The bus dropped us off in our final destination today: Vienna (aka Wien), where our hotel is only a five minute walk from Stephansplatz, the central square around Vienna's gothic cathedral. While waiting at a traffic light, I looked down from my window seat to the cars below, just in time to see the woman in the passenger's side light a cigarette while two children, presumably her own, sat in the back seat. Behind her, the man in the passenger seat of the next car was also enjoying a smoke, which apparently was all the encouragement the car's driver needed to pull out a cigarette of her own and use the pause in traffic to light up. Austria, I think you're still a long ways from the non-smoking laws that have been passed in Italy, Germany, and Paris in recent years.
But thankfully I usually manage to avoid the heavy smoke here, and today's arrival felt a little like a homecoming to me. Last May I spent two weeks in Vienna, studying German at a small institution for foreign students of all nationalities, ages, and abilities. It wasn't long enough, but even after only two weeks my German, which had steadily declined since college with a couple of brief upswings due to later trips back to Germany, had improved significantly. Two weeks is enough, however, to get a good feel for a city, and I definitely feel more at ease now.
Sadly, I only have three days left here before I fly back home to Seattle. While I can't wait to see Michael, I don't feel quite so enthusiastic about heading back to office on Monday, preparing for a house full of people (no joke - there may be as many as eight adults, one child, and one dog, staying at our place over one weekend), and leaving the traveling lifestyle behind. I could happily do this for months - something I can say honestly, as last year I did it for almost seven weeks without tiring.
In the meantime, though, I plan to enjoy these last few days in Vienna. I'll sip coffee at a cafe, admire how much work they done on cleaning the Stephansdom since last spring, eat some more chicken döners, and go walking in the gardens around the Belvedere Palace. On Friday I will even have the luxury of an entire day to myself, as the tour will have ended that morning (frankly, I doubt I'd have the time to make it out to Belvedere otherwise), before heading out for a night at the airport and a 7am Saturday flight.
It's been a good trip, overall. And Vienna, it's good to see you again.