Life is short but sweet for certain

Yesterday, I visited the palace and gardens at Schloss Sch√∂nbrunn, the “Austrian Versailles,” or the 300-year-old summer home¬†(the fact that this was not just someone’s residence, but someone’s “just for fun” residence… there are no words) to many years of¬†emperors and empresses.

Though the sun shone all day, the trip felt extremely solemn, as I had just found out about the passing of one of my best childhood friends. The friend I lost was a lover of life and an infectiously upbeat personality. As I looked around the lush, green gardens and gazed over Vienna at the hilltop view, I felt an even greater appreciation for the beautiful sights than I normally would have. I knew my friend would have loved visiting the palace. I hoped that through my visit, I could expand my experience of the world in his honor.

So, my friend, I took some pictures in hopes of capturing the day I spent reflecting on our friendship and our priceless memories. Your loss is a reminder to me to always enjoy life and to experience as much as I can during my time on Earth. You are truly missed.

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I got locked in a park

Okay, so two posts in one day… but I had way too much excitement today not to share.

So, this morning, I did a Google search on parks and gardens in my area of Vienna, and I came across one very nearby at the School of Floristik. My weather app predicted the warmest, sunniest weather that we’ve had here thus far, so I decided today would be a great time to get some real fresh air.

When I arrived at the park, I was not disappointed. The garden was expansive, and it was laid out in various sections labeled as “countries;” there was an American section of the garden, a British section, a Japanese section, and so on. I had such a wonderful time. At about 3 pm, I heard some American students leaving the school, but instead of the sudden absence of people triggering me in any way, I simply took note of the familiar accents wafting away as the students left, then I smiled and went about my day.

I took pictures for about an hour. I read for another hour (on a different note, I’m reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt — amazing). At around 5:00, I decided maybe it was time to pack up my things and head home.

As I approached the entrance/exit, the first thing I noticed were the metal gates barring me from the street. They were taller than I am, and didn’t have any places to put your feet so someone like I could climb over and escape.

“Okay,” I thought to myself. “Don’t panic. I saw another exit in the far side of the garden.” I remembered how my pre-paid phone plan had just run out of minutes yesterday, so I couldn’t call or text anyone for help if I needed it. I felt my heartbeat quicken a little as I cut corners to reach the exit quickly.

Another metal gate stared me down.

Scheisse…”

But still not too worried. I had some other options.

I tried all corners of the garden. All locked and impossible to leave. Austrians really do not like people to enter their public parks when no employees are there.

I ran up to the school building and knocked on every window. No answer. I took notice of the¬†signs that read “Achtung!¬†√úberwachungskameras” (Warning! Security cameras).

“Okay, kein Problem. There’s a neighborhood right across the street. Next time someone comes into their front garden, I’ll ask ‘Haben Sie eine Leiter?’ (“Do you have a ladder?”) After the longest five minutes of my life, still, I had seen no one.

“I’ve just got to find a way to climb over this fence.”

With my adrenaline rushing, I reached my hands up to the top of the gate, took a lunge back, then jumped as high as I could. I pushed myself up with my arms (I’m heavier than I thought), swung my leg over, straddled the fence, then swung the rest of myself over the fence. I landed directly in front of a middle-aged couple passing on the street (“Where were you five minutes ago?” I wanted to ask.) The husband put his arm around his wife as they averted their eyes away from me like I was a criminal who had just done something I wasn’t supposed to do. I smiled at them, dusted off my pants, and walked away.

I think the Überwachungskameras caught some pretty entertaining stuff today.

Also, thank God for yoga!

In other news, I got some pretty nice pics!

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Austrian National Library

…aka my heaven!

Yesterday, I took advantage of our day off and headed over to Stephansplatz, where I wandered around and discovered some alleyways I’d never seen before. As one would expect from exploring in Vienna, I¬†stumbled upon some really charming places.

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In Vienna, every corner of every street in the city center gives visitors something to see. As if the architecture and color weren’t enough, shop owners decorate their stores with fairy lights and flowers, making the streets an overwhelmingly delightful mass of cuteness.

When I found the Austrian National Library (which, unbeknownst to me, I had passed several times already, just thinking it was some beautiful governmental¬†building… whoops. Sometimes I’m a dumb American living up to my stereotype), I discovered that the famous State Hall with the beautiful painted ceilings and mountains¬†of books is actually located in the entrance off Josefsplatz (good to know for future visitors), so I walked a bit longer, but was absolutely not disappointed. I totally fell in love.

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The Library is part of the University that was founded in the 12th Century! The room also acts as a museum of sorts, housing original documents and heavily-bound leather books from as early as 1200. Appealing to my inner (and outer) music nerd, the Library even features a handwritten piece of Gregorian chant.

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The best part is… I’m only just cracking the surface of what Vienna has to offer. I can’t wait to see more.

Consider Me Visa’d

In exactly a week, I will have been here for two months. To celebrate my upcoming second monthaversary, I got my visa today! I am so pumped, I’m not even mad about my terrible mugshot on the front of the Residence Permit card!

After about a year of planning to move to Europe (Germany initially, but saying I’m fine with having landed in Austria is a huge understatement), I’m finally here, *officially* a working expat. I gotta say — it feels great!

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Ostermarkt

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The Viennese certainly know how to Easter.

Yesterday, we visited Karlskirche at Karlsplatz for their afternoon Good Friday Mass. The church, though smaller than the Stephansdom, is no less incredible in terms of sheer gorgeousness.

We stopped at this super cute, hole-in-the-wall cafe called Charly Fresh for some delicious wraps and hot chocolate, then headed over to Stephansplatz for the Ostermarkt¬†(Easter Market) am Hof. Here, several streets are taken over by vendors selling hot drinks, food, and handmade gifts. At least the length of a block (streets aren’t laid out in blocks here like they are in the U.S., but I don’t know what else to compare it to) is absolutely covered in crates holding the most beautifully hand-decorated Easter eggs I’ve ever seen. We tried to resist spending money and totally failed — we brought home 5 eggs. I’m still not sorry about it!

The weather is still really cold, but it doesn’t make the Easter season any less charming here in Vienna. I’m in love!

Happy Easter, everyone!

Vienna

Gr√ľ√üie!

I’m finally beginning to settle a bit more here in Vienna, where I’ve been living for about a month. Things have been hectic, crazy, and wonderful. I’m falling in love with this city — I’m a 20 minute metro ride to Stephansplatz, where you step off the train to the sight of massive Stephansdom, where Mozart and Constanze got married, and the bustle of life in the city center. All the shops and restaurants in this area are in buildings of 1700’s-era architecture… even the McDonald’s (no joke!). There are music shops galore and tourist shops that feature items from shot glasses to wall clocks, all with Mozart’s face plastered on them. Around the corner, you can buy real¬†sachertorte from the Sacher Hotel, or if tasty gelato is more your style, you can get¬†that, too.

I think I’ve found my heaven.

Last week, we opened our run of Die Hochzeit des Figaro (aka Le Nozze di Figaro, aka The Marriage of Figaro… in Austria and Germany, I’m learning everything¬†should be performed auf Deutsch). I’m working with fantastic singers and orchestra musicians. I’m also in the unique situation of living with several of my coworkers! It feels very home-y here, and it’s nice to work and live with such talented musicians who also happen to be great people.

I plan to post updates much more frequently than I have over the past couple months; now that the dust has settled a bit (and my visa application has been approved!), I’ll have more time to dedicate to writing about my experience here.

One of the things that strikes me most about Vienna is that the people are extremely friendly and willing to help (I made this observation to a Viennese coworker who said, “Really?!” and laughed, but it has truly been my experience!)

Even applying for my visa was pretty pain-free. Granted, I had taken the time to make sure all my documents were present and organized, plus I took my German-fluent boyfriend with me to help translate things I couldn’t say, but still—¬†it’s nice to know what’s involved with this expat process, because there’s really a ton!

Anyway, here’s a pic of me in my costume from last night’s performance. The audience was fun and responsive! It helped that Mozart really slayed comic opera during his time…

Susanna costume

Apologies for the poor quality of the photo… had to take it with an iPhone because I didn’t have my camera!

Til next time…