Four the last four days I’ve had unique and fun experiences… in Vienna, Austria. This was my first time in a German speaking nation and my first time in a country where I can barely even say, ,,Es tut mir leid. Ich kann Deutsch nicht, sprechen Sie Englisch?” (“I’m sorry. I don’t speak German, do you speak English?”).
I have traveled in countries (namely España and Italia) where I don’t speak the language well, but where my knowledge of French and the little Spanish/Italian I took in college helped me get by. (Though, I did go to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where they speak Dutch, but it was not a problem since literally everyone speaks English – and you don’t really even need to ask.)
It was really odd to not be able to understand a single thing on any sign or any words overheard. And the one or two times I heard some French tourists it felt like music to my ears! If you’ve ever visited a place where you don’t speak the language, but you are bilingual in two other languages, you’ll understand that even the language which is not your natural one is welcome.
Lucky for me, I was visiting my friend Alex – a friend from high school whom I had not seen since then (four years) – whom had been studying in Vienna since October, and who happens to be a German major at his college, so that was very useful with my lack of German skills.
I did/do feel badly about making him act as interpreter the whole time, because I know how it is being expected to understand everything you see and hear and have to communicate for others. In spite of my recent interest in translation, it can be quite tiring when it is not your job, merely an expectation with your travel buddies.
In any case, the whole four days was pretty much a whirlwind. It was weird being led around and not having to be independent the whole time. I pretty much didn’t go anywhere alone, which is usually not my style at all – I typically explore and photograph places on my own which generally involves getting lost and finding my way. I find it to be the most productive way to get to know a place, practice a language, and not annoy other people every time I want to stop to take pictures. That said, exploring places with a buddy is nice too because you might see something that you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed, and you can talk about the things you are seeing.
Because I spent most of my time following and not navigating, also because my sightseeing was actually on more of my schedule – starting in afternoon and ending in the evening – it almost feels like I didn’t see much. I followed Alex all over the city, up and down stairs and escalators, across metro stations, in and out of trams, and past architecture from several different styles. But when I really take a step back to process and gain perspective, I really did quite a lot and even got to sleep in, relax, and watch some movies.