The days seem to blur together in a pastel montage of enthusiastic introductions, baroque facades and bread, however through the madness of arriving, orientation and acclimation I’ve begun to take comfort amongst the subway lines and bustle of city life. It’s warm this August in Vienna, which I’ve heard is common from one source and uncommon from another. The afternoons get up into the 80s (about 27 degrees in celsius), which is wonderful weather for meandering through anciently charming streets of a foreign capital, but does absolutely no favors to students sitting air condition-less classrooms in 2:30 heat, excuse me 14:30 heat. (I’m attempting to make the crossover to the continentally used 24-hour clock, will update as confusion ensues). Although aircon would be fabulous as I attempt to remember the German gender specific articles of every major historical and political building around the Ringstrße, a road that encircles Vienna’s first and innermost district, but I just can’t imagine changing anything about the Hogwarts castle where I attend class. Okay, so maybe Hogwarts isn’t the proper description, but Haunted Mansion pre-cobwebs and dilapidation most definitely is. It’s called Palais Corbelli, was built between 1695 and 1709, and is headquarters of the IES Abroad Vienna.
Many months ago I recalled a cleanly dress IES Abroad Representative at a study abroad fair on my college campus excitedly telling me about how it’s what makes their Vienna program special. The severity of this however, did not actually occur to me until the moment I found myself sitting in a room full of sweating college students, beneath an 18th century mural of bare breasted women whimsically floating amongst winged infants illuminated in clean chandelier light, while listening to a presentation about how one might go about signing up for a gym membership. Or the moment my German induced anxiety began running its cold fingers down my spine, while hunched over a test, in a darkwood panelled classroom straight out of a Keira Knightley period moive. On top of that all the doorknobs look like something out of a vintage Restoration Hardware catalog, but I’m sure even the landlady would scoff at such a remark. We were told in the earliest hours of orientation not to acknowledge Palais Corbelli’s 86 year old landlady, or greet her with the typical “Grüß Gott” that, unlike other German speaking nations is how the majority of Austrians say hello. She loves the palace with a fiery passion, that we were told is illuminated when students forget to shut the windows after class.
“She has eyes everywhere”, one of our coordinators told our group. And I could understand why.
The ordinary meets the extraordinary in the most regal sort way in Vienna, and as my first week has come and gone I feel that I am slowly coming to appreciate the unadulterated beauty that cultivates over the course of a city’s extended existence. Vienna has existed since the 1st century when the Romans built a military camp in the area of the city that could be compared to New York’s Times Square. Of course life continues as it does anywhere, but knowing this makes McDonald advertisements mounted on Rococo rooftops seem less sacrilegious. And as for the blissfully unaware college students leaving windows open, and butchering German in palaces older that the Declaration of Independance, that’s just what makes the program special.
Tune in next week to for more ramblings about Katie’s Austrian life!
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<p>My name is Katie Holdcroft and I am a junior at Western Washington University. I am originally from Seattle Washington, but was raised on the Big Island of Hawaii. I enjoy sarcasm, making music on my ukulele, reading books that make you think, and writing about the strangeness of strangers. I like coffee slightly more than people, and cats slightly more than coffee. Traveling is my passion and my inspiration to be content with all that there is to be, but mostly I do it to look cool on social media.</p>