Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vienna: Austria

This is (potentially) the fourth last blog in the JeTZ Worldwide Adventure series. It doesn't promise to be anything flashy but it has worth in its own right. Vienna was to mark the end of our European leg and stand as a semi-convenient, somewhat sentimental meeting point for the JeTZ to meet up with Jeremy's sister Jessica. You might remember Jess from such blogs as The Cow Incident where she made a cameo performance as the vet who gave advice about appropriate actions to take if being attacked by a cow. She also starred in the Spaghetti Western Spain: El Bueno, El Mal y El Feo as a cowgirl which the producers thought could be rather useful given her specialist knowledge of bovine self-defence. But Vienna was a whole different kettle of herring. Jess had planned to meet her friend Jake here and together they would have no problem fitting into one of the world's most vibrant and culturally sophisticated cities.

The JeTZ on the other hand...well we had to try a little harder.

Eventually we gave up the pretences and settled in to our new home - the Wombat Lodge. It's not that we were desperately home sick that we insisted on staying here - more like we were desperately missing a black (some would argue dark brown) sandwich spread which is 2 parts yeast extract, 1 part salt, 100% Australian (and Kosher by the way) and about as popular as thrush. That said, we so enjoy being catered for and happily support anyone who will do so. Although we're not sure if the great Viennese innovators were being creative by putting Vegemite in a vending machine or if they  were trying to extricate themselves from actually selling the product over the counter?

So having come from all corners of the globe to meet up, we wasted no time getting over jet lag. We immediately set out into the old town for dinner at an Israeli kebab shop which ended rather badly  when a trace of chickpea found its way into Jeremy's shawama. Sadly, chickpea is to Jeremy as chocolate is to dog - yummy but a very bad idea. Icecream on the other hand never fails to deliver and  - as we all know - is the second greatest panacea after tiger balm known to man!

The following day we were all in fine fettle and ready for an academic experience (read: museum time.) 

The museum we visited paid homage to the beautiful and highly celebrated Empress, Elizabeth of Bavaria. Sisy, as she was affectionately known, was somewhat of a cult figure well known for her obsession with being slim (she had a 20 inch waste line!), her bouts of depression, her love of poetry, her abhorrence of court etiquette and her tragic ending which saw her being assassinated by an anarchist who fatally stabbed her in the heart. She might have been considered an emo by today's standards except that hardcore punk, tight jeans and bright pink had not yet been invented.

Sisy was ahead of her time in other ways too having a home (or palace) gym erected in her bedroom. These days you can buy such things off the shopping channel for 10 easy payments of $29.95 and yet, they haven't really evolved that much since the 19th century...

After the museum, we needed a bit of outside-time and headed for the Ratheusplatz where we waited 3 hours to experience something truly Viennese - an outdoor concert. It was not that dissimilar to watching TV at home except that this big screen put our 46inch wide screen Sony Bravia to shame, the seats were less comfortable than our couch and instead of screening Seinfeld, we were watching a famous violist. But that my friends, is what differentiates culture vultures from couch potatoes.

Inspired by our new icon Sisy, we decided to get some exercise and do a bicycle tour around the city. This turned out to be a very bad idea much in the same way that dancing the hora in stilettos is a bad idea. Conditions need to be suitable. Cycling tours in the pouring rain are not fun particularly the bits where you are standing around a main square listening to the significance of the monuments surrounding you when you really should in a cosy little cafe having a Vienna coffee and Princess cake.

The weather improved the following day where the JeTZ broke away from Jess and Jake to try and learn to be a little more sophisticated. So naturally that began with a visit to the Opera house and ended with a walk around some rather elaborate palace gardens.

That turned out to be a dismal failure...perhaps sophistication is something you are born with and cannot be learnt?

To that end, we hung up our fancy scarves and dress pants, had a quick 'what the??' moment in front of this shop below, said our farewells to Jake and headed east where bakalava, shishas and whirling dirvishes anxiously awaited our arrival.