The Figs On The Train From Vienna


I once attended a three-day wedding with my boyfriend during the summer solstice in Krems, Austria. It took place at the groom’s father’s castle. One of the events of the weekend was a masquerade ball; we dressed in costumes rented from the Vienna Opera and were treated to a waltz lesson in the ballroom by a relative who was in the Vienna Ballet, followed by a private, spectacular fireworks display.

The ceremony itself was moved from the courtyard to a hay loft because of the weather. The couple took their vows accompanied by the steady beat of the rain and a view of the mist rising from a neighboring vineyard. It was the fruit of that vineyard’s labor that filled our glasses all weekend.

But this is not a story about celebratory feasts, or our last-minute decision to empty our bank account and fly halfway around the world for a party. This is a story about figs.

On the day of the masquerade ball my boyfriend and I decided to go into Vienna. Having been with English speakers all weekend, it did not occur to us until we exited Wien Westbahnhof that we were alone in a foreign country and had no idea, even how to ask someone, what to do next. But somehow we managed, because I remember marveling at the Klimts in the Belvedere; St. Stephen’s Cathedral seemed so dark and severe, perhaps in protest of its seemingly whimsical roof tile design; we ate enormous wurstel sandwiches while riding on a Ferris wheel in an amusement park. A helpful man who smelled like onions showed us how to use the ticket machine for the subway.

We were pressed for time as we returned to the train station, and hurried past a woman selling figs. She was ancient and seemed to blend into the concrete wall behind her. The figs were an unimaginable shade of green in the late afternoon light. It was a snapshot moment in a whirlwind of memories from that weekend.

Just as we were about to get on the train my boyfriend said, “Wait. Those figs.” He was off like a shot, and returned holding a bag of figs above his head in triumph just as the final whistle blew. All the seats on the train were taken but the vestibule was spacious, empty and had a large window. We sat down on the floor and as the city gave way to suburbs and then fields and pastures, we ate those figs and talked about the things we’d done that day. Sometimes we were quiet and looked out the window at Austria passing by.

The fruit was still warm from the sun, and as delicious as you are imagining right now. But they were more than just their smell, or their taste, or their remarkable color. I quite clearly remember thinking: “This is what traveling tastes like.”

Have you ever tasted travel?

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo and HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.


14 thoughts on “The Figs On The Train From Vienna

  1. You took me back to Vienna… only for me it was another street food: lángos covered in pungent garlic! I ate it while walking in the ice cold rain in late October with one of my best friends in the world.

    Food, aroma and travels: they are so integrally connected in the brain! Thanks for sharing your memories, which inevitably brought back my own.

    • Oh man, that sounds delicious! They are indeed connected, and thanks for sharing your memory, too.

  2. What a wonderful post.

    A few years ago I went on a road trip with my mom and oldest niece and nephew to Montana. One evening we stopped at the general store near the entrance to Glacier Park and were going to grab a bite to eat in the diner when we noticed the fresh huckleberry pies by the counter. My mom looked at me and smiled and I nodded and she bought it and that was our dinner that night. It felt so right, you know? It tasted like summer, and that awesome feeling you get when you’re away from home and you know it’s okay to indulge in something you’d otherwise never do. Like we were getting away with something.

    We still talk about that pie all these years later.

    • LOVE! Yes, yes, yes. My mom and I would eat ice cream for breakfast on really hot summer days.

  3. Oh, I love it!!! Thank you for entering this!

    And I love everyone else’s stories too – you should *all* enter our Grantourismo blogging competition!

    I have a wonderful fig memory too – Terry was in Lebanon working on one of our Lonely Planet Syria and Lebanon editions and I joined him from Dubai with my Mum in tow. We were in the far south and had hired a driver for a day to take us around. Before we set out he invited us to see his home and meet his family. In the courtyard he presented us with a bowl of figs picked fresh from his tree – they were the most delicious and juiciest figs we’ve ever eaten, the sweet liquid dripping down our wrists. I’ll never forget them.

    Good luck!

    • Look at that! Figs uniting travelers around the world. Now figs are a normal fruit choice, but back then they seemed so exotic. Thanks for sharing your travel taste!

    • By the way, we had a fig tree when I was growing up. And a plum tree. It was so cool to just reach up and eat whenever I wanted.

  4. Great story. It’s amazing how evocative the smell or taste of something can be, taking you straight back to a specific point in time.

  5. driving from charleston to north carolina, you’ll see fruit stands along the highway. get out of your car, and grab a basket of peaches. forget everything you’ve heard about georgia peaches. just taste a south carolina peach with the juice going everywhere (transforming you and your car seat into one sticky, conjoined mess) and drive on with the window rolled down. that’s a taste of travel.

    thanks for bringing back that memory…

    xx kate

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