Memories of Vienna
I had no plan for the winter break. I should have had, as the campus was going to be closed. So I was incredibly fortunate that Meili, the Taiwanese girl, let Maya and me spend Christmas with her and her family in Vienna. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I told my parents when they reluctantly agreed to pay for the trip. Maya and I planned to stay in Vienna over Christmas and take the train to Paris to spend the New Year and go to Florence and Rome before returning to Vienna.
I had never taken a long trip in my life, so I packed unnecessary things again, and my winter boots were unsuitable for sightseeing on foot. We arrived in Vienna a few days before Christmas day. Meili’s parents welcomed us warmly. Her father, the foreign diplomat, spoke fluent English, and her mother also understood us while spoke less. Meili’s two younger sisters went to an American school, so they had an American accent, different from Meili’e European accent.
Every morning, Meili’s mother cooked the best breakfast I had ever had in my life. The congee was different from the Japanese version of “Kayu,” the soggy, bland-tasting white rice you have when you are sick. I sprinkled pickles that gave magical flavor to the congee. There was also what looked like fried bread, which I learned later was called “youtiao.”
Meili took us to see the Christmas market by the Donau. I was more fascinated by the vastness of the river than the market. The day was short, and by three o’clock, we watched the lowered sun sparkle the surface of the river. For a Sunday lunch, Meili’s father took us to a restaurant on the top of a building, from which we had a panoramic view of the city. The restaurant part of the building rotated so that all customers could enjoy the full 360-degree view. I barely noticed the existence of rivers in Tokyo, probably due to the tall office buildings towering over the city. Vienna seemed to preserve the landscape from the time of Maria Teresia. We went to a house party hosted by one of Meili’s father’s colleagues for Christmas night. We had a fantastic Taiwanese cuisine, and after the meal, Meili’s mother and other ladies taught us how to play mahjong. Other days, Maya and I went out by ourselves. We visited Schönbrunn Palace, Kunsthistorisches Museum, and Belvedere Museum, where we saw Klimt’s paintings. We then walked around the Stephanplats and ate Sacher torte at a cafe.