Viennese Winter - My Family Travels

I can still recall my early 2009 trip to Vienna, Austria as if it were just yesterday. The colors, still so vivid and fresh, and the people and the sites still linger in my mind. They remain engraved in my thoughts, like moving images and whenever I reminisce, this rare feeling returns. I arrived in a plane from the Miami International Airport, anxiously gazing out the side window in anticipation of my feet at last touching the moist pavement. Once we claimed our baggage at the Vienna International Airport and stepped onto foreign territory, I felt this breeze that raced down my spine and made my body tingle.

I concealed my ears from the cold weather with my black knit hat and I buttoned my black, double breasted coat. I felt this fascinating cold that I had never experienced before; it was a cold that slowly crept up and seeped into my fingers, prompting me to slip on my linen gloves as I held my breath. I exhaled, my breath coming out as a small, white puff. An unexpected grin made its way onto my face and I was instantly certain that I would truly enjoy my time there. My family and I hauled our luggage down the pavement and beckoned over to a taxi driver who transported us to the Le Méridien hotel where we checked in

      The room was rather spacious, containing two large beds, an oak colored desk with a stationary set resting on top of it, and a window with a view that even a postcard could not capture. I pensively and briefly gazed out the window, embracing the view of the large, historic buildings and the intriguing shops. Because it was winter time and it was late in December, the entire city was decorated with luminescent lights from a wide selection of hues. “It’s beautiful”, I thought to myself. I could not resist the temptation to open the window and when I unlatched, it, I could feel the cool and crisp air brush my cheek and there was a faint smell of warm wine that made its way into the room as well. 

      If it was this spectacular from the top and in the room, I felt that it would be much better to admire it and take it all in from below as well. We settled into our room, gathered our coats and things, and took the elevator downstairs. The first thing we did was search for somewhere to eat because we were quite sated and since we were already familiar with the city (having previously been there), we decided to eat somewhere new, so we selected a small, typical restaurant located near the hotel and I cannot precisely recall the name, but I can recall that it was very traditional and historical, containing ancient fireplaces and artifacts dating back to the 1800’s . Later into the night, after the shopping and the sight seeing, we purchased tickets for a classical music concert, dedicated to the songs of Mozart Amadeus and Johann Strauss. 

      The concert took place in the Wiener Konzerthaus which was beautiful, with delicately painted murals on the walls and ceilings and great use of royal deep red and gold. The concert did not adhere solely to music playing, but their were also opera and dancing performances, such as waltzes and ballets. For those that appreciated the genre of music, it made it more enjoyable and impressive. The performances were very articulate in every aspect and the concert as a whole was great. 

The hotel was located near Stephansplatz and the following day, we took a train from there to the Schönbrunn Palace. I stood outside with my family, gaping at the enormous, regal, and majestic building and instantly removed my camera from its case to take a picture. We entered the Schönbrunn Palace and purchased our tickets to gain admission into the famous Tiergarten Schönbrunn, otherwise known as the Vienna Zoo. I was certain that I would enjoy it, but I was not certain how true that statement would turn out to be. If anything, it was a rather large understatement. 

      As our parents took the tour of the palace (for the second time in their lifetime), my brother and I decided to enter the zoo because we had never been inside before. My brother and I walked down the side of the palace and followed the path that led to the zoo, which to be quite sincere, felt like a lengthy path and the temperature was dropping. We handed our tickets to the uniformed man at the kiosk and anxiously walked through the turnstile. I borrowed my mother’s camera so that I could document all of the different animals I encountered. The first few animals were not extraordinary and they were more simple or common. 

The animals that we proceeded to come across, in contrast, were quite fascinating and attractive. We stopped at each animal’s cage and we read both the name and the history of each creature, large or small. One of the animals, one of the smallest, was the one that probably left the largest impression on me. When I read the information on the stand, I was almost in disbelief, but I pointed the camera in the direction of the area that had been decorated and set up. When I looked through the lens I could not believe it as it scurried across: it was a chevrotain, also known as a mouse deer.

       I was also quite taken by a pair of baby otters, that inquisitively looked up at me with their small innocent eyes, wondering the identity of the mysterious person behind the camera. They used their fragile and furry bodies to swim across the other side of the wooden bridge I was leaning on and they squealed, the male otter suddenly becoming very protective of the female otter. Next on our excursion was the bat cave, which made me cringe when one dove over my head. We also saw a great variety of animals, such as a sea lion, a penguin, a playful hippopotamus, a tiger, different types of birds and bears and more. At the conclusion of our visit to the zoo, we saw my most preferred animal, the large but mostly gentle panda. 

      I peered through the glass and joined in on the crowd of giggling as the panda ripped off a long bamboo stick and chewed on it, unaware of the audience it was entertaining behind it. I said “aww” when I watched a cute and fluffy cub as it walked across a beam and nearly tipped over, instantly extending it little paws to clutch onto it. After a moment of admiration, we briefly entered the koala exhibit that was located directly beside it. Following our inspirational trip to the zoo, we met up with my parents and went to the Leopold! Essen and Trinken, a typical Viennese restaurant. The service was great and all of the residents I encountered in Vienna were very amiable, generous, and sociable. 

      It was only the second day, but something unexpectedly occurred that completed my trip. As we exited a shop called Bipa, it began to snow. I looked up as those ivory grains of sand we call snow slid down my nose. There was almost something romantic as I watched the snow gracefully land on the pavement and as I saw it quickly gather into a pile of snow. It felt soft like velvet and smooth as it melted on my fingertips. 

       It was an ineffable feeling of scientific mystery and beholding something gorgeous. I didn’t mind that my hair was moist or that the water was creeping into my gloves because I was so immersed in the snow fall. I grinned, feeling an inner satisfaction and bliss. I reflected on my admiration for the culture, the food, the stores, and simply, the location. That winter trip to Vienna Austria, was truly one of the best adventures I had ever been on and I was certain that I would return again soon, that I had to return.


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