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PLACES (of the earth & mind)
Wednesday
Apr252012

A trip to Vienna

By the way, have I told you that John arrived safely? That Gunner arrived safely, albiet smelling suspiciously like cat pee?  That my sister Camilla has also arrived and is roughing it on our guest bedroom with nothing but a blow-up matress and an Ikea bathrobe? I haven't have I? Bad Blogger.

Yes the four of us are living in our empty apartment, dreaming of the day the sofa will arrive. Gunner is not partial to European scratch posts (too small) and so until his super-sized, U.S.-regulation scratch post arrives in the furniture shipment, he is growing out his claws in protest. He taps around the wooden floors like Fred Astaire. It echos. We all echo. 

The good news is that the Czech Government has awarded me with one shiny new 6-month visa! (And it only took me 3 months to get it.) John and I jaunted over to Vienna to pick it up last week. If I remember correctly, Vienna was voted to have the highest quality of life of any city in the world. I can certainly see why.

Vienna has this mix of European "oldness" (how else do I say that?  Everything here is "old" to me) with a mixture of new, clean, and elegant.

The cafes were gorgeous, the streets were clean the parks were lovely.  

There were plenty of bike trails, which Prague definitely lacks, and everything there gave the impression of high-quality living.


The only thing that turned me off were all the American and British chain stores that permeate the center of the city. The giant Cathedral stands opposite to three McDonalds, a few Starbucks, Forever 21, Zara. I taught "Cultural Imperialism" the other day. My students didn't have a problem with it. They love Big Macs. I shrugged my shoulders and moved on.

Despite Vienna's pastel lovliness, I was still happy to get back to Prague. Prague is Old with a capital "O". The city just feels like it was unearthed in some ancient castle cellar and brought out into the light fully intact but for a few scratches. It is dirtier and there is more graffiti, but I kind of like that. Well, not really, but I like what it means. The history is absolutely visible, and I mean the recent history. Communism ended here in 1989. I was in geography class! I remember coloring the eastern bloc in with my colored markers! Either I'm old or modern Czech Republic is incredibly young. Being here before all the grime of Communism is pressure-washed from the buildings makes me feel like I'm getting in on the ground floor of something. 

Yesterday, I had a date with the foreign police at the crack of dawn and I google-mapped how to get there by tram. The seemingly quickest way to go was through this large park:

There was a big gate around it, but the woman at the gate, puzzled though she was, said I could go in. Turns out it was a giant cemetary with some of the most ornate and massive tombstones I have ever seen. They actually laser-etch the deceased's likeness into the marble.

The grounds were lovely and some of the graves had flower beds on top which hosted gardens.


After I took a few pictures in the maze-like grounds, I hurried to the other side to get to my meeting, only to realize ten minutes later that there was no way out through the other side. After frantically locating an even more puzzled gravedigger, I found my way out. 

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