Its mention spurred reveries for several years during my early twenties, so that I conjured visions of myself on its streets, always in sunshine, surveying their sweep. Why I thought so much about that city I cannot say. I hadn't seen so much as a postcard photograph. Aside from its location, I knew only that I wanted to go.
On a pleasant afternoon in 2005 I got my first look: the streets were as sunny and bright as I imagined, but though I stood eagerly, rested and energetic, something about the scenery didn't conform to my expectations.
Here is what I wrote that evening in a small notebook I kept:
Vienna is a pleasant enough city.
The ringed boulevard that circumscribes the city center has some very stately buildings, and to walk among them is... nice. I'd go back if offered a free trip, happy to stay for a day or two, but I'd also accept $500 to never return, for its street life is anemic, nothing moved me to take a photograph save the open-faced sandwich shop where Kafka ate, and the best hot chocolate I've tasted cannot compensate for an aesthetic that is the blandest among those European capitols one might call pretty.
These words were unfair to Vienna, as the judgments made by young travelers so often are: a rash judgment, handicapped by prior expectations, and cast as if the impressions on offer are more grounded than is actually the case. Everyone arrives in a new city craving certain things and tired of others, and these whims are as likely as not to corrupt early impressions, or such has been my experience. Taken to Vienna again I might inhale different scents and perceive a distinctly different place.
But later circumspection hardly prevents one's moods from attaching themselves to a city during a given trip, so I walked around whistling Vienna by Billy Joel, wondering if the song is about Mozart. I stood on street corners trying to remember if the pension in The World According to Garp was set in Vienna. And everywhere I went I thought, this is nice, but what will I possibly do all day tomorrow in Vienna that I haven't already done today? It was a question I couldn't answer.
I left Vienna on a train the next morning, and haven't ever been back. In the years since, I haven't thought very often about it, except when I am suddenly struck by powerful wanderlust of the kind that makes me want to depart immediately for a first look at the unfamiliar city of Buenos Aires.
I am almost certain I'll like it.