At this hour I am scheduled to fly on Austrian Airlines to Chicago.
So long, Wien. I shall see you again soon.
I am charmed today. And I hope the day stays that way.
At 1.17 a.m. in the USA, my perch is currently the wonderful AMEX/Diners Club lounge at Vienna International Airport.
Vienna does this right. I checked in my bag at the train station and didn’t have to schlep the damn thing (21 kilos today) with me to the airport. The 16-minute train trip from the city center to VIE meant that I had no hassles at all, and I walked directly to the security gate. No airport lines!
And then they opened two new security lines just as I was arriving, so I was waved into a lane with no people waiting. A quick trip up an escalator, with no waiting at passport control, and I’m suddenly in the international departure terminal . . . where the lounge is literally ten steps ahead.
Now if the flight leaves on time, an the connections work in Chicago (always dicey), I should be in Saint Louis by 6.45 p.m.
Of course that means an 18-hour travel day. Such is the price one pays, though.
Flights leaving Vienna within the next hour:
And yesterday I was talking with a German engineering student who is skipping his planned trip to Hungary, and instead going to Slovakia, then to Italy, and then on to Turkey via the Balkans. Train travel is truly international on this side of the Atlantic.
Saturday was a day with Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
I traveled south by train today, arriving 75 minutes south of Vienna at Eisenstadt, where Haydn served many of his most illustrious years, and where Mozart visited and performed. The Esterhazy princes, Hungarian noblemen in the Habsburg empire, were lovers of music, and they employed a number of court musicians. Haydn eventually became their indispensable chief.
I’m so glad I got to see this place I’ve talked about in classes and rehearsals. And Papa Haydn certainly has a magnificent resting place too.
Street scenes in Eisenstadt:
From Schloss Esterhazy:
Haydn’s burial place:
And then Mr. Mozart beckoned. After a nap at the hotel, I dressed for the concert and took the tram around the Ringstrasse to Karlsplatz. Since I was early, I stopped in for part of an act of La Traviata on the big screen outside the Staatsoper. Then I muddled my way through throngs of people in the park on a very festive Saturday evening, and took my seat in the fourth row at the Karlskirche.
Now, I had this all wrong. I thought this was some dumb pick-up group doing the Mozart Requiem, and I was going just because it was something to do.
Oh no! This was Orchestra 1756, a period instrument group from Salzburg that is VERY good. This was a FABULOUS performance — spirited, moving, quirky, using the room’s tremendous depth of character, visually involving — a near-perfect evening.
Here’s how Ryan Carpenter described last evening’s restaurant in an email to me:
Punks is this tiny little place where each item on the menu is just a simply stated ingredient (“Potatoes” or “Salad” or “Trout”) and the INCREDIBLE chef creates some amazing dish to satisfy your senses. Prosecco on tap. Its just open for a few months and more people are finding out about it, so it can fill up (they don’t take reservations) so its risky, but that’s the most exciting place in town.
I met Ryan at 7.30 at the Albertgasse tram stop, and we walked just a few blocks to this little hole in the wall on Florianigasse. Maybe 30 seats at most, including the two tables on the sidewalk . . . .
The server brought out a menu written in marker on a plate:
We had arrived at Punks on offal night!
So I screwed my courage to the sticking-place, and ordered everything except the eggplant and liver (both of which I despise) and the internal organs.
Yes . . . I ate heart and horse.
And the meal — a series of small plates meant for sharing by two or more, with rarely more than three bites each — was magnificent. The horse was incredibly tasty, with bits of pickled lemon rind and more density of flavors that I can explain. The peach dish included sliced cold fresh peaches with warm sliced cherry tomatoes, some sort of sweet sauce, a few basil leaves.
The chef, Patrick Müller, is known as the Silent Chef. Apparently he had a television show where he just cooked, without speaking, and people tuned in to watch. Well I watched him in his teensy open kitchen (smaller than my own at home in Saint Louis) and he just made it all look so natural and easy. Then he dressed the plates on the counter between the kitchen and the house, and the plates got whisked to tables. When he had enough orders for more horse, that’s what he cooked. With one assistant, this like watching a master at work.
And every plate came out a work of art as well.
A gastronome’s paradise, this place. I’ve had the meal of the trip, and at €4.50 a plate, this was a relatively inexpensive meal too. The fish meal in Hydra was fab because of its ambience; this one was fab because of its ingenuity and flavors.
At 1 p.m. Tuesday, I am back at my hotel for a while. We had an early start today– well before 8 a.m.–as we traveled to The American International School in the northern suburbs of Vienna. Our meetings there were productive and thorough. We had a brief break during our meetings; one of the teachers walked us up the hill to take in the view of the Vienna Woods.
This area is north of Heiligenstadt, which in itself is north of Vienna proper. Heiligenstadt is famous for wineries (the vineyards for which are around the American School) and also famous as the place where Beethoven wrote his famous Heiligenstadt Testament.
Later today = more meetings, but for now we have a bit of rest in the midst of a hectic schedule.
The hotel has moved a patio table and chairs onto my balcony, and the weather is glorious enough that I am currently seated outdoors. Blue sky abounds, and the sidewalk is filled with those in transit and those just walking.
My mind is very much back home today, as I’m listening right now to NPR’s morning coverage of the events in Boston. Evil has again reared its monstrous head. And I am, in this season of Easter, reminded of the words of the New Covenant, as expressed in the Pascha Nostrum:
Christ being raised from the dead will never die again;
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all;
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin,
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death,
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die,
so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.
And, as my student Jeffrey Allison wrote today, quoting Alexandre Dumas, “Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment and be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm… and shout ‘do your worst, for I will do mine’.”
And this reminder, thanks to Heather Patterson, whose husband is with me on this business trip: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” ~Hebrews 12.1
E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come, and save this ravaged world, for we have met the enemy, and he is us.
Dr. Patterson and I put in a full workday today, and then some. We had a couple of hours off in the middle of the day, so went to the northern edge of the Hofburg to do a bit of shopping and grab a quick bowl of soup. I had an Esterhazytorte, of course.
With meetings at Webster University – Vienna, Vienna International School, and then dinner & check-in this evening with three music majors who are here right now, the day was 10+ hours. And lots of walking.
But a good and productive day it was.
The pics of are of the less work-related parts of the day:
And with that, at 3 p.m. home and 10 p.m. here, I’m off to sleep.