Saturday, March 31, 2007
Good day Vienna! Small things mean a lot to me, so when AOL greeted me in German, I was thrilled. It was early afternoon when I finally pulled the mask off my eyes, and let me tell you, it was an Ab Fab moment, the room was BRIGHT, the sun was streaming freely through the white crochet curtains. Fritz got up to go to the Vorgartenmarkt to get some breakfast. He returned with freshly ground coffee beans and raspberry-filled fresh pastries. He made coffee, breakfast was heavenly. The sound of children playing in the park across the street makes me feel like part of the community. I like waking up in Vienna!
The most important part of the day: meeting Fritz's son, Camillo, as he got out of school. We hopped on the subway, the U Bahn, and went a couple of stops to the fourth district. The last time I saw Camillo, he was adorable and I had to squat to be eye level, and now he's taller than me. He's polite, respectful and check this out, he's learning English in school so we're actually talking! When I look at Camillo, I can't get over how much he is the handsome, spitting image of his father!
I had two "Otto" sightings -- at a cafe/restaurant (pictured) and as a destination on a trolley. Let me explain. For a while in my life, many, many years past, my last name was Otto. My ex-husband is Venezuelan, but his grandfather was a German man who immigrated to South America. Otto is the last name of my two children, Sheena and Gary. And I get a kick every time I see the name, though Otto in Austria is a lot like Smith in the U.S. -- or Hernandez in 20-plus Spanish-speaking countries.
We decided to take an ice cream break and got on the U Bahn again to get to the best ice cream shop in Vienna. Riding the subway is always interesting because you get to witness the eclectic mix of Viennese society. The subway platforms have large flat screens that serve as entertainment and also dispenses information. It cost 1.50 Euros to ride the system, the seats are upholstered and there is even reading material hanging by many seats.
We got off at the last stop and there was the Tichy building, like a monument to all ice cream. On the walk there, it appeared that everywhere you looked on the street, everyone was eating ice cream. Coming here was a double treat as we got to see Johanna, Fritz's ex-sister-in-law. I had been sad about the divorce, but to look at her it was the best thing that ever happened. She is looking GOOD!! Fantastic, actually. She's moved on, but is as affectionate with us as ever. After she got over the shock of seeing us, let me tell you, we got the royal treatment. Ice cream and coffee on the house! Waitresses coming over to catch up with Fritz and see how much Camillo has grown. I smile and nod as I stuffed my face. I'm being honest when I tell you that it was the best ice cream I've ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth!! I don't normally like strawberry ice cream, to me it is too bland, but taste Tichy's strawberry ice cream -- and every other kind, like mango or apricot -- and your tastebuds come alive with the luscious flavor of the fruit.
When we left Tichy's, we decided to walk the few blocks to see Mitch, Fritz's brother and Johanna's ex. The streets were bustling, almost like Times Square on a Saturday. Still, it was a beautiful day to stroll through Vienna. It really feels like spring. Look up, and the trees are beginning to bloom.
It was good to see Mitch, it's always good to see him. He makes me feel so comfortable, like I'm not a stranger in a strange land. In fact, this entire trip I've felt like a part of the community. It's great to vacation where everyone knows your husband's name!! Mitch lives in an industrial area that is undergoing gentrification. Mitch owns two cats, and I felt right at home. Mitch took a great shot of the three of us hanging out on his couch. Afterward, Mitch lent us his car and we drove Camillo home. We bought flowers to give to his mother, Kornelia. I couldn't wait to see her to tell her what a wonderful job she is doing with Camillo. I met her spouse, Wolfgang, and to my delight he is a former surfer dude who speaks totally good English. They have a son together, Gabriel, he is Camillo's adorable little brother. I explained to Wolfgang that while I am American, my culture is from Puerto Rico and all of a sudden he knew who I was, it was amazing. Check this out -- he's actually surfed the Rincon, which is just north of Mayaguez in Puerto Rico. He understood that the most important thing in Spanish culture is family, and he translated that to Kornelia and she, who is from Yugoslavia, explained to me that it is the most important thing in her culture, too. So while Fritz visited with Camillo in his room, the three of us drank Prosecco and got along famously! We are all on the same page and are supportive of raising Camillo.
The day turned to night quickly. We said good night to Camillo and got ready for dinner with Fritz's parents and Mitch. I also got to meet Tanya, Mitch's girlfriend. We ate at the Donauturm, a revolving restaurant on a space-needle building overlooking the Danube. I had Wiener Schnitzel, I could have schnitzel every day here and never get tired of it. We ended the evening with a nightcap at Martin's. I was sad because we only got to see Martin at the end of the day, but Martin had a full day at work -- he is a mailman -- and was okay with it. We then went back to our apartment at Max Winter Platz 6 and crashed.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
To get to Vienna, we first flew Emirates Airlines at 11:50 pm Wednesday (all times are local) from JFK to Hamburg. If you flew first-class (photo left) you received many perks, but economy was not so bad either, though the seats were a little cramped. Each of us was given a kit that contained socks, eye-masks and toothpaste and toothbrush. Each economy seat faced its own tv screen and the system carried something like 500 channels. Most of it was on demand. I got to see Dreamgirls. Jennifer Hudson was great and so was Eddie Murphy. The flight staff served warm damp towels to clean our hands before we ate, then delivered large trays filled with delicious ethnic food. I had chicken with basmati rice, among many other filling things.
We landed in Hamburg, Germany, around 1:30 p.m. and drank beer and watched the airplanes land and takeoff from an outdoor observation deck. Our Air Berlin flight was comfortable, leather seats. We landed in Vienna around 5:30 pm. Fritz's parents greeted us with beautiful red and peach fragrant roses. We kissed and hugged and got in everybody's way, then they drove us to the apartment we are renting in the second district of Vienna. The apartment is cute, a studio (photo right), and it's in a neighborhood similar to like below Houston Street in Manhattan. Except you walk a couple of blocks and it turns into Fifth Avenue, then industrial with a couple of spots with red lights, and there's even a festival area, since this place is about 2 blocks from the Prater, the ferris wheel that stars in the Joseph Cotten movie "The Third Man."
We went to visit Fritz's long time friend Martin, and on the walk back we stopped to take a picture across the street from the Prater. It's almost midnight in Vienna. We're ready to pass out.