Vienna was, in a word, fantastic.
In terms of sight-seeing, Jess and I did a good job of hitting the big spots: the Belvedere where we saw a lot of work by Gustav Klimt, including one of my favorites, “The Kiss,” the summer imperial palace I think called the Schunbronn, where Maria Theresia ruled, as did her son and the final king of the Hapsburg empire. Maria Theresia seemed to be to be kind of a BAMF. Her husband kept himself busy with his hobbies like hunting and left her to deal with politics. The grounds were beautiful there. We saw the Rathaus and Parliament, and had aiskaffe where Freud once frequented. We marveled at St. Stephensplatz and went down into the catacombs where we saw hundreds of bones from Viennese plague victims.
At the hostel we chummed with Spaniards–I spoke Spanish with them and discussed the meaning of the American dream and why Bush was re-elected–and we also made friends with a guy from Argentina who toured around with us one day, as well as two adorable British guy swho were theatre students. One looked like John Lennon. But the best story was the time when we met the President of Vienna, Herr Doctor Heinz Fischer.
You heard me.
There’s an annual food fest we stumbled upon, near the Spanish Riding School. I had to return my wine glass to the booth and I saw some men who seemed important. They were surrounded by photographers and were wearing suits. I asked an elderly German woman if she spoke English in the hopes that she would give me a hint as to who this man was. “President,” was all she said. “OF VIENNA?” I gasped? “Jah, jah,” was the reply. I ran back to Jessica and our friend Nick and told them who she said that he was. THey wanted to see too so we found him again. He was dipping candles with children or somesuch. We prodded our way towards him and Jess and I began chatting with the other suits with him. I asked one if he was a security guard secret service guy and he laughed and said, “is that what we look like?” Jess was talking to the other one and mentioned that we were American students. She said to me, “Let’s get a picture!” I, on the other hand, was admittedly hesitant. If this man was really the president of Austria *whose name we looked up in NIck’s Lonely Planet guide* then what would he want to take a picture with us for? So I replied to Jessica, “No, leave him alone,” and she said laughingly, “We’re spending money in his country! Of course we should get a picture!” or something witty and clever. So when the president turned to his suit, the man said, ” These are American students, they’d like to take a photo with you.” So he, Herr Doctor Heinz Fischer, President of Austria, shook our hands and said, “Much success! Welcome!” and took a photo with us, press and all.
We almost peed.
The rest of the day was spent marveling at the fact that we had, indeed, met the Austrian president. And that, my friends, is the best story so far.
More to come soon about Budapest rain, prehistoric labyrinths and the wonder of minarets. Love and miss you all.