Vienna has become a strange place for me and I will remember it fondly for 4 different reasons.
- Team Morocco: (Team Morocco only consists of one person but I quite like this team business that I have started.) Now, Team Morocco and I were at the same hostel and they invited me along to see the city of Vienna by night. Little did we know, that ONE night was actually THE night to go out and see the city as it was “Lang nacht der museen” (basically “long night of the museums”) and due to this the streets were busier than normal and as we were heading through the city we came across a company who are famous for their Sachertortes and were baking, icing and serving them right on the street. We decided that we should get one each (although I had my doubts at first- should I really be eating chocolate cake at night?!) We ordered, got ready to pay and then Team Morocco refused to let me pay for mine, we had literally met less than an hour ago and they were leaving the next day, but they had decided that it was their treat.
- Team China: (Again, one person) Team China and I had a brief conversation one morning about what I should definitely see in China when I visit. They were actually busy packing when I sparked up the conversation but they were kind enough to take my email address and email me some advice but not before handing me a Chinese knot (symbolic for good fortune and a variety of other things depending on the style of knot)
- Team Serbia: (Again, one person) Now this story genuinely breaks my heart and so I will have to tell it in a way that won’t affect the person in a negative way.
One evening as I was typing up my Vienna post Team Serbia came and sat on the sofa next to me in the bar area. Team Serbia knew Team Bosnia who was sitting opposite me and they started conversing in their common tongue. Team Serbia then turned around to me and asked me if I was hungry. It was amusing to be asked that by a total stranger but I smiled and asked why. He explained that he was a chef in his own country and really wanted to cook tonight and wondered if I wanted to join. I was intrigued by the request and accepted the invitation. The three of us; one in charge of frying the chicken, me in charge of frying the chips in a pan full of oil (Not sure of the chip pan rules in Austria but I was certainly concerned), and the other to fry the mushrooms and onions. We were all taking orders from Chef Serbia and it really was entertaining as we got ordered around the kitchen in a professional manner.
The dinner itself was delicious and it was a total joy to hang out with them despite the language barriers. At one-point Team Bosnia told me that I needed to eat more and pointed to a potato to which Team Serbia told me that I needed to put on some weight ready for winter.
The next day I saw Team Serbia in the kitchen, I told them that I was heading into the city and that they were welcome to join me. They decided that they would and as we walked and talked they told me all about the struggles in their country, the gang and gun crime, their own parents criminal pasts and how they had tried to hide it from their children, they told me about the bullet and knife wounds that they had incurred and the racism within their country (apparently I would be ok, as I was a girl but people of colour generally weren’t welcome in certain areas) and as we walked and talked I tried my best not to judge them or feel any negativity towards their outlook on people and lifestyles, as the stories being relayed weren’t typical of every person from that country. After all, I had just had dinner with two from that region, but it was hard to digest knowing that this was everyday life for some people.
The next day Team Serbia had to leave for some serious unforeseen circumstances that can’t be published. But they sent me a message explaining their circumstance along with a set of instructions to follow. I was to go to the random cupboard in the dining area of the hostel, open the draw with the “coffee” label painted on and open the drawer. Intrigued, I followed the directions and inside the drawer was a beautiful bottle of perfume and a note that literally said “It was nice to meet you”
I literally stood there dumbfounded, I couldn’t understand what made people do these things. Why people were so generous to complete and utter strangers. The three individuals and I had spent less than 24 hours together, and in some instances only 15 minutes.
And then came…
- Team Croatia and I spent a week in the same room before they had to leave. We saw each other an hour a day which was generally in the evening before bed time where we would chat about war, Yugoslavia and other less serious topics like ‘Knoppers’ (a delicious German chocolate biscuit), tea in granule form (yes, it exists), and life in general. Now, Team Croatia was probably one of the most entertaining people that I have ever met and it wasn’t because they were trying to be. This team used to work on a ship and had been trained as a butler. The way they would speak, make their bed and their general demeanour entertained me to no end- I would literally laugh out aloud. Every task was made into a work of art and when they pulled out a travel kettle, Iron and three shoe polishing brushes, I almost fell off the top bunk from laughing. Annoyingly I didn’t get to say bye to Team Croatia either but upon returning to the room I found a Knopper on my bed. I couldn’t stop shaking my head and smiling.
I knew that I would meet an array of people whilst travelling and I knew that I would have some varied experiences but I wasn’t prepared for the generosity of strangers to this scale. Regardless of what the media publicises, there is a whole lot of love and kindness in this world and I’m definitely starting to glow with gratitude.
So, the education continues…