When I was a student, my Texas university had a sister school in Vienna. I went there for three summers, teaching English as a second language and studying German. I attended concerts that took my breath away, ate my first gelato, drank beer before the legal US drinking age, looked at paintings that changed my life, slept on a train, made friends from all over the world, fell in love several times, learned to love walking for pleasure, felt a sense of awe in strange cathedrals, went behind the Iron Curtain, reveled in public transportation, and felt at home 5,000 miles away from my birthplace. Then student life was over, and I settled down in the suburbs with my growing family.
In my thirties, while homeschooling our three children and teaching piano, my brain cried out for attention and I went back to school for a second master’s degree. Two classes per semester was all my schedule could handle, but it was sufficient to stretch my mind. Needing an elective, I somehow convinced my husband (and myself) that it would be better to go to language school for two weeks in the summer than to spend a whole semester studying German at my university. So I went. Twice. The school put me up in an apartment, alone, and I gloried in the half-day of classes and doing whatever I darn well pleased the rest of the day. I looked up old friends, made some new ones, wandered the streets alone, felt guilty about leaving my children, and had a wonderful time. Being a mother is always an emotional quandry.
A couple of years ago, one of my oldest, dearest friends invited me and my teenage daughter to go to Europe with her and her husband. How could I resist? My friend and I planned the itinerary, each choosing one city that we were familiar with and several cities that were new to both of us. She chose Paris, and I chose Vienna. I introduced my loved ones to the city that I adored, showing them the big, astounding sights and the out of the way, secret places that I remembered. My Americans met my Austrians, and got along beautifully. I couldn’t have been happier.
Now that I have been in Vienna during my teens, twenties, thirties, and forties, I wonder how it will be in my fifties, when I take my husband there? We plan to visit many places during our travels, but Vienna remains at the top of my list.