Waiting in the Wings: A Pre Flight Prologue
It’s a semi clouded day at Philadelphia International airport and I am on my own. I left my family at the security gate and walked on through to a whole new world. Now for some this might not be a big feat in the slightest degree, I know my boyfriend has been through this process probably more times than I could count on my collective fingers and toes (and then some more). For me though, crossing the Atlantic solo is a rather new experience. Crossing the Atlantic in General is a first in itself! Hell, it will be the first time that I even leave the country!
My dad always has a joke about why their are so many Fitzpatricks in South Jersey. As I’ve been told it’s because “the Fitzpatricks on their way from Ireland saw so much water on the way over that they were too sick of it to even cross the bridge into Pennsylvania!” Jokes aside, this Fitzpatrick is ready to cross all the water he has to. This is the start of the story. I don’t know how it will be written- I’m leaving most of that up to life. My role is to simply fill in the blanks with my own actions and record it all on here. Who will Paul Fitzpatrick be in Europe? It may sound like a strange question to ask and you could just as easily say to me: “… well , yourself.” Yet it doesn’t feel that simple. When I was home I was used to my routines, the culture around me, and how I talked with my friends and family (not even mentioning the shared language!) Here however, all that is behind me. New customs, new routines, probably (and hopefully) new friends. So who will I be in the midst of all this newness? I may have to do some fine tuning. For now I am content with this assertion: I will be a wanderer embracing the wonder that is life.
I just got on the plane. Nearly missed boarding because I ran to the bathroom! I made my way back to coach, got myself situated, and was very happy to realize I had my row to myself. Not so happy to hear that there was no wifi or charging ports on the plane, so I am typing this all up to post later! The reality of things has not hit me yet. I speedily tap away at my keyboard as the plane begins to slip its way onto the tarmac. Updates and final farewells for family and friends.
Up in the Air: Bis später Amerika!
It was about an hour or so into my flight when it really hit me. The gravity of it all. Or perhaps even the hilarity of it all. I think if I could see myself from a third person view I would have a good laugh at myself. At no point before college had I ever thought I’d be on a plane alone headed across the sea to do research on constructed languages (and their use of profanity and obscenity- more on that to follow). Just the surreal feeling and randomness of it all struck me as funny. But it was indeed happening.
I guess that moment kind of put things in perspective for me. I would be going off to a place where only one person knows me (Dr. Kling, my professor and friend). Other than that I am a complete stranger to the rest of the world. For some reason it made me think of my Great Grandfather and his move to America. He was essentially an orphan and had managed to flee the orphanage he was in, find his way on a transatlantic ship, and make his way to some relatives who lived in Pennsylvania.He did that alone. I can’t even begin to imagine the journey he must have had. Such an incredible gamble, and not too uncommon for most immigrants of the early 20th century. Now here I was crossing the same ocean that probably took him weeks in a matter of hours.
The flight continued. I was lucky enough to get a row to myself on this long transatlantic flight. In fact, the plane itself was pretty empty. It didn’t take the attendants too long to reach my seat in the back when giving out food as there wasn’t too many people ahead of me. It felt solitary but relaxing. I looked out the window at the sun fading in the west as I tried to comprehend just how long this flight would be. I looked back to the in flight movie (Eddie the Eagle) and as soon as it was done looked back out the window to see only stars. With that as my last sight, I curled up on the two seats I had to myself and passed out. It was night…
<— You can just see the exhaustion
Layovers: The truest test of anyone’s patience
…only for a short while that is! In all my excitement I had forgotten that we were moving forward in time and because I had no wifi, my phones time didn’t seem to adjust with it! I went to bed at what I thought was 10 o clock and then woke up to see the sun rise. In reality I had only gotten about 2 hours of sleep. Within the next hour of waking we landed in Zurich. The flight over the city was beautiful. All the little villages scattered about amongst friendly verdant hills. This was my first site of Europe and it did not fail to excite.
When the plane landed and as I departed I felt nothing short of exhaustion. I felt like a puppet when the puppeteer loosens upn on the strings: close to collapse and looking like a mess. I trudged my way over to the tram to the terminal. It was all so clean, and kind of aware of the whole stereotype of Swiss people. In the tunnel on the way over there was an animated advertisement much like a flip book with a pig-tailed girl in lederhosen on top of the alps who smiled and waved at you as you moved past. When we made it to the next stop we were all greeted by the sound of a mountain horn! (You know, the one you hear in the Riccola commercials).
I will try my best now to sum up the next 4 and a half hours as quickly as possible (though they did in no way go as quick…). A whole lot of waiting. Straining to stay awake. Feeling not sure if I was hungry or just feeling sick from exhaustion. Feeling better! Nearly fell asleep on my luggage. Jammed to Hamilton and Springsteen to stay awake! Praised the lord when they called for boarding for Vienna. Passed out asleep while waiting for plane to take off. Passed out asleep again after it got in the air. Saw the alps! Tried speaking German with the attendants but was so tired that I gave up halfway through. And the flight was only an hour so by the time we got up in the air it was just about time to land! Vienna lay ahead in the distance. I had arrived.
Compared to the flight to Zurich, Vienna felt like traveling only a matter of seconds. I walked through the airport with excitement (you couldn’t tell from the outside, but take my word for it I was excited on the inside). I picked up my bags from the luggage carousel and followed the same crowd of passengers that were on my airplane to the exit (I had no clue where I was going).
At the exact moment I exited the hallway I followed the crowd into, I saw my good friend and professor Vince Kling waiting for me. Needless to say it was like picking up where we left off in a previous conversation. I could now safely go on autopilot and just rely on him to get me where we needed to be.
The first thing we did was make sure to get me a transit ticket for the month (and good for all city transportation). Unlike my SEPTA riding days, Vienna transport didn’t require the constant use of coins or fare (though you could pay for an individual ride. It is fairly easy though for a person to walk through the station and just hop on a bus or a train and not have to pay the fair. However, best of luck if the ticket person comes along. “Schwarzfaren” as it is called (black-traveling: which may or may not have racist undertones or could be like saying “the black market kind of thing”…kind of ambiguous) can get you paying 130 euros for something that may have only been 6 or so euros. Not really my cup of tea if you ask me.
The train that took us out to the city had some real character too it. Unlike the Broad Street line at home which usually just features a line of seats on either side and some poles to hold on to, this looked more like an older trolley car with seats, tables between them and of course poles for those forced to stand. It’s walls were a warm peach color that was contrasted to the purple and red that made up the poles and the seats. Vince and I caught up about the past few months as we moved through an industrial park like area before getting closer and closer to the city. When I had asked which stop would be ours, Vince just simply replied: “I’m expecting you to know which one it is when you see it.” He was certainly right. As the famed Ferris wheel from The Third Man came into view, I knew this must be it.
The area around where Vince had made his home is the second district. The second district was only one out of twenty three that comprised the city. We made our way off of the train and into the Praterstern transportation hub. The Praterstern gets its name from the amusement park that houses the Ferris Wheel. It has been around for around 250 years. It gets the “stern” part of it’s name from the star shape it creates from all the different transportation flowing from it. From there we walked through to Venediger Au (Venice Meadows), a park right outside the apartment that took us straight to Ybbstrasse. Ybbstrasse and the surrounding area is beautiful, that much cannot be doubted, however the graffiti within the area should be noted. I could not help but feel surprised by the amount of graffiti I saw on the train ride to the Praterstern and also the amount on the walls of Venediger Au and Ybbstrasse. It would seem that the city of Vienna must have a rather active Anarchist theme given the rather common appearance of the circled A and anti-state phrases (most of which seemed to be against the ever advancing political right).
Walking into the halls of the apartment complex, it felt much like the train we had taken. It was old, and you can tell quite clearly, but it had character to it. While the plaster and paint could probably be well done, it seemed to fit in with the feel of the city. You could not help but look at some of the older wooden doors with tinted glass in them or the faces carved into the corners of the halls and just appreciate them. Vince’s actual apartment blew it out of the water, however. I was immediately grabbed by shelves upon selves of books (and the shelves behind the shelves). Custom made tall book shelves that you could slide away and reaveal another shelve of books behind it. Each shelve homed a family of books belonging to the same author or a collection of knick knacks but all spaces were comfortably and happily filled. This would happily be my home for the next several weeks.
After some time for unpacking, still incredibly exhausted from the flight, we decided to head out to the Prater for dinner. I had only ever known of the Ferris Wheel so I was very surprised to see a whole amusement park around it. And it would seem the Austrians really liked their extreme rides. Sure their were fun houses, and simple kiddie rides like a merry-go-round or tiny car ride, but their were also things like Extacsy. A spinning ride that puts you in a pod that goes up and down while also spinning and then at one point stays upside down for a good minute and a half. All this while music blasts in the background to strobe lights and fog machines. Totally radical, dude.
Dinner was cordon Bleu. A heavenly dish crafted by the gods that consisted of chicken schnitzel filled with ham and cheese. The main course however, was trying to figure out how to step into German speaking mode. My brain continued to be too tired to even begin stringing together English sentences let alone German ones. Despite that though, I was incredibly eager to try my hand at it. My German has yet to be the best as I have been constantly caught in a love/hate relationship with it (I assure you it is mostly love but boy are there things I hate!) I mustered up some energy to order in German, but it was incredibly shakey. After anoucning that I thought it was such, I received probably the best wake up I’ve had in a while. From across the table, Vince calmly reminded me that I’ve only been here for a few hours and that I was certainly in no rush to become an expert (as that wouldn’t just immediately happen also). “Just take your time, it’s all there and you can do it, but don’t constantly beat yourself up over it or else you’ll never progress.” He was right, and I suppose that conquering that self-critizing voice in you is the best thing anyone can do. Though they usually don’t teach that when they are talking about the difference between the past perfect and the imperfect.
By the time we made our way through the Prater it was getting close to 10. It was hard to believe that time had flown by so fast but it came as a relief. I had made it to a regular time for sleep which means I could hopefully beat the jet lag. I found myself to my bed and let sleep do the rest. Hallo und guten Nacht Wien.