Austria was not on my list of places to visit during this trip. Before anyone gasps and responds with the usual, “Why not? It is so beautiful there. And you HAVE GOT to go to Germany as well. Did you visit Spain yet? What about France? How about Switzerland or the Scandinavian countries? Aren’t you traveling ALL of Europe? You need to visit them. They are incredibly gorgeous!” I am sure they are. I am not doubting the magnificence of each and every country, city and site. Someday, God-willing, I will see every single country on the planet with my own eyes. However, during this trip I am not planning…nor was I ever planning…to strictly stay in Europe. It has just been my starting off point. Vienna was a pleasant surprise that just happened to “waltz” across my path.
As I was trying to figure out where to head next following my time with Lisa in Italy, I scrolled around Google Maps quite a bit. Now where do I go? I have a friend who was going to be near Venice so I checked timing and prices to visit her and the city (I have now been to Italy twice for a total of 4+ weeks and still have not made it to Venice!). However, between the cost of accommodations, location options and timing, I could not fit the puzzle pieces together in a way that made sense for me. So, I looked beyond Italy. I knew I was interested in seeing some of the Czech Republic but was there any place along the way that grabs my attention? I noticed Vienna, Austria. I knew very little about Vienna which is why it caught my attention. I bought a plane ticket, found some quick accommodations and went for it.
As soon as I arrived in Vienna, I was in awe. The buildings, which were just as large as the ones in Rome, were mostly light in color – white, cream, pale yellows, pale pink, etc. They were very crisp and clean. It appeared as if they were recently painted. The sidewalks were clear of rubbish or garbage with the exception of a cigarette butt now and again. The people waited at the corner of the street for the walk signal to change, even if there were no cars approaching. For the most part, the streets were well planned for cars, bikes and pedestrians with easy-to-understand directions. Most of the local people I came in contact with were pleasant, kind and all knew English very well.
I did not take any of the walking tours or visit any museums except for Sigmund Freud’s home and office. So to be honest with you, I still do not know much about Vienna in terms of educational or historical information. I took the time to wander around, enjoy random street vendors or restaurants, smile at the quietness of the city (despite all the visitors and traffic, it was REALLY quiet), and enjoy the sights around me.
Sunday, September 11 was by far my most favorite day in Vienna. My friend and coffee guru, Nate Sipes, has been giving me recommendations for coffee shops throughout my journey so far. He suggested a shop in Vienna called Coffee Pirates. This shop had a wonderful atmosphere and fun décor. The breakfast menu had EGGS on it. Can you believe it?!? Protein! Hurray, something different from pastries! (Pastries are good but after 4 weeks of little protein, it is something to celebrate.)
Following coffee and breakfast, I walked the 20 minutes or so to church. What a beautiful journey. Throughout the city, church bells were ringing and the faint sound of church choirs could be heard. It took my breath away. At one point, I stopped walking and just stood there on the sidewalk…listening. My eyes filled with tears. It was one of the most beautiful sounds I have heard so far on this trip, if not ever in my life.
Once I arrived at the little church, I was welcomed with handshakes and smiling faces. Although the congregation size was small many welcomed me, introduced themselves, asked my name and if I was visiting or in Vienna for a long-term stay. Earlier in the week, a member of the church and choir had passed away. In his honor, two of the choir members sang an incredible vibrato rendition of “How Great Thou Art”. All I could do was close my eyes, listen and soak in every note.
I do not know where this life is headed. I do not know if I will have the opportunity to visit Vienna again. If the opportunity arises, I will thankfully and gladly take it. My only hope is my time will again fall on a Sunday.