Vienna Calling, Day 3

Well, it would appear that you’re all finding these posts too long and boring, and that all you’re interested in the part where I probably took five years off my life with stress. Who ARE you people? Do you fast forward films to the end just to see the “happy ending?” Anyway, it shows that I’m still up to blogging, I thought I was losing my touch! Unfortunately, long, drawn-out monologues are a specialty. Grab a beverage, we’re onto day three!

This was another one of the days that started off exceptionally late. We’d headed off back towards Stephansplatz, as yesterday’s walk was cut short by the rain. The weather looked much better on this particular day, so it was my first continental airing for my big Canon.

We didn’t really stay there long. In fact, just enough time for me to get a couple of shots of just how ornate the roof is…

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We once again headed onto the underground, and this time headed in the direction of “Schloss Schönbrunn”, the former home of the Austrian royal family before they all, erm, died. I’l just start off by saying it was rather large. There was also a tour, coming in at the cheap, cheap price of €16. You get a free audio-guide thing, which is handy, because without it, you’d know pretty much nothing about the place. For that price, I’d expect to be able to keep the bloody thing, but no, you have to put it into a box at the end of the trip. Annoyingly, two of the main rooms were under renovation when we went. You weren’t allowed to take photos in the palace itself.

One thing that totally pissed me off about a lot of tourist attractions was the “exit through the gift shop” culture. Maybe other places did this in other holidays I’ve been on, I don’t remember, but I hate it.

After the trip, we became separated. Jonathan went one way, me and Chris went the other. I attempted to phone Jonathan to let him know where we were, totally forgetting that we were about 900 miles away from home, and Vodafone passport had a 75p connection charge…

“Tue Sep 06 14:04 Voice 44798xxxxxxx 0m 8s 0.625”

Remember that VAT needs to be added to that. What’s even worse is that I incurred that charge because it diverted to voicemail. Bugger.

We reunited mere seconds later, and decided to head off to the gardens. Now, these were absolutely massive. One thing I regretted about the Berlin trip a few years ago, was not being able to stay and explore the gardens of “Sans Soucci“, in Potsdam. I wasn’t going to miss out on a second epic photo opportunity. This was almost jeapordised when it became apparent that Jonathan had lost his ticket. I don’t think I’ve heard as many swear words fly from his lips without him being behind a steering wheel.

Despite bags being emptied, pockets being ravaged into an inch of their linty lives, the little piece of paper was nowhere to be seen. Off we trudged to the customer service desk, three faces like thunder, expecting to pay another €16 for a ticket. Amazingly, and in a rare glimpse of customer service brilliance, the lady behind the counter recognised us, and without hesitation, printed a duplicate ticket.

This was the view as we walked out into the gardens.

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Stunning. The best was yet to come. For me, anyway. We’d walked around the gardens for a bit, and I really wanted to see what that big fuck-off monument looking thing was. Neither C nor J fancied the uphill walk in blazing sunshine just to see what it was, so I walked it alone. I must admit, what happened next was probably the best part of the day for me, and an accidental discovery.

I walked up to this monument thing, and noticed a grey haired guy struggling with his ticket at a turnstile that apparently led nowhere. You were free to walk around the base of this thing as much as you wanted. there was even a cafe. Just for funzies, not having a clue what it did, I put my ticket in. Bing! Admit one. It wasn’t until I looked to my left, I noticed a stone spiral staircase going upwards. It led to the top of the monument thing. The photo opportunities were just stunning.

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I felt a bit guilty spending as much time as I did there, knowing that C+J were cooking in the sunshine somewhere on the terraces while I spent about half an hour up there. The selfish side of me, however thinks, meh, their tickets were valid for this too! You should all know by now that I’m a believer in karma, and I’m sure the extra distance I walked would be the price I pay for this small time on my own, and these amazing photos.

I went back down and found C+J. One thing I didn’t realise is that these gardens are so large, they actually have their own zoo. Unfortunately, it was an extra €10 (or something), and although I actually wanted to go back, I’d forgotten about it. My life is slowly ebbing away. Will I ever take a decent photo of a meerkat?

It was still relatively early by this point, and there was still some of the garden to visit, mainly the maze. One of my life’s ambitions was to be in a hedge maze at some point. I remember, as a kid, being bitterly disappointed by the maze in the old Hartlepool museum, I expected it to be a massive hedge thing, instead it was some wood on the floor with gravel. I am happy to report that this maze is indeed made of spruce…

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There was also a “labyrinth”. It seemed odd that we managed to walk for 10 minutes on a piece of land that is 47 metres from one corner to another. At the end of it were some genuinely memorable photo opportunities, as this was the moment that my big Canon rolled its file number over, from IMG_9999.JPG to IMG_0001.JPG

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I think you’ll find it’s a fitting photo.

By this time, the heat had all got to us, and refreshments were in order. For the first time since I was 12, I had a Calippo, and they were just as good as I remembered them. Chris also joined in the sentiments and also purchased the afore-mentioned frozen treat, whereas Jonathan went for the traditionalism, and settled for a Cornetto (also known as Unicorn shit). I’m not sure whether it was the bright red shirt I was wearing, or whether the sugary treat had done something else, but I seemed to be irresistible to wasps for the rest of the day.

I think my only disappointment for this part of the day was the fact I wanted my photo taken in one of the disused guard towers. Unfortunately, the overpowering smell of piss knocked me back.

We had a sit down (and I sheltered from the wasps) in the shade of the main building, yet I still wanted to get up and take photos. Jonathan did a good job, with amazingly accurate timing, of trashing this one!

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The camera was packed away, and we headed back to the hotel. After exactly two hours, this was my walking pattern, including the maze walk…

It was only a couple of stops on the underground before we were back at the hotel. We headed back to our rooms for a short while before battle commenced on the best place to eat. The previous night had been won by a take-away noodle place. I dreaded to think what the 2nd night began with. Saying that, I could have sworn I’d found somewhere edible-looking on our way to that place. Despite retracing my steps, I couldn’t find the place. It was at this point, I gave up for the week, and let C+J decide where to eat, and the decision was to eat at the “Theater Cafe”. It looked expensive, and to be honest, it was. I opted to go for the ‘Goulash’, a meal I’d only ever experienced once before, and that was out of a boil-in-the-bag, purchased from the now burnt-down “Sweet and Savoury” factory in downtown West View. Turns out I really liked it, but at €8 for a small portion, “just in case I didn’t like it”, I felt a little gutted. Still it gave me somewhere to eat.

Unfortunately, neither my memory nor photographic records show anything else happening that night. I do believe that it was our first visit to “The Little Stage” “Irish bar”. Again, nothing about it is Irish. It serves Guinness, to a point. The pils was incredibly drinkable. The fact I was in a room full of tobacco smoke and drinkable beer took me back to a time I never thought I’d miss. Chris agreed with me, it was like those “shit at the time, but retrospectively brilliant” nights we used to spend in the Queens.

The hotel room beckoned, and I, once again, hit the foamy goodness in front of the foreign telly.

Vienna Calling, Day 2

I awoke early, whiich is pretty much traditional for these types of holiday. I think it was about 7AM, which gave me enough time to have a shower, and begin to explore the streets. It became apparent that we were in a pretty suburban area of Vienna. I found this out as I went around looking for a shop that sold toiletries. There was a chemist open. I grabbed what I needed and headed off to the counter. I handed the woman a €10 note. She blurted something in German, I shrugged my shoulders, as if to say “Englisch”? She points to the display on the till. Turns out she was asking if I had the right change.

Of course, I didn’t, as it had all accidentally fallen into the vending machine outside of my hotel room the night before.

“Ah, nein”, I reply, in the best Hartlepudlian accent money can buy. I grabbed a carrier bag, almost completely destroying a nearby display. I pretty much ran out of the shop with my tail between my legs…

OK, that was one shop down. Won’t be going back there. Luckily enough, after wandering around for 5 minutes, I found a Spar. they have them in England. This will do for me.

After stocking up on important items, such as water and coke (the fizzy kind) I headed back to the hotel in almost completely the wrong direction, to the point where I had to turn back on myself and make sure I didn’t get lost.

One thing I did find, and was considered an absolute essential until I actually tried them, were… Paprika Pom-Bears…

Surprisingly, and rather upsettingly, I found them a total disappointment. At €1.49 for, admittedly, a rather large bag, the paprika flavour just wasn’t there as abundantly as I’d liked. Paprika pringles still win in this category, I’m afraid.

Something I did notice over there, and found it pretty interesting, is that the pedestrian crossings all make a certain mechanical ticking sound, rather like a grandfather clock. This speeds up when the “green man” is illuminated. On the way back, I bumped into C+J who were up earlyish, for the first time in the entire trip. I dropped my stuff off at the hotel, and I directed them to the Spar. We then went to a nearby bakery (amusingly named “Anker” – well, amusing to us anyway. Apparently, it’s a chain store of bakeries, rather like Greggs over here.)

One thing we sorted on this full first day, and I’m glad we did, was the transport. Vienna has a decent network of underground trains, trams and buses, and all for €14 for a weeks travel. Please note, however, that the ticket is only valid for that week. It ends on Sunday night, no matter what day you buy your ticket. Buy it on Monday, 7 days travel. Buy it on Sunday, 1 day travel.

One thing they’re very “big” on in Vienna is street art. Some people call it graffiti, some call it vandalism. If you look behind the obvious “tagging”, there’s some fantastic pieces out there.

At the end of the road the hotel was on, was this beauty, which made me laugh every time I saw it…

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We made use of the train tickets, and travelled to Stephansplatz. At this point, the sun was cracking the pavements. Thunderstorms were promised later on in the day, but I couldn’t see it coming, as my body started to dessicate because of the heat. I literally thought my scalp was going to have to be ripped off. It turned out to be some possible reaction with the shower gel / shampoo the hotel had provided me with, as I avoided using this, and I was OK for the rest of the trip.

We walked around and found a place that might have been reasonable. It was on a barge-type of thing. I paid €4.75 for a bottle of water. Strange things happen to your wallet when you’re dehydrated. We headed back up to Stephansplatz to have a look around the shops. this was sort of like the expensive part of London. Shops had watches in the window with 5 figure price tags next to them. Unfortunately, the water had pretty much broke my bank account, so a watch of that price would have to wait for another day.

As promised, the rain moved in a short time later, and the distant rumble of thunder made us, and pretty much everyone else head for the underground and, for us, back to the hotel. I ended up going to bed for a couple of hours, as the heat took it out of me. I’ll say one thing about the beds, they were comfy. I think it consisted of one of those foam mattresses. I tried to show just how comfy they were by doing an action shot of me jumping on one. Unfortunately, it looks more like my belt has an erection. Oh dear.

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Eventually, I awoke, and we played pool on the free table for a short while, before heading out onto the town. One thing we struggled with when it came to finding somewhere to eat was the language. No place had an English menu outside. Chris fancied some noodles. Actually, I did too. Now, Vienna has a permanent market situated on ‘Weiner Strasse” (I don’t know how to get one of those funny double-S things), whjich after wandering around aimlessly for a mile, seemed a good place to check out. We’d learned that a place called “Mr. Lee” did noodles at reasonable prices. We ordered them to take out, but were directed to a table until they were ready, and were provided with a bowl of what can only be described as coconut milk and frogspawn. Jonathan reckoned it was semolina, either way, it was slimy and not something I’d personally order. But it was free, and gave us something to discuss while the noodles arrived.

It was a mile back to the hotel, so me and Chris attempted to eat ours, while Jonathan kept his in the bag. Now, at this point, I’ve never felt so much like a tourist in all of my life. I’m walking down a street I’ve never seem before, eating noodles from a plastic tray, with unknown additional ingredients (green stuff, I think they’re called… vegetables?), while using chopsticks… in the end I just held the tray to my mouth and just pushed the contents in with the chopsticks.

After going back to the hotel for an hour, we headed off to find a bar, and happened to find an “Irish” bar. Nothing was irish about it. Literally, nothing. I purchased 3 bottles of something known as “Gosser”. It was cold, alcoholic and at €3.30, for a 500ml bottle, reasonably priced. It turns out it was more of a sports bar

So, after three bottles of that, we headed off back to the hotel. I watched something about cutting people open on BBC World, and promptly fell asleep… I knew I’d be awake early for day three.

Vienna Calling, Day 1

So, by reading this, you’ll all be glad to know that I made it home from my trip to Vienna safely, though my luggage didn’t. that’s a rant for later on in the week.

The day is 4th September. It is 9AM. I leave Mercuryvapour Towers, with Daddykins, in order to pick Chris and Jonathan up. Just as we’re leaving the gravel driveway… “SHIT, forgot my coat…”, which meant Daddykins had to reverse back up while I fumbled around looking for my keys, grab the afore-mentioned garment, and head back out.

Half way to their house it dawned on me, that the €300 I’d got for the trip was sitting on the table. Whoops. Daddykins was less than impressed, especially because the time it took for c+J to get ready seemed like an age. Really, it was probably only about 15 minutes.

The road to the airport was uninteresting. It’s a journey I’ve made three times now, so I’m expectant at every little thing.

One thing I didn’t expect is that, checking in at the desk next to mine was none other than the entire England cricket team. I’d have been awestruck if I actually knew any of them.

Something I realised while I was in the airport, is that I actually hate them. I seem to remember having this feeling on the way back from Paris. They’re just vast, open spaces, selling you rubbish items. Some guy, who obviously didn’t like his job, attempted to sell me a credit card, while C+J exchanged some money. I saw the Mastercard logo, and I pretty much said “Not interested, but isn’t that the England Cricket team over there”? We both then had a good long chat about famous celebrities who had used the airport recently.

Later on, I passed the same guy, I asked “Have you sold any more yet?” He just shook his head and smiled.

Off we went to check-in, with the obligatory stop ‘n’ search. Waiting in the queue for this is the worst thing possible. Everything you own, including your belt, into a box. You then walk through a metal detector. If it doesn’t beep, you’re OK. If it does, you’re frisked. None of us beeped. Phew. Jonathan had to pay £1 for a little plastic bag to put his toiletries into. Laugh? I almost bought one myself.

Thankfully, there wasn’t much waiting around for the plane to Heathrow, I had enough time to dessimate the facilities (I seem to have a habit of doing this at airports), and then we boarded.

The window seat, as you can imagine was mine. No matter how often I fly on planes, I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of staring inanely out of the window. I’m just a bit gutted that you can’t film the take-off and landing.

Vienna Day 1, the journey there...

In just over an hour, I was in London, or to be more exact, Heathrow Airport. We arrived at the very posh and clean looking Terminal 5. I was hoping we’d fly from there, but no. It was Terminal 3 we were going from. I knew there would be some sitting around and wandering aimlessly at this point, but nothing quite as dull as I was expecting.

We found somewhere to get something to eat. One of those dodgy fake “pub” things. I had a chicken Tikka, Jonathan had the all-day breakfast. Chris sat there, slowly slipping on a pint of coke, staring inanely into the inky abyss. He really doesn’t enjoy flying. I was able to get an internet signal on my phone for the whole time in the airport, so that killed some time. I checked into Foursquare a couple of times

By the time we left England, the sun was setting and the moon was rising, making for some pretty impressive views over the horizon. Unfortunately, the camera couldn’t handle the reflection from the window.

Oh, one thing I must mention about airline travel, or at least BA travel is these:-

Vienna Day 1, the journey there...

They’re like korma flavoured mini poppadoms, and they were awesome. I have a feeling I’ll never be able to buy them anywhere, as they’re plastered all over the front with “Exclusively for British Airways”, but I’m going to look for them. In fact the whole reason I took that photo is so I can spend the most of today looking on the internet to see if I can find them.

So, we arrive in Vienna. My first worry came when we arrived slightly late, the plane was due in at 22:00, but by the time we’d collected baggage, etc, it was 22:45. Chris had thought ahead when he was booking the trip, and arranged a car to collect us. Would the driver be there? Thankfully he was. He introduced himself, but unfortunately, I can’t remember his name.

A drive through the night streets of Vienna told me a couple of things srreetlighting wise. They like the use of domestic fluorescent, metal halide and sodium light the main roads, and mercury is virtually non-existant.

We get to see some of the sights at night, and we drive up to the hotel. Now, I knew the location but everything I’d looked at online game a different name for it. The reason is, that it had just changed hands a couple of months ago. It showed that it was just a couple of months old, as the place was absolutely spotless. You walk through the front door, and you step into something that resembles a nightclub, as the reception desk also doubles up as the hotel’s bar. LED lighting casts violet hues over everything. There is a dining area to the left, chairs and sofas to the right, and behind the reception desk is a pool table. A FREE pool table.

We check in, I was in 318, C+J were in 303. This was great, until we actually went to the rooms. Mine had two beds in it, and theirs only had one, so we simply just swapped, not realising this could cause problems when it came to stuff like room service, and if we got locked out of our rooms. Which it did, later in the week.

So, eventually we get our rooms sorted. I then noticed something amazing. Instead of minibars, six steps away from room was a vending machine. Not just any old vending machine, however, this one served beer…

Vienna, Hotel vending machine

I’d saved a bag of coins from previous holidays, meaning I had €14 to throw inside of this thing. At €2 a bottle, it wasn’t cheap, but this bag of coins was classed as “bonus money”, therefore I’d thrown 6 bottles down my neck, a packet of crisps and a bag of Haribo teddies. I was simply amazed, and if we hadn’t swapped rooms, I’d had never known it was there.