It’s tourist season. I think they opened the flood gates last weekend — they are suddenly everywhere, and we are months from the height of tourist season. They speak German, French, Russian and, of course, English (and probably some others I didn’t recognize). They arrive on buses and clog up the sidewalks in huge groups. They get irritated when you get into their pictures of the massive churches or palaces. (Really, how much space could I be taking up?) They flock into the shops (all at the same time!) and wander around and irritate the employees with their refusal to speak German. They’re in my way. They’re like a plague.
I know this sounds harsh — after all, I’m a stranger here, myself. But I am beginning to understand why tourists get such a bad name. I think it’s great that they’re here to see what Vienna has to offer — it’s a beautiful, amazing city. (I highly recommend it.) But, many seem to have no consideration for the people around them. We’re not ALL on a tour — some of us have places to go. I know how to say “excuse me” in 4 languages, and none of them work. I see them spill over from their tour groups, into the streets, and actually block traffic. It’s a little ridiculous. And even I am starting to get frustrated at their insistence in communicating in their native language (or often, they’ll try English if that doesn’t work). Obviously, I don’t believe you need to be fluent in a language to visit a country. But the translation books are about $8 and the apps on the smart phones are FREE. Either buy the book, try to speak German and be willing to look stupid (that’s what I do) or learn the words for “please” and “thank you” and resort to charades for the rest. But TRY. (On the plus side, I imagine that as the summer goes on, the tourists become more plentiful and my German gets better, I’m going to be more and more appreciated for my attempts.)
It’s gotten me thinking about the whole “tourist experience” and how it differs from what I will see and learn of Vienna. I was recently looking at the Frommer’s website on Vienna, particularly their “See Vienna in 1/2/3 days” pages. Seriously? The itineraries they suggest would be exhausting and cursory even for someone who rose with the sun and ran all day. I can’t imagine that you’d have much chance to do more than go, take a picture and move on. For my life, the plans they suggest for a day would probably take me 2 weeks to get through.
Things just move at a different pace when you’re travelling with kids. It’s also different when you LIVE here and you have mundane things like grocery store trips, naps, laundry and doctor’s appointments to plan around. You have to move more slowly. You have to focus on different things. The moment I found myself being frustrated with the tourists and rolling my eyes, I realized just how different my experience is going to be here. I’m not a tourist. I’m not really a local, either, which for now leaves me kind of in between. But I’m definitely getting to do more than just take pictures and move on.