I can count, on one hand, the number of times I’ve seen an opera. The first one was on public access television, which aired shortly after my beloved Sesame Street. I was 5 years old and I was not amused. Nobody was singing the sweet sounds of a cookie addiction or giving me pointers on how to pronounce the number “seven,” so I almost instantly checked out, changed the station and moved on to more serious TV: The Looney Toons.
The second time was a more hip rendition of the Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas (I know that the Phantom of the Opera is not technically an opera. But, it has the word “opera” in it).
The third time was in Vienna. I know what you’re thinking: “you’ve only seen two? Because the Phantom really doesn’t count as an opera.” Actually, I’ve seen one full half of an opera (don’t try to figure out the math on this, just go with it). Frank and I had spent the entire day walking around Vienna. The temperature was a very uncomfortable 100 degrees outside. The body really works in amazing ways because when it’s really hot outside, your body reacts by getting very hungry, very thirsty and very unable to evacuate the bowels … both of them.
We made our way to what may be the hottest place on the planet. Did you think that place was Hell or the Grand Palace in Bangkok shortly before monsoon season? Think again. The hottest place on the planet is none other than Hofburg Palace in August, where the air conditioner kicks in to a cool and comfortable… actually, there may not even have been an air conditioner. Just after we learned that Empress Elizabeth–or more fittingly “Sisi”–used to wallow in a depressing despair of “woe is me, I’m trapped in this loving marriage and people adore me, why can’t I be free?!” and shortly after we learned that the same empress practically ignored her two oldest children in favor of her youngest, I nearly passed out from the heat inside the castle. But, perhaps I’m a “sisi,” because 105 degrees indoors surrounded by sweaty throngs of people isn’t all that bad…Hofburg Palace in Wien
The good news is, during this heat wave, Frank and I hardly shelled out money to use the bathroom (as is common in Europe), for there was nothing left to shed. It had all been sweated out. So, you see, there is an upside to heatwaves, a fiscally-sound one, I might add.
The day slowly crept to what may have been dusk, but really it was about 8:00 pm outside and the same sun that had helped us elude any bathroom use was still kicking. And like a moth to a flame, we found it: the Wiener. Or, to be exact, the food stall selling wieners at the Vienna Music Film Festival. What a grand display it was, a boisterous symphony of food. All kinds of food. From mediterranean seafood to Asian to American to Mexican (just don’t) and to the Austrian favorite known as the wiener, the Vienna Music Film Festival was like a mini international food court. Not to mention that there was a musical film on display nightly for the duration of the summer. I can imagine why Austrians hold classical music so near and dear to their heart, thanks to small-time composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Nothing big, really, only people who have shaped music as we know it. It’s no wonder that there’s a Music Film Festival held every summer: this contribution to music history is nothing short of amazing.Vienna Music Film Festival at City Hall
We waited in line in what should more aptly be named as “the wiener stall,” and I contemplated using my very basic German to order food. I was torn on this decision. Earlier that same day, I tried speaking to a postal worker and our conversation went something like this:
Me: “haben zie ein stamp?”
With a grimace, the postal worker replied: “One Euro Seventy.” I don’t know which is worse, the fact that the postal worker wouldn’t partake in my learning German or that I had to pay a whole Euro and 70 cents to send a post card.
As we made our way to the front of the line, I made the executive decision to speak German and sputtered out: Ich möchte ein wiener.” There was a pause, and then the man behind the counter responded: “ok, which one?” “The um…the ummm…” I could tell that he was growing a little impatient of my hemming and hawing and I wondered if perhaps he shared the German trait of “efficiency or GTFO.” “That one?” I pointed. And oh, thank you babby jebus, was I so happy my pointer finger is both long and bony and partially shaped like an old lady’s claw, for I had pointed to none other than a cheese-filled wiener.It’s a wiener. A cheese wiener.
Of course, Frank is a little more pulled together than I am, being the planner of our adventures and all, and he asked for a curry wiener and was on his merry way. Now remember how I had mentioned I had seen exactly one half of an opera in my entire lifetime? We enjoyed our cheesy wiener and curry wiener dishes right outside in the warm summer air. A giant screen situated alongside Vienna’s City Hall was playing an opera, whose name escapes me, but can best be described as: three ladies representing past, present and future (or maybe just three creepy witches) are singing about–well, about something that I’m sure is of the utmost importance. Oh, how I tried to enjoy my third opera ever, but the cheesy-filled goodness that is a cheese wiener was much more captivating. Yes, the opera is educational. But wieners are tasty and come with a side of au gratin potatoes and a half-pint of Ottakringer Helles beer. The witches come with nothing. It’s impossible to argue with that kind of logic.
As I hung in there, through my third opera ever in my life, I looked over at my husband and whispered: “you want to get some more of that cheese-filled wiener?”
And off we went to repeat this story, while trying other amazing food stalls, for the next three nights. And that is the story of how I’ve seen one full half of an opera and how Vienna’s Music Film Festival is all about Wieners.
Tell us a time you were enamored by food.