Wien, Wien nur Du Allein, Vienna

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We may have immaculate cows and a landscape that looks, in today’s rain and mist, like a Japanese painting. But I would trade the soft brown eyes of the sheep for the surprising blue eyes of the Iranian and Lebanese and Syrian (and and and) men aggressively trying to sell me eggplant as though eggplant could be an impulse buy.

I want a monthly pass for the U-Bahn, if only to watch the people. Fifty-ish ladies in suits and matching pumps, office administrators of the old school sitting next to hip Japanese kids furiously sending text messages on their cell phones. Combat fatigues and punk t-shirts on boys who want to look tough but really, just look a little sleepy. Odd pale colored linen jackets and mutton chops. Stretchy miniskirts over jeans; who can say why? Handsome Turkish twenty-somethings in expensive looking knits. Women in headscarves carrying baskets full of groceries. Chattering groups of teenage students, boys in football jerseys, girls in zip-front sweatshirts with nonsense English across the back. Those women with the strollers, their babies for some reason quiet in the swirl of activity as each stop is reached.

And the cafes and restaurants! I expect the waiters to be rude and standoffish but I am often surprised by their pleasantry and their patience with my botched use of language. The whimsy of what the waiter will bring when I order my coffee, because it is always different, no matter that my order is always the same. The cake, of course, that comes with my coffee, on a white plate, is always a work of art. What will I eat? I don’t know! Not because I am sick to death of another baked cheese dish, but because there is too much to choose from.

The old streetcars, the wheels screaming a little as the tram goes around a bend, the narrow wooden seats, the grand buildings a blur as we roll past, not with any remarkable speed but there is so much of it that it seems a blur anyway. Big bright graffiti and funny weird stencils on available bare walls, eons of posters peeling away over each other, an archeological dig of cultural and not so cultural events.

There is no doubt that I romanticize, that I could never afford the grand apartment of my dreams, the one with the soaring ceilings and the deep windowsills. The market would wear me down with the constant calling, calling, calling. I would be another drone on the subway. I would tire of the smokers everywhere, and just once I’d like to get the coffee I want without having to write a dissertation describing it first. I would live in a suburb, crushed on the local train, sweating in my coat even though winter would bite off my toes once I stepped outside. I would hate the politics of the city, I fear. Wien is not only the Graben, the first district.

But all that aside, I think Vienna is a city I could fall in love with. Or at least have a passionate affair with.

Wien, Wien, nur du allein
Sollst stets die Stadt meiner Träume sein !
Dort, wo die alten Häuser stehn,
Dort, wo die lieblichen Mädchen gehn !
Wien, Wien, nur du allein
Sollst stets die Stadt meiner Träume sein!
Dort, wo ich glücklich und selig bin,
Ist Wien, ist Wien, mein Wien !

Vienna, Vienna, only you
Will stay the city of my dreams.
There, where the old houses stand
There where the lovely girls go
Vienna, Vienna, only you
Will stay the city of my dreams.
There where I am happy and blessed
In Vienna, it’s Vienna, my Vienna

Rudolf Sieczynski, bad translation by me.

Photo courtesy of Nerd’s Eye View


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