Oh Vienna Austria. Stereotypically compiled of traditional folklore dress (i.e.“Dirndl” or ”Lederhose”); beautiful classical music, Mozartian in particular; and of course steaming, breaded schnitzel. Fortunately those stereotypes were actualized and captured via perhaps awkwardly obvious I-phone snapshots. Bullets on the experience and pictures galore. Let’s go!
Up I lied again, I have to share how much better my host family is then any other…
- September 26th: The Best 21st Birthday Ever
Most people use their landmark birthday for all college students…21 and legal to be seen and go out with alcoholic beverages. I drink and I enjoy it I admit but I typically enjoy it in a more informal setting (with the additional dance on the table club night/hopefully not regrettable dorm extravaganzas). So I chose or what was chosen for me was family hygge. After a night of studying because hey, work while you let loose traveling (even in a loosely academic sense…) is absolutely no fun at all. Well after that long night, I was woken by the family of four to an absurd amount of Danish flags and the off-key tune of Danish “Happy Birthday”. For those that aren’t aware, birthdays are a big deal in Denmark, both to celebrate the person and their identity as a Danish citizen (imagine your birthday and Fourth of July combined). In leggings and an oversized Colby sweatshirt (Mule pride!), I walked into the kitchen to stringed Danish flags wrapped around the chandelier light and small Danish flags on top of a Danish tablecloth. Their were candles (despite the rising morning sun), several types of tea and juice, and freshly-made hot buns. Hygge pokes it’s head again in the obligatory celebratory birthday breakfast. We talked, laughed, listened to stories of past birthdays and my host sister even attempted but cutely failed to sing the American “Happy Birthday” tune. As we all headed off to work and school, the family surprised me again with plans to throw a large family party for me that evening.
Fast forward about 12 hours and I was home to even more decorations and a table filled with food. Before we ate, we started out with highly personal and meaningful gifts from my host parents, host “mar mar”, and my host mom’s brother and girlfriend. Again, the gifts were so meaningful as their was a story behind the purchase of each gift. Then…..DINNER TIME!! They honored my Greek heritage and the common knowledge of my love of salads and prepared a large tossed Greek salad (sin olives of course 🙂 ) and more bread rolls. After we emptied the bowls and plates of foods, my host mom brought out a homemade ice cream cake stuck with Danish flags and sparkler candles.
I have no words for how much this meant to me. A surprise party, so to speak, was something I never thought I’d get the chance to experience. Doing my 21st in Denmark and having my family put so much thought, care and love into making the day my own and special was truly one of the greatest reinforcers my decision to live with a host family as the best decision I’ve ever made (I mean, besides choosing DIS of course 😉 ). PICTURES:
6 AM wake-up, caffeine-fueld rest of the day? Worth it for a surprise birthday breakfast 🙂
THE DUCK! I FINALLY GOT IT TO POSE FOR A PICTURE
Let’s sing “I Dag Er Det” (Today It’s Your Birthday!)
Homemade Ice-Cream Cake with some Danish Pride
Well I digitally distorted my host mom’s face with this horrid panorama, however…you get the idea how special my whole host family made me feel today 🙂
Arrival Day! Sunday, September 28th
Spread widely across the span of the city was gorgeous and well-preserved classicist architecture. Art Nouveau originated in Vienna, Austria actually. Massive columns in front of palaces, intricately carved steeples, golden and stain-glass dome churches and a number of horsemen statues. The most touristy I was all trip. A few of the 200+ photos I took on this walking tour:
Art Nouveau Architecture
Street Performers in Austria=Striving Opera Stars
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Fun fact: One of the only two horsemen statues in the world that has the horse balance fully on its two legs without support of the stone tail.
Yes. I’m actually staying in this city.
- The Oldest Ferris Wheel in the World
Our class had the evening to ourselves after we finished our walking tour, so I got together a group of kids to travel 6 subway stops to an amusement sex to ride the oldest ferris wheel in the world. It was more of hey, let’s do it to say we did. We took a cheesy picture that I of course overpaid the $10 to buy this hilarious memory. The ride was about 15 minutes, no wait. Overall, very slow and pretty boring but some picturesque views:
As we were looking for the exit, we ran into about twenty drunk 20 year-olds in Lederhosen with half-eaten sausages and beer dribbling down their chins. Of course we needed to investigate…Surprise! Our wandering led to an impromptu trip to Vienna’s version of Oktoberfest. We didn’t stay long but I did meet some interesting Viennese college students and shared the quintessential Oktoberfest experience of indulging in those hugeeeeee beers. Overall, we went with the flow and had a surprisingly fun time. When in Vienna!
Here it is. The Oldest Ferris Wheel in the world.
Melissa and Anna look quite satisfied with their surprise gigantic beers
Traditional Beer flavored cookies anyone?
Monday, September 29th
- Group Visit: Viktor Frankl Institute
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and founder of the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy”–logotherapy. The lecture was much more fascinating than I had expected. We were explained the basic pillars for his groundbreaking existential therapy explained by stories of his time in a concentration camp as well as excerpts from his best-selling novel, Man’s Search for Meaning.
- Group Visit: Academy for Art Therapy
I was very underwhelmed by our visit to the Academy for Art Therapy. Being a theatre and music enthusiast, I was excited to see more about how creativity helps foster recovery and growth. Our session included clay figures, blind drawing of spirals and playing different musical instruments split into orchestra sections (i.e. strings, brass, woodwind, etc.). I can see how this can perhaps provide distraction to young children dealing with emotional difficulties and outside traumatic events, however we were not given any insight on its use as a form of psychotherapy.
Tuesday, September 30th
- Guided Tour of KZ-Gedenkstatre Mauthausen/Mauthausen Memorial
At risk of sounding stereotypical, my first visit to a concentration camp had what I believe will be a long-lasting impact. Matuthausen Concentration Camp is no Auschwitz or Dachu in its solemn infamy and the sheer amount of casualties. Mauthausen is where the intellectuals were put to work; where Viktor Frankl was imprisoned. I can go on further to share more about the history of the camp or the details of Frankl’s stay. However, being behind the walls and in the confines of a place bringing about the nauseating feeling in your gut that humanity is capable of committing such loathsome, vile things doesn’t set a great platform for intellectual conversation. So I’ll just copy the reflection piece I wrote a half an hour after hour tour concluded. It may not make total sense at all, particularly the first part. Looking back, it doesn’t make total sense to me. Nonetheless, this is what was on my mind at the time; word-for word:
Unimaginable. Well, not quite. But unfathomable and eden-esque orgasm to an object that will not make you feel as goo as the yearning and imagined pleasure.
I am not inside the minds of the prisoners. I am in my own mind. It’s a degree of morbidity. You hear about the unavailability of food to African children marking that difference between availability and internalized….I don’t even know. Am I a terrible person? Yes, yes I am. I’m numbed to the thought of murder and torture. Am I unable to see it as if it was I or do I just solace in the selfish interests of my own regard.
The fact that my first ping of mental movement longs for emaciation. What that say about me as a person?
I’m not thinking about death. It’s there. The essence. It’s all around me, yet it’s not there for me…Speaking in the literal sense.
I don’t know what it is or how I feel. I’m not sad. I’m not angry. Thoughtful isn’t necessarily the right word.
I guess it’s reminiscence defined, how or what or why in my own regard. Is reminiscence longing? Can there be a guilt engulfed by a feeling more masochistic?
The first thought of the walk looks back on reading. Emaciated prisoners deciding whether to eat their inch of toast at once or go by corners. Food is all that is on their brain. Focus on a miserable existence overshadowed by the moist cake dripping with melted chocolate. That thought of a tongue touch to the rich cake.
And to think I have gradually gone to dismiss a religion that has made me feel. I begin to think in a more focused way on what’s in front of me. Guilt to its own degree I haven’t considered in years.
It’s not the whole my ancestors might have/could have/would have but it centers around the limitations of my focus. I don’t think of some values and beliefs previous to the life path I then chose or it chose me…I so strongly settle in my opinion on the surface of an apathetic disposition, but do I consider real middle ground? I say I have these serious talks, but do I talk without knowing what’s out there…What’s in me?
Am I even human?
Wednesday, October 1st
- Group Visit: Leopold Museum
The Leopold Museum is a more recently established museum, opening its doors in 2001. The museum is located in the Museum Quarter of Vienna, Austria and is home to one of the largest collections of modern Austrian art, featuring artists such as Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Richard Gerstl. For one of our cultural events of the study tour, we were given a tour and history lesson on the art of the 1900s. And honestly, it may have been my disdain for art museums but I was bored out of my mind and kept wandering apart from the tour–quite clearly indicating I was not at all interested…Anyway here’s the most famous picture in the museum, by Gustav Klimt:
Sheer excitement for this tour and dread of wearing these freakish earphones…
Gustav Klimt’s, “The Kiss”
The Belvedere Palace was a stop we all did independently with friends; although DIS purchased are super pricey tickets so that was a plus. The palace complex consists of two baroque castles, Palace Stables, an art museum and a gorgeous garden that seems to spread for kilometers. I can’t say much else besides that I took more illegal pictures and it was gorgeous until I got stuck in the casual Wednesday downpour. More pictures!
This garden though…
View of the front of the castle
Palace grounds spreads in beauty on and on
Thursday, October 2nd
- Guided Tour of The Sigmund Freud Museum and Lunch at Freud’s favorite cafe
Obviously being with a clinical psych class in Vienna, one major stop is of course the Sigmund Freud Museum. The Sigmund Freud Museum was established in central Vienna in late 1971. It is dedicated to showing the main proponents of psychoanalysis by tracking Freud’s life and career. The display includes original items owned by Freud, the practice’s waiting room, and parts of Freud’s extensive antique collection. However and unfortunately his famous couch is now in the Freud Museum in London, along with most of the original furnishings, as Freud was able to take his furniture with him when he emigrated. After our time exploring the quite intimate museum, we went to a gorgeous restaurant to which Freud attended to most of his hunger pangs. We had some fancy dish (made with peas, which was quite interesting) and roasted potatoes and wed wine and gourmet chocolate cake.
SIgmund Freud Museum. Let’s go!
Unfortunately, I only have a picture of the outside of the restaurant.
- Wine and Cheese Tasting Adventure with Sara
After lunch, we had a solid 5-6 hours to do whatever we wanted. So with the rising popularity of Viennese wine, Sara and I decided to go to vineyards and restaurants forty minutes north of Vienna and have a “dinner” of wine and cheese. (You know…it was one of those days.) The back of the restaurant we went to was GORGEOUS though.
The back gardens of the restaurant
The “pre-tasting” array
The “post-tasting” damage
- Vienna Symphony Orchestra Performance
I was initially bummed that our class would not be able to see an opera, however in the land of classical music–Mozart’s solace–the performance of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Singers (Opera singers!) was beyond amazing!
View of the theatre
Direction of the orchestra and female opera singer
Friday, October 3rd
- Group Visit: Steinhof Mental Hospital & Otto Wagner Church
This was our final academic visit of the study tour (Already!). First, we met our go-to tour guide at the top of a daunting hill where stood a definite Top 5 most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen:
The Kirche am Steinhof, also called the Church of St. Leopold, was a Roman Catholic Church designed by Otto Wagner in 1907 and is today actually considered one of the most important Art Nouveau Churches in the world. The church stands was utilized in the early 1900s as a sanctuary for the patients of Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital. In fact, it forms a major portion of the old hospital grounds and is located on the large hill directly overlooking Steinhof.
The hospital itself was not something much to note besides the fact that it was a quite large psychiatric facility that took in many of the severe psychiatric patients (particularly with neurological issues) in Vienna. There was supposedly a “museum” which was really nothing more than a single room full of words on the wall I couldn’t read and a few picture less newspaper articles. I vote one of the worst museums I’ve been to.
Seeing as this post has somehow made itself entirely too long (so unusual for a blogger like me 😉 ), outside of the fact that it is 2 months overdue…I’m down to my final two weeks in Denmark!!
A preview of what’s to come: posts dedicated to travel, travel, travel. My reunion with my Stagedoor buddy Taylor in London directly following our study tour, the two travel breaks in which I somehow managed to hit 8 countries all together, as well as my *hush, hush* two-day endeavors in Istanbul, Turkey. So except about 4 consecutive posts this week with pictures of exciting activities and a variety of country specific animals. (The pictures will dominate over the words this time seeing as I have taken close to 800 photos this semester alone already!!)
Can’t wait to post again soon and as always, thanks for following my rants…