Vienna Part 2: The Art of Argument

The fact that a man who couldn't be bothered to speak English invited me, a non-German speaker, to meet for coffee is simply amazing. Meeting for coffee is a social occasion. Talking is simply what you do, and it appeared, despite all language issues, to be our plan for the afternoon. 

We met around noon in front of the Stephansplatz. Tourists siphoned in and out of the church doors, as anyone should for being in front of such a beautiful building. There we stood shaking hands and smiling. An 27 year old, afroed, vagabond and grey-haired, glasses wearing, doctor. We are a match made in Vienna. 

We make our way to Café Central, which was a famous meeting place for great politicians, leaders, and thinkers throughout history. Once upon a time the likes of Sigmund Freud and Vladimir Lenin sat within these walls. I imagined the conversations that took place in those days, and wondered what lay ahead for the Doctor and I.

"So," I began after delicately placing my coffee on the table. "Do you think we will find the key to world peace today?"

He laughs, and begins to tell a story.

"No, I think not. But perhapz a revolution? Do you know Leon Trosky? Architect of zee Russian Revolution?"

"Yes, a bit. What about him?"

"Well, Trosky waz here all zee time, but in thoze dayz he went by his birth name of Bronstein. He would come here to write and read all zee time, and waz known in thoze days to be a very quiet man," he says. He leans in closer as if to tell me a secret. "One day Victor Adler, an Austrian politician waz meeting with zee Count Berchtold, the Foreign Minister of Austria-Hungry. Zey were discussing zee possibility of revolution in Russia, and even in ze Hapsburg Empire. It waz at zis moment when Berchtold joked saying, 'And who will lead this revolution? Perhaps Mr. Bronstein sitting over there at the Cafe Central?' Haha!"

The Count was right. It was quiet ol' Mr. Bronstein. 

We continued a meeting with a few more stories when the Doctor looked at his watch.

"We must be going az I have an appointment, but you know...we may have time..."

"For what?"

"Schönbrunn. Do you want to see it?" he said nodding his head and smiling.

After all of the debating about an ugly and/or beautiful summer castle I knew we had to go. We hopped on the metro and headed to the summer castle. The weather wasn't particularly great, but it took nothing away from the fact that it was still a castle.

"So? What do you think?"

"It's beautiful...of course!"

He smiled. My words gave him the victory for yesterday's debate with his wife, although I don't know how much I was really choosing sides. I used to live in a flat where I could touch the ceiling while sitting down in a chair, so any palace, be it Schoenberg or Versailles, is pretty amazing.

This is Schönbrunn.

This is Versailles.


Was the Mayerling incident merely the case of an insane murderer? Or was it a tragic love story as Suzie said? I don't know. Is Schönbrunn indeed an ugly summer palace? Pfttt. These questions had been one of the many subjects of debate throughout my few days in Vienna. I had walked so much. I had listened to so many histories and stories that by the last day I was completely useless. I slept in while everyone went to work. I made the easy choice and took lunch at McDonald's. I visited the Belvedere, only because it was literally around the corner from Carla's flat. Aside from that, I rested and waited for dinner where the good Doctor would be preparing faschierte laibchen and mohnnudel.

The food, as usual, was simply delicious. I ate at much as a could, then at a little more as my adopted Austrian family continued to fill my plate. No Austrian meal is complete without conversation, and dare I say, an argument. 

I had to confess to Mum that the Schönbrunn was a good looking summer castle, which I think the Doctor was happy to hear. 

"Yes, you see? It is a beautiful castle!" he said. 

"Well...I still find it ugly," added mum. 

That night I heard dueling viewpoints on everything from the upcoming Austrian political elections to the United States' involvement in the Syrian Crisis. However, the most tense discussion came when Tito asked me about the food. 

"So, you have eaten Carla's wiener schnitzel, and now the Doctor's fashiertre laibchen..."

"Yes, and the mohnnudel!" added the Doctor. 

"Yes, yes, of course," continued Tito. "Which meal was the best during your stay?"

Everyone, Tito, Suzie, Mum, The Doctor, and Clara, turned in patient curiosity for my response. I sat there reflecting on the history, arguments, and experiences of the last few days. The next words out of my mouth could be the spark of at least a 5 minute debate, so I had to choose them wisely. 

I thought on the Emperor Franz Joseph. His biased opinion caused an architect to jump out of a window, leading him to always give impartial critiques to future builders. Finally, like high royalty, I chose the middle ground. 

"It was...Mc Donald's."

The table erupted in laughter. 

"Ahhh, yessss," replied Mum.

"Haha. I see you have chozen zee diplomatic route," added the Doctor. 

Indeed I had.