Vienna will always be Home Sweet Home. It was where we lived in those magical years, when the kids were old enough to have fun but still young enough to think “fun” meant being with Mom and Dad. We made pancakes and took road trips and rode bikes on the weekends, and I think I understand nostalgia now. It’s remembering the good parts, and wanting them back again. So on our way to Sweden we stopped in Vienna for a day, to wander through those memories and remember who we were, and feel grateful that we can always go back.
We rode the CAT into town as the sun came up, where the familiar scent of warm croissants and baking bread floated in the morning air. Julius Meinl, Stephansdom, Burberry, Wagner, it was like we never left! The 48ers were out early, collecting recycling as usual, and we all stopped to watch the way we always did whenever a bright orange garbage truck drove by. I wonder if garbage men realize that they are the real-life super heroes of little boys? Somehow, I suspect maybe they do.
After melange and oberscremeschnitte at Cafe Central, we walked through the Ferstel Passage, past Xocolat and the French Bistrot, and the wine bar full of hams. The cat was still sleeping in the window! I probably never would have noticed the cat if not for the eyes of my kids. Vienna was all the more alive and magical to me because of my kids.
We walked to Schottentor and rode the 37 to our neighborhood in Alsergrund, and were happy to see that Le Firin was still there selling smoothies and cherry pastries. Around the corner from Kim Kocht was the Embassy, where we felt briefly weepy in front of our old apartment, then took the Strudlhof steps to the bus stop where in the winter, they sold Christmas trees. Lichtenstein Palace was grand and beautiful, with ducks swimming in the pond and children playing on the playground, and everything was just the way we remembered! There is something so reassuring about knowing that even though we change, not everything does. There is a ground somewhere, and it is holding us.
For lunch we went to our favorite Italian restaurant. The owner recognized us and was happy to see us back, and we all ordered grilled calamari because nowhere else in the world makes it as perfect as they do. The best part was seeing my friend Helene again! She gave the boys gifts and filled my heart with peace, and reminded me that true friends are the angels who make you feel good enough to be loved, just as you are.
Our day wasn’t long enough, but what is true with people is also true with places, that it’s better to lose what you love than to never love at all. It’s better to go, even for a short time, than to never go at all. We bought our favorite erasable pens, walked by the Lipizzaner horses, and took pictures at the Hofburg where Mike used to work. I would say it was a dream except that it wasn’t, and Vienna is still ours forever.