The Delights of the Vienna Airport

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We got up very early to leave Poland. It was cold, of course, and the breakfast buffet hadn't opened yet, but we were given some sandwiches and juice bottles to take on the bus. Security was practically empty, as was the rest of the tiny Krakow airport. We flew Krakow to Vienna, Vienna to Tel Aviv.

I've been to Vienna during study abroad, and the city was a little gaudy for my tastes. It was okay for a day and a half, but I had no desire to stay beyond that. Despite this memory, I found myself falling in love with their gorgeous airport! 

I used to think that airports were all the same, and that an airport would never influence someone's feelings about the city it was located in. This perspective completely changed for me when I had a connection in Beijing. 

There were about 200 passengers on a Korea Air flight that had a connection at that airport, and our plane had arrived late. If you've ever flown Korea Air, you know why it's award-winning. The service is excellent, the planes are comfortable, and the flight attendants are beautiful. 

Coming off of that flight and walking into the Chinese airport was a rude awakening back to reality. The screens showing departures were broken. The Chinese airport workers were demanding that a form be filled out for customs despite the fact that we weren't staying in China, and they didn't have any pens. I was thrown into a group of about 80 people were bouncing from one office to the next, demanding a pen and then being directed away to a different desk, which was also penless. Eventually we starting accosting passers-by for their pens, and sharing them among ourselves like a necessary piece of contraband. 

Then, we had to go through customs, again despite the fact that we weren't staying in China. There were three lanes there, but only one was open. Nearby, an airport official was making circles listlessly on his segue. 

We barely made the connection, and the only reason that we did was that they held the flight for us. Once I was seated, I reflected on what had just happened, and made a decision: if that is how China's airport is, I don't want to know what it's like outside. And so, airports can serve a function in promoting the hospitality of a place.

Back to the Vienna airport: it's duty-free section goes on and on. It's spacious. It's well-lit. It smells like pastries and coffee. There is a woman playing Mozart on the piano that echoes into the bookstore. There are Klimt prints and chocolate bars with pictures of important Viennese figures on them. Never mind that I didn't actually like Vienna, I want to give it another try, maybe my experience will better match this airport the second time around!

Art installation, those dots are me!  

Somehow I restrained myself from buying this little outfit and waiting to meet a child who it would be appropriate for me to gift it to. 

Immediately before boarding our flight, I exhausted the International NYT that we got for free from the last plane, so I bought Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl. I read the first half during our flight; it's a collection of her personal essays with interspersed American Girl-style cartoons. I love her style, her voice, and her brand of feminism. Plus, it's inspiring to see someone my age making it as a writer. One in a million can live the dream!

Our flight lasted between four and five hours, and we were practically whisked through security in Tel Aviv. This was a first for me, so I guess it helps to be with a group. We picked up our luggage and boarded a bus that drove us to the immaculate Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. 

Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.


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