august 24-26, 2023
in the areas of europe i’ve traveled to where english may not be spoken by everyone, my limited knowledge of portuguese has gotten me by. there are enough shared words across romance languages to sufficiently understand, to order or find something, or to get somewhere. picking up on syntax is sort of quick to pick up on, although i’m definitely not conjugating verbs.
it also helps that i’ve traveled with people who speak the local languages in the azores and france.
anyway, i was feeling accomplished, like my brain was spongey and my tongue was flexible. google translate was the most used app on my phone. then we got into vienna and reading signs, trying to catch the train was disorienting.
german is strikingly different from portuguese, spanish, and french. many letters, long words that can initially look like each other. it took a moment to acclimate to the signange and eventually we were on our way to our apartment near naschmarkt.
unexpectedly, our neighborhood has a lot of asian people and restaurants. it eased my tension and self-consciousness. living in america, i’ve been exposed to bilingual asian immigrants who can speak their native tongue and english. i hadn’t even considered that elsewhere, the secondary language is different. here, it’s german and their native tongue - english, not so much. that caught me off guard. this is my honest observation. i…am…so…westernized
we’ve been lucky with unintentionally timing out our trip with visiting art and photo exhibitions. there are also a lot of good museums here too. and sculptures all around the city.
there was a steve mccurry and a yoshitomo nara exhibit. the mccurry show we learned about after seeing a poster at the train station. the nara-san show i learned about after asking chatgpt what POC artists were creating art at the same time as picasso, then again seeing a poster at the train station.
i really liked yoshitomo nara’s show. playful, angsty, bright-hearted. there were drawings and paintings of girls i’ve felt like at different points in my life - rebellious, angry, feminine, independent, and cute. the back room had a bedroom structure with windows built out of wood and glass, imitating a peek into the artist’s studio in a small japanese town. american rock music from the 60s and 70s was playing on the speakers, and the room’s walls and floor were covered in drawings, paintings. it was voyeuristic and casual. i could imagine the process.
one day we took the train out to the danube to go swimming. the water was greenish and i saw some swans in the distance, some white, some brown. i watched them for a while until i realized they were getting really close to me. i wasn’t sure if they’re aggressive, so i turned around to slowly swim back to shore away from them. but then they surrounded me, swam ahead of me, engulfed me into their group. all i could do was close my eyes and hope they wouldn’t peck at me in anger. they swam away and i was good.
after the danube, we took a ride on the giant ferris wheel at prater where the cabins were made of old trams. you could pay extra to have a dinner on them too, which means the cooks have to time each course to be ready by the time the ferris wheel makes its way back around again. we saw an older couple having dinner, a big cabin all to themselves.
at the end of the night, we went to a vietnamese restaurant. this tall, lean man took our order and he later asked us where we’re from, sharing that he loved his first and only visit to SF in 1996. he said he felt at home there. he ended up in vienna on accident, his refugee parents mistaking austria for australia. it bummed me out, especially because he mentioned the locals make it hard to break into their social circles. he also said many asians often keep to to themselves, to their own ethnic groups vs mingling. i wonder how much of this differs across younger generations. i wondered if my parents had to go through the same experiences migrating to the US.
next, we take a 2 hour train ride to budapest.