Monday, January 18, 2010

First impressions of Vienna.

This city rocks. I haven't missed my video games yet. The only trouble seems to be that I am not getting my work done. Ah well.

I am staying at an Arcotel hotel in Vienna. It's not bad. Like all hotels in Europe, the room is small. However, for just me, it's plenty of space. I've learned that while you stay at an Arcotel hotel, it is impossible to starve. They keep a big bowl of apples free for the guests out at the front desk. Theoretically, I guess one could live indefinitely here. Internet access (though slow) is also free. The TV's all in German except for cnn international and bbc entertainment. Honestly, I don't know why they call it bbc entertainment. They should perhaps just call it bbc or better yet, bbc boring you to tears.

Vienna is awesome for many reasons, not the least amongst them is the public transportation. Busses and the subway come every six minutes and you can get anywhere in town through them. A monthly pass is relatively cheap too (though of course I only have a one week pass). I've used the public transport in Jena (which is terrible), Washing DC (which is fair) and Cairo (which is sort of serviceable). Vienna's is by far the superior.

Another way that Vienna rocks - the people are nice. It's not all big city elite snobbery like you might expect. People here realize I am trying to speak German and are nice to me. They happily help me find things and tell me about places. It's really easy to meet people here. You can practically start a conversaion with anyone which brings me to my next point. I know this sounds very typically American but everyone here speaks English - and I mean everyone. In Jena, I can get by with a little help from friends. Here in Vienna, I feel like the locals know my language (and my dialect) better than I do. Even the people from the country-side who don't see so many tourists speak really good English. Many things are spoken in both German and English.

There's lots to do here. There are movie theaters for many different languages. There are theaters devoted to classic movies and theaters devoted to French films and so on. There's a great opera and a terrific philharmonic orchestra (probably the best in the world). There's also plenty of live theater - again in all kinds of languages. Also, there's fantastic architecture just lying about the place: imperial palaces, castles, gothic cathedrals, impressive government buildings, libraries and museums to boot. I walked through a huge museum yesterday devoted to medieval musical instruments and plate armor of the nobility in the Hapsburg era. Don't worry nerds (self included), I took plenty of pictures which I will put up in due time.

Also, you'd think Vienna invented the internet-cafe. Evidently the cool thing to do here is stop at a cafe, order your drink of choice and pull out either a macbook or a netbook and spend a couple of hours in your own world. Seriously, everyone here seems to do that. Yesterday, it was cold and snowing. The streets were barren. The museums were barren. The parks were barren. The cafes were packed.

The city is also gorgeous - and this is in the cold bleak winter. I can just imagine what it would be like in the spring when everything is blooming and its warm. I've been told by friends at work that everyone tries to get out of Jena and now I know why. There are incredible places like this to go to. If you get the chance to go to Europe, Vienna should be at the top of your list.


  1. Oh, and the philharmonic has that big free outdoor concert every summer. It's May 20!

  2. I love the way you categorized how interesting it is by not missing your video games yet! I'm glad the people are nice and you are getting to speak with other English speakers. I'm looking forward to the pictures.