“And you who loiter around these graves think you know life.” – Edgar Lee Masters
There was this idea to start a Ph.D. at the University of Vienna. There was this idea to start working again at my former job. There was this idea to move back to Europe. There was this idea to turn things around and end 2019 in style to start fresh. So I did. I found an apartment and moved (with child) from Canada to Austria. If one door closes, I will open it again because I have the keys. After five months in this beautiful country and city, I can say that studies are going well, work is awesome and things are turning the way they should.
On my new apartment and living in Vienna.
I moved to the heart of the city and love it. I can scream my food order through the open window and the Sushi Restaurant will deliver it within five minutes. But, looking out the window at the neighbors across the street with whom I share a not-entirely-consenting proximity, I felt a twinge of claustrophobia. City life at its best. For a second I thought there is something wrong here and things need to change but then my son said, out of the blue, he wants to decorate the bookshelf. He knows how to make me happy.
On decorating an apartment with books and bookshelves.
My son and I are crazy about putting books everywhere. Mostly because, well, we have lots of them. I moved many times in my life and every time I had a ton of books that somehow found new homes with friends. My favorite ones traveled with me wherever I went. I picked up a lot (for free) while walking around in Vienna. I have a complete hardback volume set of Shakespeare that I found on the sidewalk on my way home from work. I was like, “Oh my God, this is free!” And we had bags of groceries with us and my son was like, “Are you serious? We have groceries,” and I was like, “We’re carrying them home!” And we did. So the books take on their own special meaning after a while. To me, they’re an important design element because they somewhat define who I am. When you see what I read, you kind of understand what I am all about.
On Vienna and nature.
Without going all the way back to Darwin, as a human being in touch with my animal side, I know I came from nature and need nature. I cannot compare Vienna and Midtown New York City where I also lived for many years. But amid the greyness of New York’s concrete jungle, I was able to find my current apartment near a park this time to quench my vital need for chlorophyll. Nature is not far away. Just a couple of subway stops and if I choose to, I can be really in touch with it and not only through the mint in my mojito.
I grew up in the countryside and I love(d) it. But, what about deciding to go to a party or a movie on the spur of the moment, art shows, my little neighborhood Sushi place, see La Boheme at the Wiener Staatsoper on a Friday night? I kinda love to have all these opportunities available in the blink of an eye.
Of course, a place with a clear view (minus half-naked neighbors) and sunlight filtering through some leaves would greatly impact the quality of my life. But, taking a look at a few listings of apartments outside of the city, I quickly hit a snag. For the same square footage I have, prices have gone through the roof. Getting a little closer to a tree trunk has the same effect on prices as having a room with a view in a five-star-hotel. The countryside is sometimes still tempting when imagining all those brunches I could have outside, the dog I could adopt, the walks in the forest, mushroom picking, and when I get back home after work I light a fire at my fireplace. I could plant flowers, start a vegetable garden, eat what I grow which would, of course, be all real organic produce. I could live that dream.
I would need to buy a car, wake up earlier but doesn’t the early bird catch the worm? I could leave my bike at the station and ride to work; nothing better than a little exercise. My complexion would be rosy, my legs firm, my biorhythm boosted and my red blood cell levels would match those of my son. Green with envy of my new life and body, my friends and colleagues would start searching for their own little Eden and join the countryside-movement. Maybe I will consider this one day.
On Vienna and Unwinding.
From the outside, my apartment building does not look special but upon entering it seems like traveling back to the early 1900s in Vienna. I am a tall person, just about to brush six feet, and the first thing that drew me to this apartment is that the ceilings are close to 4 meters tall. I love the generosity of the space. It is incredibly open and intimate at the same time. But to me, an apartment or house isn’t a home until I have friends come over. Many people I love do spend time here and give this apartment its soul.
The possibilities in Vienna are endless. One breathtaking museum next to the other. Readings, lectures, university life, (vintage) bookstores and so much more. I do love the countryside but I enjoy this feeling of “everything is available most of the time” in the city. But I need some plants. I also don’t accept defeat. With my eye on the prize and being so fortunate to live here, I head down to the florist and come bounding back up the stairs with four little potted plants to set on my windowsill: basil, thyme, mint, and parsley. I don’t have the greenest thumb but I have to start somewhere. And this is here. A new chapter. In Vienna.