This flight to Vienna, Austria was my first visit to the continent after living in London
for about seven months. It was a cold, snowy winter in central Europe at the time, and all
Gene, Randall and I knew was that we were going to visit Austria, Yugoslavia, and Hungary for
one week. Our friend and fellow Project Good News worker Myron Schirer, who lived in Vienna, was
going to make arrangements for us to travel together by car, and visit missionaries,
churches, etc., behind the "Iron Curtain." We made certain that we acquired the
right visas for entering Yugoslavia and Hungary in London before we left.
My first impressions of Vienna were on a cold wintry night with about a foot
of snow on the ground. The airport was modern and very nice. We picked up a rental Volvo
hatchback at the airport and proceeded to follow Myron, who was driving a borrowed van, to the
Eastern European Mission Center, where we would spend the first night. The combination
of darkness, snow, baroque buildings, and billboard advertisements in German really
stirred my imagination. This was Vienna! It was magically intriguing to behold and
admire the gilded glories of its Imperial past. My first impressions were full of
awe. This was the eastern-most frontier of "Free Europe." This was the city of the
movie "Third Man," and the home of Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, Freud, and the Habsburg's.
Lonely Planet calls Vienna, "the mother lode of all things cultural."
It was fantastic!
We arrived at the Eastern European Mission Center, a large
modern three-story building, which served as a publishing and printing house, and sort of a
convention center, with lots of offices and some living quarters. This was where Myron worked.
At the EEMC, we met Charles Randolph, a young man about my age that had come to visit London the previous December, with Myron, and had stayed for a week at our flat. He had a journalism degree and was conducting his own research about Eastern European countries in hopes of writing about them. His desire was to visit as many of the Soviet bloc nations as possible
including Albania, which was very difficult to do at the time. He lived at the EEMC and seemed
to be an interesting person; very smart, and opinionated, but casual. Today, Charles is a
Hollywood movie screenwriter; The Life Of David Gale (2003), and The Interpreter (2005).
The next day we embarked on our tour of Yugoslavia and Hungary. The four of us took
turns driving, which was quite an experience in itself, at least for Gene, Randall and I,
who had not driven on the continent before. And, this was in a somewhat precarious area
of Europe as far as we were concerned. You can read a summary of this trip in the section
about Eastern Europe: Yugoslavia & Hungary. On the way to Yugoslavia,
we stopped in Graz, Austria's second largest city--an architectural gem--and had our
first experience with exchanging money at a bank. This was no problem. Next, we visited a
recording studio for religious broadcasting into Eastern Europe. This was located in a church building
in Graz, and a couple of the staff members showed us around. I met Mesha, a young technician
that I was to meet again at the British Bible School in Corby a year later. After that we
drove south of Graz and ate lunch with a German missionary couple in their sixties, Mr. and Mrs.
Reiner Kallus, at their house. Myron had arranged this visit ahead of time, and we had a
delightful visit with this venerable couple before driving onto Yugoslavia.
When we returned to Vienna after the trip through Yugoslavia and Hungary, Myron
showed us some of the sights of Central Vienna, such as St. Stephen's Cathedral--a gothic
masterpiece, the Hofburg Palace (home of Austria's rulers since the 13th century), The
Spanish Riding School (home of the Lipizzaner Stallions), the Opera House, St. Charles
Church, and several other sights. He also showed us a memorial plaque at the very place where
Mozart died (now part of a department store). We ate at a few nice restaurants, such as
the Goulash Museum, the Corfu, and Figluller's, where they serve great Weiner Schnitzel, and
we went to a fine Viennese Kaffee-Konditorei, Demel, where the cake display alone is a
work of art. The day after that, Randall and I went back to Central Vienna by ourselves in the
Volvo, and did some more sightseeing, such as the Hofburg's imperial apartments, and
went to the National Library, located in the curvaceous Neue Burg Palace, where from the
portico, Hitler addressed a large outdoor rally in 1938.
That evening we were all invited to Myron's small, but hip bachelor flat that seemed
lost in a maze of connected old buildings, somewhere in Vienna. We followed a map that he drew
for us and we made it there on our own after dark in the Volvo, miraculously. He served us dinner,
along with some of his co-workers and a friend. We had great conversations with them,
particularly with a married Austrian-American couple, who seemed to be charming and knew a
little bit about everything. Myron's flat was something else. His bedroom was so tiny that a
single bed just barely fit inside the four walls, for they were covered with bookcases and books. I really
admired Myron for his character and dedication to his work. I thought Vienna was a first-rate
place to live--so beautiful, so intellectual--mind you, this is just a summary. Everything
about this trip to Vienna was just unforgettable!
Randall and I went to Vienna again in June 1988, on a Cosmos Coach Tour. Our tour
entered Austria from West Germany, near Passau, and traveled along the Danube, or Wachau
Valley, passing through Linz, and Krems. We went for a cruise on the Danube in a tour boat,
and then continued to Vienna on our tour bus. It was great to be back. Since our previous visit
had been a cold one, and relatively short, we were anxious to see Vienna again, and traveled
about on our own. This time we only had a day and two nights, but we made the most
of it. We stayed in the Hotel Michelbeuern, on the west side of Vienna. One interesting
fact was that the Pope, yes, the Pope had just been to Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral
a few hours before we arrived at the Cathedral. There were still platforms and various
paraphernalia set up around the interior. How's that for interesting? Unfortunately, time
flew by so quickly that we didn't think to call Myron in time to plan anything with him,
so we didn't get to see him this time because he was busy.
We lapped up Vienna with as much gusto as two young American's could on a short visit.
We went to the famous Kunsthistorisches Museum, where there is the largest collection of
Peter Bruegel's paintings in the world. We rode the trams, Metro, drank in coffee houses, and went
to the Prater amusement park where there is a giant Ferris Wheel, with a great
view of Vienna (from the other side of the Danube Canal; see the photo I took at the top). We
went to the famous Hundertwasser Haus, an unusually designed apartment building/museum
featuring individual flats that are lacking in straight lines because the architect disliked
the formalities of modernism. And last but not least, we went to tour Schonbrunn Palace,
a 17th Century baroque palace with Rococo interior built by the Habsburg's, where a young Mozart
played his first royal concert for Maria Theresa at age six! The French style gardens were
spectacular, as well.
Later that evening, we wanted to eat dinner at the Goulash Museum, a quaint,
agreeably-aged looking restaurant, where we had eaten our first time in Vien, but we
couldn't remember how to find it. So, after a futile search for it, it just occurred to me
to ask a taxi driver where it was, and one kind gentleman told us where it was--as simple
as that! We then realized that we were on the right street, but had not gone quite far
enough. We had some delicious goulash, and then made our way back to the hotel.
This stay in Vienna was short, but packed with a lot of sightseeing, and the summer
weather was quite comfortable. Vienna's atmosphere of gemutlichkeit, and cosiness, could
have easily held us captive for several more days, but our coach tour had to continue on to
Italy and other parts of Central Europe.
Vienna Ferris Wheel
click here for a map of Austria | Vienna