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Pay attention not only to the cultivation of knowledge but to the cultivation of qualities of the heart, so that at the end of education, not only will you be knowledgeable, but also you will be a warm-hearted and compassionate person.

~ HH the 14th Dalai Lama


And now, a word from our sponsor: Some of Jennifer's thoughts on Vienna

The list from the listmaker. I love making lists, yes, but I don’t feel the pressure Sam feels of having “the” list. Maybe that’s why I like Family Feud so much – it’s all about the list that’s true in the moment. So looking back on our Vienna trip, what are the things/events/activities that stand out in my mind right now?

  • Coming across the painter painting a copy of a painting of a painter painting in the Kunsthistoriches. We had been dutifully looking at the history of European art and winding our way to the center (in my mind at least) of the collection, the lone Vermeer. Vermeer has been my favorite artist for as long as I can remember, and I love, absolutely love, that I got to see that particular painting, Allegory on the Art of Painting, as the center of a kind of real-world, ironic tableau.
  • The pastries. Sam loves his coffee – and I did like the Viennese specialty, the mélange – but for me, it’s all about the pastries. The apfelstrudel (with real cream!), the sachertorte, the doughy, chocolate-filled dumplings covered in powdered sugar and strawberry sauce. And best of all, the total unapologetic, unabashed attitude toward pastry – why would you deny yourself something sweet?
  • Our spur-of-the-moment decision to have dinner one night by picking out some delectable goodies in the Christmas Market in the Maria-Theresia square. Spicy and seasoned potato wedges, complete with its own tiny fork; the above-mentioned chocolate-filled dumplings; a cup of glühwein. Bliss.
  • The transportation. Absolutely the best transportation system in the world. And it all has to do with the attitude of Austrians, I think. Why wouldn’t you have a reliable, cost-efficient, and on-time system of buses, trams, trains, subways, and airplanes? It just makes sense. And it does, and it works, beautifully.
  • The library at the Benedictine monastery and abbey in Melk. I try to make it to at least one library in the different places we visit – so I was really thrilled to visit one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It was odd, though, to see all these incredibly old volumes all encased in matching 18th century gold-leather bindings, and all stacked up by height on these carefully managed shelves. A part of me loves that – order reigning supreme – but another part chafes at the thought of destroying all those individual covers and bindings and mashing them into this homogenous, monochromatic front. And most librarians usually dislike being asked questions like, “Where’s that blue book?” so organizing by something so arbitrary as height – rather than by author or by subject – just doesn’t feel natural to me at all now. But then, I’m probably overthinking it. It’s a beautiful library – and it feels like a library in a monastery should, with hidden hinges (bookcases that hide windows behind, so from the outside, the library matches the grand ballroom design!) and row upon row of books and a spiral staircase leading to unseen extra rooms (12 in total).
  • Being mistaken for natives – by natives AND by tourists!
  • The gorgeous coats and boots. The first day, I didn’t see any other footwear other than flat-heeled boots. And the women – from teens to elderly ladies – are so chic. I remember on one subway ride, I couldn’t take my eyes off this older woman, with her white hair artfully arranged – she had on knit gloves that had stripes of different shades of purple; a purple knit hat, kind of like a loose beret; a dark purple wool coat; grey slacks and suede boots; and a lavender scarf. Fabulous!
  • Discovering Schiele and his version of Cubism. I’ve never really gotten into the Cubism art movement, but I love how Schiele kept on experimenting and made a kind of internal cubism – his shapes of humans and buildings and trees were recognizable as what they were, but they were made up of different shades and colors that echoes the Cubism movement. Fascinating. And he painted some memorable trees. I love trees and almost always tend to include them whenever I get hold of the camera (whenever Sam relinquishes the camera strap!).
  • Watching Sam light up with joy when he discovers something he likes – which are almost never the things that I expect or particularly like myself sometimes. This is an everyday occurrence, really, but it’s especially fun while travelling. Example: Sam taking tons of pictures of the black bears (!) while on the trail bridge at the Schönbrunn Zoo.
  • The total ease of an old European city. Go down a side street, filled with charming cobblestones, and you come across a lovely, tiny park in the middle. You spy a lovely, centuries-old building, with a modern glass bit perching on top. You visit a tiny sliver of a museum – in this case, the Römaner Roman ruins museum – that has done the best it can with a very limited space (really, about 12 feet wide, 3 stories tall) and presented artifacts in a modern, engaging way with kids’ activities and a walk-through basement of Roman ruins. Really fascinating to see how modern Viennese lifestyle fits so snugly around its history. It’s quite inspiring to see and feel the atmosphere and energy of a city that’s proud of its heritage, and proud of where it’s going. Viva Vienna!

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