EN: Brian and Bruce are lacrosse backpacking around Europe for the next couple of weeks, and the next stop is Vienna. Brian is sharing their experiences with LAS, and finding new and exciting ways to Grow the Game, all while learning about the amazing world we all live in. Follow along with their post-EC16 adventure.
On my recent flight across the Atlantic, I was lucky enough to have the emergency exit seat. For those not familiar, it’s the awkward two-seat row just next to the bathroom. Why is it great? Legroom and the absence of the “I’m just cattle on the way to the slaughterhouse” feeling I usually get when crammed into a tiny little domestic flight, is why!
If the emergency exit seats are the way to go with flying, the middle seat at the back of the bus is the way to go when taking the bus around Europe. Is it weird that this seat is also near the bathroom? That assumes there is a bathroom. Do no assume.
FlixBus has been the preferred method of bouncing around for Bruce and me so far. FlixBus is acceptably comfortable, reasonably inexpensive, and consistently out of order in their offerings of free wifi. I’m presently sitting in a very comfortable and spacious middle seat of the very back row, but I almost had no seat at all.
When Bruce and I rocked up to the bus station, we proceeded to load our luggage into the correct bus. When we went to check into said bus, the most Germanic German ever made it very clear to me in very Germanic English that I had a ticket for August 13.
Today not August 13. Today August 11.
For lack of enthusiasm with a better term, I F&%#ed up. I have a long history of doing this when it comes to busses, and it continued today in Vienna. I’ve done this exact same thing with a Megabus from NYC-Syracuse. I’ve also tapped the delete button on the email containing my itinerary just before boarding a PolskiBus from Warsaw to Prague. My history of screwing up correlates to how much I travel. Equal in correlation is my track record for fixing my aforementioned mistakes.
I ran inside like a squeaky little dog and bought two new tickets. They were 15 Euro higher, of course, but two days of my time is easily worth more than 15 Euro. Additionally, I used the functioning wifi of the bus next to us to refund my other tickets, so now I’ve got a credit to use towards my next F$%# up with Flixbus. It will happen.
I do try not to swear when I write. But I read a wonderful book about writing by Stephen King and he talks about swearing with undeniable logic. I don’t remember his phrase verbatim. It goes along the lines of “if you would swear in this situation, or your character would be moved to use specific language in the situation, and you DON’T use the correct language, then you’re doing a disservice to the authenticity of the character and the reader’s ability to relate”.
Moving on. Well. Backwards. To recap Vienna quickly would be to simply state that “there’s a city I would love to understand further”. While we had three days in Vienna, it simply did not feel like enough to get a real feel for the pulse of the old-meets-new atmosphere.
With towering churches and architecture dripping with old world Roman influence, it was hard to find a single building that wasn’t more aesthetically pleasing than any building back home. Walking around the city with some of the Austrian lacrosse guys at night was truly surreal. The world-famous Vienna Opera House beamed in the night and dwarfed any venue I’ve seen previously. It wasn’t the biggest or tallest, but the ornate detail covering every single square inch from the ground up to the tippy top of the statues is simply unparalleled.
The number of cathedrals, libraries, and museums were similar to the number of McDonalds’, Walmarts, and Seven-Elevens in any given American city. With a statistic like that, is there any real wonder why some of these European cities are steeped in such auras of culture that we simply fail to replicate back stateside?
Not five minutes’ walk got us to the very courtyard where Hitler gave his speech to the Austrians letting them know they’d been annexed by Nazi Germany. To stand where Austrians stood and to see where a tyrant made his wild nationalistic speech… it was surreal. I gave the finger to the empty space where a maniac once stood on the balcony, my subtle statement.
We walked around a while longer, enjoying the cool evening and even colder Austrian beers. The following day Bruce and I lounged around a while before heading off with Emil to the Vienna Monarchs’ home field. A turfed soccer facility just north of the Danube river, we met at the grounds to scrimmage against an American touring team.
“America’s Team” is a new company this summer. International schools have educational tours mixed in with athletic competition for Basketball, Soccer and other sports in the past, and this year the same folks who do other tours decided to branch out into lacrosse.
Roughly sixteen Americans squared off against roughly fourteen Austrians (including Bruce and me). “America’s Team” consisted mostly of rising seniors, with a number of juniors and a couple of kids who had just graduated high school and will be heading off to college soon after returning to the states.
The game was fun. When played correctly, American “up and down” lacrosse is a hard game to counter. It was a tight game for a while, but the beleaguered Austrians who had just come off eight full games in ten days in Budapest for the Euros weren’t able to keep up with the stick skills and speed of high school players from all over the US. Not helping the fact, Brian decided to open up a new industry as a turnover factory.
Dutifully throwing the ball out of bounds got very tiring, but I persisted.
The game was counted down to zero, and in true gym-class- hero fashion, I declared an overtime because we were tied. Next goal wins. Obviously we weren’t tied, but some subtleties escape the open minds of high school kids I guess. They said that the score was not in fact tied, and they were right.
Eventually, the complex concept got through to someone who realized “Hey, I’m playing lacrosse in Austria. I don’t want that to end just yet, let’s keep playing” and back to the field we went. They scored. I think we played a total of four or five minutes longer. It wasn’t about that goal, it was about playing five more minutes with my new friends in Vienna.
That’s all this has ever been about.
Getting a little more time with my friends. Sometimes it’s playing lacrosse. Sometimes it’s five more minutes in the parking lot after dinner or a concert before we go our separate ways. Waiting until the last minute to board a train. Following a friend all the way to their gate before they fly away.
Five minutes more. Maybe ten. Maybe a day or a week. At the moment I have a month. I have time to see friends. Even greater than the gift of having the friends I do is the gift that I get to spend time with them. What torture life would be to have made all these great acquaintances and then never be able to see them again.