Since the fourth grade

Music is a universal language everyone can appreciate and understand. When I play “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on my violin, you may not be able to name it, but you would be able to recognize the tune as one of the most iconic classical compositions of all history.

Since the fourth grade when my music teacher forced all the 9-to-10-year-olds to put on a play about Mozart and his music, I have been obsessed with his work. Symphony No. 40 became my anthem at the young age of 9, and I have no regrets.

I played the violin for eight years, and it taught me about drive, determination and dedication. Mozart remained my muse for all of this time, so when I had the opportunity to visit Vienna, Austria, I whipped my credit card out to pay for the three-hour bus ride visiting Mozart sites.

The journey of a musician’s lifetime

I prepped for the journey to the music city by putting together an itinerary for myself and the six other travelers who wanted to come along. No matter what, I had to see these famous sights on my list:

  • Burggarten: park where the Mozart statue stands
  • Vienna State Opera House: where Mozart performed his operas including Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute
  • St. Stephan’s Cathedral: where Mozart married his wife and had his funeral
  • Mozart Haus: Mozart’s residence from 1784 to 1789

Vienna, Austria, home to Mozart during what some consider the most influential and creative times of his life, now has my heart forever. In case you didn’t know, I really love Mozart.

I didn’t care if I had to go see all of the music sites of Vienna by myself. I had to visit all of them.

Music Marker #1

My first stop was the Burggarten,  the picturesque park a block away from the State Opera House. Immediately upon our group’s arrival, I strided on the smooth black pathway, leaving my friends in the dust behind me.

Inviting me to the monument layed a treble clef composed of red flowers, standing out against the summer green grass. I landed at the feet of Mozart in silent praise. Staring up at the statue, I felt my face stretch to the maximum capacity, my smile extending from one ear to the other.

Face to face with my musical hero, I took in all of the details my design-mindful eye could note. The golden roses stood out against the white stone, along with the name Mozart in all capital letters. At the base of the statue sat a cluster of instruments, including a violin. My fingers strummed the strings in a way that felt like second nature to me. A piece of sheet music also lay by the tiny orchestra, and my musician’s brain turned on, reading the notes in the key of D, one low in the staff and one off the staff resembling a chord. Two theatre masks made an appearance as well, a nod to his contributions to opera. Mozart’s hand touched the top of the conductor’s stand, ready to lead with a baton. Trying not to freak out (but failing) I looked to my friends, searching for a volunteer to take my photograph with my classical hero.

Musical Marker #2 and midday desserts

I ventured to the Vienna State Opera House alone, as Olivia, Caleb, Christina, Courtney and Anna wanted to visit the MUSA Contemporary Art Museum for free. Nevertheless, I raced to the steps of the opera pretending I was running late for the evening’s performance. I couldn’t hide my toothy grin when I stepped inside and got in line to buy a tour ticket. The youngest visitor there, I felt out of place and at home at the same time.

The interior took my breath away before I knew it. The golden details similar to those of the Mozart statue created a sunset glow throughout the lobby area, highlighting Greek columns that stood proudly. A green velvet carpet perfectly contoured to the marble steps led to the opera house. I could have looked up to the to the shimmering arches for hours, memorizing the details for a lifetime, but my blonde Austrian tour guide began to speak, summoning me out of my mesmerizing trance.

Room by room, I felt my eyes well up with wet and fat tears threatening to spill. I began to realize what had taken place here centuries ago. I pictured the opening night of the opera, couples spilling into the grand doors arm in arm and champagne poured into crystal glasses as the opera house fills with Vienna’s nobility and rich. The stage came alive with actors taking their place in Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

The opera house was as grand as I imagined. Rows of velvet chairs lined the open-air room. I sat in the cushioned seat and stared in awe of the crystal chandelier above me. On stage a crew prepared for that evening’s performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff, moving back and forth setting up props and lights. My blonde tour guide continued to talk about the history of the opera house but I couldn’t hear her. I only heard the sound of an orchestra tuning to the note A right before the performance began.

I walked out of the opera house feeling moved by the music. My feet then carried me to the Palmenhaus, an early 20th century greenhouse turned into a restaurant and cafe. I ordered a white chocolate and raspberry cake and a Viennese coffee, a traditional hot drink with steamed milk served in a tall glass. To say that I felt satisfied with my afternoon dessert would be an understatement.

Musical Marker #3 (and a street diversion)

After drinks and desserts my friends decided to split up to do different things. Caleb, Christina and I made our way to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the church where Mozart and his wife married in 1782. However the sound of music stopped my feet just 200 meters away from the cathedral, and the strings of a violin graced my ears.

I immediately turned to Caleb and Christina, shouting at them to run with me to the growing circle around the street performers. Our feet landed us at the edge of the circle.

Two guys, dressed head to toe in black clothes with black beards were the source of the music. They both wore matching black aviators, shading everything else in the world except the strings on their violins. Alongside the duo sat an acoustic guitar player, with the same attire but with a beard more salt and pepper than the violinists. Clearly brothers, they slid their bows in sync so well that I imagined them practicing when they were younger, from the early morning to right before dinner was served.

After hearing the last twenty seconds of their cover of Viva La Vida by Coldplay, Christina mentioned that she once saw a Facebook video of two violin players playing Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito.” Curiosity hit me, but I didn’t have to wonder what it sounded like for long. Seconds after Christina’s comment, the suave string brothers played “Despacito” after the guitar plucked out the guitar intro. Christina and I stared at each other in astonishment, not believing our ears.

Caleb, who also heard Christina’s thought, ran back from filling his water bottle at a fountain, saying “Is that?” We both yelled in his face “YES!” before he could finish his question and turned back to squeeze past the inner rim of the circle. Managing our way through, we found a space wide enough to take out our cameras, capturing every movement of the bow, every sneaky smile and every sway of the violinists to the Latin music.

Amazed but in a time crunch, we tore ourselves away from the crowd to walk the 200 meters or so to the cathedral. In my head I heard church bells of a wedding day many years ago, as Mozart waited on his bride. I stepped in the church, hit with the smell of frankincense. The gothic columns stood solid, supporting the ornately decorated roof I had seen earlier, coated in blue, green, white and yellow mosaic tiles in a striped pattern.

People crowded against the black iron gate, separating the tourists from those taking an official tour of the sanctuary. I sneaked through the people and found a place to take photographs at ground level. I leveled my camera with the cold tan and white tile and snapped away.

Musical Marker #4

Just a few more shots and I readied myself to make a stop at the final destination on my list, the Mozart Haus. Not having enough time to visit inside (or enough euro notes to pay), I settled with taking a picture with the sign outside the apartments turned into a small museum. Previously I had been shut down by the idea of visiting the house where Mozart lived, breathed and wrote music, as people said it wouldn’t be interesting to see where he sat, but to me that was everything.

I stood in front of the apartments feeling my eyes tear up again. Just seeing the windows left open to outsiders, I hoped to feel some kind of inspiration from the glass inviting me to spend hours at the Mozart Haus.

I did.

Trying not to freak out or cry, I begged Christina to take my picture with the Mozart Haus sign, a small glass printed with his side profile and the name of the visitor attraction. I couldn’t hide my smile as hard as I tried. I lifted my hands, exclaiming that I was finally here after months of research, hope and excitement.

Looking at the picture that Christina took, I initially wanted to retake the shot, not liking the look of the man in the pink button-down staring at me in my state of ecstasy. But more thought made me realize that his gaze would not bring down my excessive joy about this day.

Something to come back for

Vienna, a musician’s paradise, a tourist’s gold mine and my favorite city I have visited while studying abroad. It may not have interested my friends as much as I, but I absolutely loved every second there. Even if I didn’t do everything there is to do in the Austrian capital, but as I have said constantly on this trip, “There is something to come back for.”