Thursday, October 28, 2010

Old Diaries - Vienna & Trieste

Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna (Google Image)

11/2/1977 - Reach Vienna.  On the train from Munich the old lady sitting across from me in the first-class (thanks to Eurailpass) compartment munches all the way, as if her schnitzel bag is bottomless.  I've found a nice room for $12.  Hotel with broad curving stairs, double-doored rooms, and other touches of slightly faded elegance.  Want to see all I can of Vienna in just the rest of today and tomorrow.

Take a guided city tour ... Hapsburg caskets in musty church cellar ... Marie Terese and her husband, a love story, buried sitting up and looking at each other so that on Resurrection Day the first each will see will be the other.

Walk through Schonbrunn Palace, fabulous views of formal gardens, stunning rooms.

Small group of us in the large bus:  A young Israeli man; two Jewish women from upstate New York; an elderly and elegant Jewish violinist, born in Berlin, then twenty years in Tel Aviv, then New York City; and a thirty-ish German couple.  The elderly cane-using violinist is so sweet and I keep by his side, giving him my arm at times.  He insists on the Israeli speaking to him in English rather than Yiddish so that I will not feel left out.  It's easy to respond to his warmth and friendliness; he seems the epitome of culture.

I want to invite him to have dinner tonight but the ladies beat me to it and I definitely don't want to eat with them ... not that I was invited.

In a crowded restaurant where I'm having a lonely weiner schnitzel  the maitre 'd  comes to my table to say he has a lady to join me as no other seats are free.  That sounds okay but then she turns out to be an amazingly boring young lawyer from Indianapolis.  She turns me off, seeming impossibly hickish, saying rude things about the places she's seen in Europe.  Toward the end of our meals she says she has heard of Cape Cod and she is thinking of planning a vacation there next summer.

I give her a false name -- George Weitz -- and I can rest assured anyhow that she'll never locate me because she thinks Cape Cod is the name of a town.  I leave the restaurant sort of sad to think that I ended up across the table with such a bore, and had been beaten out of dinner with that wonderful intelligent Berlin-born violinist by the upstate ladies just because I didn't pop my invitation before they popped theirs.  

In bed I come across a funny anecdote in an article in Time magazine:  Upon learning of Darwin's theory in 1860, the wife of the Bishop of Worcester exclaimed, "Descended from apes!  Let us hope it's not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known!"

Trieste, Italy (Google Image)

11/4/77 - Trieste.  Early morning arrival by overnight train from Vienna.  I have an address for a pensione.  "Dove via Tivernella?" I ask the elaborately uniformed and handsome guardi in the Square outside Central Station.  He non comprende.  I speak it slowly. "Do-vay vee-a Tivernella?" It seems nothing could be more simple to speak but again he non comprende.  I pull out my notebook and write the name of the street.

"Aaaaah!" he goes very expressively, as if he's received a revelation, "Aaaaah!  Via Tee-ver-naaaaa-la!"   ... drawing out the words as if they comprise a musical phrase, understanding me now, but ... yes ... having no idea where via Tivernella is.

He stops a passerby.  The passerby points and says it is right off the left side of the piazzo we're standing on, not a hundred meters from us!

The guardi finds this uproariously funny and he puts his hand on my shoulder, laughs, blows kisses into the air that I guess are aimed at the street sign attached to a building at the beginning of via Tivernella, and says, "Buono!  Buono!"

After settling in my room I inquire at the station about a train to Zadar in Yugoslavia for tomorrow.  I'm told I would have to go via Belgrade, that it would be very expensive, so I must  take a bus.  I go to the bus station to buy a ticket but absolute amazing pandemonium prevails there.  I don't know what is going on but there are hundreds of gypsy-looking women and hundreds of Muslim-garbed women in black, only their eyes showing, sitting on the floor next to a dishevelment of boxes, bags, baskets, and trunks; or wandering around.  Odd:  not a man besides myself to be seen.  At the ticket-windows nobody lines up; everyone just crowds around pushing and shoving and shouting for position, waving their arms -- a hundred or more at each of the three windows.  It's totally crazy.  Chaos.  I just can't figure it out, can't imagine ever getting close to a ticket seller.  There's no one who seems anything like me to ask what is going on.  Any glance which meets mine seems menacing.  I can only imagine that any bus I might get on would be crammed to the gills with these people and me, just as this station is.  I can't do it.  I even picture myself getting smothered on the bus.  I had imagined that seeing Zadar would be a high point of my traveling but now I discard the idea of Zadar with barely a regretful thought.   I leave the bus station and decide I'll go to Florence tomorrow.  On a train.

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