The day I arrived here I took a very nice train (Amtrak - why can't you get yourself together?!?) and found my hostel easily after mastering the local public transit (I love maps). Then I just started walking around! I ended up at a place called MuseumsQuartier, a place suggested to me by my hosts in Budapest, and it was AWESOME. Imagine this great courtyard with a whole bunch of museums and places to hang out/get food. And it's open all the time! I just spent a couple hours milling around there (okay, and they had free wifi). Later, I walked through a pedestrian thoroughfare and saw some really cool street performers do their thing. Amazing!
On Thursday I spent a good chunk of the day exploring Jewish Vienna. I went to a large synagogue housed in a building that does NOT look like one. The tour guide gave us a good explanation for all the various Viennese reactions to the Jews - in the 13th century they sort of liked us, then kicked us out. In the 17th century, it repeated. Then in the 19th century we were pretty assimilated until again, we were kicked out. Then there was World War II which decimated the Jewish population here. And now Jews are here and treated fine by the government but still maintain strong security at synagogues (there was a whole police van down the street).
After the synagogue I went to Judenplatz and saw the underground remains of the synagogue from the 13th century along with some artifacts. VERY cool. The rest of the afternoon I spent getting ready for a Mozart concert I went to at night. I went to Mozart Haus, one of the residents of the famous composer, and learned a lot about his history. Some stuff I knew from watching Amadeus in 7th grade, other stuff I learned along the way. Sufficed to say, it was a great museum and when I saw the concert, I LOVED it.
That takes us to Friday. I woke up and went over to the Architecture Museum in MuseumsQuartier and loved it as well! All this stuff about communal spaces created in the first half of the 20th century, and then the development of private residences afterward. Very cool. In the afternoon I went to the House of Music which, at first, seemed like it would be a museum just about the Vienna Philharmonic (which was interesting, but not worth 9 euro) but NO. On the 2nd and 3rd floors there was this AWESOME exhibit on the interaction of sound and humans. So many interactive displays where you change the tone of a sound wave until you can't actually hear it and then compare that to other animals. I took a few pictures of graphs I'm going to use in my class.
And last night I stayed up until 2am hanging out at Moishe House Vienna. They threw this great Shabbat dinner that I thoroughly enjoyed (both taste-wise and intellectual-wise). I randomly ran into Yehudit, this girl I met at Limmud in the UK, and had a great conversation with a very religious Jewish girl about the definition of the Jewish people and the interaction of Reform and inter-married Jews. It was awesome.
Well, tomorrow I'm leaving very early for Israel. I'm hoping to take a bit of a vacation and go to the beach (also, I haven't consistently seen the sun out in 3 weeks so that will be a nice change). I will have a cell phone but don't have the number just yet because, unfortunately, my old SIM card found its way back to the States without me :) I'll let you all know soon if you want to talk to me.