Friday, May 28, 2010

four reasons why I love Vienna

1. Coffee, coffee, coffee. Overpriced yes, but worth it for the languid coffee house culture which sadly does not exist in America. You get something to eat or drink, and sit for as long as you like without being pestered by the wait staff. In fact, if you want anything else, you have to get their attention.

2. Cheap opera. How cheap? Cheaper than the coffee. I saw three operas three nights in a row for a grand total of 8 euro. They were standing room tickets, but since the second night at the Volksoper (Orpheus in der Unterwelt) wasn't sold out, us few standees in attendance were allowed to plonk our butts in velvet seats as soon as the lights went down. I had practically an entire row to myself. Since the soles of my feet are kind of wrecked from tromping around Russia, this was a good thing. The first night at the Wiener Staatsoper (Salome) was sort of brutal. Not only is Strauss a bit out of my opera comfort zone, the temperature in the gallery seemed to be rising steadily throughout the intermission-less performance. Still worth it, though. I'd do it all over if I could. But be warned that standing room in Vienna can be vicious. There was a minor kerfuffle involving shoving, fisticuffs, and police intervention the third night, back at the Staatsoper (appropriately for this trip, Eugene Onegin). No kidding!

3. Public transit. This can also be said for Moscow and St Petersburg. Cheap, efficient, barely any wait time between trains. And no matter how sardined the cars are, everyone pretty much behaves themselves (other than the one guy who was passed out in the Moscow metro). I can only imagine that Europeans visiting the Bay Area are shocked by the state of our public transit, where at times you need to wait 20 minutes for a train, and then once aboard, there's always a good chance of having some unpleasant experience.

4. You can ride your bike on the sidewalk, or your get your own lane in traffic, complete with traffic signal. Even the horse-drawn carriages don't get their own lane.

Tomorrow I'm off to Bratislava. I feel like I've rushed around town, yet barely touched the surface of Vienna, so I'll need to come back soon.

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