Who do you think you are? The President?

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In 2002, a few relatives and I decided to drive from Poland to Vienna with the intention to sight see as well as visit other relatives.  We visited all the major sites and saved a visit to the Schönbrunn palace as our last stop before seeing my aunt.  When we got there, we saw a huge line of people in a wide variety of dress. Some were in business suits others were dressed as tourists, we noticed that the “suits” kept getting pulled to the front of the lines while the people dressed in regular clothes were staying behind. we got in line out of curiosity. While in line we spoke a mixture of Polish, German and English. The guards who had pulled people out of line walked directly up to us and instructed us to follow them. Slightly worried for our safety we hesitantly followed the guards who took us off the main tour of the Schönbrunn castle and took us through back rooms not open to the public, to a room gilded in gold and full of tuba players.

All the suits we had seen before were in this room causally speaking English. We were then instructed to go through a metal detector and told to leave all our personal items in the current room and that we would receive our belongings after our visit. My father finally asked our visit with who? The guard responded Thomas Klestil. We still had no idea what was going on, but we followed the line of suits to where a man and woman were shaking hands with everyone in line and speaking a few words. When it came to be my father’s turn he just said, “Hello, my name is Edward I’m from America, and I am happy to be here”. The man spoke eloquently in English as did his wife and they welcomed us to their country and wished us a pleasant stay. Once we left the room and got our belongings we were ushered to another room with photographs of the man and his wife. Turns out we had been given first class service to meet the President of Austria and his wife. It was a national holiday when we went to Vienna and the “suits” had actually been dignitaries of Austria we had just gotten in line for the welcoming procession of a Luncheon hosted by President Thomas Klestil of Austria.

Since then everyone in my family still travels a lot but before a trip it’s become customary to have the following conversation:

Where are you going? The person responds with a certain location. Who are you visiting this time? My uncle, maybe a cousin, oh, and the president.

Tanya Bator

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