Guess where I am.
Okay, I don’t know why I said that because it’s pretty dumb to ask people to guess where I am via a blogpost because how would they answer? Plus, how would they know anyway. So, I’ll just tell you.
I am in Vienna.
This may not sound like a big deal, but it is for several reason. First of all, I am here without husband and children, but instead, with my parents. I am the child for a whole week. There are pluses and minuses to this, but that’s a different post.
Secondly, this is a trip down memory lane of sorts. Twenty eight years ago, my parents and I emigrated from Russia and arrived in Vienna as our first stop on the way to the promised land. And by “promised land,” I don’t mean the traditional promised land (Israel), rather, the land of milk and honey (help, I’m drowning in idioms), also known as America. We stepped off the plane along with a small collection of other Russians, got picked up by a white van, and got dropped off somewhere in the middle of the night without any idea where. And when we woke up in the morning, it was like waking up on Mars, except we were in Vienna. We didn’t even know that were in Vienna, because we thought they took people to abandoned off season resorts in the mountains somewhere, so for all we knew, that’s where we were.
But on that first morning, I climbed out of bed, and looked out the window at the deserted street below. I noticed there were tram tracks right under us. It was early, and there was no tram, and not too many cars.
“Look, Mom,” I said. “That sign on that store says, ‘Kindermoden.’”
“It’s probably a kids’ clothing shop,” she answered.
And it was: later on, I bravely threw caution to the wind, and purchased a pair of stockings there. I say “threw caution to the wind” because a) I spent a schilling or two on a frivolous thing and b) walked in to an actual shop as a poor immigrant without rights – and no one kicked me out. In fact, they served me very cordially. I am the person I am today because I bought stockings at Kindermoden in Vienna twenty eight years ago.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but it was still a big deal.
We have not been back in Vienna since, until now.
Would you believe, I remember nothing. I’m told we walked all over and saw all the glory, albeit without touching it, and visited museums when they were free. But I have zero recollection. We are staying near the center of town, a few blocks away from Stephanplatz, which is only a stone’s throw away from the pension where we were housed during immigration. And I am feeling like a regular tourist. I’ve got sneakers, an anorak, a camera AND an iPhone I am using as a camera. I am taking in the sights just like I would in any other major European city. Not a stirring in my heart. No memories at all!
But we took the metro to where we lived today. Would you believe:
This. This is EXACTLY the view I took in on our first morning out of communism. Kindermoden. I damn near fell out when I saw this. I cried, I swear to god. I got all the feels. All the stirrings that I had been missing came all at once.
Unfortunately, there was a sign in the window that said, “Wir Schlissen,” which I even looked up, sacrificing several data points to do it, and which means “We’re closing.” I am sad that they’re closing, but also, I’d like to point out that it has been twenty eight years, and they have clearly waited until we came back to say hello before closing for ever.
This is where we lived:
It was a pension when we were there, and now they’re apartments. We were shamelessly loitering outside the door when a resident of these now apartments kindly let us in. It looked totally different as apartments, but I still had the feels.
This phone booth was broken, and you could make long distance calls for free, causing a line of poor immigrants to collect and wait outside this one phone booth, drawing surprised glances from the citizens and polizei, who could not figure out why the phone booth was so special:
Anyway, we wandered around for a bit, checked out the Danube Canal and the walk next to it. It looks like it’s still an immigrant community, but now there were a lot of Middle Eastern appearance, many with Hijab. It looks like a plain old street, and not a glittering big city boulevard like we thought back then.
We took the metro back to our fancy AirB+B. But I’m feeling verklempt today.