Anyway, last Thursday we woke up at four a.m., and swindled a ride to the airport for my wife and I, along with our couple friends who will be hopping around Europe with us, and before we knew it we were in the air. I still truly love flying. It takes so little to make me happy in general, that the reality of flying through the air in a metal tube is something of a small miracle to me. Like a small child, I still don't get how there are windows in planes. How do they not break from the air pressure? Why aren't we sucked out into the atmosphere? Our engineers are incredible. Plus, if you ask nicely, the flight attendant will give you a whole can of free soda that can be enjoyed thousands of feet in the air. We live in an amazing time.
En route, we got to try out the American Airlines lounge in Paris, again for free thanks to that credit card hack that Brad from Richmond Savers told us about. The spread, even early in the morning, was definitely fancier than our normal breakfast. Charcuterie and croissants and a full bar, too. We took advantage of all of them. I've always wanted to drink champagne in and eat croissants in France, and now I have. Again, it takes very little to make me smile.
After a short hop, we were in Vienna, which is maybe the cleanest city I have ever seen. It's as if there is a small army of very sneaky maids making sure there is no garbage, graffiti, or even a 'city smell' anywhere we go. Or maybe Austrians are just very clean. It helps that the city is so beautiful, and my guess is that no one wants to ruin that. Just look:
|Vienna's State Opera|
|The Museum Quarter|
The Habsburg Summer Palace
Despite the crazy beauty of everything here, my favorite part of Vienna is the transit system. The city has, by far, the most efficient light rail system I've ever been on. Every train is on time and comes regularly every couple minutes. The trains move quick, too. Even the doors close quickly (and seemingly hard enough to take off a limb if you're not paying attention). The crazy part is that, besides us, no one seems to have paid for a ticket. Perhaps the tourists are the ones who subsidize the system. Living in Phoenix, which has a light rail that goes in one straight line and is paired with inefficient buses that one gets to wait for in triple digit heat, without shade, I am deeply envious of their public transportation.
We lucked out and happened to be here while they were celebrating the seventieth anniversary of European Victory Day in WWII. My general ignorance of the country is showing, as I wonder aloud whether the Austrians were fighting with or against Germany back then. I cannot remember my high school history. Either way, I assume it's all water under the bridge now as, at the free symphony concert, politicians speak of this terrible chapter in our past, and the importance of freedom from oppression. At least I think that's what they were saying; none of us speak German. Still, the music they played, leading up to Beethoven's ninth symphony, was beautiful in a kind of incomprehensible way: at least for someone like me who has never even been to the symphony.
Like it always is with traveling to a place we haven't been before, it feels new and exciting, and there is a nagging feeling that we might be undeserving of the experience. Which we are, I think. I know we are lucky to be here, to be able to afford to go abroad in a metal box that flies through the air, to see a foreign country without worry of being profiled or harassed, and to sleep in a hotel bed with soft cotton sheets that was, somehow, free. We have definitely won a lottery of sorts. I suppose all that's left to be done is to feel grateful that we were the lucky ones, and to try to make sure we don't waste any of it. Today we're off to Bratislava, and we'll do our best. Talk soon.