navigate them which you have to learn (public transportation), their history (landmarks, museums, events and cultural influences), relationships to other people (politics)—and on and on and on.
As my time here is winding down (a month will be gone in no time), I’ve noticed a new shift in my mentality about being abroad. I’ve really settled in Prague. I feel less like I’m out of my comfort zone all of the time (which I’m struggling against). I’m more relaxed doing regular things that used to be novel (like grocery shopping or riding public transit). The next step beyond this to kick me out of my comfort zone again would involve really integrating into the smaller niche groups within Czech culture and becoming a permanent contributor to its culture (which would involve/require things like becoming fluent in Czech, getting a job, making a film, read more of its books and poetry in their native language, visiting more of the smaller cities—overall, becoming a part of the community so that I shape it as well as be shaped by it). This understanding has also affected how I think about moving to other cities in the future (I’ve got my eye on San Francisco). I feel much more confident in navigating a new way of living and understanding how long it takes to adjust to a new kind of climate.
Noticing that I am limited in how I can become a part of Czech culture because I am limited by time makes me a little sad because I know I have to make sacrifices. For example, I would love to have made a movie here, but the overwhelming amount of time that it would have taken would mean sacrificing a great many hours I could have spent engaging Czech culture in a variety of ways. And because of this, my main goal has been variety: seeing ballets, operas, theater, film, cooking its food, and many other ways. That being said…
Here are some small things that I want to make sure that I soak in before leaving:
The French Film Festival.
Taking photo walking tours to parts of the city I haven’t visited yet.
Visiting new cafes and restaurants.
Make at least one more Czech friend.
Hang out with my ERASMUS European study abroad friends more.
Host two more movie nights.
See the Nutcracker at the National Theatre.
Skiiing for the first time
And plenty more!
Good bye for now!