As I exited the underground train station at the end of Vienna’s northern U-Bahn line, a glistening high rise complex of buildings loomed up in front of me. It was the *United Nations in Vienna. The sweeping Danube River was flanked by a busy highway. The contrast to historic downtown Vienna made me feel like I had just entered another country.
I met **Servas Host Anneliese at this underground train station for the first time. We proceeded along the Danube River by bus to the two-bedroom flat which she shares with her husband Hans, who is a tech engineer.
The view from the wrap-around deck of their glass-enclosed, 5th floor penthouse was stunning, even through the fog. The broad Danube River flowed on one side of the building and the narrow Old Danube on the other. They bought their apartment in 2013 before their building was built, and moved into it on completion in 2016.
For dinner Anneliese prepared apple strudel using her Hungarian Grandmother’s recipe. She also prepared a Hungarian-influenced pasta dish with unprocessed cheese and bits of bacon on top. This dish is only found in Vienna and eastern Austria because of the close connection with Hungary here. She commented that cooking soothes her after a long day of teaching high school students.
Anneliese, Hans, and I had a long discussion in the evening which included their lifestyle, the United Nations in Vienna, languages, politics, the former East Bloc, and international travel.
With great enthusiasm, Anneliese told me that she and Hans have had the opportunity to occasionally attend sessions at the United Nations in Vienna as representatives of Servas, because it is an international non-profit organization (NGO) with consultative status, and they live nearby.
The United Nations in Vienna
My English-speaking tour of the United Nations in Vienna was led by a French woman. Our group of 20 international guests passed through passages and hallways visiting stretches that included exhibits and an international conference room with viewing gallery. A fascinating variety of beautiful artwork and gifts given by member nations adorned walls and passageways.
We paused at an exhibit in a large hall of a string of informative posters about WWII and a video, all of which were being presented in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27th). In a video the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, was giving a speech at the UN. Not having time to ponder the exhibit, I quickly took photos of as many posters as time permitted in order to read them later.
One brisk afternoon I took a walk along a dirt path near Anneliese and Hans’ building that follows the Old Danube. In the summertime Anneliese takes long walks here and swims in the canal regularly. The narrow stretch of land on the opposite side, which can be reached by occasional walking bridges, is a lovely park that extends for miles.
Hans and Anneliese are intrepid world travelers and were heading on a one week journey to Jordan a few days after we parted ways. Through my acquaintance with them, I was able to experience life in the far reaches of Vienna along the Danube River, and at the same time acquire insight into the United Nations in Vienna.
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