I know it's punny, but I definitely love the Fulbright Austria slogan.
The orientation itself in the first few days consisted of lectures about Austrian and Viennese history and culture, interspersed with various panels with journalists from Austrian and German magazines and newspapers to provide more political context. Especially interesting was learning about the upcoming rescheduled Austrian presidential election, which bears a lot of similarities to the upcoming election back home in terms of demographic support for each candidates and some of the pressing issues, though the way liberalism and conservatism diverge in American and European contexts means that some Austrian voter demographics don't dovetail so neatly with their American counterparts. This part of orientation was also full of getting important residency documents filed and stamped, et cetera, which just makes everything feel so official at last!
The end of orientation was a bit more on the "wow" side, as the Fulbrighters were invited to a reception at the US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Eugene Young's residence Thursday night, and visited the Wien Museum and the little town of Klosterneuberg (pronounced kloh-ster-noy-burg) with its nine-hundred year-old monastery on Friday! It was kind of hard to believe that the reception was real--there were people from the Fulbright Commission there as well as Eugene Young, all drinking wine, champagne, and bubbly water and eating tiny foods on sticks. (The waiter kindly got me un-carbonated water, or "stilles Wasser," upon my request.) It was a great opportunity to relax and get to chatting with some of the other grantees, who are all incredibly smart and thoughtful and uniformly awesome.
On a way more superficial level, pretty much everyone told me how much they liked my dress, which my grandmother made for me around my freshman year from an older vintage dress she picked up!
Friday was similarly a lot of fun, since the morning featured a brief tour of the Wien Museum, which is the official municipal museum of the city of Vienna, followed by a bus ride to Klosterneuberg Monastery. The tour of the museum focused more on the historical aspects of the city, skipping the paintings in the rooms in favor of the maps and dioramas of the city and its various sieges, so I will definitely be visiting the museum in future for a more in-depth look at all it has to offer. The Wien Museum is also of particular interest to me since an important exhibition called Romane Thana: Places of the Roma and Sinti was displayed in the Wien Museum in spring 2015. Based on what I've been able to read about this show, it seems like a good resource for my research project--now I just need to get my hands on the catalogue!
Predictably, pretty much everyone wanted to go to this show, but it wasn't included on the tour... definitely coming back another day for it!
A brief interlude on the way to Klosterneuberg was this breathtaking view of Vienna from waaaay on high!
The afternoon at Klosterneuberg Monastery was also wonderful in an entirely different way. The monastery is architecturally pretty unique since it was built over the course of centuries and was transformed in sections from a Romanesque/Medieval-style building to a much more Baroque aesthetic due to the Counter-Reformation movement that was quite strong in Catholic Austria. Essentially what this means is that while the outside of some of the monastery is plain and austere-looking, the inside looks like St. Peter's in Rome--just chock-full of ornamentation and colors that were meant to dazzle the worshipers and inspire faith.
However, my favorite part of the tour of Klosterneuberg was the show of contemporary art that was on the first floor of the church, which is a yearlong tradition held by the monastery museum culminating in the "St. Leopold Peace Prize" (Saint Leopold founded the monastery). The theme of the contemporary works on display was "The Power of Greed," which, in the context of the Catholic history of indulgences leading to the Protestant Reformation, was an inspired choice, and got me thinking about what it would be like if some of the older monuments in the United States hosted more contemporary works--imagine a video installation on the side of the Washington Monument, perhaps? (Though the US doesn't really have any monuments quite as old as the ones in Europe...)
Finding what looked like a menorah... at the monastery! All those monks celebrating Hanukkah....
After the tour was the very classy wine tasting, during which I sipped from two whites and a red, all from the monastery's winery, and pretended I knew anything about wine at all. (This wine "is brusque," "doesn't overstay its welcome," "has hints of currant", et cetera. I should probably not become a sommelier because I don't think I could take it seriously.)
Today was spent mainly walking around the city itself--while the public transit here is wonderful, nothing beats just being able to go at your own pace and duck into whichever little shop or cafe (or art exhibition in the Kunsthalle Wien, just as a total hypothetical that definitely didn't happen to me today, nope) catches your fancy. Tomorrow will also be filled with art, as I plan to visit the Vienna Contemporary Art Fair in the afternoon. Moral of the story: put me in a new city, and I'll immediately find the flea market and where the art is. It's just how it is with me...
- The Käsekrainer (kay-suh-kray-ner) is a sausage filled with cheese and it's amazing. So far, it's my favorite food I've had here.
- Austrians really like their bubbly water--in fact, when you order water in a restaurant or bar, you have to ask for "ohne" (oh-nuh), which means "without"--meaning, without bubbles, or they'll bring you the bubbly!
- When you order an omelette, sometimes they will bring it to you in the pan. Or maybe this was just because mine broke and looked more like scrambled eggs...
- Vienna is really student-friendly so far--there are tons of discounts on museums, movie theaters, and transit for students!
- At the restaurant near the monastery, I had an amazing bread-pudding-y dessert filled with apricot in a bath of vanilla sauce-y liquid. Delicious, but I can't remember what it's called...