Sunday, May 15, 2011

Take me to Vienna

8811 kms.
          If I drive without stopping even once, Google maps assures me that I will reach Vienna in 4 days and 20 hours. This is one trip I’d go on in a heartbeat because Vienna is the city that holds the key to my heart.
          I started thinking of Vienna as more than just another of the many cities that populate the world when I started reading Eva Ibbotson. My love for her writing translated into a bigger love for a city I’d never seen, such was the power of her words and love for the city. Back when I first read about it, visiting Vienna was just a far away dream, out of reach for me, maybe because it isn’t on the “must see” lists of most people, it just made a place for itself on my bucket list.
          Then about 2 years ago when I decided to go on exchange and looked at a list of all the places we’d be visiting on the Eurotour, my dream of visiting this Hapsburg capital, this city of love and music did not seem as far fetched and without it, I began counting the days till I’d be there.
          Was it the rushing back of the knowledge of places I’d read about as memories from a distant life? Or was it the pure joy of actually realizing a wish or dream come true? Or was it our wonderful tour guide whose narrations about the places we saw bringing them back to life? I don’t know what it was but any of them or all of them combined to present before me a golden day, the kind of whose memories when thought back on later in life make you sigh contentedly.
          Looking up at the statue of Maria Theresa, the empress “who made Austria great”, on either side of which the Museum of Art History and Museum of Natural history respectively are situated, I could almost see Ruth from “A Morning Gift” visiting both of them throughout her childhood and returning to the Museum of Natural History when years later to seek asylum from the Nazis. I saw her again when we were shown a typical Viennese house built around a courtyard with a tree in the centre just as hers was and imagined it having been hers.
          I saw Ellen from “A Song for Summer” when we went to Demel’s famous Kaffeehaus where she’d enjoyed Vienna’s best coffee and ├ęclairs. I saw her going to watch a Rosenkavalier gala at the State Opera or the Staatsoper when I was at the same place, going to watch La Boheme.
          Nearby I imagined Tessa from “Magic Flutes” at the Klostern theatre working for the International Opera Company without pay simply because she wanted to serve music.
          My Vienna special moments were mostly an amalgamation of what I remembered from the lives of Ruth, Ellen and Tessa. Maybe that’s because knowing them, having reading them over 15 times each I’ve started carrying parts of them inside me and in this incredible city I became a part of them as they of me and learnt what they knew all their lives living there. Maybe now it’s hard to tell where their memories end and where mine start.
          The one special discovery that I have a claim over in this city is of a little side street called Blutgasse or Blood alley which I immediately stored away for melodramatic moments in future stories.
          Even after all this there is still so much that I have to go back to this city to see and to do- see the Spanish Riding school with the Lippizaner horses, sit on the Prater Giant wheel in the Prater park, take a walk along the Danube, catch a glimpse of the river Wien after which the city is named.

So Vienna my love, take me to Vienna
-Nirmitee Mehta