Somewhere down Schwedenplatz, there is a Mcdonalds that breaks up the clothing shops and the historic buildings. Actually, there’s two. The golden arches beckon tourists inside, into the comfort of Big Macs and French fries. But this isn’t where you find the magic of Vienna. You have to put your pink headphones in, your sunglasses on, and keep walking. You have to travel between shadowed alleyways that lead into the back of restaurants or small courtyards with fountains and benches. You have to wander into markets and buy what you think is beer, only to pay and realize as you walk away that it’s actually non-alcoholic and your German isn’t as good as you thought it was. You have to lose yourself before you’re found, just like you have to get lost in Vienna before you find the magic.
But once you do, you’ll be shaken to the core, forever daydreaming about a moment in time that you’ll never get back, but you’re glad you experienced it all the same. Because it changed you. Because your heart rose from ashes like a phoenix, and you finally understood what it was like to fall in love with not just a person, but with a grandeur city full of music, and history, and most of all, full of happiness – the kind that transforms you into someone who believes and understands the magic of love, and the magic of Vienna.
You know how after a moment is gone, you can rarely remember it in the same way? While some would say I have rose-colored glasses, I can honestly say that Vienna will always stay ingrained in my mind exactly the way that it was. The girl I was when I left the states was tired. She was tired of being heartbroken from a man she loved, a man she loved more than all the ones before combined, who had broken her heart in the cruelest of ways. She was tired of dating and all the unknowns that came with it. Does he like me? Is he ghosting me? Did he feel the same connection when we kissed? But most of all, she was tired of feeling alone when she was alone, and not content instead. She wanted to understand herself, and to do that, she had to let her guard down.
When I got off the bus in Vienna after a stop in Budapest, I could feel something inside of me stirring. I’d been to Vienna as a child, but I hardly remembered it. But the sense of familiarity was there. This city was already a part of me. It was as if I was an old guitar that had been out of tune for years, collecting dust on a shelf, long forgotten about. And then, suddenly, the right person came along and dusted me off and plucked away at my strings, creating the most beautiful of music. Vienna picked me up and gave me life again.
Sure, there was romantic, all-consuming love in Vienna. I was lucky to find that. But the real reason I was able to let my guard down enough to fall head over heels was the city itself. Home isn’t a place – it’s a feeling. And I felt home all around me as I went on tinder dates with guys who showed me around the city. They would point at buildings and tell me what they were and I would stare, with wide doe-like eyes, at the architecture and wonder why I never felt so at peace back in the states. Was this another world? Was this where magic came from? Was I meant to stay in this city forever?
I drank beers at the beach bars. I danced my ass off at Donauinselfest. I sang loudly at underground karaoke bars and begged for the Wi-Fi password at a gay, Jewish bar. I consumed Vienna like it was a drug, and I begged it to show me more, more, more until it was time to leave and I was waving goodbye to a man that had opened my heart back up to love. And while this man remained in the city I love, and the crossing of paths was meant to stay forever in this bubble that Vienna was, he did more for me in those short two weeks than any man before him did.
He allowed me to fall in love and then leave. While we dreamed of a future, we had no real expectations. It was about that moment, living in the now.
He showed me how to find myself and how to fall in love again. Without him, without the beauty of Vienna, maybe I would’ve never learned how to be myself and fall head-over-heels for someone again. Maybe I wouldn’t have the love I have now with Jordan.
I thank Vienna for pulling me out of the darkness. I thank it for being the city I needed, when I needed it. I thank it for still feeling like home, even two years later.
You have my heart, Vienna. <3