This marked the final week of my exchange semester in Vienna. I can’t believe how fast it’s gone by! This week, I wrapped up the administrative duties associated with moving out of a dorm and away from a country. It passed by in a blur, but I still wanted to make sure I got some bucket list things done before leaving the city.
One night, we went to Ribs of Vienna for a friend’s birthday. It. Was. Delicious. It was classic “American” ribs with a variety of marinades and sauces to choose from. The décor was cool too, the restaurant was inside an old tavern. Jason and I shared 5 half-racks with some side dishes, and we were still super full by the end. Would definitely recommend this place!
Angel, Jocelyn, Florence and I went to this cool exhibition called the Olympus Photography Playground. You could rent an Olympus camera (a variety of different cameras for different photography levels), and they had several different decorated and interactive rooms where you could test the cameras and learn about photography. From a marketing point of view, this was a fantastic move for Olympus because through my marketing courses and from personal experience, I’ve learned that consumers love “trialability”. People like to try products with no strings attached, to see if they like them before they commit to buying anything. This “photography playground” did just that – it allowed thousands of people to test drive several Olympus camera models in creatively decorated rooms… for free! They relied heavily on an online presence for promotions, because I didn’t see any signs or advertisements other than via Facebook and their website. I think it was a genius move on Olympus’ part to set up the photography playground – it was a relatively low setup cost for exposure to thousands of customers.
That night, a few of us went to Der Nussknacker (The Nutcracker) ballet at the State Opera House. My vision was limited since we were quite far away with our standing tickets (€3!), but it was a lovely show nonetheless. After the ballet, we had a super fun night at Passage, the nicest club in Vienna (in my opinion).
The next day, Jocelyn, Florence and I went to Naschmarkt and ordered some meat and cheese from Urbanek. We got the idea from the outdoor market itself – each time we’d go to Naschmarkt, there were always people standing outside Urbanek sipping on wine and eating delicious charcuterie. So, one day we finally tried it ourselves! It was a wonderful experience at the family business. We had no idea what to order, so we asked the brothers behind the counter (at least they looked like brothers) to prepare an assortment of meat & cheeses for us for about €20 each. The meats were some type of ham, salami, traditional bacon and prosciutto. We also ordered a fruity white wine to pair with the assortment – it was all so delicious. It ended up being about €45 per person, more than expected, but the overall experience was totally worth doing once.
I realized that I still hadn’t gone to see an opera show, so I was determined to see one before leaving Vienna. Finally, Jason and I went to see the opera Rigoletto, a tragedy with the following themes: “a pivotal relationship between father and daughter, the inexorability of fate, love, revenge and sacrifice, as well as a close look at the suffering of a social outcast”. To be honest, I thought the opera would be really boring, but the English subtitles made it suspenseful and exciting because we could actually understand what was happening in the story. I would definitely recommend going to see a tragic opera, because it totally exceeded my expectations.
We planned to spend Christmas with friends who were still in Vienna for the holidays. It felt weird being here around this time, since it was my first Christmas away from home. I wouldn’t say Christmas is a huge production back home, but being with family has always been a constant around the holidays. Our Viennese Christmas was a potluck at Jason’s place, about 11 people who showed up in the end. It ended up being a very Italian-themed dinner, with dishes including antipasto, lasagna, spaghetti, risotto, and delicious orange-infused tiramisu (made by Jason). The odd dishes out were my mashed sweet potatoes, some tortilla chips, and the Spanish guys’ yummy sangria. By the end, we were all absolutely stuffed and satisfied. Overall, it was a really nice get together with friends, new and old.
We hit up some other clubs during our last week in Vienna: Prater Dome, Volksgarten, and Säulenhalle. Prater Dome is the biggest club in Vienna by size, with several rooms with different music. However, we were constantly warned by locals that Prater Dome is a place where “uneducated, uncivilized” people go. Nonetheless, we heard that Prater Dome had a room with really good hardstyle EDM, which Jason got excited about. I guess the locals meant “white trash” personalities (pardon the term), and once we arrived we understood what they meant. But the people didn’t really deter from us having a good time, because as I’ve repeatedly said… it’s about who you’re with that makes the experience enjoyable! Volksgarten and Säulenhalle are nicer clubs, with higher prices. They are frequented by young people and both great music. I didn’t make it to all the clubs in Vienna, but I was pretty happy with all the ones I did visit.
The morning before our departure, it snowed! We woke up in shock to see a thin blanket of snow covering the neighbouring building roofs. It truly felt like Christmas (though it was late December). In celebration, Amanda and I went to the Gasometer Noodle House very close to our dorm, a Chinese restaurant we’d been wanting to try for the longest time. Despite wanting to have the most authentic Austrian culinary experience we could during exchange, we gave in on our last day. We ordered duck on rice noodles, as well as beef rice noodle. It was actually run by Chinese people, so that was a semi-promising sign. The food was alright, not too authentic but our expectations were pretty low to begin with. I probably wouldn’t go back there voluntarily though.
After packing up the last of our things at home, we met up with our WU buddies for “the last supper” before our departure at this really nice Vietnamese restaurant called ___. After that, we went to a bar to play pool and have a few beers. We also had a bit of a snowball fight while walking down the street, because it had snowed more since the morning. We had a flight in the middle of the night, so we were trying to draw out the time as much as we could. I gotta say that I’m so grateful for our buddies, especially my buddy Andi, who took time out of their busy schedules to hang out with us, drive us to the airport, and just be great friends to us.
When Andi dropped us off at the airport, I got a bit emotional. I still remember the first day he picked us up and introduced us to Vienna four months ago. As Amanda and I went through security and sat in the terminal waiting for our flight, we couldn’t believe it was all over. It was a reflective moment as we mentally recapped everything that had happened during our exchange semester, good and bad. It was a bittersweet moment as we boarded the plane – we were both incredibly sad to leave the wonderful four-month experience that had been exchange, but we were also happy to be returning home to see our friends and family. Now, off I go with my cheesy photo of my passport about to take off……