I’ve fallen in love.
When we first met, I really wasn’t sure how I felt. The newness, the intensity, it was all just so overwhelming. But with time the nerves subsided, and romance bloomed. The dinners at Naschmarkt, the gelato by the Steffl, the walks through the park… I want to shout from the alps: I’ve fallen in love with Vienna.
FINALLY! I mean, really now. It’s about time. But better late than never. It came to me when I was lying in the park with a visiting friend during my spring break. We were sleeping off the most unreasonably delicious picnic in the warm sunshine surrounded by an absolutely cinematic panorama. It also hits me every time I visit a new city in Europe (especially Milan) and I find myself wanting to be back in Vienna because it’s cleaner, cheaper, smells better, more green, softer bread, you name it: Vienna could beat up your city.
However, it’s just in time for me to leave. I have only one day left in the city before I head back to Canada. What?! It can’t be! Wasn’t it just March? In February, while fighting off some serious homesick blues, I was ready to catch the next flight back. Now, it feels weird to be heading for the airport and realize that, this time, I’m not coming back. But since I do have to start work and return to the real world at some point, I figure I’ll end off with some reflections. LAME.
While it’s cliché, I’ve learned a lot about myself while travelling. Similarly, I’ve also learned a lot about what the world thinks of my country. While, on the whole, the world seems to think Canada’s pretty tops (with a few American exceptions), I’m always disappointed to hear how little people know/care about Canada. I may not have a Canadian flag anywhere on me but my suitcases, but I’m a pretty patriotic Canuck, so that gets my back up. However, I turned it into a game to see how far-fetched I could get before they realized I’m pulling their leg. The answer: They clue in when I mention riding dragons to school. Really.
So far: I’m the Duchess of Alberta whose father was knighted after inventing an electrical fence meant to keep polar bears from our yards because they kept eating our dogs (which is especially important because dog sleds are our primary mode of transportation). In school, we learned how to build igloos and trap gophers because when we have to travel the massive distance between cities, we need to know how to survive for weeks on end in the wintery tundra. I had a pet beaver until a grizzly bear got it. I also know 92 different recipes that use maple syrup as the main ingredient, and I make killer moose jerky. I also had never heard of basketball* until Space Jam came out last year in theatres.
I. Got. Away. With. This. (I even managed to convince a Torontonian about the igloo bit. Seriously?!) Most people’s knowledge can be summed up by the Arrogant Worm’s song that goes:
“‘Cause we’ve got rocks and trees and trees and rocks and rocks and trees and trees and rocks and rocks and trees and trees and rocks and rocks and trees and trees and rocks and…water”
While not entirely incorrect (…it’s pretty accurate), Canada has so much to offer that I’m actually pretty excited to come home. Don’t get me wrong, for the first six months back, any and every story I tell will start with something like: “Well, this one time, in Vienna…” And how could it not? I’ve spent five months across the world on my own and had an absolutely amazing time with some incredible people. A tiny list of things that I’ll miss are:
– the wonderful friends I’ve made here who are thoughtful, accommodating, and put up with my non-existant German
– the screaming hot summer sun
– the Gürtel
– spending whole days lounging in the massive gardens
– Sacher torte
– the complete mess that was Ride Club and the subsequent 4AM kebabs
– walking in awe through the first district’s historical buildings
– a great bottle of wine that only costs four Euros
– the strawberries that taste like real strawberries and tomatoes that taste like real tomatoes
– the laid back Austrian view of life
– never studying at any point ever
– the heurigers
– Sacher torte
– the homeless man who sleeps in my lobby
– napping beside a palace
– drinking in public (not so classy, but incredibly true)
– reading for hours with a cup of großer brauner and an apple strudel
– the fresh and cheap bakeries like Anker/Der Mann/Ströck
– Sacher torte
– late night BBQs on balconies, laughing at my absolutely pathetic attempt at saying the very Austrian “Oachkatzelschwoaf.” (I dare you to try it right now. This word is in the realm of ridiculousness such that there’s videos upon videos on Youtube of people twisting their tongues into yogi masters-esque positions to get it out. It’s now my new party trick.)
I won’t deny that Canada has a lot of rocks and trees and trees and rocks and rocks and trees and water, but it also has my friends, my family, my oldest memories, and my future plans. Canada has my home. And I’m finally coming back.
To my Austrians, I’ll miss you too much.
To my Canadians, I’ll be seeing you soon.
XOXO, Gossip Jen, Duchess of Alberta, Heir to the Edmontonshire throne
*Fun fact: The inventor of basketball, James Naismith, was Canadian. So there.