“Are you ready for intercourse?” The waitress asked me.
“Beg your pardon?” I kindly asked back.
“Intercourse. Is your family ready for intercourse?”
“I’m sorry, we didn’t think this restaurant was that kind of place.” I said while protectively eyeing my wife and daughter and shooting glimpses towards the bushes to see if I was on candid camera.
“Intercourse.” She said. “The space between dishes so you can sit, talk, drink and digest.”
“Oh yes! Intercourse. Of course.” I replied. “Yes, our family will have intercourse now.” That’s Vienna for you.
That’s the fun thing about traveling, you never know which funny custom or lost in translation moment you’ll find yourself in. Many brazen thrill seekers actually search out these perilous moments and some are psychotic enough to voluntarily be chased by bulls in Pamplona, swim naked in the freezing waters of northern Russia, or fight with live fireworks in Chios, Greece. Some of these traditions are engrained in religious or holiday events; such as whipping women with willow branches on eastern Sunday in the Czech Republic, or the fact that Santa comes to visit families on Christmas not with reindeers, but 6-8 black men in the Netherlands. No shit.
Some seem like they were born out of a bet instigated by heavy drinking. How else can you explain that men in Gloucester, England race down the hill to catch rolling cheeses before their peers or that Finland has an annual ‘wife carrying championship’. “Well Sven.” I imagined one Finn saying to another years ago, “You carried you wife faster than me THIS time, but I will train and beat you next year. Now let’s go soak in the sauna, my back is killing me.” Just like that- a cultural tradition is born. All because Sven’s competitor needed a rematch.
Landing in Vienna
We arrived in Vienna early in the afternoon. We checked into the Hilton Danube which was a real treat as we’ve been staying in a string of Airbnbs which, over time, can be a little lonely. At the Hilton Danube, we mixed and mingled with other guests which we haven’t done in a while. Our first afternoon, Lisa chatted up a couple of women who were taking a 10 day trip across eastern Europe. The next morning by the pool I met a woman whose family was following F1 (formula one) races across Europe. The concept of ‘time‘ came up a lot as we shared our stories with one another. “How do you have the time to do such a trip?” we’re commonly asked.
“In your final moments, you realize that ‘time’ is more valuable than money”
In the end, it’s time that kills us. On our deathbeds, we realize, ‘Our time has come‘ or ‘We’re out of time‘ or ‘My time is up.” I wish, I wish, I wish. I wish I had more time to do this, or that, and now, that time is no more and it has simply run out. I think most people, when looking back on their lives, in those final moments realize that ‘time’ is more valuable than money. You can’t take money with you, and it’s impossible to enjoy without time. More time. I wish. If only. For some, ‘If only‘ becomes a state of mind that keeps them from transforming and moving forward and firmly rooted in who they were, and never who they could be. Poor bastards.
There’s a certain air about rich people at a high class resort. A sort of pomp around which their lives revolve around, and it becomes clear which way the wind blows for them even after a short conversation. However, after I let the cat out of the bag on our world tour, I’m often awed at how lecherously the richest of people can cotton to the dreams of a middle class family of teachers to whom time is no subject. “I wish I had time to do that.” They often say ruefully, realizing the true currency of the world.
Highlights of Vienna
- Cafe Central: This institution has been serving the likes of Leon Trotsky and Sigmund Freud and sponsoring their conversations since 1876. Looking up at the intricately painted vaulted ceilings one can’t help but wonder what conversations shook out of this place and onto paper as text and arguments in politics which have influenced millions. The apple strudel is to die for.
- Belvedere Museum: The gardens alone make it worth the trip alone, but works by Rodin, Van Gogh and Gustav Klimt make it special. See Klimt’s ‘The Kiss‘ but don’t neglect the ‘Self Portrait‘ by Maria Lassnig, and ‘Ball Head‘ by Mara Mattischka in the lower Belvedere for some serious existential introspection.
- St. Stephen’s Basilica: If you’ve been through eastern Europe, it’s easy to get a little ‘churched out’. Of course every city has an old town, central square and a church spire towering over the surrounding buildings to signify who runs the show. Still, St. Stephen’s Basilica interior and facade is magnificent and only rivaled by ‘La Sagrada Familia‘ in Barcelona, and ‘Westminster Abbey‘ in London. Although you’re more assured to find more tourists here than genuflected devotees, make sure to leave a monetary donation to help your chances of getting into heaven.
- Walking Streets: Add ‘Graben’ and ‘Karntner‘ streets to your walking path you’ll have no shortage of eye candy for your city stroll. Pop into bars to witness the two national pastimes, (drinking and smoking) and watch the world go by.
Ava’s Narrative Fiction Story Finishes with ‘Pro Writing Aid’
After weeks of tinkering and feedback, Ava finally finished her narrative essay which she started in Riga which seems like years ago. She’ll turn the final draft into a digital story with visual and sound effects while we’re in Budapest but I was happy she finished it so we could move on to other things.
We used ‘Pro writing aid‘ to smooth out grammar and spelling issues and ‘pro writing aid’ does this well. After uploading your document the program looks for grammar, style and spelling issues with suggestions. It made revising a snap. “It’s a lot like grammarly” Ava said.
Over dinner one evening, after enjoying burrata cheese and an artichoke salad I told the waiter:
“We’ll have intercourse now.”
“Excuse me?” the waiter said.
“Intercourse. Uh, you know, the space between meals.”
“Oh yes. Not many tourists are familiar with that term. It’s an old time expression.”
“Those are our favorite kind. Do you have any more you can teach us?“