Already a Week? Or Only a Week?

Isaac Alter
June 2, 2014

Happy June!

It’s hard to believe that it’s the end of my first week here in Vienna, but I’m not exactly sure why…on the one hand, it seems like I’ve been here for months; I already order in restaurants and supermarkets entirely in German, and call my spacious apartment on Margaretenstraße home.  I’ve already grown extremely close with several of my fellow students.  I’ve grown accustomed to long hours standing to listen to concerts and operas. On the other hand, however, this week seems to have zoomed by.  I’m quite a numbers person, so I can’t help but think that only 5/6 of my time here in Vienna remains.  At the same time, I’m so excited to see how at home I feel here in 5 more weeks.  So the back and forth continues.

What a week it’s been.  Some highlights: seeing The Bartered Bride and Fidelio at the Volksoper, both times with good friends; taking the UBahn two stops to the stunning Schönbrunn Palace to see the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual outdoor concert (for which the rain miraculously stopped! Huzzah!); performing two solo pieces for my performance workshop class; completing my first enitrely German interaction with a waitress; going on our day excursion to the Brahms and Hugo Wolf museums; spending six hours exploring two art museums in the Museum Quartier with my friend Eric; and, on Saturday, taking a day trip with some friends to the Austrian city of Salzburg.

The latter was a truly stunning experience; a group of eight of us got some recommendations from Dietmar, our very tall and extremely endearing music history professor, boarded a 7:40am train, and spent the day exploring and sightseeing in the town where Mozart was born, where The Sound of Music was filmed, and where several domed cathedrals and palaces make for a truly magnificent view from atop the fortress in the center of the city. (Don’t believe me? See the attached photo.)

As always, I have too many things to write about to go into depth here, so I’ll end with a few short points.

1) I can’t recall exactly what made me come to this realization (I really should write these things down), but when it hit me, I immediately thought, “I need to put that in a blog post,” so here it is.  I just remember thinking that some aspect of Austrian society was a bit odd or foreign to me, and then realizing that in the eye of a different beholder, American society is too very foreign and odd.

2) A similar moment was in the Leopold Museum today, when a narrative of WWI was written on the wall that was quite different from what I learned in World History; perspective really does matter, even when telling objective facts.

3) I had a truly astounding moment in Salzburg; we were inside the main “Dom” church, which is enormous and gorgeous, and suddenly a men’s choir started to sing. I was overwhelmed with a sense that “this can’t be real,” and started to tear up; it’s hard to put into words what made it so special, but I sat there in the largest cathedral in Salzburg and beautiful music echoed around me, and it was magical. I truly am falling in love with Austria.

Anyhow, I’m off to bed now; 9am German class in the morning. Bis später!


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Isaac Alter

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Isaac Alter, and I&#39;m a rising junior at Harvard College, studying stem cell biology with a double minor in art history and music. Outside the classroom, I work both as an admissions tour guide and as a research associate in a stem cell lab, I am a music director for the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club, and I am a flutist and board member for the River Charles Ensemble, a conductorless chamber orchestra. I&#39;m beyond thrilled to be taking a journey to Vienna this summer, to pursue and explore music--one of my great passions--in what has been the center of classical music for centuries. In my free time, I love taking spontaneous trips to New York, cooking, and exploring nooks and crannies of Harvard&#39;s vast campus. My career plans at this point are wildly up in the air, but I hope that my experience with music this summer will help me on that front.</span></p>

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