Our second day in Vienna, Jacob and I set out with a purpose.
We had tracked down the address of the American Embassy, as well as the two houses my Grandparents had lived in while stationed in Vienna. As I have mentioned once or twice before in previous posts, my Grandparents worked for the U.S. Department of State as Diplomats. Their career with the State Department enabled them to live incredibly a-typical lives, filled with international travel, adventure, glamour, and intrigue. The six years my Grandparents lived in Vienna was a significant period in their lives, and I have grown up hearing stories of their time there.
Jacob and I both knew that we would not pass up the opportunity to find the Embassy or my Grandparent's former homes if we had the chance to see them. So our second morning we mapped out where everything was and started on our journey.
Unfortunately we did not have any money left on us, it was Saturday (so all the banks were closed), and we could not find an ATM anywhere. Taking public transportation was out of the question; we would be walking. Jacob wisely omitted telling me that our journey was going to be a nearly 8 kilometer walk.
Considering that we had already walked 11 km. the day before, our feet were already aching as we left our apartment. Seven kilometers later, I thought my feet were going to fall off. It was worth it however, to see this place: The U.S. Embassy of Vienna, where my Grandfather had been the Deputy Chief of Mission (ranking just below the Ambassador).
Not far from the Embassy, in a gorgeous neighborhood filled with grand villas (many of which are owned by various international embassies), we came to the two houses my Grandparents had lived in.
Here is a picture of my Uncle Wesley as a child, playing outside of that very house.
The second house was particularly exciting to see.
Though you would not guess it from looking at the front, this house contains a whopping 42 rooms, and has a grand backyard with two terraces. (When you have an important position within an Embassy, the State Department often provides you with the tools needed to entertain lavishly as the job description demands. Perks of a demanding occupation.)
Here is what some of those rooms looked like back in my Grandparent's day:
After growing up with these stories living on in my mind, I expected some dissonance between my imagination-supplemented memory and reality. Instead, I was surprised at how accurate it all was. The houses looked exactly as I thought they would - when we saw them, I recognized it like I had simply stepped into one of the old photographs. It was with a sense of deep gratitude that Jacob and I visited these places, knowing that it was an opportunity we had never anticipated.
After our sojourn into my family history, Jacob and I were brought back to reality by another 8 km. hike back to the city center.
Once back in the city we visited St. Stephen's Dom, a cathedral that had catapulted to the top of my all-time favorite churches list.
Here is why St. Stephen's tops the list:
The entrance into the church is the most jaw-dropping I have ever experienced. You catch your breath as you see the gorgeous colors in the cathedral. Now I have to admit that I believe those incredible colors had a bit of manmade help (there may have been a projector hiding behind the organ), but if that's the case, I don't really care. What matters to me is that it is an incredibly artistic use of the space inside the cathedral. It's enchanting, inviting, and alive with energy and movement - perfectly fitting for a church.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the city center and meeting with friends until we couldn't stand the pain in our feet any longer. Having estimated that we walked about 20 km. (over 10 miles) that day alone, we dragged ourselves home and fell asleep quickly.
The next morning we had a precious few hours to explore one last place before heading home to Romania. Near our apartment was Belvedere Palace, and we had been saving it for our last morning.
It's my future home.
We were very fortunate to find yet another Christmas Market in front of Belvedere Palace where we could eat breakfast and lunch rolled into one awesome meal.
Giant fresh donuts filled (before our very eyes!) with chocolate or marmalade. We ate them while they were still hot.
Jacob went into fits of joy over finding Raclette, a Swiss specialty that combines potatoes, pickles, and salamis and drenches the whole thing in melted Swiss cheese. The Swiss really know what's up when it comes to melting cheese.
We left Vienna, stuffed and happy but sad to go so soon. We will be back soon Vienna!