V is for Vienna

Photo Credit
Welcome back, to the letter V of this year's A-Z challenge! 

So this is going to be a bit of a cultural shock. From the authentic beauty of Utah's national parks I'm taking you to Austria's capital, Vienna. 

Let's recap what the average citizen may know about Austria:
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger is from here
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is from here
  • Pretty sure this other guy who composed the traditional waltz was Austrian, too?
  • If you're not into classical music, you listen to Hansi Hinterseer
  • Babies are born with skis already attached
  • People dress in Dirndl and Lederhosen
  • They got great chocolate cake
Sounds about right!

The waltz guy is Johann Strauss II, his music the blue Danube has been played forever at the annual New Year's concert, these days people only wear "Tracht" during Oktoberfest, which is more of a Bavarian (Southern German) than an Austrian thing, and the cake is called Sacher Torte.

Just like Paris, people who have never visited, may have this romantic idea of Vienna being idyllic and fairytale-like, and yes, it can be.

If you don't feel like taking the subway or bus, you may travel by Fiaker, old style horse-drawn carriages. 

They may take you to the Vienna State Opera where above mentioned New Year's concert is being held.

The ballet portion of the New Year's concert is being performed at Schönbrunn Palace.

While checking off the major sights don't miss St. Stephen's Cathedral aka Stephansdom

At Stephansplatz Vienna's walk of fame begins. It isn't for actors, though. Among others, Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy, Antonín Dvořák, Giacchino Rossini and Ludwig van Beethoven got their star, and of course this guy: 

Earlier I was talking about the yummy chocolate cake, Sacher Torte. You may get a piece  of this iconic dessert all over town, actually even beyond Austria, but here's where it originated from: 

In 1832, Prince Wenzel von Metternich charged his personal chef with creating a special dessert for several important guests. The head chef was sick so he delegated the task to his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Franz Sacher. The Prince is reported to have declared, "Let there be no shame on me tonight!" 
Sacher completed his training as a chef and afterward spent time in Bratislava (Pressburg) and Budapest, ultimately settling in his hometown of Vienna, where he opened a specialty delicatessen and wine shop.
Sacher's eldest son Eduard carried on his father's culinary legacy, completing his own training in Vienna during which time he perfected his father's recipe and developed the torte into its current form. Since then, the cake remains among the most famous of Vienna's culinary specialties.

From the traditional to a more quirky expressionist Vienna sight, the Hundertwasserhaus, created in the 1980s by a unique artist / architect called, well, Hundertwasser. 

It features undulating floors, a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms, with limbs extending from windows. Hundertwasser took no payment for the design of the house, declaring that it was worth it, to prevent something ugly from going up in its place. The guy has a point!
There are apartments, offices and lots of trees and bushes in and around the building.
Vienna's development didn't stop there. This building is at Kärtnerstrasse, the vehicle-free shopping mile.

Speaking of shopping, if you want to buy something for your family and friends back home, here's a treat (technically not from Vienna): 

Mozartkugeln, a small, round sweet made of pistachio marzipan and nougat that is covered with dark chocolate. It was originally known as Mozart-Bonbon, created in 1890 by Salzburg confectioner Paul Fürst and named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

I like the special box they come in, and I just found out you don't have to travel to Austria in order to get them, you may just go online...

At the beginning of this post I hinted that all that glitters isn't gold, and living and working in Vienna isn't a fairytale. 

Especially not for this part-time working hockey mom, formerly known as workaholic businesswoman, employed by a fast paced, double-digit growing American coffee chain trying to establish itself in Austria, the self-proclaimed inventor of the coffeehouse culture...

Conflicts were bound to occur, right?

Before I start my rant, let me point out that I met super nice and approachable people in Vienna and / or Austria, and the best example is what happened when I had my purse stolen.

So what is my rant about? I'm going to structure it into groups of situations:

I was flying from Zurich to Vienna at least once a month over a period of several years, and I am certainly a fast learner, and I can adapt to other cultures and suck it up. This is what bugged me until the end:

Immigration officers: totally unaware of the fact that they are - if they like it or not - a visitor's first impression. Bored, disinterested and uncourteous clerks make nobody feel welcome!

Ticketing: Arriving at the airport you want to purchase a train ticket that takes you into the city. At least that's what you do if your company is on a tight budget and doesn't pay for cab rides. Anyway. You do your best to tap around on the screen, pay for your fare and board a train. A ticket collector will show up, frown and tell you your ticket is not OK, you need to pay extra. Why? If you're in the city of Vienna, you are actually in the state of Vienna. The airport, however, even though it it called Vienna Airport, is located in the state of Niederöstereich, meaning you need to pay for two zones. Geez, I speak German, and I didn't get that from the machine or the map, how is a visitor from Japan supposed to know?

Smoking: it's allowed pretty much everywhere except in malls, restaurants and offices. Meaning, comparable to my own country, people are smoking on train platforms, in parking garages, right next to the elevator of course, and directly in front of entrances. So gross. 

Hierarchical thinking: employees tend to hide behind rules, laws and their supervisors, which makes it super hard to accomplish anything in due time. "I need to consult with Mr (INSERT IMPRESSIVE SOUNDING ACADEMIC TITLE) (INSERT NAME), however he currently is in "Krankenstand" (formal word for he's taking a sickie)

No can do attitude. The phrase I probably heard most? "That's a problem, that won't work."

Now I admit, this sounds a bit harsh. It is my subjective perception, I haven't been back in ten years, and a lot of it applies to my own country as well, sadly.

I hope I didn't spoil your desire to visit Vienna, and you did enyjoy the sights. Check out the other V posts and come back tomorrow, we're going to Washington D.C.