- GRADUATE STUDIES
- STUDENT LIFE
The following entries are from students who attended Pierce in Vienna during Fall 2007
Wednesday, October 23, 2007
We have just finished the haunted hall with the young students. Everything went smoothly, the Theresianische students and our group had a great time. We had four rooms set up with different scenes, Vampire, Torture, Murder, and a Scary Video. Cathy lead the students through the hall, she noticed a good reaction with every room. The room that got the most reaction was the scary video room, where we had Alex hiding in the dark room. The students watched a spooky image of a girl, with creepy music playing in the background. The students watched the screen as the tension built Alex creped up behind them and scared them by stomping and yelling.
We brought Martin through the haunted hall before all the young kids came in, he enjoyed all the rooms, and we even got his heart pumping after coming out of the Scary Video room. He was very pleased with the set up, and was certain the kids would enjoy it. He looks forward to hearing about the results tomorrow.
Another job well done by our group of Scholars, everyone pulled together even with the last minute changes.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Since we arrived in Wien on Thursday, I've felt like a tourist. It will take me at least a month to become familiar with the city instead of wandering around in a group, consulting the guidebook, or getting lost. I've pulled out my camera and snapped pictures every time I've passed by a fountain, statue, or beautiful building. There are many of them within a few blocks of the Theresianum, and there are a whole lot more to explore beyond walking distance. A few of us have found a cute coffee bar that's a ten minute walk and we are planning to spend a lot of time there studying.
April 30, 2007
by Dorian Pippa:
I have had an incredible wondering and life changing experience this semester in Vienna (Spring 2007). The Theresianum Academy is the perfect place for a study abroad opportunity and Professor Kroll is a brilliant educator and a wonderful man to have met in my life. Franklin Pierce has hit the jackpot in this deal with the Theresianum, and any students attending this program in the future will also know this. I must thank you, Ms. Walling, and everyone else at FP
for making this wonderful experience happen. I will certainly not forget my semester abroad, and I wouldn't have done it with any other school or in any other program than the one offered by FPC. Thank you very much for all you've done.
Sincerely, Dorian Pippa
March 29, 2007
Here is a poem by Dorian Pippa:
Instant Energy bursts
from a dreary afternoon.
An Echo fills my head.
Beauty passes by.
March 7, 2007
First Moments on the Streets of Firenze
Professor MaryBeth Failla
Turning a corner, suddenly it is there. Under an azure sky, the late day sunlight illuminates the face of Santa Maria Del Fiore. Disoriented by the shock of its brilliance, I gaze upward, in awe. The staggering beauty, the detail, is too much to take in all at once, so I keep the Cathedral at the edge of my peripheral vision, to savor slowly, and concentrate first on the effect of the white bell tower rising through the vivid blue dome of sky. I feel the force of heightened awareness while scanning the top of the Campanile, the Bell's edge just visible in the shade's cool depth, when suddenly it moves, and the sound resonates through the air, through the piazza, and through me.
I'm caught in the center of the echoing moment, pinned in place by my own receptivity, my body attracting, channeling, the overlapping concordance of each successive new ring with the lingering endnote of the one before. I am a conduit between Earth and Sky. The cold stones beneath my feet, the breeze blown hair caressing my face, the sunlit warmth of black suede, the collective voice of the piazza, the dazzling reflection of white marble dressed with gold, the still strength of silent shadow - all is lost, suddenly and completely, and the instant void filled full with the sense of awe, of peace, of pure pleasure. There is only profound Clarity and highly charged Beauty.
As the movement of the bell begins to still, the last waves of sound, like the diminishing intensity of love, consciously savored, consciously drawn out, release me. I drop my gaze, and with the first intake of breath, the noise of the piazza returns. Suddenly, the crowd moves around me in what seems like fast-forward after this pause in space. I tentatively retrace my steps, remember my purpose. I'm caught by this sensation of having stepped outside of time, the richness of the past moment fully present, fully alive within me.
February 5 - 11, 2007
Week Two in Vienna
This week went by so quickly, and I did so much that it was amazing. On Monday, we started class, and it was actually really good to get back into a set schedule with classes. Monday's classes were 19th Century, and ETA which I have already taken, but this is obviously focused on Viennese art. After class, we went to Keplerplatz, which has a lot of shops with items that are inexpensive but of good quality. I was looking exclusively for a converter so that I could use my computer again, but, as some of you know, my luck is sometimes not good, so I did not find one. I did, on the other hand, find an I-home for my Ipod because mine decided not to work in Europe. After finding that, Erlinda and I got some notebooks for class, and then we sat down with MaryBeth and Nick and had some coffee, which, by the way, is phenomenal. We then went back to the Theresianum and spent the rest of the day hanging out.
On Tuesday, we had class at 9:30, which was the Terrorism class, and then we had German. I'm actually really excited to learn German because I want to be able to at least have a little conversation with some of the people, and not ask all the time, "Sprechen Sie Englisch?" We had a two hour break for lunch, so Pete, Dorian, and I went to the U-bahn station to get some sandwiches. At two, we met Professor Kroll. He is a professor here, who is going to teach us the history of art in Vienna. All of our classes relate to one another. So, whatever Professor Kroll teaches us, Nick will not, and vice versa. It's kind of nice because we will know about all the facts of Vienna, and have different perspectives on each fact. So, at two, Professor Kroll came, and we all got on the Ubahn, and went to the Wien Museum. As soon as Professor Kroll started to talk about the history of Vienna, I knew that I was going to learn a lot from him. The museum was filled with different paintings that dated back to Roman times and models of the city that showed the progression of the city, what it looked like during Roman times to what it looks like now. After the museum, we went back to the Theresianum, and a little while after I got back, I went back into the city to have dinner with my Mom and Bert, who had just arrived in the city. We walked around a little, I showed them St. Peter's and St. Stephen's Cathedrals, and then we went out to a nice Italian restaurant. We walked around a little after dinner, but they were tired, so I went back to the Theresianum early so they could get some sleep.
The next day, I went to class, and then my mom and Bert came to the Theresianum. We went to a café down the street, and I had my first real Austrian meal. At two, Professor Kroll met us at the door of the Theresianum for class, and we went to an art museum. The art was so amazing to look at, and the way each artist changed with the time period was very interesting. The first painting showed doomsday coming to all sinners. The second was during the time when the individual was important, and the painter painted a nobleman that just looked full of himself. The third painting was of a Greek God stealing a human, who was the daughter of a king, and taking her to Mt. Olympus to be his wife. It was just so interesting. After the museum, my mom, Bert, and I went to walk around so I could show them the city. We went to get some coffee, and then I showed them all the important sights of Vienna. We found a Greek restaurant to eat at, and then I went back to the Theresianum for the night.
On Thursday, I only had class in the morning, so we spent the afternoon at Schonbrunn. Bert went to the palace, and my mom and I went to the zoo. It was so much fun to be in a zoo. The animals were adorable, and I decided that I want to buy one of the koalas. They just look so cute and cuddly; I just wanted to hug them. After walking through the zoo, and of course going into the gift shop for some postcards, we left to go back to the city. I left to go back to the Theresianum, and then Erlinda and I met them for dinner at 6:30. We found a nice restaurant near St. Stephen's, and ate some typical Viennese food. Erlinda then left to go back home, and we left to go to a Mozart and Strauss concert a little outside the city. Wow! That concert was so perfect. The orchestra was great, and the two singers were so amazing. I left with a huge smile on my face. The baritone was the best. He was taught in both singing and theater, and he had so much expression that in a few songs, I couldn't help but laugh. When the soprano had all her high notes, he would make a face as if to say, "Here she goes again." It was just so amazing. After the concert, I went back to the Theresianum for the night.
The next morning was so amazing. MaryBeth and I met at the Spanish Riding School to watch the Lipizzaner Stallions in their morning exercises. We spent two hours just staring at the most gorgeous creatures on this planet. We were so amazed to be able to see the exercises. There were a couple moments that took my breath away. There were four sets of horses that came in to exercise. The horses only practice for half hour blocks, so we got to see four different sets, with about seven horses in each set. During one set, I noticed that one rider was going to do a jump. When they do jumps, the riders do not use stirrups, and as soon as I saw that rider, I knew to pay attention to him. I'm really glad that I did because that horse performed a Capriole, which is a leaps into the air. The horse draws his forelegs under his chest at his highest point, and kicks out, with his hand legs. It was absolutely the most amazing thing that I had ever seen. And then, to make it even more amazing, another horse was right below me, when he did a Courbette, which is when the horse balances on his hind legs and then jumps, looking like he's hopping, on his back two legs. If I reached down, I probably could have touched him. I was that close. It was so amazing to go see them; I almost don't need to go to a show...almost. After the exercise, we walked to a hot dog stand, which is a must when you're over here. The hot dogs are so big, and they are put in Italian bread that is hollow in the center, and they put in ketchup and mustard, and you can also get a cheese hot dog, which is also amazing. I didn't realize that eating a hot dog could be such an amazing experience, but it totally is.
After the hot dog, MaryBeth and I went back to the Theresianum for class at 2:00 pm.
We were supposed to have a lecture from Professor Kroll, but it was such a nice day that his wife said that he should take us to the Belvedere Palace, and what husband would object to what his wife has to say? So, we went instead to Belvedere for class. The palace was the summer residence of Prince Eugene, who was the general who drove back the Turks. We went into the gallery, and saw some amazing paintings that he described briefly. It was amazing to observe the difference in the art of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, artists who lived during the same time period. In the other museum that we had gone to a couple of days before, the artists were different because of the different time periods. In the two paintings at Belvedere, the two artists painted so differently because of their different circumstances in life. It was just amazing to see that. After class, we went back to the Theresianum, and I got ready to spend my last night with my mom and Bert. We went to four different places, so that we could get the full experience of Vienna in only a few hours. We started at a wine bar near their hotel, where we had a glass of wine and an appetizer. Then, we went to the sky restaurant, where we had salad and the main course. We then went to a hotel that served the original sacher torte. It was amazing. The chocolate was perfect; it was just what I needed. We ended at a restaurant right by the hotel, where we had some dessert wine. Then, it was time to say goodbye. I called the group, and we walked over to meet them, and then I said goodbye to my mom and Bert because they were leaving the next morning at 7am. I said goodbye, and then went into the bar to spend the rest of the night with the group.
The next day, I slept until noon, and then basically did nothing all day. I went to practice the organ for a while, and then came back to my room. We all went out to another bar, and then I came back here, while they all went out again. Today, it was basically the same thing. Taylor, Pete and I went to get some coffee this morning, and then I worked on homework all day. At five, we all had a meeting about the different hostels that we will be staying at on our excursions, and then Marybeth, Nick, Taylor, Erlinda, and I went to a Greek restaurant called Sokrates, where I had an amazing dinner, and I am now in my room, about to go to bed. Tomorrow starts another week, and I want to be ready for it. So, to end the week, I am going to lie in my bed, read my book, and listen to Wagner, which is always a good night.
February 11, 2007
Vienna Is a Soap Bubble
It's like this never ending moment of euphoria. It swells and grows. It's paramount and leaves you feeling as if you had been on this incredible high, unavailable anywhere back home. I've only felt these moments a few times, moments of pure happiness - bright, bubbly, and almost unfamiliar - strangely unknown and never experienced. It's that time spent in Xel-Ha, that time I spent on a Parisian street corner, eating a banana chocolate crepe, watching the lights of the Eiffel Tower sparkle and blink in the nighttime sky. It's the light that radiates from the ten foot Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Those moments are special, private moments that you share only with yourself. Vienna is filled with those rare moments.
In every café, every cathedral, every restaurant, there are moments when your soap bubble floats, expands, and fills every pore. And each soap bubble you experience creates a longing for another, bigger, soap bubble.
So, when you visit Karlskirche (St. Charles RC), take the elevator to the landing and stand not even three feet from a 500 year old fresco that adorns the dome and see - actually see - the biblical and sometimes allegorical figures the artist painted. Taking in the technique of the look similar to that of Rembrandt and Vermeer, you, the visitor, are discovering a foreign world, a world that until recently could only be seen from below at ground level. This new world you have just discovered is completely unlike anything you will ever experience. It is as you discover the new city around you that you find yourself losing yourself to it as well, to it, to the soap bubble, to Vienna.
January 31- February 4, 2007
Vienna Journal Entries
I am finally here! I'm here in my room, looking out my window, seeing smart cars, the back side of the Theresianum, and apartments. I have a double to myself, the kitchen is right next door to me, Molly is across the hall, and MaryBeth is next to the kitchen, at the end of the hall.
The flight over was as perfect as it could be. Since British Airways was going on strike, 80 people cancelled, so everyone on the plane got their own row so they could sleep. One of the flight attendants was so funny that he just added to my enjoyment for the rest of the flight, when I wasn't sleeping. We got into Logan early, and waited for our flight to Vienna. I slept for two hours on that flight, as well as the other one, and got to Vienna early as well.
When we arrived in our new home for three months, we got into two vans who took us to the Theresianum. This place is so big; I know that I will get lost at least fifty times! This was Maria Theresia's summer home, and we have been told that we might see her walking around in her black, since that was all she wore after her husband died. The professor's here say that when people stop seeing her, then we should worry. The rest of the afternoon was spent going to get our computers fixed, going to lunch, and then everybody, but me, went to take a nap. I went to the store to get some shampoo, and then came back here to read my travel guide book. Molly, Marybeth, Nick, and I went to dinner at six, and now I'm in my room, waiting for some people to wander the streets of Vienna.
Last night was so much fun. All six of us went to a café in the area and had drinks. The woman was so nice, but couldn't speak English very well, so we struggled a little. I had two glasses of wine, and just as I was about to ask for the check, she gave us all a free bottle of wine. It tasted so good! My first glass was a Riesling, and the second was a red, which was absolutely to die for. The red was the free bottle that everybody had a glass of. After we left the café, everybody went to the food store, but I left them then and went back to my room. I took a much needed shower, and then the rest of the group came back. I had a bowl of soup with Taylor and Dorian, and a cup of tea, took my sleeping pills, and passed out for the night.
This morning I was awakened by Marybeth knocking on each of our doors at nine. Last night's sleep was amazing. The bed is so comfortable, with the down comforter, down pillows, and the softest mattress ever. It took me no time at all to fall asleep, and I slept completely through the night. At ten, one of the administrators came to give us a tour of the building. It's amazing how much history is here. Maria Theresia's father lived and died in this building. Maria Theresia herself was raised here, and when her father died, she gave it to the Jesuits who made it into a school. There is only one room today that is still the original. There is a chapel here that was here during the time when the Nazi's were here, and some people took the candle sticks at the altar to save them, and when the war was over, they brought the candles back, and they are still at the altar, shining to this day. There is just so much history here! I am walking through a building where Marie Antoinette's mother played as a child.
After the tour, one of the music professors, Professor Joseph Wagner, took me to see the organ. He said that anytime I want to play it, all I have to do is go get the key from the door manager. He also told me that he wants me to sing in his choir! I feel so proud and honored. The organ is the Theresianum is old, so the stops are a little different than the ones I'm used to, but after playing on it for a while, I'm sure I'll get used to it. After playing for a bit, we all went down to lunch. We left immediately after that to walk around our little part of Vienna. We saw all the shops that we probably will be spending the most time in, and we also went into a church. The church was amazing. I got to say a quick prayer as I was standing there, and then we left. We got back to the Theresianum, and we had a few hours before we had to be at dinner at six.
I had wanted to go to Belvedere Castle, so I left to walk there. It's about a ten minute walk, which was just what I needed to stretch my legs. I had wanted to get there at sunset to get some pictures, but I had left too late, and it was too dark to take any. On the way there, though, I had passed a church that I was dying to go into, so on the way back, I went down a side street that led to it. It looked like it was closed, so I kept walking, although I know that I'll go back at some point in the very near future. The rest of the day was spent going to dinner and then just hanging out. Four of our group left to go out around nine, but I just wanted to sit in my room, in my comfy pajamas, reading. I think I'm going to go to bed now, since 7 a.m. will come rather quickly.
So far this whole day had been absolutely amazing. We got up at seven, which wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. We went down to breakfast, where I had a large cup of coffee, and some breakfast meats and cheeses. We then left to tour the city. We got off the subway, and right in front of me stood one of the most famous parts of Vienna...the Opera House! I got so excited I almost couldn't stop myself from screaming. We kept walking, passing all the shops that I know I will be spending some time in, and then we came upon another major attraction of Vienna...St. Stephen's Cathedral! This church is absolutely amazing. Just to think about how long this place had stood there is mind-blowing. When we went inside, it took my breath away. The organ alone is amazing. There are two angels that hold up part of the pipes, which are so majestic that I almost wanted to bow to them. The pipes for the organ seem to look down on you from above, and I am just dying to hear what it would sound like with the full organ. We only stayed there for a couple minutes, so I quickly went over to light a candle, took some pictures, and left. A little bit away, I saw the dome of St. Peter's church, where I will be giving an organ concert! We walked through Hofburg plaza, which just felt like I had stepped back in time, and were standing within royalty. The buildings were so magnificent, and it was completely mind-blowing to think that Maria Theresia and Marie Antoinette and their family had walked where I was standing.
After walking through one small section of the complex, we went on a tram ride around the ring. We passed so many gorgeous buildings that I can't even begin to name then all. This city is just so amazing, and I haven't even begun my journey exploring it. We got back onto the subway, and went immediately to lunch. We had the afternoon to ourselves, which I spent walking around, mostly window-shopping. I got slightly lost, but found my way back easily, and even had time to look into some more stores. After I came back, I got ready for dinner, and hung out until we had to go down. After eating, we went back into the city for a Mozart concert. We got to the church that Maria Theresia commissioned Mozart to write a Mass for, when he was only twelve! The Mass that we heard was amazing. Of course, I had no idea what they were saying, since it was in German. The Mass that Mozart wrote was just for organ and choir, which was very good, but unusual for him. After Mass was over, we went upstairs to see the organ, since the conductor was a professor at the Academy. He explained to us how historians still don't know whether Mozart actually wrote the Mass himself, or his father did. He then asked me, since I told him that I was the organist, to come play the organ. I was so excited, but had no idea what I should play, so I just started off playing some different chords. I then decided to have some fun, so I pulled out one stop, and started to play the Bach Prelude in F Major. He pulled out some more stops, since he said that Bach should sound more Baroque, and told me to play it again. After I had played, he told me that one time I could come back to the church with him, and he would teach me for two hours! I got so excited, and of course agreed that I would love to.
He then took us on a tour of the church. The first thing we looked at was a painting, and surrounding it was the life of Jesus. The church was built to please young children, so there is one part of Jesus' life that had him sweeping in his house, with Mary and Joseph behind him. Simple things like that are incorporated throughout the church. The next thing we saw was the fabric of Marie Antoinette's wedding gown, which Maria Theresia gave to the church to be worn by one of the priests as a vestment during the service. At the altar, the painting of a baby was Mary, since the church was made in honor of her. Maria Theresia had this church made for orphans to come to. When she was still alive, it encompassed a huge area, with mulberry trees on one side, and sleeping quarters for the orphans on the other. There were 2,000 orphans that were staying there, and the church was their chapel. So, the church was made so that the children would not be bored or fidget during Mass. So, when she commissioned Mozart to write the Mass, it was completely on purpose so that the choir would be conducted by somebody their own age. After the tour, he took us across the street to a Chinese restaurant where we met some of the members of the choir. We had some soup and I had a glass of white wine and through the Professor, we are now going to be able to go to Salzburg, stay in a hotel, and spend two days touring with him. Today has just been so amazing, and this journey has just barely begun. I can't wait to see what the rest of the trip has in store for me. Today, alone, has opened my eyes to such amazing treasures, and I am honored to have this opportunity to be here. As of now, I'm reading about the Reformation and listening to Wagner.
Today was just what I needed. I slept until 12:15, and got up feeling so refreshed, and completely over jet-lag. I was one of the first people up, so I got up and made myself some tea. Taylor cooked some eggs, and then I decided to get ready for the rest of the day. At three, we went to get minutes for our cell phones, so we now have working cell phones. We went food shopping, and then came back here. Taylor cooked us an amazing chicken dinner, with some pasta, and Marybeth made us some salad, which was just what I needed. Pete and I then walked down to the organ so I could practice a little bit. I must say, walking through the dark hallways of the school, and then going into a dark chapel to play, I was a little nervous. I decided to play around with the stops, and there were definitely a few that sent shivers down my spine. It was a little scary. I'm just so excited that I'm going to be able to play three organs while I'm here! This is such an amazing opportunity, and I feel so blessed that I am able to do this.
Today was absolutely amazing! I woke up at 9:30, and Marybeth and I went to go on a guided tour of the Lipizzaner stables! Those horses are so beautiful and majestic, I almost couldn't believe it. I so desperately wanted to take a picture, but, of course, you aren't allowed. You also aren't allowed to pet then, so it took all my willpower, but I restrained myself. After the tour, we met up with Molly, and went into a café to have some coffee, and I had the best Emperor's Pancakes, with plum compote and apple sauce. It was a great combination. After that, we met up with Erlinda, Peter, and Dorian, and we walked to St. Peter's Cathedral. When we walked in, I immediately went to find the organ, which happened to be playing, and was completely speechless. I cannot even believe that I am going to be playing on that. I feel so blessed and honored. The organ is absolutely magnificent. It towers over the congregation, and as I was listening to the organist playing, I was filled with such utter peace that it shocked me. This organ is more amazing than anything that I have ever seen, and I have a chance to play it. Me, a girl that has only played the organ for a year, and I will be able to play on one of the oldest organs in the world! We walked through the church, but I didn't take any pictures because I wanted to wait to go on the tour with the priest, who is also a professor here.
After the church, we went out separate ways, and MaryBeth, Erlinda, and I went to Karlskirche. As some people know, I am petrified of heights, and when I went into the church, there was an elevator going to the top of the fresco, so that you can see it really close up. We went up, and that was when I decided to tell them this little fact. I would not go anywhere near the edge, and even standing in the center, I was shaking. The whole time I was up there, I was looking at the painting of Jesus, and praying that I would be safe. Every time that people moved, and I would feel the floor shake, I would tremble. Then, on top of being up on that platform, there were more stairs going up to the very top. I went up, but was in between MaryBeth and Erlinda the whole time, and squealing every time the steps would creak, which was more than I liked. I made it to the top, and then I saw the view. It was so beautiful; it took my breath away, besides the breath that was already away because I was petrified. I am really glad that I got to go up, but given the chance, I highly doubt I would ever do it again. As we got back down, I really studied the organ, and was thanking God that I was back on ground level. The organ was, like all the others, magnificent. It had gold around the pipes, and in front of it was the coat of arms of St. Charles that on either side of it were angels. The altar was amazing. It had St. Charles riding up on a cloud into heaven with angels surrounding him. It was made of gold, and was just breathtaking. There is such beauty in these churches, that it is overwhelming. After looking at the church, MaryBeth and Erlinda went back to the Theresianum, and I was told, before I left, to go five steps on the red line, and I would know why when I got there.
I walked out of the subway, and I was a little confused, at first. Then, something happened that made my day. Two tourists came up to me, asked if I spoke English, and then asked where the Prater was. I had no idea, or course, and told them that. They said, which shocked me, that they though that I was from Vienna. I got really excited that someone would think that I was European! I was proud. I soon found out what the Prater was. It was the world famous Vienna Ferris Wheel! I got really excited, and was considering going on it, but I decided to wait so that all of us could go together. I went back to the Theresianum, and spent an hour just relaxing, and then Molly and I went to a restaurant up the street. I am now just sitting in my room, relaxing until I go to sleep. We finally start classes tomorrow, and then the real world will set in again.
February 2, 2007
Today we took our first tour of the real inner city section of Vienna. This section is marked by the outer street, Ringenstrassen, which forms a ring around the densest part of Vienna. Within this section, we passed by several monuments and architectural structures that told stories from the 1300s, through the centuries of monarchy that were the theme of Vienna's and much of Europe's past, right up to the modern era. Sights seen were impressive to say the least. Many of the buildings, mostly 17th century architecture, were originally erected as government complexes, and still function as such centers today. Massive castles, which encompass a vast squares or Platz, let one see back to the days of the Hapsburg dynasty.
Perhaps the most impressive piece of architecture I witnessed today was the Stephansdom Cathedral. This 13th century cathedral, ordained with gargoyles and classic gothic architecture, rivals the likes of Notre Dame. The centuries of grime collected on the limestone outside only seemed to add to the dark, extraordinarily eerie radiance of the building. Walking through this modern city for the first time, not knowing what to expect, and suddenly stumbling upon such a breathtaking monument of this brilliantly gothic architecture, was haunting. I felt humbled to be standing in front of this magnificent monstrosity. I felt what the peasants of medieval Europe must have felt when they were confronted with the awesome power that the Catholic Church seemed to flaunt in those days: absolute fear.
Upon stepping inside, the first thing I noticed was the tall ceiling being held up by several columns which were heavily decorated with elaborate sculptures. These columns were decorated with figures, raised several feet in the air, which looked like Catholic ministers, looking down with a look of rage, ordering any sinners below to kneel and repent. Turning around, I saw above me an enormous organ, with pipes so imposing that it seemed one blow would be enough to send the devil himself running in fear. This cathedral was serious business; it was images like the ones within this Cathedral that gave the Catholic church its reputation as such a feared power in those dark days. Instead of forgiveness and salvation, the feelings I walked away with, after absorbing the building's aura, were trepidation and the fear of inevitable damnation. I could almost hear the voices of souls begging for forgiveness, at the mercy of the all Holy power of the image of God.
February 1, 2007
Waking up three-thousand miles from my home feels no different than waking up in my own bed. At least, not yet it doesn't. I'm sitting in my room at the Theresianum in Vienna, Austria. Since my last entry, I have driven in a tight little van from Rindge, New Hampshire to Boston Massachusetts. From there, I flew to London's Heathrow Airport, where I connected with my flight to Austria. That's the quick version anyway. When I say it like that, I don't believe I properly convey the correct emotions or concepts of time to a reader.
The plane took off from Boston at six o'clock on January 30th. It was dark and as we flew out over the Atlantic Ocean, I couldn't see much of anything but darkness. Then, a few miles out, the pilot adjusted his course, and the whole coast was visible through my tiny oval window. The lights of buildings, cars, bridges, streetlights and everything else burning away in the night, shone like tiny pieces of gold against the black night. From ten-thousand feet, they looked like golden coins, like the money of which America is made.
The plane was empty, and this brought a sheer wave of incomprehensible joy to me as I spread out across three unoccupied seats. Many the people on the trip didn't realize exactly how fortunate they were. Perhaps they had not spent seven hours at the center of a fat sweating businessman sandwich before, but I had, and the newfound freedom was exquisite. The descent into London was also dark, very early in the morning. The lights of London outshine those of Boston. I had never seen so many lights in all my life. Imagine concentrating each star in space into a very small area of the night sky. It was brilliant, burning and exceedingly wasteful. The stopover in London was painless; it was too early in the morning for the airport to be crowded and our next flight had even fewer people than the first. I fell asleep as we took off and awoke about ten minutes before landing in Austria.
Here in Vienna, I am the sole occupant of a room designed for three students. This means I have three beds, three, chairs, three wardrobe closets, three bookshelves and just generally three times more IKEA furnishings than anyone in his right mind would ever desire. My clothes fill one wardrobe closet, so I stuffed my empty suitcases into the others. I guess I could rotate beds every so often, but that seems pointless, as they are identical.
My knowledge of Vienna and what it has to offer is limited, at best. Last night, the six of us went to a café not more than a few blocks away, where we sat and drank and generally pretended we were really cool international jet-setters. The kids who aren't twenty one use this time to their advantage. I'm not that interested in drinking, however, so there may be nights when I will need to find something to do on my own.
Today we are taking a tour of the Theresianum. We will be shown its historically preserved rooms as well as rooms that have been modified for school use. After this, we will walk around the surrounding neighborhood with our leader, Professor Lupinin, and learn where the essential things are, the grocery store, U-bahn (subway), bakeries, drug-stores and department stores. When we return, we will go to dinner in the dining hall. After that, I will return to my room and write these very sentences.
Tonight, we are going out together again and exploring a bit more of Vienna. We have to be up and ready at seven o'clock tomorrow, so I think we will make an early evening of it.
February 2, 2007
Forgot to write yesterday, but last night we had to hit this hoppin' pub, Wiedner Brau, which like the rest of the pubs in Austria, made their own brew. The waiter was very friendly and spoke English better than I did. Thankfully, he was patient enough to let us practice our horrible attempt at using a second language. I tried ordering another glass of wine with this particularly hard and long German phrase. Unfortunately, I became very nervous in the middle of the five word phrase "Ick Hetter...," and instantly froze. So I did what all cute girls do when they suddenly freeze in a panic: I smiled and laughed. The waiter did this also, but I'm sure he was laughing at me and not with me. I think I built it up too much in my head, saying it over and over until the moment came to finally say it, and my little anxiety attack got the best of me. I just figured, "Oh well, its better to try and look like a complete ass rather than not to try at all."
Today was especially eventful. We went to the ring in the heart of Vienna. St. Stephen's, dating back to the 13th Century, is a beautiful Gothic Cathedral. Gargoyles infested the outside of the church like a piped icing on a cake; these monsters were meant to ward off evil spirits. Needless to say, I went too camera happy with my 35 and spend about $4 in film on the Church, even though this was the first thing we saw and there is still so much left to see. But I guess I'll have a little story to tell when I develop the film. Someone will ask me "Why are there so many pictures of this one church?" and I'll say, I got a little too excited my first day, and my finger did as well.
I now know exactly what Billy Joel was singing about and I'm sure that soon enough, I'll be dancing to my own tune within this beautiful city. I couldn't stop smiling; a permanent grin had formed onto my face. All the old architecture and the designer stores made the whole experience even more real than it had been in the preceding couple days, compliments of jet lag. At random periods throughout the day, I had a sudden giddy outburst and would do this little jig. My roommates must have thought I had some incredibly happy tick, but it was just my Euro reality check.
January 31, 2007
Loving Every Minute
Between the sunset in Boston, the completely empty rows of seats on the plane, and the breathtaking landing and liftoff over London, it was the perfect day of traveling. The first few hours at the Theresianum were a blur of sore feet, a full bladder, hunger, boredom and exhaustion. My room is wonderful, a triple with high ceilings, wood floors and more storage space than I could ever use. My window overlooks a cross street with two massive old buildings on each side. I can hear the city traffic and the wind howls through my window with a chill. I'm loving every sight and sound, no matter if it is unpleasant or wonderful.
Familiar feelings of jet lag are taking over: dizziness and disorientation and an overwhelming exhaustion. I just have to power through and ignore it all. I can't wait until I am functional enough to take everything in at its fullest.
Feb. 1- The Dean of students met us today to give us a tour of the Theresianum. The building is huge with old and new parts. The most amazing things, like the old library, made the rest of the building seem incredibly modern. The mix of history preserved and lost is very distinct here.
Walking around the city near the school, in the afternoon, I was bombarded with sights and sounds and smells- the squeal of the tram brakes, the smell of chocolate wafting from a café, ‘haus' this and ‘strasse' that, it was great to see it all and be out in the fresh air! I can't wait until it is all familiar, and yet I am relishing in the newness and beauty of it all. I don't want to lose the sense of awe.
A one hour nap in the late afternoon and a strong cup of coffee gave me enough energy for the rest of the day and we are all relaxing now, listening to music and writing before we go out again in search of another adventure and experience!
I've been dying to take pictures of everything, but then I remember that I have three months to do so. I don't want to see everything for the first time from behind a lens. We keep talking about how we wish we knew more German. Everyone has been really nice, but we still feel like ignorant Americans. I think we will work hard to learn more and will be able to communicate better soon!
Feb 2 - I'm on cup # 5 of coffee for the day and it's only 2:00! I think I'm getting over the jet lag, but I'm still just tired! It's funny how quickly things have become familiar to me. I don't know if it's because I came here determined not to be a tourist, but I know that this place is going to feel like home in no time. I feel like I was meant to be here!
We had our first trip on the U-Bahn into the city center today; it was everything I expected and more. Very grand, massive old buildings flank modern businesses, with cobblestone streets and squares and something new and beautiful to look at around every corner. It's a thrill to be surrounded by such history!
I feel so good here, more alive than I have felt in a long time. I am overloaded with sensations, sights and emotions, and I'm loving every minute of it. And, somehow, I know its just going to get better from here on in!