Oh, Vienna

Memories of a trip to Vienna 5 years ago. It’s like looking through a telescope.

On the city train back to the airport and then home after three days in Vienna with the children. Glad I did it. It cost over £2k and I did cry an awful lot and there were some rows but on balance I think we all had a good break, and to my surprise the children have decided Vienna is their favourite city.  My son commented immediately on how clean it is!  On a not unrelated note, when we were leaving the opera and I walked past an empty water bottle on the ground, a little old lady in the row behind barked at me in German to pick it up and take it home.

I’d booked flights and hotel through Expedia, choosing a cheap but centrally located place. We walked a lot. To save money I didn’t have internet or phone which had its frustrations but on the other hand was quite peaceful!  I shared a room with [son] and the first two nights took sleeping pills and actually did get some sleep. Then thought I had licked the sleeplessness at last after 18 months and was up all the third night.

We saw all the things the children wanted to see as well as my own choices. [Eldest] was keen to visit the natural history museum and did it on the last day, pronouncing it the highlight of the week.  [Younger daughter] wanted to go on the Riesenrad (ferris wheel as in the film The Third Man which [son] and I watched again with [lodger] the night before we left – [daughters] declined). [Son’s] choices were St Stephan’s cathedral, the palace of Schoenbrunn and the Danube. My requests were the Leopold Museum and the Hundertwasserhaus. We also went to the opera, queuing one evening for standing tickets for a couple of euros to see Ariadne auf Naxos. We went to the Kunsthistorishesmuseum on the recommendation of [nephew] and it was so good that [twins] went back the following day while [eldest] did the natural history museum opposite. We ate good Austrian food, schnitzel and dumplings and strudel and filled our boots at the breakfast buffet.

It still feels weird being the one who has to make all the choices and being in charge. Eg also decided whether and what to tip for example the band of Spanish singers who serenaded us one night at dinner. But on reflection there was Aachen and Barcelona before this and we managed very well.

That was a note I wrote on 18 April 2014. I remember that the thing that haunted me while I was there, and made me cry a lot a whole 18 months after the bollockeaded ex absconded was the knowledge that he had been there recently apparently for extremely important high level business with a bank. I kept thinking about how he would have gone from his expensive hotel to expensive restaurants by taxi and so on, without a care in the world, certainly not for me or his children. Acting (as usual) the big swinging dick. I remember I was still pretty tightly wound, worrying about whether the children would have to be pulled out of school and where they would go, what would happen in the divorce, where we would live and how we would cope. At one point, walking round Schoenbrunn, with everything hurting me, every nerve in my body and certainly my brain, I became overwhelmed and had a sense of humour failure with the children which I very much regret.

And now it’s 7 and a half years since that Aachen trip shortly after BH buggered off, and I am still planning for and paying for and wanting to to on family holidays if the kids will come because I like to show my children the world and I like to have them with me. Not so the BH. This year, for a change, he did at least buy them each a book for xmas.  Funny old world.

I cannot remember a single thing about the opera itself.  I do remember we got chatting to an Englishman in the queue. He was some sort of scientist expat who went to the opera about 3 times a week apparently, and he showed us the ropes, running up the stairs as soon as he had his ticket, draping the scarf he had brought for the purpose around an area of railing to ‘bags’ it before going to get himself a drink. I remember there were little screens for each person even in the standing area, and you could chose the language for the subtitles.  But as for the opera itself, no idea.

What else do I remember? The ferris wheel was a disappointment, and the Danube was brown. But the art galleries and museums were great. We peered in at the Lipizzaner horses in the Spanish riding school but did not pay to see them perform. Nor did we enter the Strudel museum incongruously located in the grounds of Schoenbrunn. In a market, to our astonishment, we found an etching of Westminster, which my son, who was at school there bought. Lots of people wore fur coats, is the other thing I remember. And there were horse drawn carriages all over the place, so that while the streets were entirely empty of litter, there was horse shit on the ground.

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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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