Sunday, January 29, 2006

VIENNA, Week of January 23

January 23: Very cold today. At noon it was around 10 (F) so in the evening and night it was colder. The wind chill was somewhere around minus 10 (F). Except for a trip to the grocery store, and the department store to get a stocking cap, just taught classes and worked in the apartment. Our usually snug apartment is beginning to feel a bit cool. Comment on news: I can watch CNN (English) and Euronews (German) for information. CNN has been rather disappointing. Clips of people suffering in Kashmir shown last week were reshown this week—I am sure the situation there has changed because the weather has cleared and relief flights have restarted. CNN also has longer spots than its US counterpart has. I actually think sports coverage on Euronews might be better—you get regular updates on the Dallas Mavericks (because of Dirk Nowtizki). It is interesting to see the ads showing places like Uganda, Nigeria, and Egypt as places to get away—I know most Americans wouldn’t see Uganda as a place for a relaxing vacation. I can’t say what is happening in the current US news coverage, but there appears to be more coverage of Hamas than I recall US news outlets showing. I do see a lot on Iraq and Iran. However, there is next to nothing about what is happening politically in the US aside from an occasional clip of comments by Bush or Rice. There has been better coverage of the US economy and stock market, however.

January 24: Supposed to get up to 25 today. Worked at the university. Since we were going out for the evening, stopped to eat at a vegetarian restaurant that is just down the street from our apartment. It always seems busy even though it is a bit of a hole-in-the-wall. They do not have a big menu. Had cream of broccoli soup (very good) and the main plate which was: kebab with bacon-flavored tofu and small tomatoes on a plate with a cup of rice covered with peanut sauce and topped with a fried banana. On the side was a chunk of avocado and a very good cabbage salad. It was remarkably tasty considering there was no meat. Also had a poppy seed torte, I think you have to like poppy seed to like this (I do so it was very good). We will probably go back regularly. Next to it is a health-food store so browsed there for a while. There appears to be a large selection of organic foods in the stores. Went to the equivalent of chapel—very poor attendance because students are not required to come (the university cannot force students to come because Austria would not allow that). We were invited to a New Year’s concert at the Österreichisch-Amerikanische Gesellschaft (Austro-American Society) supported in part by the U.S. Embassy so headed for the underground to go to the Inner City. Wasn’t sure what to expect, but there was a good-sized room and maybe 75-100 people who were there to listen to diva Laurel James (US) accompanied by Andre Roth (Roumanian) on the piano. I have never experienced this kind of proximity to any professional singer. Ms. James came out in a long red Kaftan with gold embroidery. She was ample, had blond hair and sort of reminded me of Kate Smith. We were sitting about 15 feet from her as she performed a variety of selections heavy on Wagner. It was like a personal performance—I could see her lower lip quiver and look into her mouth and watch her tongue trill. I even heard her go “ahem” before she started. I have to admit when she was singing it reminded me of the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs flipped a nut into the diva’s mouth as she was singing with obvious disastrous results. No nuts were around so the performance continued. She is a fantastic singer.

January 25:

January 26: A faculty/staff/student fellowship meeting from lunch to 2PM. No students came, but the faculty got to know each other better. Discovered we are in Vienna in one of the coldest winters in recent years. Subway tracks were cracked this morning, creating delays. It has been down to at least -5 F, but the wind chill was even worse. There were 50 kilometer winds. I saw that in Croatia winds were 100 mph and blowing trucks over. I did by a stocking cap to cover my ears. Even our apartment is getting colder. I have mostly been doing course preparation and staying in. At 5:30PM there was what I would call a mini-chapel.

January 27: Told Mary we would take time to walk the shopping districts to look at the after-Christmas sales. Just walked as long as we could—went down Mariahilfer strasse to the Ring and then over to Karl Lueger Platz into the Graben (downtown). There were a number of stores that specialize in African and Asian objects. We went into an upscale covered “mall” next to the Staatsoper and browsed in a very interesting toy shop. Also found a discount house where we got some Scotch tape. Found some fish (salmon) oil capsules for our Vitamin A. Some very interesting Christmas decorations in the stores for half-price, but many would be difficult to carry and when we inquired about shipping, I found it would be extremely expensive, especially for the insurance. Stores on the Graben cater more to tourists so there weren’t as many good sales, but they obviously had nice merchandise. Came back and tried to do our weekend grocery shopping to beat the Saturday rush—our apartment is a garret-type apartment on what would be the 4th floor (there is no elevator) so carrying the groceries up in 3 bags was, I am sure, equivalent to 3 racquetball games. The apartment comes with a fluorescent lime green 4 cup coffee maker so I have been enjoying my coffee. I like black coffee, but tried some “kaffee obers”(coffee cream with 10% fat!). I probably won’t taste it again and will stick to black coffee, not that there was anything wrong with “kaffee obers.” Picked up a few groceries before closing, including an “Amadeustaler” (like a kolache with a nut kind of center) and a coconut sweet roll (can’t remember the name) for tonight’s dessert. A number of shops with interesting artifacts/purses/jewelry we have gone into have a “new age” quality. We looked in one store that would take a picture of my soul’s aura for 9 euros and give me biofeedback for another 12 or so euros.

Politics: Europe is definitely more pro-Palestinian. If I were an Israeli, I am not sure I would have confidence in European promises, not that Israel can always trust America. Also it appears that many immigrants come for jobs and really do not want to adopt Austrian, German, or French culture. I think more “Americanization” takes place in the US, than “Europeanization” takes place in Europe with immigrants. I haven’t heard any anti-immigrant comments from Europeans. However, with young people there is a subtle “westernizing” influence that does take place even while professing great loyalty to their traditional culture. I did see one Arabic BBC news web site (which I couldn’t read), but it looked like they had purposely posted the most unflattering pictures one could of Bush at his press conference.

January 28: Lunched at the vegetarian restaurant and had a beet soup with some sliced zucchini and dollop of sour cream—it was similar to borscht. Also we shared a palenta – which is like a thick slice of corn meal with other whole grains and topped with some cheese and tomato.

January 29: Went to church via the underground and walked back. Introduced myself to Mustafa—a Turk working on a Ph.D. in engineering. His English is poor so we had to communicate in German, a language neither of us are fluent in! He wants to take us to a Turkish restaurant some time. Stopped in to see the Dominikanerkirche and the Jesuitenkirche. In the Dominikanerkirche there was an interesting picture of St. Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval theologian-philosopher, laying his books down at the feet of Christ on the cross. To me it symbolized Aquinas offering up his earthly scholarly work to Christ as a type of intellectual submission and recognition that Christ was everything. Went on to Schillerplatz where there was an “Awareness Day” for the Pakistan earthquake victims at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste. Walked on to our apartment on Mariahilfer strasse. It is a main shopping street, but almost everything was closed. It is remarkable that secular Austria basically shuts down on Sunday while in “Christian” America, Sunday is another shopping day. In the tourist area more restaurants are open, but almost all the shops are closed.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

VIENNA, January 22

Went to church at Calvary Gemeinde. Took the underground and then walked to the church. The Moscow wind has come—it was snowing when we left, but it stopped. After church people pick up the chairs and put down small tables so everybody stays a bit and visits. You can buy drinks—tried some kind of chocolate mousse torte (very good). Visited with a young Bulgarian girl, Krasi, who is working at a dry cleaners. She said there was nothing in Bulgaria so she is trying to make it here. She knows German, but her English is very weak. She was reading a Bulgarian Bible. I know life is tough for her. Also visited with a Nigerian computer networker—he is a dual British-Nigerian citizen. His job here has ended and he is looking for something else. His son wants to do something with aviation so I mentioned LU and that I taught there. His son had visited with Dan B. last fall when he was on an admissions trip to Wien and really wants to come to LU. The big issue is money. He can get a degree in Great Britain much cheaper, but he would still like to come to LU. Walked back to the downtown through some bitter cold wind. Saw a processional coming out of St. Stephen’s with everyone dressed in traditional garb. Stopped in at Gerstner’s Konditorei and for dessert when we get home bought an Obsttorte (Fruit torte) and a Gerstnertorte (the house speciality; Gerstner’s is one of the more famous tourist sites—but there are very few tourists here now).

VIENNA, January 21

Walked to St. Stephen’s to get some organ tickets, but they were sold out. I will have to act more quickly in the future. Walked back and strolled through a department store. We were headed to the Naschmarkt to get some lamb kebabs for a late lunch—we really like them. On the way walked under the Ring where you can catch some of the underground lines, but there are also many small shops. It is adjacent to the Staatoper. I don’t want to dwell on toilet facilities, but I did see (actually I heard it first) a toilet facility where you could hear arias from Don Giovanni or maybe from some other opera while you were using the facilities. I didn’t go in so can’t say exactly how the music is supposed to work in such a facility. Went into a chocolate shop and got some hazelnut and peppermint chocolate—made with typical Austrian care and perfection. Oh, oh. . .the -20 in Moscow is headed this way.

Went to the Schottenkirche this evening. I thought we would hear a Gregorian choral, but I misread the date. We did sit through an evening mass with beautiful organ music and some solo singing. I don’t think there is anything more beautiful in a large cathedral than organ music and Gregorian singing. It is conducive to praying and meditating. Some reflections: First, while it was not frigid out, the church was cold. Everyone had on their coats—quite a contrast from home where people complain if it is too hot or too cold in church. Second, after going to the Jewish museum and the Roman Catholic mass, I believe evangelicals/fundamentalists/pentecostals have lost a sense of the holiness of God. Our services are noisy, folksy, and maybe focused more on the people than God. Certainly quiet reflection is not encouraged. Obviously both Jewish and Roman Catholic services can end up with a mechanical legalism. From skimming through the Roman Catholic liturgy book the phrase that stood out was: “Wir sind nur Gast auf Erden. . .”(We are only guests on this earth). I need to remember that I am here by the grace of God.

VIENNA, January 20

Walked to Schönbrunn Palace. The amount of graffiti on buildings continues to amaze me. Also the presence of Middle Easterners is clear. We walked by a number of middle eastern restaurants and saw a number of women and girls with their headcoverings. At Schönbrunn we needed to use the restrooms. Finding clean ones is sometimes a challenge and when you do, you have to pay—but it is worth paying because they are so clean. I have this from an excellent informant, but in the ladies room they have a toilet with a toilet seat that swivels back through a cleaning solution so that it comes out disinfected for the next person. Where have American engineers been? I am sure there is room for a senior-design project somewhere in all of this. Of course, I am not sure what would happen if the occupant somehow moved and the toilet seat started to swivel. I can only imagine what the next step in this technology will be. While I was waiting for this miracle of technology to allow my better-half to come out (maybe I should have her take the camera next time so a similar contrivance could be installed in Heath-Hardwick Hall), I had an interesting talk with the Austrian man responsible for taking the money and keeping it clean about the use of pronouns in the German language. Obviously as soon as I open my mouth, people know I am not a native German-speaker, but I try. In the stores I try to be friendly (people here tend not to be). Some will respond in English and I tell them they speak English very well and try to continue in German. But I am not ready to have a discussion on the metaphysics of Karl Marx. However, while I was purchasing tickets in the underground, I did have a German or Swiss older woman come up to me and ask directions. I had to tell her I was an Auslander and did not know. Did some grocery shopping for the weekend. Bought a piece of Maronischnitte for tonight’s desert. It was a chesnut-flavored desert: on top of a thin slice of delicately flavored chocolate cake there was about an inch of whipped cream (somewhat firm) topped by another thin-layer of whitish cake topped by some more whipped cream which was flavored (Watson-style) and had finely granulated nuts sprinkled on it (this is the best I can do). I did wonder whether I should try to have a different Viennese dessert each day while I am here, but I don’t think 4 months is enough time to sample everything. For dinner stopped at a kiosk and got two Dürüm—paprika seasoned chopped chicken (can’t figure out the other spices) put in a big tortilla with lettuce, onions, tomato, and a kind of yoghurt sauce. It was very tasty (geschmeckt). I will put on Mozart’s Don Giovanni and get to work.

VIENNA, January 19

We are getting into that “watching the exchange rate” mode—the dollar has lost some value which makes an impact on the number of Euros we will get. Everything seems so expensive compared to the US, but we keep reminding ourselves that the quality of food is so much better than the US! We went to the Jewish Museum and spent 3 or 4 hours. It is fascinating to see the various Jewish artifacts and also the stories of some of the Jews. Reliving the Holocaust is always an unsettling experience, but there were also pre-Hitler exhibits which showed the anti-semitism in Vienna and the Church going back to the Middle Ages. Somehow God will hold Christians accountable for the persecution of Jews. Austrians do not have a good record of treatment of Jews. The top floor had a massive collection of shofers, etc. Didn’t have time to go on down to the Jewish square. The rituals of the East European Jewish communities is fascinating.

VIENNA, January 18

The day started with snow, but it warmed up so it turned to a light rain in the AM. I think it got to 36 F or so. It is hard to get weather on either Euronews or CNN Europe. We do have cable in our apartment, but haven’t watched much. I have noticed a lot of coverage of the earthquake victims in Kashmir. We really don’t get much US news. When the internet is working, I try to check that. Classes went well—the students are very willing to discuss. One Slovak girl told me she thinks the Viennese love their dogs more than their children! Did some class preparation. Ate dinner and went for a walk up toward the Westbahnhof—Mary saw a second hand shop she wants to go back to. Picked up a few things at the store—looking forward to poppy seed strudel (haven’t had that in ages, maybe since someone brought me some from the Czech bakery in West, Texas). Right now she is reading the grocery ads that are put on our door handle!—all these good buys on chocolate, jam, etc. “Buy one, get one free.” “Organic!” “All items must go—going out of business.”

Akunin Mystery

For people who like reading mysteries or detective fiction, I highly recommend The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin. The translator obviously contributes to the readability of the book. I haven’t read the other books in the series, but I am interested in seeing what happens to police inspector Erast Fandorin. Akunin is the pen name for Grigory Chkhatishvili. The book’s ability to weave 19th century Russian culture into the mystery is outstanding. Agatha Christie does not capture the mood of the culture and society in the same way or come as close in creating suspense and or weaving a tangled web. One of his reviewers compares him to Ian Fleming, which is an insult to Akunin’s writing and sense of the historical.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

VIENNA, January 17

January 17: Very cold but we walked passed the Rathaus where Hitler gave his famous speech and then on to the Votivkirche (which I think is one of the prettiest Gothic cathedrals in Europe), but it was closed. Walked back to the Ring and it started to snow flurry. Went into the Schotten Kirche and then its cloister store where a variety of goods made by monks and nuns are sold. Walked on to the Minoritaten Kirche. Both of these churches are in pretty good repair, although they were cold and dark inside. As it continued to be cold and blustery we stopped in at a Wienerwald (remembered this from 1973—it is a chain of chicken restaurants, but much more delectable than KFC) and ordered good-sized bowls of a chicken vegetable soup. Before going back to the apartment, Mary wanted to show me a church she had walked to while I was teaching. Went to the Altlerchenfelder Kirche. It had made beautiful religious pictures, but seemed to be a bit run down. Spent the rest of the afternoon and evening getting ready for tomorrow’s classes.

VIENNA, January 16

January 16: Had class today. Some new students registered and others are “cutting.” I talked to a young Russian lady who is teaching world literature. She has an undergraduate degree from the American University in Paris and is writing her dissertation from UC Berkeley. She says cheating and poor English is the biggest problem. Writing papers is a different issue, however. During today’s classes I had a lot of discussion from the students and most seemed to be able to discuss very well, although I am not sure of one or two of them. Students seem to have a love/hate relationship regarding the US, but obviously they know I am from Texas. The computers are down today. After class we did some grocery shopping at the Merkur which is a bit larger than the neighborhood Billa. Mary found some bath salts imported from Israel which have genuine Dead Sea salts. So all we have to do is fill up the bath tub, pour the stuff in, and it will be just like the Dead Sea. We shall see. Temperature dropping. Will wear long underwear for the first time in 30 or 40 years when I get up tomorrow.

VIENNA, January 15

January 15: Went to Calvary Chapel, an international church sponsored by a church in Maryland. There were probably about 50 people there and a lot more young people. Everything was in English and then German. Went back to eat at a restaurant—had the typical pork, dumpling, and sauerkraut. Neighborhood restaurants are cheaper with bigger helpings than those in the central part of the city. Sunday Wien really closes down—it is hard to find an open restaurant except in the tourist areas. However, I am surprised by its filthiness. Dog droppings on the edge of the sidewalk; frozen urine on the sidewalks; paper garbage blowing in the streets. It is not my memory of 30+ years ago. Temperature still dropping—must be in the upper teens.

VIENNA, January 14

January 14: Arose and got ready for the day. I am thankful for wool socks—I had a pair in the back of my sock drawer for over 30 years—I think my mother gave them to me in Chicago. They are like new—who needs them in Texas. Went down to the Naschmarkt which may be like trade days in Canton (since I have never been to trade days, I can’t say for sure). We saw all kinds of stuff from jewelry to clothes—some of it was from Russia and some from the Middle East. Also there were a large number of food stalls. Many were Asian and Middle Eastern. Had a lamb kebab and bought a number of deserts such as baklava, sesamekeks (seasame kind of sugar cookie with honey), and several pistachio kinds of squares made from some kind of Middle Eastern cookie/pie flour. The weather is getting colder. Since it was Saturday we decided to go to the grocery store, but the lines were 20 or 30 deep so we gave up on that.

VIENNA, January 13

January 13: I think we finally got caught up on sleep and our bodies have adjusted because we slept to 11AM, which is unheard of from me. Went to the Westbahnhof to try to find concert schedules and then to the underground. Got an 8 day travel card (allows a person unlimited travel for each day punched so it is great to use when you do a lot of sightseeing). Also bought a one ride ticket, because we wanted to find a church for Sunday over near Radetzky Platz. Rode the underground to our stop and got out to walk. It was cold—I think it is around 24 F. Stopped in to look at St. Othmar, a church which had been bombed in WWII. It appears that this neighborhood has had a light snow. Found the international Protestant church and decided to walk back to the city center and home. On the way home stopped in a neighborhood Gasthof. We ordered the daily soup (a chicken stock with noodles served very hot); I had surschnitzel (I can’t figure out what the sur means) with erdapfel salat (like a potato salad only runnier); Mary had beef in gravy with a dumpling and a small mixed salad with some erdapfel. The servings were huge and much cheapier than in the downtown area. Walked back to our apartment through the central city—it is getting colder. Saw two very small protests near Stephansplatz: One was opposing the Turkish government and the other was by Palestinians with signs calling the Israelis “robbers.” Checked email and then bought some groceries and went back to our warm apartment.

VIENNA, January 12

January 12: For lunch, the new faculty were invited out by the President and Dean to an Austrian Chinese restaurant. It was good, although Austrian- Chinese seems to have a distinctive flavor from American-Chinese. I think I like American fried rice better, but I did enjoy the fried banana. The ginger tea really felt good in this cold weather. In the early evening we were invited to a reception for a retiring faculty member. To our surprise we saw corn chips and salsa along with little pieces of bread topped various kinds of spreads such as ham, cantaloupe, and tomato or cucumber and cheese. Upon commenting about the chips and salsa we were introduced to a gentleman who spoke English with a French accent who was at the reception. Upon meeting my wife, he immediately kissed her hand. We discovered that he is an Albanian who is studying at the university to learn English and diplomatic studies so that he can return to Albania and become its president. I will be going to his inauguration whenever that occurs. In the meantime, he has started a Texas restaurant in Wien serving ribs and barbecue. We told him we would visit. I have also met a fellow who works at the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission). Evidently rogue nuclear threats reach beyond Iran, North Korea, and the Russian mafia. I hope to visit with him again when there is more privacy.

VIENNA, January 11

January 11: This is the first day of classes. Almost all of my students are of Slavic background. More may register late. My non-Slavic students are German and Lybian. Presumably another young man from the Middle East will enroll. In many ways the students seem a lot like American students—some gossip about another professor, some seem more motivated, and some seem to have a better sense of direction regarding what they want to do. Mary even heard some cursing in English. Most seem to be at the university because they like the American style of education. One young Russian fellow spoke English with the typical slang words common today. I thought he was American at first. Mary went to the store and for support we had a fresh salad, ravioli with tomato sauce, green beans, and great bread baked with pumpkin sees; for dessert dark chocolate. . . . .in moderation. After supper we went for a long, very brisk walk, in freezing temperatures.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


January 10: Got a calling card to call back to the States if we needed. I went to school and got syllabi ready and checked emails on the eternally slow computers. Since our luggage still had not arrived we went down Maria Hilfer strasse to check out some of the clothing stores. We found some American brands like Docker’s and the New Yorker. It is hard for both of us to find tall sizes and also the prices are a bit steeper than the US. We came back to the university after eating some pizza for lunch. I walked into the McDonald’s and a “Big ‘n Tasty” is going for around $6.00. It was pretty crowded. We have also seen Starbucks and Subway. After leaving the university we took our bags and went back to the grocery store. Unless you take your own bags, you have to pay for each bag you use. Obviously most people tuck some kind of bag into their coat pocket or purse. The food at the market is of superb quality and obviously the prices are reflected in this. Also to get a grocery cart you deposit 1 euro (about $1.25) in a slot on the handle of the grocery cart which releases a chain attached to the next grocery cart (it is hard to describe this gizmo). You take your cart and do your shopping. At checkout you unload you items and then move your cart to the end of the conveyor belt where you load it all back into the cart. You then move to a part of the store where you put everything in the bags you brought. Then you take your cart back to the entrance where the carts are kept, reattach the gizmo, and your coin is released. If this were done in America, Walmart would not have to employ people to go out and get carts—everyone would be bringing their carts back for the deposit! (I think).


January 9: Monday was a good day to start in on the bureaucratic stuff. All visitors have to complete a Meldeszettel and register with the police. They keep track of visitors a bit more than in the US. When we leave we will have to “sign out.” Got that done and visited with some of the university people. The faculty have terrible computer resources—students have it better, although I know LU students would shudder at what IU students are using. Faculty computers still use Windows 98. And the internet connection is slow. . .. Got almost everything done except shopping for a cheap international calling card. People seem to put up with my Texas German. Finally I got a call from Austrian Air and they still can’t find our luggage. So we have to remember and then itemize what was in the bags. There goes some TexMex stuff for a student party. I have one pair of levis and the sport coat I wore, but I do have 4 shirts and plenty of other stuff. My wife has some corduroy pants and a dress, but not her dress shoes. I guess we will be buying some high priced Austrian clothing to see us through—we hope they have our tall sizes. However, we have a lovely warm apartment and the food from the market is great. I did try to use my shortwave radio last night, but the only English language news casts I could get were from the People’s Republic of China and Israel. We do have a TV and so I can listen to Euronews in German, but I can’t catch all the words. It is a lot less flashy than CNN and seems to cover the Middle East better, but it is hard to say

I am teaching the History of Political Thought and have assigned the Princeton readings edited by Cohen and Ferman. I am concerned and curious how non-western students will react to the readings. It clearly has a very predominant western emphasis. I think there should be some selections from Muslim or Eastern thinkers (although it does include Gandhi).


January 8: Since this is Sunday we went to a very small interdenominational church (although it has a Church of Christ orientation). We sang traditional hymns and the speaker (American) had a folksy manner and commented on each person in the congregation. After church we walked down to the Graben and decided to eat in a restaurant (Ferdinand’s)—both of us had Leberknodel soup (it may have been 20 years since I savored this delightful soup) and Wiener goulash—a bit spicy with the paprika. That night we walked back down to the Graben and saw the Christmas lights. The temperature was around 30 degrees. A number of singers/violinists/mimes were out looking for tips. There seem to be a large number of Ukrainians or Russians—I am not good at picking up the difference in the languages. Still no call about our luggage.


January 7: Arrive in Wien the next morning surprisingly alert and behold two pieces of luggage were missing and I had paid overweight charges for one of them. One of our other two bags had been inspected and covered in plastic by US security—when I saw it coming, I thought it had been ripped. I don’t know why they didn’t rezip it (when we unpacked it all seemed there). We joined a line with others in the same predicament and filed a claim with Austrian Air and they assured us it would arrive the next day. Again, I had the feeling this happened to them a lot.

The university staff member who greeted us drove us into the city and we went to the university and got a tour and keys for the apartment and school. Lugged everything over to our apartment (which is on the 3rd floor overlooking a courtyard)—it is only about a block from school. We bought a few grocery items (finally we will be eating real bread!). We decided to walk down to the Ring and fight off our weariness and try to get a normal sleep pattern established. After the great meals on Austrian Air, I can’t say we were very hungry. It was hovering around freezing.


January 6: Well, Mary and I finally made it to DFW loaded down with more luggage than I thought we could handle, but I wanted to take a number of books for the International University’s library. As a result of the books I wanted to fly as directly as we could to Vienna. Some tickets called for a departure from DFW and then go through Frankfurt or London (or both) before arriving in Wien. I figured we would be tired enough without having all these transfers. As a result I chose a United flight to Dulles with a connection to Austrian Air straight into Wien. I have a lot of misgivings about United for assorted experiences other friends have had, but this seemed ideal. For the first time in my life I paid overweight charges and we took off.

Since it was a small jet, and very crowded, I had to check one carry-on at the gate. When we landed I actually got my carry-on back! However, United could in DFW not get us seats on Austrian Air, presumably because we didn’t have a visa, but we really didn’t need a visa since we weren’t going to be in Austria the full 3 months—presumably this would be worked out at Austrian Air. However, at Dulles there was a very long line at Austrian Air as many others evidently had not been given seats. It was also overbooked and there were a number of irate people. I expected to be delayed, but they took our tickets and said they would call our names when they were finished seating many of those ahead of us. Then they offered a $600 travel voucher, some cash, and a hotel and 3 meals to those who would give up their seats and travel the next day. (I had the sense Austrian Air does this a lot). I was tempted, but someone was waiting to pick us up in Wien. It sure beats the wimpy $200 voucher on American Eagle.

Almost everyone was on board and our names had not been called so I went up to the desk. Somehow our tickets had been put to the side in the hectic seating situation. So they put us in Business Class. As a poor university professor, I had never traveled this way, especially across the Atlantic. I now realize the reasons for the French Revolution. Food was not served in trays, but on China. The steward dished the food individually. It was like a 5 star restaurant—well, maybe 4 star. The legroom was fantastic and I could lie back like I was in a recliner. You also got this little bag with booties to wear so you could take your shoes off, a sleeping mask, and a variety of cosmetic goodies.