Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Around the World: Vienna Comforts

March 21, 1992

After a light breakfast, I walk to the train station and phone Uwe, one of the backpackers I met in India.  He arrived home just a few days ago and is excited to learn that I am in Austria.  When he hears I am planning to visit Vienna, he gives me directions to his home and invites me to stay for a few days.

At the station, I get on a train, thinking I'm bound for Vienna.  It's a chilly day and drizzling cold rain so I'm more preoccupied with finding a warm and dry shelter rather that checking where I'm going.  My lack of attention delivers me to a switching station a few kilometers outside of Graz.  The station master invites me up to the tower, out of the rain, and pours me a cup of tea.  I think he's as delighted with the company as I am to be waiting inside for another train to arrive.

An hour and a half later, I'm back on a train, this time headed in the right direction and soon arrive in Vienna.  Following Uwe's directions, I am unprepared and delighted with Vienna's open and expressive architecture.  I'm used to doorways, pillars and windows on older buildings being decorated with a human form.  This human form is usually female, covered in a loosely draped cloth that walks a fine line between modesty and pornographic.  It's a human body.  It's art.  It's not intended to be nor should it be taken as offensive.  The first of these architectural adornments I discover in Vienna is of a male form.  All that is the defining glory of man is right there, covered in nothing but a warm breeze.

After being in places where women are considered inferior, and after being subjected to the unwelcome and unwanted physical contact of presumptuous perverts, this doorway decoration fills me with hope.  The plentiful carved figures of naked men and partially exposed women adorning the buildings gives me the sense that I, woman, am now in gender equal territory.

Naked is the form the human body comes in.  It is not intended to be, nor should it be taken as offensive, and it certainly shouldn't be abused or molested.  Whether this is true of Vienna culture or not is unknown, but for the first time in months, it's certainly refreshing to have the sense that my personal space will be respected.

"Careful with that axe, Theseus"

Uwe lives in a small, one bedroom flat about an hour's walk from the train station.  He leaves shortly after I arrive, apologizing that he promised to meet a friend for a sauna, but invites me to make myself at home until he returns.  I decide to prepare dinner for Uwe and his girlfriend, Elisabeth to thank them for their hospitality.

Vienna closes at noon today (Saturday) and won't open again until Monday morning.  It's nice to have a place to stay that won't lock me out during the day.

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“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice.”
~Abigail Adams

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