This is the first in a series of posts describing my memories and experiences of in-person EGU General Assemblies! Hopefully it’ll give y’all the feel of being in Vienna, for those who have been before to reminisce and all those yet to experience it something to look forward to.
From on the wing, I look out over spring, distant Alpine giants sprinkled with confectioner’s-sugar snow, delicious and tempting, like the window of a Bäckerei. The subdued silence of a Sunday S-Bahn split by scientists converging by the baggage claim, transported down the iron river, to be deposited around Vienna through the distributary channels of the U-Bahn.
City streets, a surprisingly savage spring sunshine, huge shadows, crosswalks, boutiques and boulevards, suits, refuse collection, roadworks. I meander through block and block, making my way towards the conference centre. Bleary, a miscommunication over coffee supplies, I lurch along following my nose towards an en-route Cafeteria to jolt my brain into action, followed by a breakfast pretzel to replenish vital salts and soak up last night’s catch-up with old friends.
My path takes me to the arteries of the city, pulsing with transit, first below the bridged S-Bahn and ÖBB between Handelskai and Traisengasse, then circling on a concrete thermal above the busy dual carriageway, to soar over the Donau on the Brigittenauerbrücke. The roaring Autobahn provides the final spaghetti of concrete to cross before being released into Donaupark.
The suddenness of space as I step out from between the blocks onto Brigittenauerbrücke shocks my system, exposed into a sweltering blue sky, a continental high pressure sun, a dry scent of rubber and Alpine breeze. Below me, pearlescent flux, an amorphous opal thread woven under bridges, between streets, past towering spires and around pleasure-park playground isles, languorous but full of potential energy in suspense, the Donau flows, altered course but constant presence through geological time.
The peace of the park, its melodic blackbird symphony, warblers perched on ornamental bushes, azalea and acer, is slowly underscored by a growing tremor, a tremblement de terre of 15,000 international geoscientists approaching the prismatic, brutalist Austria Center. White blossom, excoriating in the spring morning light, apple and cherry and pear, lining the paths that plod through trimmed meadows. A final ramp takes me under the arch of the Saturn Tower to arrive on Earth, with earth scientists, awake, and alive, and ready for the first day of the General Assembly.