Rest for the Pilgrims…

Ramon Giron-Melendez
January 23, 2013
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Bundled and  huddled, the IES students packed themselves into 2 coach buses, anxiously holding their American cameras, poised to take pictures of the Viennese marvels that awaited them. Indulging the tourist sweet-tooth in all of us, we oohed and awwed at the structures scattered throughout the Ringstraße, hurriedly instagramming here and photoshopping there. The IES pilgrims amazed at the century old relics around them, knew that young America, even with it’s oldest colonial house, could never compete with the age old European beauties that littered Vienna’s sparkling clean streets.

With any remaining sense of patriotism thrown out the window, we hurled ourselves into the European world of architecture, paying homage to the greats of the old world; Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner and Mahler. Not even a chilly bus, near zero weather, or shoes drenched in snow from the continuous weekly snow-fall, could stop these American pilgrims from cherishing the Austrian cultural holy land. Nevertheless what weather could not impeded, hunger re-directed. Toes numb, ears pink, and noses frozen, IES students shuffled their way off the coach buses and with sunken eyes drank in the Vienna inner district, looking for any sign of cheap eatery in the vicinity. The pilgrims went their separate ways, letting go of their the sense of solidarity in exchange for warm bellies and thawed toes.

Trudging through the snow I joined some fellow pilgrims and together we spotted a great info booth, huffing and puffing we yanked that tourist info office door open and with our broken German pleaded with the woman to direct us to the nearest and cheapest cafe/restaurant. Almost but no cigar, our broken German only got us a “Sorry I only sell music tickets, the man at the next desk could help you.” Hopeful, we tried again. Brimming with information spoken to us in English, our starved stomachs jumped with excitement, and marching onwards we jumped onto the U-Bahn and sped down to our “Wiener Schnitzel” destination.

Perhaps most stories would stop here with an up-beat ending and some wise words for traveling…..please go to another blog now if you’re looking for that..there is only more trouble ahead for you! But for the brave readers, let’s continue. Where were we? Oh yes, trudging along to our Wiener Schnitzel destination we got off the train, and got ready to siege the city, determined to find 52 Neubaugasse Schnitzelwirt. However, after painfully eyeing each storefront along the street for the exact number, we realized that we were actually lost. We had been looking for the restaurant on the wrong street for the past half hour, and even more ridiculous, passed the street we were supposed to turn on at least 3 times. Finally “getting it together” we discovered the true track towards victory, and with our stomachs propelling us forward, we sucked in the crisp Viennese winter air one last time and strutted in willpower up Neubaugasse. Double checking each store front, whispering words of encouragement to each other, and drawing strength from our collective struggle we saw the yellow enveloped green saving words “Schnitzelwirt.” Alieved we wouldn’t starve to death we let out shouts of joy and gratitude ( I think someone even started to do a “rain dance”)! Proud of our street smarts, we walked into the sauna-like restaurant and with the smell of Schnitzel in the air, allowed our mouths to salivate in anticpaition of a true Austrian delight.

Journeying from dawn to dinner, pilgrims in a strange city do not always have an easy, enjoyable, or even fun time, but what they do have for sure, is an adventure to remember. Although we wondered without the aid of our smart phones, google maps, or even a series of known Chipotles that we could sneak into if all else failed, we persevered until reaching our rest stop. Breathing in the warm smoky restaurant air, we made our way to the nicotine free seating in the back, laying to rest our backs, unfurling our scarves, satisfactorily letting our weary near-numbed toes to uncurl, thaw, and finally resurrect themselves back to life. Friends and fellow pilgrims, let yourself feel the uncertainty of freedom, allowing the city to lead you into unexpected nooks and crannies, as it shows you its true colors and best kept secrets.

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Ramon Giron-Melendez

<div><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);">Ramon, originally from Boston, MA, is a Junior currently studying History at Columbia College. Specializing in Eastern European history with a focus on the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, he hopes to deepen his understanding of the fundamentals of the dual monarchy during his time in Vienna. Through comparative research of geo-politically marginalized regions, he aims to find new ideas to aid development in the 3rd world. Strongly believing that everyone has an inner child, he actively works to raise awareness on the rights of children worldwide through is involvement as co-president of the Columbia Child Rights group. However what most captures Ramon&rsquo;s imagination is his admiration for one of Europe&rsquo;s greatest institutions, The Eurovision Song Contest itself! Eagerly following year round developments, Ramon enjoys watching how countries choose to represent themselves to the world and how they project their national identities unto this unique international platform. A passionate fan of music, he spends as much time as possible following the music industry. He can usually be found reading Rolling Stone magazine, keeping his eyes peeled for new emerging music genres, and eagerly looking out for new artists on the rise!</span></div>

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