It's hard to imagine what my life would be like now if, back in December 2006, my housemate Jaymie hadn't convinced me to be decisive and submit my application. I was indecisive because I liked the life I was living. I had good friends, and the predictability of my life was comforting. Before coming to Vienna, the longest I had been more than 1 hour from home at a single time was 11 days, 11 days! If this past year has taught me anything it's that you need to take chances and push your boundaries or you'll never realize your potential; an sometimes people like me need a helpful nudge in the right direction.
To celebrate the completion of my first year, the city of Vienna has staged a series of concerts, and parties today. Some people say that these are to celebrate the opening of the 9 km extension of subway line U2, but I say it's just a coincidence.
So, I'm sure many of you are wondering what I've been up to since Prague. The most interesting thing that has happened is that from May 1st to 7th my friend Andrew Cardinal (Toga Andrew) came to visit from Canada. He was going to be in Belgium for a wedding and took up my offer of an airmattress and a spot on my floor. He arrived on the first day of a 4-day weekend, so we spent the majority of the time wandering around Vienna, seeing the sights.
However, I took the opportunity of having him here to see some things I was always intending to see but never really got around to. One example is the "Last Supper" mosaic in the Minoritenkirche. It is a full-sized replica of DaVinci's Last Supper made out of 20 tons of coloured marble and is almost 4m tall and over 9m wide. It is huge, and the level of detail is amazing, especially considering that it's made out of little pieces of stone. The mosaic is also a very important historical record, as it was made in 1809 when the original Last Supper in Milan was in a better condition. In the 200 years since, the original has deteriorated considerably to the point where many of the details in the mosaic are no longer visible in the original, to the point where the last major restoration of the original used the mosaic as an artistic guide. It's a shame that the mosaic is almost completely unknown, and in a church tucked away in the inner city off the beaten path.
Another site I have wanted to visit since arriving in Vienna is the United Nations building, the third most important UN site after NYC and Geneva.
The site, built by the Austrian government in the 1970s, and looks it, like something inspired by the Jetsons. The Vienna office houses the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and many other smaller organizations. To go through the security check at the entrance you need a passport because you officially leave Austria and theoretically enter all 192 member nations simultaneously. So now I've basically been everywhere! There are one hour long guided tours in English for only 3€, which take you through the buildings and tell you all about the history and structure of the UN in Vienna.
Exiting the security check, you pass by the 193 national flags (which include the 192 member countries and the Vatican). I was pretty good at identifying most of them, but it was easier than you'd think because they are arranged alphabetically by the countries' names in English. So, for example when you see the random flag between Spain and Sudan there is only one country that fits, Sri Lanka.
On Andrew's last night in Vienna we went to see the opera "Le Nozze di Figaro" by Mozart. It was long, 3.5 hours, but was very funny, and had four amazing, huge, sets for the four acts, taking advantage of the four movable (hydraulic) stages at the Staatsoper which can be set up ahead of time and moved into place in a matter of minutes. The physical humour and convoluted Jerry-Springer-esque plot (at one point everyone realizes that the old woman who Figaro is being forced to marry to pay off a debt is actually his mother) made it my favourite opera to date.
As this weekend is also a long weekend, and my mom arrives on Friday, I only have 3 days of work left. I knew I would be at the office fairly late on Friday (3:30pm) and most people would be gone, so I took my camera to get photos of my lab. It was hard to take a good photo because all the exterior walls are window, throwing all interior equipment into shadow due to the high contrast. If you look though, you can see my computer to the right of the column, with my electrochemical cell hooked up beside it.
From my lab window I can look out at the Schneeberg (Snow mountain), which is the easternmost Alp over 2km high. The Schneeberg actually looks much closer in person, this photo makes it look like a blip on the horizon. This weekend many people are out of the city, but Stefan and Ariana have their big joint birthday party tonight, so it should be fun. Who knows, I might go ride the new part of the U2 out to the Euro Cup stadium so I can say I've been there when I see if on TV in June.
As I said before, my mom is arriving on Friday. On Saturday the 17th we leave for our Italian adventure; Venice-Rome-Pisa-Monterosso (Cinque Terre)-Milan. From Milan, we fly back to Vienna, and spend a few days seeing the city and packing, with a day trip to Salzburg. From Vienna, we fly home, with a 3 day stopover in Paris, arriving home the night of June 4th.
I'm not sure if I'll have time to post much before arriving home, when I'll finish this blog with a post or two about my trip with my mom, and a final summary. I have to say, even though I've been less than diligent about posting since Christmas, I'm shocked that I've kept this going for a full year. So, don't be sad that it's almost over, be happy that it's lasted this long.