I took a quick work trip to Germany and Austria last week. After a couple nights at the airport hotel in Dusseldorf for a conference, I flew to Vienna on Sunday. The last time I was in Vienna was December 2001 during a winter break trip to visit the hometown (and beyond) of my college roommate, Katrina. I remember Vienna being frigidly cold, and I think we arrived via train early evening. In addition, on the stop-over back to Katrina's parents' home in Spittal from Prague, we stayed the night in Vienna, where four of the five members of our group spent the night in the throes of food poisoning. All this to say that the sunny, grand Vienna I just visited seems vastly different than the cold, dark city of my memories.
I only had time to sightsee on Sunday when, inconveniently, all the shops were closed. I spent the day just walking the city. I was impressed by how well seemingly historic places have been made usable. The front of the parliament building was flooded into iceskating rinks, lined by vendors selling strudel, cider and sausages. In addition, the grounds of the old palace are common parks for residents to sit in the sun or to unleash their dogs. I even saw a little dog sprint past wearing a traditional Austrian outfit (think Sound of Music).
Sunday was also Superbowl in the States, and strangely enough my hotel, a Marriot, was the scene of Austria's biggest superbowl party - well over a thousand people swarmed the hotel. I tried (not very hard) to sneak into the party a couple times, but entry required a barcoded ticket. I spoke briefly with a man waiting in line wearing a Vikings hat and jacket, who answered my query about being a fan something to the order of, "Vikings - you know" and then made a chopping motion with his hands. I guess that works.