Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Aaah Austria

I have never had any desire to visit Austria. I'm not sure why, but it just wasn't on my list of vacation destinations. Perhaps the recent history of World War II had me a bit soured on the country? Who knows. But Neil was traveling there for work and Riley and I tagged along and I am so glad I did. Vienna is a beautiful city with a rich history and cultural scene. Riley and I spent two days just walking around and enjoying the fantastic weather and when Neil was done working for the weekend we had a great day at the zoo.

The weather was amazing, the people were friendly and it was incredibly refreshing to be on vacation for a couple days, especially after being holed up in our home and sick for more than a week.

I expected people to be a bit cold and unfriendly in Vienna, but to my surprise, I met many friendly locals. Several people struck up conversations with me - usually about Riley - and when I told them that I only spoke English, they switched right over. One taxi driver I had was particularly friendly and pointed out sights along our drive, told me about the soccer game he was attending that night, and about several funny cab customers he'd had. He even laughed when Riley giggled. The man working at the desk at our hotel was also quite friendly and when we asked for directions one day he said, "Would you like to go the quick way or the wonderful way?" Who wouldn't want to go the wonderful way right?

A highlight of our time in Vienna was on our second day at the Albertina museum in the Mel Ramos exhibit. The paintings in this exhibit are essentially large oil paintings of playboy centerfolds - lots of naked women. As I walked through the gallery, I felt a little guilty for taking my child to such an inappropriate exhibit when all of a sudden, Riley started waving to the naked women in the paintings. I couldn't stop myself from laughing out loud. I'm sure it was quite a sight for the other museum goers. But, I didn't understand anything they may have said because it was all in German.

I was relieved when Riley also waved at the animals at the zoo the following day.

While in Austria, I had a few realizations about being American and about Europe.

1. I realized that there are a bunch of countries that all speak their own languages and then when people from those countries get together, they communicate in English. But nearly everyone is bilingual.

2. I became even more embarrassed that I only speak one language fluently and sad for our country that we can't get our act together to better educate our children.

3. I realized that playgrounds in Denmark and Austria (and probably other places, too) are MUCH more fun and much less safe because people here clearly don't file law suits at the drop of a hat. A playground I saw in Austria had a zip line! My American- ness saw it and initially thought, "That's just a lawsuit waiting to happen." Later I began thinking, "Cool!"

I hope to return to Vienna, but for now, Riley says, "Bye Vienna."


  1. jodi.. you can't be embarrassed! if all our states spoke different languages then you'd have been exposed to other languages, and besides, the majority of europeans who claim all sort so languages don't speak them with much fluency. it took me a while to really realize this.. don't worry, you'll be fluent in danish before too long! (and I always claim pantomime)

  2. I just heard on NPR that a new study finds that bilingual people's brains work better... duh, right? I am also embarrassed by being monolingual. Everyone in India speaks 3-4 languages fluently, and a few others really well. The US would really benefit from encouraging bilingualism as kids...

    Also that photo of Riley eating is AWESOME. He can really spread his food all over himself, impressive! Looks hard to clean up though :)