Remember when I interviewed Asma from Austria (Part 1) and discussed casually what a first time visitor should do in Austria? Well I was convinced to visit this country and this is what happened:……
Nearly 3 hours after my journey from Madrid, I had finally arrived at Vienna. I came out of the terminal towards the luggage claims area only to be welcomed by a sea of expectant family, friends, partners, and so on. I almost felt like waving my hand in a pageant style as I strutted pass them. I caught a quick glance of the only hijabi in the midst of these people. “That’s got to be my friend“, I thought to myself . “Asma?!” I yelled. She came up to me and we hugged. It felt crazy that this was the first time we were meeting and while getting acquainted it was as if we had known each other for ages. “I can’t believe that after our interview about Austria we would actually see in person” I said.
Getting to downtown Vienna where Asma lived was quite a journey. We had to take a metro for 45 minutes then walk for 15 minutes towards her apartment. While we were on our way to her apartment. I noticed that more people dressed like rock stars (Lots of tattoos, face rings, ear rings, tongue rings, black attire, colored spiked Mohawks) and they barely smiled or said hello to passersby. I honestly felt intimidated initially. We finally got to Asma’s apartment and I couldn’t be anymore relieved. Her apartment was a cozy studio with bunk beds in the living room and the bed room. Around the walls of the living room were travel postcards and Polaroid pictures from all around the world. Then there was a mini book shelf with books related to Travel, Islam, Psychology, and so on in German, French, English and Arabic. On top of the book shelf and laptop desk were cute travel souvenirs. These items immediately made me feel creative and inspired for some odd reason. After 20 minutes of admiration and snap-chatting, we finally had dinner and chatted about travel, Umrah, Islam, and women in Islam.
I quickly checked my news feed before falling asleep: “World renowned boxer, Muhammed Ali is dead”, I read out loud. I couldn’t believe this. I felt saddened by the news. I prayed for God to have mercy on him. As time flew by, I eventually slept off.
Breakfast and Ayla
It was a bit of a battle waking up. The night before, Asma had briefed me on the day’s itinerary. She wasn’t going to be with me the whole day as she had to work. So she had already arranged that several of her friends and her sister meet up with me at certain hours of the day. After we both freshened up, we headed for breakfast. The food was my most anticipated part of Vienna. I couldn’t wait to experience what they had to offer. We had breakfast at Strock Bakery. Immediately I walked in there, I started salivating. There were tons of pastries which I couldn’t pronounce. Most were filled with heavy cream or jam. It was very hard to decide but I eventually chose the Topfengolatsche. Commonly referred to as “Cheese danish” in America but this version is much more heavy. So I had that and hot chocolate meanwhile Asma was confirming with my tour guides (AKA friends and sister) for the day like a BO$$. “At 10:00am you will meet my friend Ayla, then at 2:00pm Ayla would have to go and then my sister would meet up with you, later at 5:00pm I shall catch up with you”, Asma finally told me. Ayla met us at the bakery. We greeted each other, I got acquainted with her, bidded Asma goodbye and we both headed to the city for our tour!
Ayla was a great tour guide. She was very patient with me as I took selfies and pictures of every single monument in Vienna. The first attraction we visited was of course the Schonbrunn palace. We toured the palace, went to its garden and then up the hills overseeing the palace. On the hill was also a cafe with a majestic window. The views were spectacular. Other famous sights we visited were the House of Parliaments, National Library, Museum of Science, Museum of Arts, Vienna’s Opera house, Quartier Wien, University of Wien etc. We spent almost 5 hours combing the center. We made a special stop at Bortolotti, a must go to ice cream shop in Vienna. After wards we chilled in Quartier Wien which was pretty cool because everyone there seemed so relaxed. There were cute cubes for laying down and even a moving tennis court. We later stopped at Ayla’s school: the University of Wien (Vienna). It was quite different from the Universities in the U.S. especially in size. One interesting thing I noticed during my tour with Ayla was how the Viennese seemed to love resting. There were chairs in literally every corner of the city.
After my intensive tour, we headed to a cathedral in district 1 to meet up with Fatima (Asma’s sister).
Fatima was really quiet during our meeting. Ayla had bid us goodbye and I had a new local tour guide. Asma had told me how excited Fatima was to practice her knowledge of English and American culture with me. “I thought you were excited to see me, why aren’t you saying much”, I probed Fatima. Fatima explained that she has had a really long day.
We walked around district 1 aka tourist center of Vienna and the same time I was buying souvenirs. We later went to District 10 which consists of mostly Turkish and Bosnian residence. It was very interesting seeing the quick change in environment. There were kebab restaurants in every block, Women with different hijab styles, Blondes or Red heads Muslims wearing a jalabab. It was a sight I had never seen in person.
Fatima and I went to perform Salaah (Prayer) in a nearby mosque and then had Turkish food. Later on, it was finally time to meet with Asma. We headed to the metro.
While on the metro the oddest thing happened to me. When I travel, I usually wear my white cross body purse and then a backpack. Inside the train, it was a bit packed however we found places to sit. Fatima sat across me and by my side was a lady. Her friends stood in front of me. 5 minutes after sitting, I suddenly realized my bag was touching the lady and thought she must probably feel uncomfortable. So I moved my bag and placed it on my lap. The lady suddenly said something in a strange language which had the word “bomb” in it and her friends looked at me and started to laugh. I felt so uncomfortable. Even though I didn’t understand them I knew I was being pre-judged. Fatima and I quickly looked at each other uncomfortably. I couldn’t even speak in German to explain to the woman my true intention and how shameful she was being. I just wanted to leave.
It was so odd that I had never experienced outright discrimination based on my religion or race for the months I had been in Spain but did so during the first day in Vienna.
We finally reached our stop and hurried out. “What was she saying” I asked Fatima. Fatima told me it was a Serbian language so she didn’t know.
We later went to the next platform to await Asma’s arrival.
Asma appeared from the train that had stopped before us. I was really glad to see her, I gave her a run down on of my day’s event especially the discriminatory one. “Wow, don’t let that ruin your day”, she advised me. I agreed with her.
after all I came for vacation and not to let an ignorant person bring me down…….
Fatima, Asma and I explored more of Vienna: Karlskirche, Karltz plaza, Naschmart. We finally settled for trying Schnitzel before meeting up with more of Asma’s firends
Before coming to Austria, my Spanish friend had encouraged me to meet up with some other fun girls she knew. So I was excited when I was able to meet up with Rubia, my Spanish friend’s friend. “Noha, told me so much about you!”, I said excitedly to Rubia while hugging her. There were other girls including Rubia that joined Asma and I as we were having our Schnitzel. (By the way Schnitzel’s in Vienna are quite expensive). It was crazy to think that through connections, I felt like I already had a family in Austria.
With the ladies; we explored the Central Cafe, Opera House, National library and the best moment Sacher Cafe. Asma had gushed about how amazing the Sacher cafe was and I couldn’t wait to try the Sachertote.
Sacher cafe looked so posh that I felt under-dressed. It was probably the royal red cushioned walls, chandeliers and well dressed attendants that made me feel this way. I was surprised that the desserts weren’t overly priced. After enjoying my Sachertote and Asma’s apple strudel, I concluded that it was all worth it.
Look out for part 2 where we were confronted by drunkards and rebuked in an ethnic neighborhood…..