Vienna II: small bites, big city

here, finally, are my last thoughts on Vienna!
in case any of you were unaware, internet in Southeast Asia is ridiculous.
actually internet pretty much everywhere has been awful. I should’ve bought one of those mobile wifi stations. those are things. that would’ve been awesome.

Vienna is elegant. it’s a city known for architecture, music, and art.
you know, boring old rich people stuff.
I can’t picture droves of young people flocking to the city for crazy partying and club scenes (although I’m sure it happens).Vienna seems more sophisticated; people are smartly dressed, sipping coffee or wine at a sidewalk cafe, dressing up for the opera. it’s not stuffy or high brow- just has a feeling of class.

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Kohlmarkt Street, one of the oldest & most expensive shopping streets in Europe.

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the city from Stephansdom Cathedral.

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purple-lit cathedral ceilings, and the pipe organ.

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the front garden of the Belvedere Palace.

for a quintessential Vienna experience, the thing to do is check out the symphony, or an opera, or if you’re lucky/crafty enough an actual honest-to-goodness ball. of course because the Viennese are already much classier than us tourists, seated tickets for operas, ballets, and concerts at the State Opera House- the Staatsoper- are always sold out, and crazy expensive. but you can get standing-room tickets for 4 euros on the day of the performance, so naturally I thought that was a must-see for a classy person such as myself.

I waited patiently in line for two hours and got tickets for the ballet Gisele. waited again inside for the show to start, feeling oh-so-superior to the plebs in the standing section with me; to bring shopping bags! to wear jeans! so not classy.
then about ten minutes into the ballet I realized that ballet is boring and I didn’t want to sit through three whole hours of these people tip toeing around on stage to music that was, in my opinion, only meant for lullabies and soothing plants.
silly Sarah. you are not classy!
so I bailed at intermission and went across the street to the famous hot dog stand and bought a giant, spicy wiener and it was amazing.

I’m sure the ballet was lovely, and if you’re a genuinely high-cultured person you would probably love visiting the decadent opera house; but there’s nothing wrong with knowing what you like. and I like a spicy wiener.

besides, "wiener" comes from "Wien", which in English is Vienna. so I'm participating in local culture! 

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inside the Staatsoper (State Opera).

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food for the gods (or just me, give them all to me).

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grafitti on the Danube; the hipper side of Vienna?

even though I might not have appreciated some of the pomp and circumstance that Vienna had to offer, I did enjoy the general posh feel of the city. it’s beautiful, and clean, and even getting coffee is a luxurious experience. Vienna fun fact: its cafes have been named “intangible world heritage” by UNESCO. the Viennese are just oozing culture and caffeine.

the cafes were by far my favorite part of the city. and not because of the food, and not even really because of the coffee. there’s just a really great, leisurely atmosphere at a cafe. you mosey in past the sidewalk tables, they tell you to find a seat wherever, then you wait. no one in these places is in a hurry; the waiters will get to you when they get to you, and the patrons don’t rush through their lunch breaks. these people really know how to relax.
and then, also, the coffee usually fantastic.
order a cafe melange- classic Viennese coffee- and watch the world go by for a little.

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the famous Sacher Hotel & Cafe.

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Sacher Torte, Austria's national dessert.

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a cafe at the Naschmarkt.

click "read more" for thoughts & reviews on what I did/saw/ate in Vienna!

a retrospective

. . .

preface:
ok, so I'm going out of sequence here with a text-heavy post.
just think of reading my blog as time travel. and it's my timeline, not yours, so you can jump around however you want and the universe won't implode and there won't be any paradoxes etc. etc.
you are now visiting me present day (which incidentally is your future, because time zones are cray, and also my past because there isn't really a present... wibbly wobbly!)
. . .
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today I’m feeling a little proud of myself as a traveler. 

it wasn’t a particularly eventful travel day, and definitely not what I’d call a successful one. but that’s when I really start to feel it in my blood. when, at the end of a rough day, I still feel like it was worth it. the few good moments glow in my memory and outshine the exhaustion, the discomfort, sometimes physical pain. all the bad fades and what remains is good humor and a sense of wonder, at things as simple as pleasant conversation with fellow travelers, or Vietnamese coffee, or the realization that I can get back to my hotel on my own. at the end of the day, I feel satisfied. I’m excited for tomorrow, not dreading it like I do so often when I’m stuck in a routine. 
whatever travel bug bit me was a serious mofo. 

so, here’s the story.
no nutshells, be warned.

today was a bit of a challenge possibly because it was my first day being alone again. Brandon and I went our separate ways yesterday, him heading back to New York and me continuing on to Ho Chi Minh. when you have kind of a rough day and you’re traveling alone, it feels so much worse. I kept thinking that if I was with someone, anyone, at least we could chat, or make light of the situation, or strangers wouldn’t keep coming up to me and trying to give me a ride on their motor bike (no thank you, only Freddie Mercury could pull that off). 

anyway, after arriving in Vietnam yesterday and surviving the grueling immigration process, I got a good night’s sleep and woke up ready to take on the chaos of the city! 
well, I thought I was ready.

Ho Chi Minh is ridiculously confusing. with smartphones and google and the internet it’s been a long time since I’ve been lost in a city, but in Ho Chi Minh it took me about 15 minutes. maybe it would’ve worked out if my phone/data worked in Vietnam, but hey, it doesn’t, so I had to rely on a good old-fashioned map. every street seemed to have the same name, or the same name with a number or letter added, and the side streets had the same name as the main street, and things were not where they were supposed to be! I wandered around for an hour and a half looking for two banh mi places my Airbnb host recommended to no avail; I never did find one of them, and the one I FINALLY stumbled upon didn’t open till 4pm… which I kind of feel like should’ve been mentioned. (and don’t say it’s because it’s street food and that’s an evening thing or whatever because apparently banh mi a common breakfast and this was around lunchtime so HA.)

to make matters worse it was about a thousand degrees and I was completely drenched in sweat and hadn’t even started my day yet. 

the rest of the afternoon I was kind of on autopilot; I walked into the first Vietnamese restaurant I came across that had wifi and had a pretty yummy lunch, even though I had no idea what I was ordering and that bugged me. the AC made me feel a little better. 

I got a cab to the War Remnants museum, which was very intense and shocking and sad, but also informative. kind of a bummer but definitely a must-see, especially if you don’t know much history surrounding the Vietnam war (which I did not). 

the map showed the Reunification Palace about two blocks away, but I ended up walking for another 20 minutes to find the right entrance. then I couldn’t hail a cab, and while Uber is the most recommended way to get around the city it kind of requires an internet connection, so I ended up walking to my next destination. and got even sweatier and hotter and crankier. 

by the time I got to the meeting point for my walking tour (yeah, after spending about five hours walking already) I was dehydrated, had an embarrassing stain on my pants because they were damp with sweat and well, dirt is brown, and my thighs were burning from from unfathomable chub rub (tmi, don't care, it's real). 

my hopes were not high for the evening.
but, as tends to happen when I travel, it ended up being a pretty great time. 

I did an Urban Adventures street food tour and I was in a pretty bad mood at first. I was uncharacteristically quiet and distracted due to my physical discomfort, and just keep thinking that I couldn’t wait to go back to my room and take a shower. but it turns out there were a lot of stops where we could sit along the way, and the actual walking was not so far nor frequent. by the time I sampled a few local specialties, talked myself out of eating balut (couldn’t do it), and ok, yes, had a cold beer; I was really enjoying myself and the company.

I was with a really nice group of people- even met someone who lives pretty close to me in Brooklyn!- and our tour guide was wonderful. we ended the evening at a coffee shop that I never in a million years would have discovered on my own- it was in this incredible, old building with miscellaneous shops, apartments, rooms for rent, big unfinished spaces, just a mish-mash of unique things on every floor. the Vietnamese coffee was, of course, amazing, and we all had a great chat about our travels and plans and homes and it was just… lovely. 

I snagged some wifi, got an Uber back to the neighborhood I started in, and walked confidently back to my Airbnb. 

so here we are. 

I’m not proud of myself because I did a good job today. I’m proud that, in spite of everything, I’m excited for what’s next. it’s about the experience, after all. might be good, might be bad, but either way, it’s an experience that I feel privileged to have. and tomorrow I’ll do better.

and now at least I know where that one banh mi shop is.