It all seemed pretty normal until I really thought about it. I’m just on vacation wandering the streets in a strange city, but it doesn’t feel strange because I am actually experiencing it first person. I stop for a festival in the square, have a glass of wine, just as I would grab a lemon shake-up at a festival back home. Until I look up and realize how surreal this is.
I am in Graz, Austria, which I had not heard of until two weeks ago, where the baroque city hall (from 1823: it says so right on the front) presides over a stage where two fiddlers play Hungarian music. (Although they are talented, I can see why Hungarian folk music doesn’t top the charts back home.) I talk to the tourist board from a place called Bük, which has a booth here, advertising their thermal baths. Never heard of that place, either. Maybe one day I will end up there and write a story about that, too.
The cheap Hungarian wine (served in a real wine glass) gives me a sudden headache, so I shelter myself beside the fountain where Graz city life goes on, unaware of my alien observation. On the right, the fountain bubbles, just as it has for decades (centuries?) before I arrived and will continue to once I am gone, another transient passing through. On the left, trams pass by outdoor cafes. Couples wander by, wasting the evening. A bored man on the smart phone sitting near me could be imported from anywhere. He is clearly not chatting with anyone, clearly wasting time, not looking up, not realizing how strange (yet normal) this all is to a foreigner just ten feet (3 meters for those reading in Graz) away.
(And I bet he has no idea he’s in this story … unless he saw it on his smart phone).
Written June 27, 2014/Graz, Austria.