One Day Away

We are right now in Vienna, staying with a friend two nights. Turns out she can cook–I mean really cook! These two nights we have been treated to amazing hospitality which included multi-course meals for dinner. Last night we stayed in and watched a Czech film and then Wings of Desire, the German film from the 80’s on which City of Angels was loosly based. Great film (Wings of Desire, not City of Angels in case you were crazy)…highly recommended. I hope to track down a copy to watch with more attention in the future. U2 also scored the follow-up, So Far, So Close, which I also want to see (altho Mischa says it is not as good). I am also ripping most of her CD collection, which includes every release of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (who not coincidentally stars as himself in Wings of Desire). Quite impressive.

Today we surpised pretty much everyone with our planned (ok, Miriam planned it, I pretty much follow her around) surprise trip to Bratislava. We got up at 06:00am, and were on the Vienna “U” by 7:00. Caught an 8:15 train to Bratislava and were there by 9:00. Mischa lent us her mobile phone for the day, so we were able to call people from the train station. Since none of them knew we were coming and it is a some-of-Europe-wide holiday today (May 1, Labour Day), we were a bit worried that much of the fam might be out of town seeing some sites or otherwise on vacation.

First call, to Miriam’s aunt and uncle, mom’s side, Milka and Dodo, went unanswered. Tried their mobile, also without luck. Next call was to grandmother and father, also mom’s side, and the phone was answered by Anicka, also aunt on mom’s side. Miriam says hello, and “I was wondering if you wanted to have a coffee…” at which point I can almost hear Anicka come out of the phone from where I was standing. Turns out she was in the middle of painting a room so we decided to go by there a bit later. She told us Milka and Dodo should be home. Another call to them got an answer (we were pretty much waking them up) and the same question and the same surprise/shock.

So we caught a cab to their place and had a second breakfast. I controlled my hunger because I knew I was going to be fed at each stop, and we still had a few to make.

Milka then drove us around for the rest of the day(!) At 12:30 we went to the village where grandmother and father live and hung out with them for a while, which of course included lunch. They busted out the champange in celebration of our “arrival in Europe”. Grandfather, who almost didn’t make through the winter, looked great and was cracking jokes and preaching it like usual.

My majorly jetlagged ass finally did fall asleep on their couch for about an hour, but the nap did me good.

We had arranged to meet with all of Miriam’s dad’s side of the family later in the afternoon. They were all convienently already getting together at grandmother’s “hut” by the lake. This allowed us to see a lot of people we hadn’t planned to have time to see. Dasa, Miriam’s cousin, who she had called in the morning, kept the secret all afternoon and when we showed up grandmother and Miriam’s one aunt were really surprised. We had a short but nice time there and then it was off to our 6:15 train. By 7:00 we were back in Vienna.

Slovakia/Bratislava has changed so much even in the last year and half since we were last there. One thing was that today the weather was really great, and riding the train into town I was able to see the entire city in the sunshine, Bratislava Castle, St. Martin’s church, and Kalvaria (Miriam’s old neighborhood) climbing up the foothills beyond. It was beautiful. Another aspect of this short visit was seeing more of the outlying villages than ever before, where there is a lot of new construction as people begin buying old properties and building new homes there. It is the same concept as suburbs but not at all like them. In Europe there is only city and villages. Most of this new construction has been made possible by the long-overdue arrival of the mortgage to Slovakia. Up until a few years ago you had to pay cash for a house. Pretty big barrier to property ownership.

At any rate, the country seems much further along the road to mainline European integration than ever before. Crossing that border isn’t such a dramatic thing anymore.

Vienna is also an interesting town that I have visited many times in the past but never been able to get to know. Just getting to ride the subway today made much of that knowledge possible. One interesting thing I noticed is a high (even by European standards) level of unique individual style. It seems every person is quite dissimilar to the next in terms of hair, clothes, general look. The other funny thing is they each seem to have found their match in the opposite sex. So there are these couples walking around that match each other but otherwise look like no one else around.

That’s it for now,

Your Wiener for the day.