Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Viennese Waltzes and Sore Feet

Last week my fellow students and I loaded onto a bus for an overnight drive from Bologna to Vienna, Austria. We had been invited to attend the IAEA Staff Association Ball. After a lengthy finals period, we were definitely looking forward to letting loose a little bit.

After an overnight drive we arrived in Vienna around 9 in the morning, checked into our hotel and spent the day taking naps, eating weiner schnitzel, sightseeing and taking more preemptive naps. At 5:00pm, my classmates had transformed from sweatpants-wearing grad students to handsome young men and women in evening gowns and dinner jackets. We all headed to the city hall of Vienna for a SAIS welcome reception.

On the walk from the reception to the ball, we stopped off at a little stand that sells kasekrainers. These things are genius! They poke a giant hole in a baguette and stick a giant sausage, some cheese and ketchup in it. I know America has stolen some of its best food from the old world in the past... we need to keep it up.

The ball venue was the Hofsburg Palace, the summer home of Europe's most famous royal family, the Hapsburgs. If you know me, you'll know that I was nerding out pretty hard about this.

After a cool opening ceremony featuring African drummers, opera singers and weird prepubescent dancers, the real fun got started! I started out with a little exploring, did a little polka dancing and spent some quality time getting my groove on in the salsa room (there were 7 different salons with different types of music and dancing). I got to sit down and meet one of my new professors, Thomas Row, who seems like a really excellent dude. At midnight, a bunch of us made our way to the main ballroom for the quadrille.

After the quadrille, I pretty much stayed in the main ballroom, with a few detours to dance in other places for a bit or to desperately gulp down water, but the ballroom was where it was at. I utilized my newly-found waltz skills and had a lot of fun spinning the night away. Cinderella really missed out by leaving her ball at midnight.

We finally stopped when the band stopped playing at 4:30am, a lone violinist played a sad song as we collected ourselves, re-tied our bow ties and headed home.

I awoke the next morning with baggy eyes and extremely sore feet, but that didn't stop me from doing a little sightseeing in Vienna, the historic seat of the Hapsburg Empire.