Vienna

1/22 -- Arrived in Vienna, moved into shared apartment on Margaretenstrasse, met roommates, went to Zwölf Apostelkeller for dinner (very cool setting, OK food), then slept for a longgg time.

1/23 -- Bought groceries at Hofer (Austrian version of Aldi), went to first orientation session, walked around 1st district -- most touristy area, but very cool; kind of like Times Square but with lots of cobbled streets and alleyways -- saw Wiener Staatsoper, and went inside St. Stephen's Cathedral (INCREDIBLE -- WILL BE BACK)

1/24 -- Another info session in the morning, then a walking tour of the 1st district led by a funny older guy who's lived in Vienna his entire life. Pointed out many many sights, including Josefsplatz (a public square at the Hofburg Palace), Stallburg (the former imperial stables), and the balcony from which Hitler delivered the Anschluss speech declaring the annexation of Austria by the Third Reich. Paid too much for coffee at a little cafe and then got a hamburger from McDonalds. Then a guided tour of the Leopold Museum -- lots of great stuff by Klimt and Schiele, and a self-portrait by Schoenberg. Will also be back here.

1/25 -- Started the day with the first class of my two-week German intensive, taught by Prof. Summesberger, a very sweet older Austrian woman. Cool animal-print scarf. She talked about learning Russian as a child, since she grew up in a district in Vienna that the USSR was in control of post-WWII. Then another information session before returning home for lunch. In the afternoon, I talked with Heidi, a coordinator for IES who matches students with schools in Vienna so they can work as teaching assistants; I'm hoping to teach English and maybe also music. After finishing a phone interview with a company in the US, I had some chicken soup that EB made for dinner and chatted with roommates until it was time to slept.

1/26 -- After my second German intensive class, I wandered around for a while trying to find a store that sold notebooks. I ended up walking around the campus of TU Wien, the technical university in the city, for a while, before eventually finding a shop. I bought a couple notebooks and a pen, and also a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (in German) that I'm going to try to read to pick up new vocabulary. In the evening, I cooked a big pot of Japanese curry for the apartment, which felt very nice. Looking forward to doing more cooking soon!

1/27 -- Very chill day. Mostly just hung out in the apartment; shopped and did laundry. Read a bit more Harry Potter.

1/28 -- My roommate, Aaron, arrived in our apartment in the morning. He was several days late because he caught mononucleosis right before he was originally supposed to leave. Luckily, he is no longer contagious! Later, the whole apartment went on a little day trip to Donauinsel, a long artificial island between the Danube river and the "New Danube", a channel that was dug to prevent flooding in the city. The Donauinsel is the most popular recreational area in the city; we saw a ton of people walking, running, and biking, and there are lots of spots that people will go swimming once it gets a little warmer. There were also many boats docked along the shore of the island with big fishing nets and signs warning people not to tresspass. Learned the German word for dog park (Hundezone). Got pizza afterwards in the 22nd district.

1/29 -- Back to school! Jumped right back into the German intensive; we discussed the imperative case and various time-related prepositions & nouns. Later in the afternoon, attended the first information session for the teaching assistant internship. This seems like it will be really great. The coordinator talked a lot about the differences between the American and European styles of education (ex. no dress codes, kids have the same teacher and cohort throughout all of elementary school) and also told us a few anecdotes about growing up in post-WWII Austria. One story from her childhood: pre-WWII, after her grandfather said "I think bad things are going to happen if this Hitler guy gets any real power", the SS visited him and told him he could either go to a concentration camp or enlist in the army, so he enlisted in the army. Once the war broke out, he was taken as a prisoner of war by the US, who fed him so well that when he returned home, he was in better shape than his family, who had all been starving in their home in Austria.

1/30 -- After German intensive in the morning, had another information session for the education internship. I'm continually impressed by the resolve and general attitude of Heidi, the coordinator, and am looking forward to learning more from her; really hoping I'm selected for the final cut of people. Went out with roommates & some friends from the apartment across the hall to Travel Shack, a "traveler's and student bar" that was fascinating to observe but very deeply not my thing.

1/31 -- No German today. Instead, half the study abroad cohort went on a day trip to Linz. Incredible. The 5 impressions I shared with Felix:

  1. So many beautiful pastel buildings around the city center.
  2. The courtyard of the art school that was designed by Hitler's architects when he was trying to make Linz, which he considered his hometown, a cultural center of the Third Reich
  3. Our ride up Pöstlingberg, a very large hill with a church on top and a beautiful view of the city.
  4. A woman on the tram ride back down with two very young children in a stroller. They were just starting to learn to talk, and were making German-sounding noises but not really saying words. One of them asked for a bite of her mom's banana by going "ahh! ah ah!!" until she was fed, and then her brother made the exact same noise to ask for a bite for himself. People!
  5. The taste of Linzertorte, a local specialty consisting of a nutty shortbread and redcurrant preserves. I was exhausted by the end. Am hoping to return some weekend to see the Lentos Art Museum.

2/1 -- In the morning, dropped off my Meldezettel, or housing registration form, with the city government so they don't fine me €726. The Austrian equivalent of a DMV seemed to be running much more efficiently than the ones I've been to in St. Louis, but that's a small sample size. So who knows. Spent the better part of the evening studying for our class's first German test tomorrow.

2/2 -- Started the day by taking our first German test, which I thought went well. Directly afterwards, we went as a class to Cafe Frauenhuber, a coffeehouse. I ordered my first Wiener Melange (very similar to a cappuccino) and a Topfenstrudel. After leaving the coffeehouse, went to the train station to print out a ticket to Bratislava (capital of Slovakia) for Saturday. Later in the day, visited Polyklamott, a very cool vintage secondhand store. I bought an epic sweater and epic pants. They had a vending machine (on wheels) outside filled with various pieces of jewelry and sunglasses.

2/3 -- Huge day trip to Bratislava. Hopped on a train at 9:25 a.m. and arrived around an hour later. We spent a long time just walking around the city and taking in all the great great architecture -- lots of stuff similar to Vienna but also some more Soviet-looking brutalist buildings. I got a Hungarian folk music LP for €5 and a nice flannel for €10. We had the best pierogis and goulash that I've ever eaten for lunch. Heard a clarinetist busking on the street playing the Godfather theme. Went into St. Martin's cathedral and looked around while the organist was practicing -- we heard Messaien's Apparition de L'eglise Eternelle and some other really beautiful stuff that I didn't recognize. Pet a cat chilling on a chair out on the street. Finished the day by going up to Bratislava Castle. Amazing view of the city and cool castle grounds/gardens to explore.

2/4 -- Mostly a rest & recovery day from the Slovakia outing. Made a bomb-ass breakfast sandwich -- ingredients: prosciutto, eggs, emmenthaler &(!) parmesan cheese. The apartment did go to the Wien Museum (which is among the museums that are free on the first Sunday of the month) for a couple hours, and that was really great. Cool paintings by Klimt, Schiele, Schönberg, Gerstl. Lots of fun interactive things to do among the exhibits, like a chainmail helmet you could try on.

2/5 -- Back to school, again. German intensive is getting pretty intense. We are now drilling present perfect hard and are required to keep a diary to be turned in at the end of the week. Spent a long while in the practice rooms in the afternoon working on Spohr's Concerto No. 1 and also on writing something to play with EB.

2/6 -- Very average day. Asked to exchange a 5-euro bill for 5 1-euro coins at the grocery store down the block using German, and the cashier understood what I was saying, which felt like a win. Got the repertoire I'll be playing for the chamber music workshop, and am starting to really look forward to that.

2/7 -- A pleasant day off from classes. I spent some time in the morning practicing the chamber music I'll be playing this semester, and then rode the U4 all the way to the end of the line to attend a wine tasting at a traditional Viennese heuriger. A heuriger is a rustic wine tavern where a winemaker lives and seasonally serves freshly made wine; the term "heuriger" can also refer to a wine that is less than a year old. The tasting was led by a really enthusiastic Austrian guy who grew up on a vineyard and had a wonderfully color-coordinated outfit (dark red shoes, watchband, shirt, and glasses). My favorite was Gruner Veltliner, a traditional and popular Austrian white wine. In the 19th district, right where we got off the subway, was the Karl-Marx-Hof, a housing complex and one of the longest residential buildings in the world. Cool architecture & statues.

2/8 -- Visited Schönbrunn Palace, the place where the Habsburgs lived during the summer. Massive imposing building and endless gardens that were a little bare because it isn't quite spring yet. Walked up a big hill to get a nice view of most of Vienna. Encountered a real-life Austrian nationalist who talked to us for a while about how the city is being overrun by migrants and also seemed to think there was a crisis at the US border caused by an influx of Chinese immigrants trying to illegally cross it.

2/9 -- Second and final test of the German intensive, and I think it went totally fine. Went out to a coffeehouse, Kaffee Alt Wien, to celebrate afterwards; I ordered a Wiener Melange and Apfelstrudel. Both very yummy.

2/10 -- Spent most of the morning hiking on one of the hiking trails maintained by the city (Stadtwanderweg 1), which was really great. Started by climbing up through the outskirts of the city, around Grinzing, through a quiet residential area and then eventually lots of vineyards. Summited Kahlenberg, a small mountain, and got an amazing view of the whole city and the Danube river. Successfully used German to buy a fried potato puff thing from a street vendor. Also did some light bird-watching; heard and then located a great tit. In the evening, went out to a nightclub with friends. Lame energy and bad music but had fun people-watching.

2/11 -- Visited the Jewish Museum Vienna. Lots of very cool art and sobering artifacts from WWII, including the titular hare with amber eyes from Edmund de Waal's book. Interesting to see how they've adapted messaging around exhibits in the wake of Oct. 7th. There were two locations, one main one and another smaller one near the ruins of a medieval synagogue (underground, accessible through museum. coolest part of the day). Interestingly, the wall text in the smaller one was definitely more overtly Zionist than at the larger and much more popular campus.

2/12 -- First day of real classes! The first meeting of our acoustics/recording technology class seemed very promising. We have access to a legit professional-quality recording studio and lots of high-end equipment, which is really exciting. The teacher, Miguel Kertsman, is a real-deal producer/composer/performer who was quite charismatic and also name-dropped a lot of famous bands he's worked with (lol). Also ate a really good pistachio-cream Berliner from the Strück in the train station.

2/13 -- Return to German classes, and also the first meeting of our classical music history class. Not a ton to report from today other than that the professor for the music history class was scarily incompetent. We kind of just sat around while she stared into space, occasionally read a few words from a PowerPoint that she didn't write, and then played a 10-minute piece by CPE or WF or JC Bach in its entirety. Lame!

2/14 -- Rough day. Had the first organizational meeting for the education internship, so I found out which school I'd been matched with and talked with a teacher who works there. Directly afterwards, started scheduling rehearsals for the chamber music workshop class and realized that I wouldn't have time to teach in the school on top of everything else I'm responsible for, so had to go back and inform the coordinator for the internship. Bummer, but also the right move long-term, I think. Got to play the Mozart clarinet concerto in a room with really nice acoustics later that night, which felt great as a way to let off some of the stress/sadness I was feeling -- just pure energy being expelled as I performed.

2/15 -- Second meeting for the terrible music history class today. More or less confirmed that every class is going to go just like the first one did. Bummer!

2/16 -- Didn't do much besides attend German class in the morning.

2/17 -- Went to the Naschmarkt in the morning. Very cool open-air market with endless stalls selling various foodstuffs and also flea market junk/treasure, but was a little overwhelming. Would like to go back once in a better mood.

2/18 -- Jogged around the 5th district, which was a nicely re-invigorating experience. Caught up on homework and practiced clarinet in preparation for upcoming rehearsals.

2/19 -- Went on another run in the morning, felt similarly great. I followed the path of the U4 line into the 6th district -- turns out running is a really great way to get to know a city. Later in the day, attended the second meeting of the acoustics class, which was again very interesting. Talked a lot about decibels, hearing loss thresholds.

2/20 -- Very full and satisfying day. Following morning German class, had a piano coaching with Chihiro Gordon (also my professor for the chamber music workshop class). I brought Debussy's Premiere Rhapsody to work on, since its the piece I'm considering playing for next year's concerto competition at Williams. Since it was my first time playing the piece with an accompanist, things were fairly choppy throughout our first run-through. Over the course of the hour, though, I got a lot of good feedback (sustained airflow big one to remember; I feel like this is an aspect of my playing that always suffers when I haven't been in lessons for a while) and felt poised to make great progress on the piece in the coming days. Later, had rehearsals for Tarantella (w/ oboe + flute) and Heimatlied (w/ piano and vocalist). Both went well.

2/21 -- Met a friend from Williams who's been studying abroad in London in the evening for dinner at Dancing Noodles, a restaurant known for its Lamian (Chinese pulled wheat noodles). The food, a beef broth w/ bean sprouts/kimchi/beef/the noodles, was great. It was very nice to see + catch up with him, and after we finished eating, we went to ZWE, a jazz club, to hear some live music and meet up with another Williams friend. We stayed for a while, listening to a really great ensemble play, which was followed by a jam session open to anyone in the audience. All very cool!

2/22 -- Met up with Williams friends again for coffee and apple strudel at Cafe Korb. Then walked to Stephansplatz to show them the cathedral. In the evening, we met up again at the Musikverein to see the Wiener Symphoniker play pieces by Haydn, Mozart, and Bartok. The soloist for Mozart's Piano Concerto in C minor had a wonderful delicacy to his playing, and was called back out 3 times by the audience before he did an encore. The Bartok Concerto for Orchestra was totally otherworldly. Absolute delight and great to get to see it with friends; we said our goodbyes on the train and I made plans to visit London over spring break.

2/23 -- After German in the morning, met up with a different friend from Williams (apparently everyone is visiting this week!) and headed to the Kunsthistoriches [art history] museum, which is the largest museum in Austria. Spent a few hours exploring their collection of Flemish/Dutch paintings. Saw works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Eyck, Rubens, but the best part was the room containing the largest collection of paintings by Pieter Breugel the Elder in the world. Crazy to behold what he's doing -- paintings with like 100 guys all doing their own thing / also depictions of religious & mythological scenes (think Fall of Icarus, Christ carrying the cross) where the main subject takes up like 1/50th of the total space. I was instantly made a fan. We got overpriced coffee in the museum cafe afterwards, and I had my first Einspänner, which is a double espresso topped with whipped cream. Yeah alright pretty yummy.

2/24 -- After a few hours of practice on my own and with other people in my chamber ensembles, I was treated to a delicious homemade leek soup by a roommate :). Following this, we went together to hear Mahler's Symphony 2, which was just incredible obviously. The power of the final climax had me weeping amid the crowd of people in standing room. Music !!!

2/25 -- Main event of the day was a trip to Prater, a sprawling outdoor Six Flags-esque amusement park. Went with a few friends. The place is unique in that the rides/attractions are all operated independently, so there's no way to know what will actually be open when you show up and the aesthetic of the whole complex is really all over the place in an off-kilter & kind of fun way. The most famous thing is the Vienna Riesenrad (Ferris Wheel), an icon of the city. Tickets for the rides are a la carte; we didn't actually ride anything, just walked around and enjoyed the nice weather & spectacle of the place.

2/26 -- Very chill day. Went for a run in the morning and saw more of the district (always nice) and spent the afternoon/evening catching up on work and hanging out with friends.

2/27 -- Nothing crazy exciting today either. Had acoustics class, spent a while practicing later in the day. Cooked yummy pasta at night.

2/28 -- Met a fellow music student for coffee at Cafe Hawelka -- great ambience, lots of wood -- and afterwards, we visited Musikhaus Döblinger, a music store in Vienna that's been around for 1817. They had a lot of cool stuff, including conducting batons. I spent a while looking for some interesting clarinet music, but the sheet music they sold was almost entirely for solo piano. Ended up buying a nice Henle edition of the Goldberg Variations to practice from, as well as a new pad of manuscript paper, since I've finished the notebook I brought with me to use.

2/29 -- Did a big apartment-merger hangout with some students in the building next to ours, and afterwards, went out with some of them to a club. Again, fun and interesting, but confirmed that it isn't really for me. Will probably not be returning, at least for the rest of my time abroad.

3/1 -- Most of the people I'm living with left in the morning for a ski trip, so the apartment was quieter than usual. Had a pretty lazy day, catching up on rest and doing a little bit of work.

3/2 -- Another lazy day; mostly caught up on work and practiced for a bit. Unfortunately, the hot water heater in our apartment broke, so we currently lack the ability to shower. In the evening, Aaron and I cooked up a big batch of Thai green curry for myself and roommates, which felt good. It mostly turned out, but I neglected to account for the water retained in the rice from washing it and it came out a little gloopy. Learning experience!

3/3 -- First Sunday of the month, so many museums were free. Ended up going with a few friends to the Uhrmuseum (clock museum), which surpassed my expectations. Lots of very unique pocketwatches (shaped like a violin, pear, etc.), various automata (cuckoo clocks), musical clocks, and paintings incorporating working clocks into their scenes. On our walk back to the subway station through the 1st district, we saw a pro-Palestinian demonstration which was only 4 or 5 people with a megaphone and flags being escorted by two police officers; the group was more or less being ignored by the crowds of people walking through the street. Water heater still broken.

3/4 -- I finally relented and visited a neighboring apartment, where some of our friends live, to use their shower. Felt very good to get clean. Luckily, a few hours after this, a plumber finally came and fixed our water heater. HUGE relief. Other than this, not much to report.

3/5 -- Had a few rehearsals in the evening, including one for a piece new to me: a song by Aaron Copland where the vocalist is accompanied by clarinet and flute ("As It Fell Upon A Day"). Today, we just focused on getting the instrumental parts lined up -- after spring break, we'll start rehearsing with a singer.

3/6 -- More rehearsals in the evening after I spent most the morning working on a new piece that will eventually be scored for full orchestra (but for now, I'm just working in piano reduction). I'm planning on calling it Classic Water, after the poem by David Berman. The two main themes that recur throughout the piece are inspired by the rhythm of the two spoken lines of dialogue in the poem: "Think of me as a place" and "All water is classic water". I'm very happy with my progress so far and am looking forward to the finished product!

3/7 -- Went on a quest after German class with Aaron to purchase two special croissants I originally saw in an Instagram reel. Context: there's a bakery chain called Strück with a location in Karlsplatz subway station, which we pass through every day en route to class. Once or twice a week, we'll buy pistachio croissants from this Strück (think: croissant filled with pistachio custard, topped with a pistachio glaze & finely crushed pistachios) and have them with coffee in the apartment. I saw this post on Instagram last week showing off what these two random people claimed was the best pistachio croissant in Vienna - available for purchase at Spar, a sort of upscale grocery store with a bakery inside. Ok, context over. We ended up riding a subway and then a streetcar to get to the exact same Spar that was in the Instagram post, and we bought a pistachio croissant and another cookie-butter/cookie-topped one. We got back to the apartment and split them; both were extremely delicious and indulgent. I also took Aaron to Döblinger, the music store, where I bought a collection of caprices by Cavallini (the "Paganini of the clarinet") to practice and maybe eventually record.

3/8 -- In the evening, went to the Musikverein with Gabe to hear Bruckner's 5th Symphony. We splurged and spent the extra 10 euros or so for seats (in the organ balcony, so with no view of the stag), and I think this was well worth it. I was blown away by this music, continually surprised and delighted. The final movement especially - huge fugue kicked off by an insistent clarinetist - was amazing.

3/9 -- In the morning, went with Aaron to the Naschmarkt again. Was in a much better mental space to appreciate it this time, and I'm glad I returned. We walked for a long time, just looking at everything everyone was selling. Old LPs, jewelry, broken cameras, paintings, spices, baklava, fresh fruit & vegetables, cheese, scarves, Xbox 360 games. Crazy. I bought a belt that says "JEANS" on it and wish I had haggled more but am still pretty happy with what I paid (25 euros). In the evening, went to see Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 5 at the Musikverein (standing room again, bought the ticket before the Bruckner experience & realizing how much better it is to be seated). This was still great, though I was pretty tired and overheated by the end of the ordeal.

3/10 -- Spent most of the day on a mandatory trip to Mauthausen, the first concentration camp that was established in Austria. Incredibly surreal and intense experience. The first thing we did when we arrived was eat the bag lunches IES provided for us while sitting on the grass looking out at the town right next to the camp. We would later be told that if you ask an 80- or 90-year old resident of the town who was alive in the '40s, they'll still insist that people in the village had no idea about the atrocities going on right up the hill from them. In reality, they all knew, and it would have been impossible not to -- the SS officers had a soccer team and field (also their own swimming pool outside the camp walls), and townsfolk came up to Mauthausen to watch them play every Sunday. Prisoners were worked to death in a quarry, forced to carry massive chunks of granite up endless stairs leading back up to the camp, and a woman who lived in a farmhouse with a view down into the quarry complained to the local police that the noise made by the suffering prisoners as they were shot by guards was disturbing and intolerable; she requested that they do this somewhere else so she wouldn't have to see/hear it. On the guided tour, I was keeping it together until we were in the room with one of the incinerators. The walls were covered in memorials from families to loved ones, pleas that we (everyone) never let anything like this happen again. Then there was a room where every surface was inscribed with the names of the > 90,000 people who had died in the ~4 years the camp was open. All too much to bear. Gas chambers, showers, barracks. Obviously just unendlessly distressing but I'm very glad I had the chance to see it in person.

3/11 -- Not a ton to report today. Tomorrow is Gabe (roommate)'s birthday, and he requested that everyone create a piece of art (as much/little effort as we'd like) and present it to him. I spent most of the afternoon/evening writing a short étude for trumpet to present to him.

3/12 -- We recited poems in German class today as the oral component of our midterm exam. I wrote three haikus (in German) about birds in Vienna. In the evening, we had the dress rehearsal for our concert tomorrow. I think it will go well. Also enjoyed a wonderful birthday dinner; Gabe cooked a great lentil soup for the whole apartment and we all presented our artworks.