I was lucky enough to be able to find a cheap set of plane tickets to spend the weekend and Monday in Vienna, Austria. For the first two days, I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine and attend a Formula 1 race. I have been a F1 fan since I was a teenager when I was first able to find the races online to watch. For years, I would get up (many times in the middle of the night for the races in Asia) and I would watch these competitions with a fascination for both the incredibly talented drivers and the complex machines they drove so expertly around the circuits. I had some money saved up from tutoring US History as a side job during my 1L year, so I used some of it to purchase a general admission ticket to the Austrian Grand Prix.
I took a red-eye flight from Pristina to Vienna and I arrived at 8am. From there, I took a 2.5 hour train ride from Vienna to the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. I arrived with just enough time to find my way around the circuit and get a good seat to view the qualifying session for the race on Sunday. It was incredible to be so close to these athletes that I had only seen on television. Now, I was just 50 meters away as they flew across the back section of the racetrack. I sat (with my McLaren-Honda hat) in the middle of a group of vocal Ferrari supporters, and soaked up the atmosphere. It was incredible, and it reminded me quite a bit of the few NASCAR races I had attended in my youth. After the qualifying session, I stayed and watched the F2 race afterwards, then made my way back to the train station and the long journey back to Vienna. I finally made it to my hostel and was able to sleep a little after midnight.
I woke up at 5:30am to catch an early morning train to the racetrack to get there in time to watch the full day's festivities, including some of the lower Formula races and the non-racing entertainers. I saw incredibly fast cars and very talented drivers ply their trade along Spielberg's short power track. It was impressive to see these young drivers work their magic in person, in hopes of one day making it to the very top and race in Formula 1 (I think Leclerc has the best shot out of the drivers I saw!). Also, during one of the breaks, I went to the Fan Zone near the first corner where they had a massive bungie cord that shot you 150+ meters into the air. In the past, I have not been much for thrill-seeking, but I opted to try for something new! It was an exhilerating experience, and you got the best view of the track at the apex of the jump! I will attempt to load the video below this post!
Being at the Formula 1 race was an incredible experience for me. While my favorite driver crashed out on at the first turn (and never made it to turn 3, where I was standing), being able to see these drivers navigate the track in-person was awe inspiring. It's one thing to watch a race on tv, but to be so close to those machines, hear the unfiltered roars of the engines, and see firsthand their raw speed down the straights is an all-together different experience. I was also lucky enough to be in the right place to have a front row view of the three most exhilarating passes/pass attempts of the weekend. It was the experience of a lifetime and one of the highlights of my summer.
I woke up early Monday morning and explored Vienna until I needed to head to the airport with my nighttime flight back to Pristina. There, I spent all morning at the art museum, sat down at a famous Austrian restaurant to have some authentic schnitzel and sacher torte dessert, and visited the National Parliament building and St. Stephens Cathedral in the center of the city. I also spent time wandering around the University of Vienna as I know W&M law has a law student exchange program with them. I got a feel for the campus and a little bit of the surrounding area so I have an idea of the university if I apply to their program next year!
That evening, after a stressful series of flights filled with delays and held planes, I finally made it back to my flat in Pristina around 1am. I went to bed and slept soundly knowing that I had seen another wonderful European capital and I had also made one of my longtime dreams come true.