Vienna, a city in North-Eastern Austria, relatively close to the Danube River. Currently, the capital of Austria, formerly the capital of Austro-Hungarian Empire, formerly yet the capital of Austrian Empire (same territory as Austro-Hungarian Empire but quite different politically).

Called Wien in German, its English name, Vienna, comes from Latin Vindobona.

For the capital of a fairly small country of about 8 million people, Vienna is huge. Vienna alone is the home to about 2 million people. Yes, that means that about one fourth of Austrians live in Vienna!

Of course, it used to be the capital of a huge Empire, that is why the city is so big.

If you plan to spend some time in Vienna, make sure to buy a weekly (or monthly) pass which will let you use all public transportation at no additional charge. Trust me, you will get lost a couple of times, and you do not want to deal with buying individual tickets.

I grew up in Bratislava, a cite only some 35 miles from Vienna, yet I visited Vienna for the first time when I was in High School. Not because I was not interested--I certainly was--but because there was thing called the Iron Curtain that was in the way.

Anyway, I was 16 or so, and stopped in Vienna on my trip to Naples, Italy (Napoli). My father was my guide. Two things were immediately obvious: My father had been to Vienna many times before, and, Vienna had not changed much over the few decades my father could not go there.

Yes, my father showed me the most important and most interesting and most historical parts of Vienna. And I? I was extremely disappointed. I expected one of the seven wonders. But I had been to Prague so many times before, and after Prague Vienna was a disappointment.

Now don't get me wrong! There is a lot to see in Vienna. I certainly learned that many years later when I actually lived in Vienna (mostly from September 1979 to March 1980, but I technically stayed a resident of Vienna for several years during my studies in Rome, and went back to Vienna several times).

I was also not a teen-ager anymore.

At any rate, if you visit Vienna, the first thing you want to do is buy a city map. A good city map! (And the weekly pass I mentioned before).

You want to open the map, and find a big circle in the middle. This is the "downtown" to use an American term, or the historical center to use a more appropriate European term.

Anything inside that circle is fascinating and gorgeous. Anything in there also is within the walking distance from anything else inside the circle.

Try to spend as much time inside the circle as you can. Keep track of where you are and how to get back from where you started (use that map!). As long as you do that, roam freely, and forget your tour guides!

At the very center of the center is St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephans Dom, in German). If you get lost and have no map (in which case you ought to be ashamed), chances are you can find the way (or ask someone) back to Stephans Dom.

Very near the cathedral is Kärtnerstraße, a pedestrians-only street, a very popular place for the Viennese to take a stroll. Chances are you will see several musicians playing, with people throwing money into their hat, or guitar case, or whatever is suitable.

Within the center, you will find a number of antiques stores. One next to another, street next to a street, all filled with antique furniture, and nary a customer inside. I never understood how they could afford to keep those places open.

As you walk through the center, you will find several caffes, which serve Viennese coffee, and absolutely delicious desserts. Try ordering a slice of Sacher Torte a special pie invented in Vienna. A word of warning, however: If you are an American, expect never to enjoy any pastries back home for the rest of your life. Not after eating what they serve in Vienna.

There are many important tourist places outside the circle, such as the Schönbrunn (the Imperial Gardens), Belvedere (smaller Imperial Gardens), and the world famous Prater. To get to any of those, you'll need to take the subway (your weekly pass will be good for that).

Anyway, Prater is, in my opinion, highly overrated. The Imperial Gardens are well worth the visit. Another place often visited is a tower by the Danube. It is a high tower with a view of Vienna. Well, sort of. It is actually pretty far from the city. The Danube River actually splits into two before Vienna, and reunites after (I think it is a man-made split, if I remember correctly after all this time). Only a small piece of Danube gets into the city, but the "real thing" is outside the city. I suggest you visit the tower only if you are spendingconsiderible time in Vienna, otherwise there are more interesting places to visit.

But, whatever you do, try to spend most of your time in the center, free of any tour guides. Only then will you appreciate Vienna!

We walked in the cold air
Freezing breath on a window pane
Lying and waiting
The man in the dark in a picture frame
So mystic and soulful
A voice reaching out in a piercing cry
It stays with you until

You are pumping out that old highly stylized 80s synthesizer music, but who really cares. Midge Ure was one of the finest songwriters, even if he rarely made use of "real" instruments. This was the guy who co-wrote Do They Know It's Christmas with Bob Geldof and spawned a new concept in music. For a band such as Ultravox, whose catalog is hopelessly dated, only Vienna seems to stand up to the test of time. Why? Because the words seem to cry out with such raw emotion, backed by such unemotional music, that it becomes the ultimate tale of internal conflict. We had real feelings back in the 1980s, but so often it seemed to be accompanied by a shallow backing track. When the most powerful musical shadow of your words is a simulated thunderstorm, you indeed must be thinking, "This means nothing to me."

The song feels like ghosts waiting to be remembered. It reminds one of events currently happening that you will one day look back on and shake your head. I remember the strange impact it had on me once upon a time. It was a cooling and relaxing feeling, coupled with much anxiety. The song reminded me all too often about how the things that were upsetting me then would mean very little in years to come. I've never seen a song with that kind of power. In those days I was obsessed and constantly fretting over things that were currently happening. Only Vienna could shake me out of those doldrums. I was in college and trying to find my way. I cried over girls and worried about class schedules and fulfillment of the foreign language requirement for my major. I still can't speak a foreign language and still can't meet women, but it doesn't matter anymore. I came to realize that one day I would look back on those days and wax poetically about them but that the tragedies of the day would not be tragedies when I looked back. They would be nothing but little missteps on the road of life.

It is a strange epiphany when you are struggling with something and growing disenchanted and even depressed and you suddenly realize it means nothing. You still feel the pain and the emptiness and the sorrow, but you realize that it isn't going to amount to much of anything in the big picture of your life. You might come to regret having put so much into what was essentially a sideshow act, but mostly you'll realize that it was not a big deal. You'll shake your head wondering why you were so concerned with that girl across the hall who wouldn't give you the time of day. Instead, you'll fondly remember the late night trips to the all-night hamburger place and the time you thought you would be helpful by taking your hot fudge sundae off the waitress' tray before she steadied it. The moments you remember and long to feel again are rarely those you think are important at the time. There is always something you miss.

You'll one day wonder why. You'll wonder why these things meant so much. There are other things that will continue to weigh heavily on your soul, but thought would become wooden nickles in the rear view mirror. The power to realize, at the time, that it means nothing is something that encroaches on raw power. If you can feel the pain and at the same time dismiss it as meaningless in the larger order of things, you can become something. There is always doubt, but in the back of our minds we know. That which is so big today will one day mean nothing. Let it rain. Pain teaches us too much to be casually brushed aside. Drink.

This means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna


Lyrics sample from lyrics copyright Midge Ure
As recorded by Ultravox on the album Vienna

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