It wasn't noticeable as soon as I de-boarded, possibly that was because I was so exhausted, but it was clear as soon as I dropped my bags in my hotel room, tied up my sneakers and commenced my new city routine. Walking for hours was the trick I learned when I was living abroad in Italy, there is no other way to really see a new city but to cover the ground through walking. Niccola, the Albanian who posed falsely as an Italian and I made my boyfriend taught me to walk around cities to get the feel.
There are large differences from the United States to Europe and truly as soon as you get out on the street you begin to feel them. There is certain consistent welcoming niceness with a tiny dash of cold better than thou experience from natives. One might read it a deep confidence. Natives are not exuberant with American strangers but they are significantly emphatic with those that they love. On my initial walk I saw a couple, the man was embracing the woman completely in his arms, had tipped her back like they were dancing and was kissing her. Both were smiling and the kissing dip lasted for several moments. People just walked by.
Those that are out have dressed themselves, not over the top but no one goes out in gigantic sweatpants and hoodies. There is a simple confidence. Most people smoke cigarettes, and throughout all of the walking here, I thanked my lucky stars that I cannot speak the language because without that deterrence and every turn I made I ran into a cigarette, I might have asked. My cigarette addiction was intense, having just one is not an option and in the United States I am thankful I am not tempted nearly as much.
People take breaks in the middle of the day for a long lunch and beer on the sidewalk at a local café. Couples lay on the grass on one another reading, there is significant talk about leisure time, hanging out, and relaxing. Then, the breakfasts and the food must be spoken about. I have traveled a lot and in Europe, the breakfasts are so deeply satisfying, all my favorite foods at my favorite meal during my favorite time of day. Lox, prosciutto, brie, tomato and mozzarella with basil, sausage, fresh fruit, yogurt, homemade bread. Really, if that is not enough to get you up in the morning I don't know what might be.
The compliments and greetings are phenomenal too. Men saying I am beautiful, women saying I am smart, the hugs, the touches, everyone making me feel like we are long lost relatives. There is truly something to be said for getting four separate kisses on the cheek when you greet someone. Why can't we just do that in the United States? At times back home I feel like all day I am craving physical connection with someone, I just want someone to hug me, but here affection is coming from all directions.
The parks, and the architecture and the feeling that these cobblestones have been around for a long time and there a deep well of history brings me peace. Things did not sprout up here in 200 years with plastic siding. The marble and rock evidence hundreds of years of work and I am comforted.
Vienna, this has been a meaningful and restful trip, I am with gratitude for the opportunity to instruct and visit and feel other cultures. I am reminded that the tiny bubble I call home is but a pin point and I am but a dust spec. How profoundly rewarding to be welcomed in to others' lives and to see how others love one another. I will be back, for the richness and depth and the model of connection.