Monday, June 6, 2016

Our First Day in Vienna

Hotel Mercure had more guests than any other of our hotels, and they all crowded into the restaurant to eat the ample Austrian tourist breakfast featuring the regional version of breads, eggs, sausages, cereals, and cheeses.   Vienna’s coffee culture was evident in the machine that kept the empty cups toasty warm so that the temperature of the noble beverage poured into them would not be lowered too much.    Fully fueled up, we met our guide in the hotel lobby and walked together to the nearby train station.

government buildings
Green Party now dominates
 Our first lesson of the tour was learning about Vienna’s extensive and and cheap public transportation system of underground trains and street-level trams, and buses.

proclaiming majesty
Our guide, Kris, brought us to a large green area in the political center of the Vienna where he described Austria’s current system of rule and the recent close election (the far-right candidate lost, to the relief of the Viennese population).  
and scope of power
Vienna used to be the capital of the gigantic Hapsburg Empire, and so it is full of huge palaces and buildings decorated with phrases and statues proclaiming the majesty and heroism of the state and its leaders.  When the empire was disbanded in 1918, and when Austria was reduced in size after World War II, those royal structures still graced Vienna.  They were re-purposed or turned into museums.   Kris described a political culture that looks sentimentally to the glorious past but cannot quite unify over what Austria stands for today.

We walked into the oldest part of the city.   We came to a courtyard
proclaiming loss
known as the Judenplatz (the Jews’ place).  Vienna’s medieval Jewish community, which was established in the 12th century with some of its principal institutions in that part of the city, came to an awful end in the 15th century when the ruler killed all the Jews whom he had not expelled, and then burned down their buildings.   Today it is the site of the city’s Holocaust memorial, a concrete cube-shaped building.  The outside surfaces are like open books, the spines facing inwards, so you cannot see what the books are, and you cannot read them.  The doors cannot open – there are no door handles.  Around the base are the names of the death camps and other places where Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.   It’s a very geometric building, in stark contrast to all the decorative Baroque architecture of the city.

Kris explaining the serious matter
of shopping in Vienna
Nearby was the heart of the Old Town shops, cafes, theater houses, and concert halls.   Kris pointed out what he thought was the best place to buy cakes, coffee, and men’s clothing (we all took notes for later).

would you see this man?
Our last stop on our city tour was the Sigmund Freud Museum, where Kris served as our guide.  We learned that Freud was born in 1856 to Jewish parents.  They thought he was a genius, and they gave him many advantages over his siblings.  When he was 4 the entire family moved to Vienna.   Freud entered a prominent high school when he was 9, and there he proved that his parents’ belief in his talents was correct.  Freud was fascinated with literature and he was proficient in German, French, Italian, Spanish, English, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.  When he was 17 he began studying at the University of Vienna, by age 25 he had a degree in medicine, and the next year he married.  Freud set up his own private practice in his home and began treating psychological disorders.  His home and office are now the Sigmund Freud Museum.  

Freud developed psychoanalysis, a method through which analyst unpacks unconscious conflicts based on the free associations, dreams, and fantasies of the patient.
the waiting room
His theories on child sexuality, libido and the ego are some of the most influential academic concepts of the 20th century.  Even though his work has been criticized, no one has influenced the science of psychology as he has.  In 1938, people helped him leave Vienna for London in 1938, when it became truly dangerous for Jews to stay in Nazi-controlled Austria.  During the last years of his life he had been fighting cancer (lips and mouth), and shortly after he arrive in London he died after requesting a lethal dose of morphine.

Bianca, who is a psychology major, wrote the following about our visit: “It was an amazing feeling to be able to walk the halls in which Freud studied and developed many theories which I study in my classes.   To actually enter his home and the room in which he treated patients, and to learn more about Freud right there was surreal.  One of the most interesting things I learned was how he was addicted to cocaine!  This surprised me, yet in a way explains some of his theories.”

soaring ceiling
After our museum visit, we made our way via public
transportation to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of the Old Town.  It is massive and towers over all the rooftops. Inside it is very beautifully decorated and its ceiling is webbed with Gothic arches.  

Dosed up with spirituality, we broke up and went on our separate ways to eat, drink, and shop.

beauty at the table
another gorgeous church
A number of us went to the places that Kris had recommended.  Some of us had awesome Viennese cakes, nearly everyone sampled the coffee, and Adam and Shant got outfitted with hats.   A few of us (after eating cake) went to the Jewish Museum of Vienna.

Eventually we all met back at the hotel.  We walked together to a nearby restaurant for a group dinner, sharing our adventures of the day and our lives back home.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love your blog! I am planning my honeymoon to Italy & Greece in October and I am finding it very helpful. Could you tell me where you stayed in Venice & Rome and your opinion of the accommodations?

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