From my window seat, the view of Vienna was pretty dissimilar to the picture I had in my mind of the millenniums-old city. Instead of finding a city nestled cozily in valleys surrounded by granite Alpen peaks, I found a city that looked like it had been spilled out flat east of the Alps, in-between the foothills and the mighty Danube River.
Although the expectation of seeing a mountain-city was the only one I really had, I emptied myself of any other expectations I might hold and dedicated my time there to simply embracing whatever I experienced.
When my boots hit the ground, I thought the place seemed pretty normal. But as we began exploring the city, its richness began to grow in my mind like a calm sea that slowly builds and builds until it becomes a giant wave.
Over the course of the week I spent there, Vienna was undefinable for me. I could only tell you what happened while I was there.
The old buildings spoke old truths to me. The spirit of the city casually greeted me. The public transportation impressed me. The river, with all it’s natural beauty and artistic expressions, undid me. The ease and quickness of taking the train into the Alps refreshed me. The people welcomed me, danced with me, and approved of my propensity to take a long time to select the “right” table in a restaurant. And I cannot even begin to appropriately describe the song the famous Viennese coffeehouses used to allure me.
The wave continued growing.
I sensed the history in the place. Its hands on my shoulder telling me that I’d be alright, regardless of what I accomplished. And in that was a freedom to be myself. In a city that is so quintessentially German (in language, dedication to tradition, and more), I felt the explosion of encouragement from a culture that also bursts with the possibilities that lay on the other side of open-mindedness and never doing something just because it’s what they’re told to do, but because it’s right.
Vienna, a city chiseled deep by history, but always seeking improvement for the benefit of people and cultivating things with excellence. It’s a place that wants me to be better and knows the good I’m capable of, and yet doesn’t need me or my actions.
I have only barely begun to understand the place, but I adore it. And I look forward to the day I can return to regain the piece of my heart I left there to mature.