Today, I still feel at home in Vienna.

For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.
– Simon van Booy

Last weekend, Megan and I met for a semi-spontaneous trip to Vienna! It’s about a 3 hour train ride from BP, and a slightly longer plane ride from Madrid. She doesn’t have class on Fridays or Mondays, and school’s about to start for me again, so it worked out really well!
My memories of the city are tinged by nostalgia and the summer heat: ice cream every day, walks in the park, strangers who took to me, the girl traveling without her parents. I was prepared for the possibility that the city wouldn’t have the charm and luster that lives in my memory, especially in the winter and with the changes that more than a decade inevitably bring to a person and a place.

Stefansdom then ...

Stefansdom then …

... and now.

… and now.

Anna and I arrived on Friday around noon, and took a subway straight to the hotel. One great thing about Vienna is that public transportation there is extremely accessible: every subway stop has an elevator, for example, which makes life there A LOT EASIER when trying to get around in a wheelchair.

Megan arrived shortly after, well-fed by the airline snacks on Air Italia 🙂 We walked around the city center, including a visit to Stefansdom and Peter’s Church. Afterwards, Megan and I saw more of the city by ourselves. We tried to go to one of the cafés that her father recommended, but all of those had a least a step precluding my entrance. Accessibility issues still abound! However, it worked out for the best because we stumbled across a delicious Italian restaurant called Ristorante Sole. The staff there was so considerate, even taking pity on our indecisiveness and portioning our two entrees so that we could each have half. For dessert, we split strawberries with creamy mascarpone.

Well-fed and ready to see the city by night!

Well-fed and ready to see the city by night!

That’s when the excitement really started, though, because as we walked around, we found ourselves on the outskirts of a riot protesting a ball in the Hofburg. Megan and I tend to gravitate towards home before the night owls even take flight. It so happened that the entrance to our hotel was RIGHT in the middle of a crowd of protestors. Fortunately, the policemen deemed us harmless and allowed us to pass through the barriers.

On Saturday, we took a subway to Schönbrunn, the Hapsburg’s summer residence, painted Maria Theresa’s favorite color, ochre yellow.

We toured 40 rooms on the first floor!

We toured 40 rooms on the first floor!

The palace itself is only half the fun of Schönbrunn; its vast grounds include a zoo (with pandas!), rose garden, and paths for meandering.  We walked to the top of a small hill to see this view:

I didn't realize we were so far up until we got there! It was worth the cold ascent.

I didn’t realize we were so far up until we got there! It was worth the cold ascent.

After warming up in our room, Megan and I ventured out again for dinner at Café Landtmann and explorations around the city hall. The city hall is a gorgeous building, reminiscent of the gothic style of Duke Chapel.IMG_0793

There were at least 3 ice skating rinks set up in front of the city hall, and people were out en masse to skate and enjoy mulled wine and hot food.

There were at least 3 ice skating rinks set up in front of the city hall, and people were out en masse to skate and enjoy mulled wine and hot food.

Temperatures were frigid at this point, so we called it an early night again and relaxed in our room.

On Sunday, we went to the Albertina to see the newly acquired collection of Impressionist, Expressionist, and Surrealist art, entitled “Monet to Picasso”.

This Chagall painting was one of my favorites

This Chagall painting was one of my favorites.

Per Anna’s request, we had to to have Wiener Schnitzel (when in Wien …), so that was our mission in the afternoon. That was when the snow started to fall! It was enough to be pretty without becoming an inconvenience like the Snowpocalypse and Polar Vortex of the East Coast.
In the evening, Megan and I went to visit Stephi, an old friend of mine, at her home. It was really nice to see her again and meet her family. I had not spoken to her in quite a while, though she sends me Advent calendars every December! Moreover, Megan and I had just become friends in middle school before I met Stephi, so it was sweetly bizarre to introduce these two people who have been in my life so long.

Stephi suggested we go to Sunday Swing at the Leopold Museum Café, so that was our next destination, since the night was still young, even for us. At this point, there was an inch layer of snow coating the streets, making for a charming winter wonderland as we trudged out. The Sunday Swing was in full … swing… when we got there. I felt transported to the ’20s! The only downside was the thick smoke hanging in the air from all the cigarettes, but perhaps that contributed to the authenticity of the experience.

Monday was our last morning, so we went to see Karl’s church and a peak of Belvedere, but it was too cold and snowy, so we ended up getting hot chocolate and coffee in a bakery underground. 🙂 Warmth and a friend – not a bad way to end the trip, after all.

from a temporary exhibit by the Austrian artist Sonja Gangl. Adieu, Vienna! Auf Wiedersehen!

from a temporary exhibit by the Austrian artist Sonja Gangl at the Albertina. Adieu, Vienna! Auf Wiedersehen!

Vienna wasn’t quite as I remembered it, but that ended up being okay. After all, I’ve changed a lot, too. Time has worn down parts of us, circumstances have enriched us, but we are still recognizable.

Today, I return from the most marvelous staycation!

Last Spring, I mentioned that Megan, one of my best and oldest friends, would be in Spain for the year, and that we hoped to see each other in our homes away from home. Well, she was able to visit for the long weekend (we both had off on Friday for All Saints’ Day) from Wednesday night until Sunday afternoon. After our crunch period of exams, it was so good to have some guilt-free relaxation.

Thursday was Halloween, and though we did didn’t do anything festive ourselves, we went out to see the nightlife and the Basilica and riverbanks illuminated. During her stay We had afternoon desserts at Gundel, cider at Spiler, chicken paprika homemade by Anna, and seafood paella at The Big Fish. It was my first time visiting the House of Terror Museum, which chronicles some of the horrific times in European History.

Megan also got to know some of my classmates here, partly by arrangement, and partly by chance meetings around Budapest. It was invigorating to see my day-to-day through her fresh perspective. The best parts were out long talks into the night 🙂 It was the best time I’ve had in a long time!

Today, I reflect on the first year of Today Comma I.

I believe I am the last of the -arkies to reflect on our anniversary, so please excuse me for being late with this post. This past year has been so filled with unexpected twists and turns! Life after college is not at all what I expected it to be, but I already feel much wiser to the world. I have a little bit more insight into life and a clearer vision of where I want to be in five or ten years, and I am grateful for it.

Last August, we started this blog because our lives after Duke took us to disparate corners of the world. From Philadelphia to Budapest, to be exact! I was in a remote island of Hawaii when the other three -arkies started this blog, but they used the nicknames that I gave to them in college to preserve their secret identities. (Funny story, I first nicknamed Charlotte “Charkbait” after the funny scene in Finding Nemo where the other fish in the aquarium christen Nemo “Sharkbait.” I shortened it to Charkie, and she started calling me Arkie soon after. That was how these names were born.)

Once upon a time, we gathered in Charkie’s dorm room every night to recap news, do our homework, philosophize, and order in takeout. I must add that it would take us at least 30 minutes to decide on where to order. Because Charkie kept the cupboard in the corner of her room stocked with coffee and chai, we had no lack of caffeine to keep us working late into the night. No matter how stressed I was in college about classes or my career plans, I always had the comfort of these familiar faces and this familiar routine to come back to at night, and every day I had at Duke ended up being a great day.

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Charkie Hosts Arkie’s 19th Birthday

Those moments, though treasured, are gone forever, but this blog has kept us connected over shared interests. This past year, this blog has documented our cooking experiments, has followed us on nights out, been the reservoir for stress about exams, and even captured our excitement about the royal baby, haha! Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed being able to document life after graduation, and I have my fingers crossed that we’ll have tons of great stories to share in the coming years.

Today, I look back on the year [of blogging].

What a year! I’d toyed with the idea of blogging several times, beginning with my middle-school Xanga (remember those? eprops if you do!), but I guess it took a group effort supported by the -arkies to make it a reality.

Thanks to them and to our readers! Since we started, 365 “todays” ago, this blog has documented our transition from university life into the exciting, sometimes scary, chaos of the post-grad world. There have been new starts, false starts, heartbreak, tasty recipes, new faces, old places, all accompanied by a healthy dose of beauty reviews, football matches, and royal baby news.

Here are some of my personal favorites:
Arkie’s love note to Philly got me all sentimental about a city I barely know, and I so wanted to be at the get-together at the beginning of the summer.

Markie was often on the road this year; reading about her back-to-back trips nearly gave me whiplash! She’s always been a mother hen at heart, though, so it’s no surprise that her nesting habits kicked into high gear to compensate, resulting in lots of baking. She’s also taught me how soccer and life are sometimes the same thing.

Jarkie’s exuberance for food and skin care are fundamental themes of our blog. She was making wonton long before I did 🙂

Here’s to another year!

Today, I say goodbye to winter break.

What a full and relaxing nearly month-long break it has been! My exams seem like they were ages ago  (which begs the question: Do I remember any of that stuff?!).

In the intervening month, I spent quality time with my mother seeing more of BP, had long chats with family/friends at home, spent time with friends here, tried out new restaurants, read some wonderful books and caught up on some great television shows.

And during this, I had hours gazing out the window of apartment into the often blustery weather. Dozens of life scenarios floated into my mind, and I tried them on for size. I made some short-term plans and hopeful resolutions for the coming year, and had space and time to just be. What a luxury!

On this, the eve of second semester, I’m a bit ruefully giving that up, but mostly, I’m looking forward to what comes next.

Today, I wish I were in Asheville

This weekend, Markie was in Asheville, North Carolina with her dad.  I’m not sure exactly why (family vacation? Hope for Haiti related?), but the reason does nothing to assuage my envy. The mountains! The food! The shops! Oh, what a beautiful place. I’ve only been there once (on a pre-graduation getaway in May with some of my best friends), but I imagine that it is lovely year-round.

I was nostalgically looking at photos from the trip, and this one pretty much sums up my feelings.100_2877