Spas, concerts and coffeehouses

The fibromyalgia has started to wear me down. I have pushed myself too much in the past week, but every experience has been worth it. Finally meeting my penpal after 15 years and seeing his country – worth every second of the fatigue and pain. The fibro has mostly asserted itself through my muscles and the bone-weary fatigue. My feet are especially stiff and sore; my lower back throbbing. Today I am also fighting a moderate fibrofog – head in the clouds, difficult to make decisions, takes me longer than normal to understand when people speak to me (and remember, they are speaking German and I have been trying to answer back in German…). It has only really hit today. I think the adrenaline of meeting Andreas and his family has started wearing off.

The spa on Friday helped immensely – I would be in worse shape today otherwise. Andreas, Stefani, and I spent a lazy afternoon at a spa. There are spas like this all over Austria. Envision a glamorized swimming complex. Not nearly as simple and plain as American community swimming pools, not as ritzy as American spas, not as big and loud as waterparks – a civilized combination of the three. The spa is situated over natural hot springs. For all the pools, the water is piped in as is, no tampering with the temperatures. It’s a massive complex compared to American swimming pools, yet still manageable. There are three big outdoor pools of varying temperatures, all of them hot. One is a salt water pool. Inside are a number of cold, warm and hot water pools, and a whirlpool (kind of like a hot tub). Rows of lounge chairs ring the pools. People will come for the entire day with a bag full of books and magazines.

We just spent the afternoon there, but by the end I was so relaxed and my muscles had untightened to the point my pain was less than it has been the entire trip. Soaking in the hot water, sleeping on the deck, people-watching…why don’t we have these spas in the States?

I am determined not to let the recent fibro flare impact my last couple days in Europe. I still managed to see a lot today, but I am trying to be smart about what I choose to do. I have had a classic Viennese day in a way that has allowed my body to rest. In lieu of a walking tour, I jumped on the tram that circles the city center on the Ringstrasse as a low-impact way to see and get around to some of the sights. Spent the afternoon sipping a melange (Like an American latte. Don’t ask for a latte or they will give you hot milk) in a classy but comfortable Viennese cafe. Vienna is rightly famous for its cafe culture. These classy coffeehouses are all over the city, holdovers from the glamorous days when Vienna was the capital of the sprawling Hapsburg Empire. Here you can sip a coffee all afternoon, read piles of newspapers and chat with new acquaintances. I found a cafe called the Braunerhof just a block away from the Hofburg. Caught up on the news and listened to waltzes from a live ensemble of musicians.

I also attended Mass at the Augustinian Church in the Hofburg neighborhood. This was an inspired idea on my part – I could sit for a couple hours in the splendor of the church and listen to the music of the organ and choir. This church is famous for putting on a musical Sunday Mass and the choir even sells CDs. Today’s music was from Hayden. I got shivers from the music – here I was sitting in a gloriously lit Gothic church as the heavenly church music of Hayden lifted my spirits, just as his organ and choral music was meant to be heard. Not in a concert hall, but here, in a church as the people celebrate Mass and the Eucharist. One of the most amazing concerts of my life.

Hopefully tomorrow I can start to hit the streets of Vienna in full sightseeing force, but for now, I am living Vienna through her coffee and music, and my body is all the better for it.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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