On the bus ride to Vienna, I was made to feel like a real second class citizen; the Austrian border guard came through the bus glancing at everyone’s passport, but he had to take my passport—as the only non-EU citizen—off the bus to his office or wherever to put a stamp in it. Even the Bulgarians didn’t get a second look, and their not officially part of the EU yet!
I arrived in Vienna and—like a native—navigated the U-bahn without a map. I made my way toward WU-Wien, passing right by the classroom where we spent 6 months of our lives 2 years ago; Bernd and Sylvia live only a few blocks from school. They have a very nice apartment; I suspect if they were living there back then, it would have become party central instead of Jason’s apartment—they have a two-level deck/balcony that could have comfortably accommodated our whole class and then some! That night, we went to Centimeter and I had a plate-size turkey schnitzel & pommes with unlimited ketchup—good stuff.
Friday morning, after my gracious hosts had headed off to work, I rose from my slumber on the air mattress in their living room and went out to re-explore the lovely city of Vienna—it’s pretty much the way I left it. I even went back to Neustiftgasse 72 to see the old apartment; a “familie Hansreich” lives there now. After having a huenerschnitzelsemmel from Huehnerparadies (“Chick-fil-a”,) I went up to Mu-Chyun’s office to say hi. We chatted, and then he instructed me to come back at 13:00 and meet the new IMBA Vienna class (all 9 of them) for lunch—he had reserved a table at Selbstverständlich. It was great to meet these guys and gals, and I have to say I was a little envious of their position (they, on the other hand, are all still a little scared.) My advice to them was to have fun and travel—taking advantage of the central location and cheap transport options.
Saturday was a bright, sunny day; and that morning Bernd and I cycled to his friends house where the three of us went for what turned out to be a strenuous 3 hours of mountain biking im Wienerwald. Afterwards Bernd uncovered his grill and inaugurated his first outdoor “barbie” of the year (remember, he did the exchange in Brisbane last year as well.) Then, to add some authentic culture, we went to a tiny theatre to see a kabarett that evening. It was a funny, two-man show; and I actually understood most of it despite the Austrian accent (at one point I though a character was saying “O.S.”; through context I was able figure out he was saying “alles.”)
The sun peaked out again on Sunday morning as I was exploring the Steiermark fair at the Rathaus—featuring, of course, the products of Styria (a region in Austria which, incidentally, is where Bernd is from.)
In spite of the Vienna’s splendor, and Bernd and Sylvia’s gracious hospitality, I was ready to get back home—to Sofia. I’ve gotten this out of my system now; I realize that—in large part—Vienna is special in my mind due to the friends I made there and the general camaraderie among the 20 people from all around the world who where thrown together for 6 months in a boot camp of business training.