Monday, December 31, 2018

Viva Vienna! A trip to celebrate snow (and schnitzel)

image courtesy of Stephen Wilson

I'll start this post with a declaration: sometimes Youtube can be great. I wrote that because thanks to Youtube, I've discovered Richard Ayoade, a British actor, comedienne and sudden inspiration. That man is directly responsible for my trek to The Original Viennese Snow Globe Factory on my visit to the city of Vienna or Wien, in Austria (watch the episode of Richard Ayoade in Vienna here).

I've watched excerpts of his travel show on Youtube, and when he went to the Viennese Snow Globe Factory that was all it took for me to start planning my visit. Why? Because Richard Ayoade is my hero and 2? Because A Hungry Man love snow globes, or in my vernacular 'shakey up and down things'. Yes, it is a very simple (minded) description but it always make me smile when I say it, or hear it, particularly when repeated from my partner, friends or family. Yup, my words really will live on past me, not a bad legacy methinks?

I will emphatically and enthusiastically state that I love, LOVE snow globes. I remember as a young boy of nine, one of my absolute favourite snow globes was of the Montreal's Notre Dame Basilica. It was given to me by a family friend when we visited the city and it became a treasured piece. It broke five days later thanks to my being a klutz. Despite my spasm, broken glass and water everywhere, the love affair began and remains to this day.

As you can imagine thanks to the previous childhood story, my expectations for the factory were sky high. After watching Richard Ayoades show, he made the factory for me a 'must visit', especially when talking with the artist and designer of the factory's snow globes. It was exciting (to me), watching the artist discuss the tradition of snow globe creation but yet not revealing exactly what the snow was made of inside the globe - a personal mystery that I'm dying to know but refuse to find out - don't want to ruin the joy of the floating snow do I? Anyway, I was really looking forward to an experience that would match my entirely insane love for snow globes. But the question is, what can match insanity?

Now in order to get to the factory of snow globes in Vienna, it's a bit of trek to the outer boroughs of the city. As you sit on the tram, watching it make it's way from the wholesome sterility of the inner city to the suburbs, my partner and I found ourselves surrounding by more locals and less tourists. It was this slow but significant trek that gave us - in my opinion, a true glimpse of Vienna that isn't a part of the official tourist photos. What amazed us later on was the trek to the factory ended up putting the city on our list of definite return visits. In that journey we felt less like tourists and more like visitors as we watched the beautifully scrubbed and/or renovated historic buildings give way to housing complexes, neighbourhood stores, banks and grocery stores, and locals just carrying on with their lives. Real life in Vienna.

We got off the tram and made our way up a short but steep hill to the factory. When we arrived at the factory door and walked in, I was both happy and a bit dejected. Happy because I made it to the birthplace of the snow globe. Dejected because in my mind I truly believed the place would be much bigger. I mean c'mon, this is snow globes for God's sake. Everyone loves snow globes, don't they? Don't they?? And this is seriously the best you can do? C'mon , you're the 'original' snow globe factory , shouldn't the place be bigger, have more of a physical presence rather than a non-descript, small yellow building? Wait a minute - is that, yikes, a North American mindset coming through there? Hmmm.

We entered the store and made our way down the main (and only) aisle, looking at various types and designs of snow globes. Some were museum piece quality that weren't meant to be sold - or touched as we quickly found out. As we walked around I was thinking "Damn, we came all this way for this"? I really believed that there was much more to it. Still, we managed to find a few snow globes to take home as a memento of our visit. Sadly, the poop emoji snow globe wasn't for sale. Trust me when I say that I was deeply disappointed about that!

I left the factory completely dejected. Oh sure, I had souvenirs of the visit but my God I expected so much more. As we walked back to the tram staton, I asked myself what made it so disappointing for me. Was it the fact the factory was no bigger than a school classroom from the 1800's? Sure, that had an impact. Was it the fact that the coolest snow globes weren't for sale but were near items that were for sale thus making it very confusing and sad (pissed) when the thing you wanted were for display only? Oh yeah, definitely had an impact. Was it the fact that the place was called a factory rather than a museum, making it feel like items were less hand made and more mass produced? Yup, that particular thought wasn't far from my mind as we bought our globes. Was it the walk up the hill that left you (sorry, me) out of breath? Can't lie that that factored into the overall feelings of blah.

Blah experiences can happen, that's part of a life as a tourist. But isn't it a bonus that when you go out looking for something, you can end up finding something else much more interesting? Believe me when I say that I understood that sentiment after seeing the same snow globes for sale at a Christmas market not ten minutes from our hotel. I couldn't help but shake my head at that discovery yet I had to admit that I was still glad I went to a less familiar side of Vienna. I had a chance to discover a much more interesting side of the city most tourists would probably miss.

up next: Viva Vienna food!


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