To the age, it’s art, to art, it’s freedom.

inscription on the dome of the Secession building by Joseph Olbrich

You can start it any way you want; after all, it’s your summer day touring Vienna. A hummus and mint lemonade breakfast at Vienna’s famous Nachsmarkt (or ‘snack market’)? Perfect. Good thing you have a good friend visiting for the weekend; good thing she’s an Art History major at the University of Toronto and can tell you things about the art and architecture of this city that you never knew.

Before hitting the Museumsquartier, though, you two want to have a little fun. So you head to Vienna’s Prater – large grassy park and amusement park – with plans to ride the famous (and the world’s first ever) Ferris wheel. Yep, the same one Jesse and Céline rode and shared their first kiss on in Before Sunrise. Unbeknown to your friend, you have your proverbial journalist’s hat on (yes, the one that’s barely three weeks old) and the piece on Before Sunrise you are in the process of writing in mind. You’ve been visiting each of the famous landmarks that Jesse and Céline frequent in the film over the past week or so, with the intent of intertwining and comparing their Vienna from 20 years ago with your current Vienna in your article. Your editor thinks this will make a very interesting piece; you’re wishing you weren’t such a romantic, because part of you wishes that you, too, could experience this incredible city with a handsome stranger you met on the train.

So, the Ferris wheel — a must-see for all tourists in Vienna. When your friend, Kiersten, and you arrive at the park, you see that a ride in one of the slow-moving, glass-enclosed compartments on the wheel cost €8.50 each. In the distance, you see high-flying swings that take people above the Ferris wheel, allowing them to ride barefoot, feet hanging in the wind. You and Kiersten share a look. “We’ll be back…” you tell the man handing out tickets at the Ferris wheel.

It’s a no-brainer; the swings cost €5 and the screams of delight coming from high up in the air convince you both that this is the right ride to take on this hot summer day. Afterward, walking out of the park and passing the famous Ferris wheel, you comment on how you feel you should put a sign on the entrance saying, “It’s too hot for this historic ride today; ride on the high swings – you won’t regret it!”

***

Onto the famous Leopold museum, where you’re both excited to see collections from the Jugendstil movement on display.

You read inside that Vienna, in 1900, was “an emotional culture emerging from political impotence.” You spend the next two hours observing how true this is. You stare at the old copy of Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams in its glass case, contemplating what’s written on the wall next to it: “Everything conscious has an unconscious preliminary stage. The unconscious is the larger sphere, which includes within it the smaller sphere of the conscious.” You briefly consider stealing book for your younger sister, majoring in Philosophy and German, before deciding you don’t want to jeopardize your chances of returning to Vienna someday.

The mood inside the museum is one you wish you could bottle up to keep with you at all times; you wish you could take the afternoon light, too, which is an intangible form of art itself. Museums are one of the few places you don’t feel guilty being indoors when it’s beautiful outside — because it’s just as beautiful inside places like this.

***

All too soon, the weekend will be over. Before it is, though,  you’ll spend a relaxing Sunday swimming on at the Badeschiff, a swimming pool on a ship on the Danube River. (Vienna truly has everything.) After spending four months under the strong sun in Ghana, the sun here feels just right, and there’s something wonderfully decadent about swimming in a pool on a boat on a river – there’s a first time for everything, right?

And on Monday evening, right before your friend flies home to Stuttgart, you’ll meet her after work at a tucked away café/restaurant near your beloved Nachsmarkt. She’ll enjoy a “well-rounded” (in her words) wiener schnitzel and you’ll take copious notes for the restaurant review your editor has asked you to do. You’ll comment on all the things you both did during the weekend, how perfect the weather was, how impressive all the art and architecture was. In an ironic twist, as you both finish up a conversation about how the weekend was a perfect balance of “doing” and “relaxing,” you’ll glance at your watch and realize she needs to rush to her train in order to make it to the airport to catch her flight. When she’s gone, you’ll realize that as much as you love living in Vienna by yourself, and as much as you so enjoy this new taste of independence you’ve never experienced before, a weekend in this city with an old friend by your side was exactly what you needed.

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