The City Of Music

In Sopron, my husband and I spent half a day visiting ancient ruins and the many colorful ethnic shops. Later, we figured we would drive into Vienna to sample its famous strudel, for Austria is renowned for its pastries. The capital is only a short distance by car from Sopron, but we were prepared for a thorough inspection at the border crossing, with reams of questions. We lined up with many others and crept toward the glass kiosk. There, an Austrian agent glanced at our passports, without checking for stamps or dates, and waved us through.

That was easy, easier than any inspection I had had in all my years of travel. It set me to pondering about a crossing half a century earlier, a crossing by hundreds of thousands fleeing Hungary in the space of two short weeks in 1956. For me, for my family, for those hundreds of thousands, this crossing signaled a new beginning, the start of a new life.

By nightfall, we were in Vienna, the city of music, of Beethoven, Strauss and Mozart. It teamed with life and light, with trendy clothing shops and street vendors speaking all kinds of languages. How different it was from those troubled days long passed. Now it was vibrant, packed with cars and pedestrians, and loud.

Vienna-streetsHalf a century ago, most people walked long distances. Yes, some commuted by bus, trolley, cable car or horse-drawn wagon, and some rode bicycles. But what I remember is the walking, lots of walking. What else do I remember? A field that served as a border crossing, a quick tug of the hand, a push to climb up a ridge, with gobs of mud caked on my heels. I remember trying to scrape my shoes clean on the cobblestones under a gas lamp at dawn. The streets of Vienna, in that long-ago memory, were much less traveled than now. I remember Red Cross trucks, an immense building, helpful arms inside, and flat carrybags being dispensed, brimming with oddities—toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, soap in rubber boxes, bandages, needles, thread and safety pins. To a child, these were wonders, their minutest detail never to be forgotten, the emotion of them to be imprinted for a lifetime.

The You Tube I’ve added is a film edited by Olson Wells in 1968 and 1969 of Vienna. It’s vintage but worth the watch.


About Sheila Bali

Sheila Bali, historical fiction writer, is soon to complete her novel, Swans and Cranes, based on a family’s escape from the iron grip of post–WW II Russia during the turbulent 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The book focuses on a young girl’s experiences as her family’s world is uprooted, forcing them to flee their home and country to save their lives. Sheila holds a Fine Arts Degree from Concordia University, plus two graduate degrees from McGill University in art education and special education. She now lives in San Francisco Bay Area of California and paints with colorful words. Sheila is a member of CWC Tri-Valley Branch.
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10 Responses to The City Of Music

  1. Patrick Sean Lee says:

    Such a wonderful post, Sheila! Half a century ago I remember Walter Cronkite reporting the terrible, shocking news. I think it was on CBS…So glad you and yours made it:)

    Welles’ short. Ah, what a commanding, charismatic personality. Yes, a genius of sorts I suppose. But what a TERRIBLE magician! 🙂

    Cheers. Thank you.

    • SheilaBali says:

      I blog about my recollects as a child and the reams of research that went into writing my novel. The blogs are chronological and so the first one was posted last year.
      I’ll see if I can find Walter Cronkite’s news commentary, but this will take more digging in archives. Glad you enjoyed the blog, Patrick.

  2. Bill Hayes says:

    All politics is local and all history is personal. So glad yo made it through thatperiod, pity so many didn’t.

    Great Post!

  3. Patrick Sean Lee says:

    I hope my dad was watching Mr. Cronkite, and not Huntley and Brinkley that evening, lol.

    My, how newscasting has changed.

  4. Jeannine Vegh says:

    What a great article and video. Fascinating to watch.

  5. Margaret M Dunlop says:

    we loved Vienna too – my married name is Wiener!

  6. Tel Asiado says:

    Thanks for your interesting post. Mozart, classical music & other great composers, and literature are some of my lifelong passions.

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