Thursday, August 30, 2012

Vienna -- Day 5

"Red Hair...Russian Fur Hat...quiet, reserved, attentive...always behind the scenes...'Of course, I'll throw you out if you don't pay'...'No saving seats!'...everybody's right hand man...dependability plus...future diplomat." That's the description next to the senior class picture of my father in the 1967 year book of the American International School in Vienna, and that was where we spent the first half of the day today -- visiting the campus of my dad's old high school. 
   We had hoped to have a walk around the campus and see the changes. What we got instead was a full private tour of the entire school from Denise, the alumni liason. She's a bright, cheerful, crazy-haired Turkish woman with a nice smile -- an alumni herself of the school from the 1980's. She and my father apparently shared the same German teacher, Herr Fischer, who is since retired but occasionally pops in for alumni reunions.
   Naturally, the school has changed quite a bit since 1967 -- there are no longer dorms, the gym has two levels, the theatre is being revamped. Because of a rather picky diplomat's demands, the school installed a perimeter fence and gates in the 1990s with barbed wire and everything (it *is* an American school, afterall.) The barbed-wire has since been removed, but the perimeter fence remains, and the gate guards are very snippity about taking pictures of the buildings. We still snuck a few in though. I wasn't about to drag my father halfway across the world to his old high-school and not get a few pictures in.
   All through the bus trip, the tour, and the return voyage, my dad would get glassy-eyed and disappear into his past with a wistful smile. That was, of course, the very reason I organized this part of the trip, so I'm glad for the pay-off.
   Next up, the classic tourist destination in the heart of Vienna, St. Stephan's Cathedral. It's massive, gothic to the hilt, beautiful, and dripping with Catholicism. We were even there for the midday mass, though we watched from a distance and only briefly. I took a few HDR shots that I sure hope come out well.
   I had it on the internets authority that a cafe near St. Stephan's has the best Apfelstrudel in the city, so we headed to the Café Hawelka to test the theory. This is the most authentic apfelstrudel experience we've had so far to be sure. It looked just like it does in all the wikipedia reference photos and tasted magnificent, so if you're ever in Vienna and want the real deal...Café Hawelka. Believe it.
   At this point, 5 days into Vienna, we'd extracted just about everything we had wanted from the city. We'd hit all the top tens, as it were. Still, it was only 2pm and I'd be damned if I was going to allow us to retire to the hotel room, so we did a little research and chose to hit up the Botanical Garden at Vienna University.
   It was a little tricky getting there, as there is no U-Bahn station nearby. I suppose I failed to mention this in earlier paragraphs, but the trip to and from dad's school went far more smoothly than any other transit experience to date. It figures, doesn't it? All this bloody technology and the written directions prevailed.
  Anyway, off the sidetrack. We did get to the botanical garden eventually. It's a big space with several sections dedicated to herbs, alpine plants, conifera, vegetables -- there's even a little bamboo patch that my father took a break to meditate near. (I got a totally bitchin' picture of it, too, but you'll have to settle for the crappy iphone pic I took for now.
  Alas, the garden seems like it had seen better days. Perhaps it's because the university has been out for the Summer and is only just now returning, coupled with the tremendous heat this year, but many of non-conifers were wilted and brown when we visited. The herb gardens still had some life in them, though even they had casualties. Still, it was a nice walk and a nice change of pace from the city. Boy was it hot, though -- 86 today, and air conditioning is *not* prevalent here, especially on the mass transit lines.
   After a few hours of not eating and lengthy connections between tram and subway, I was intent on a particular restaurant that was on the north side of town. It was a little out of the way, but known for its Viennese offal dishes. Boy do I loves me some offal. Unfortunately, after a good half hour journey to the restaurant, which the internet swore to me was open from noon until 11pm every day, we found the place completely closed. It seems that the restaurantier had gone on a summer holiday for a week.
   I was pretty broken up about it, I have to say. We found another restaurant nearby that seemed ok, and I had another non-German meal of housemade pasta with trout caviar, anchovies and lime in a light cream sauce. It was quite good, really. I was just really looking forward to some heart..or...brain...or...lungs. Don't judge me.
   Tomorrow we leave for Munich around 10am. The train ride takes about 4 hours which will put us in the city around 2pm. We're staying in an area called Harra, at a highly recommended hotel called the K+K. We'll probably just get a sense for the downtown area and find a place to eat. The next day we'll take a tour of the castles outside Munich -- those belonging to Mad King Ludwig.


  1. So happy to hear you were able to go to your dad's school. I returned to ASIJ (American School in Japan) 25 years after I attended the school. A lot had changed, but a lot had stayed the same and it brought back so many memories to be there. Glad you made the time to go there and see it all.

    Sounds like you two are having a great time.

  2. You are the BEST son ever! I'm proud of you!
    Enjoy Munich, there's lots to see there.