Great expectations

Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Austria  ,
Sunday, October 1, 2006

I left Znojmo at eight-thirty on Sunday the 1st October, intending to head east for 70km, stay the night in a town on the border, and head into Austria the next day. However, after about an hours ride I came to a cross-roads, straight on was the plan, and right was Austria and the most direct route to Vienna. Partly because I'd forgotten where I was supposed to be heading, partly because it was there and partly from a desire to be back in a German speaking land, I turned right and made for the border.


Crossing into the border town of Laa, I finally had the opportunity to show my passport to a border guard. I suspect the halcyon days of borderless countries may be over. It being a Sunday was slightly less of a problem here than in the Czech republic, indeed from the moment of crossing the border there was a sense of greater affluence and economic activity. I found an ATM (I always feel uneasy, after crossing borders, during that short space of time when I am completely penniless in the new currency) and a petrol station, where I hoped to find a map of the local terrain. It was absolutely impossible, even just north of the border, to buy maps of Austria in Czech republic. I know not why. The petrol station had no maps, but the man behind the counter told me the road I was on was a main road, unfit for bicycles, and I should take the road to X (X being a place I can't remember), for 12 kilometers and then head for Vienna. I followed his advice for about 500m, where I found another petrol station which did sell maps, bought one, and found he was sending me on a massive detour to avoid a perfectly good road. I chose to believe that this was a mistake on his part.

I struck out in the right direction, and after 10km came to a road sign which read "vienna 50km". I'd done 60km by this point, and it was still only 2o'clock, so I thought to hell with it, lets go all the way. A little further on I found a signed cycle route which added about 5km onto the route but was traffic free, scenic and well signed, so I decided to follow that. The route was beautiful, despite intermittent spots of rain, lightly overcast sky and occasional chilly gusts of wind. However, after my projected 110km day was complete, I found I was still in the middle of a field. When the signs had said 50km to Wien, they meant the outskirts. It was like expecting to arrive in Trafalgar Square but actually arriving in Bexleyheath (i.e. a disappointment). It was a further 20km to my hostel. Luckily they had a bed free and it was a clean, well run hostel, so once arrived it didn't take too long to feel human again.

While I was making my bed, one of the other residents of the dorm came in, a Canadian called Michelle, and invited me to join her and the other two people in the room for a drink in the bar. Though tired I was in the bar by eight pm (never one to be a martyr...). Bill and Kelly were the other two, also Canadian, and we drank and got to know each other until 11, when we headed out to a nearby discotheque or 'club'. It was actually a surprisingly fun venue, and I stayed until about 1am.


On Monday I set out to get my bearings, which as usual involved the tourist office, and then a walking tour of the city centre. I read that you can see a lot of the cities sights if you follow the inner ring road, so I did that. I found a lot of impressive buildings but the traffic, both car and pedestrian, and the commercial activity detracted from experiencing Vienna as a thing of beauty. In the evening I went to the bar with the others and there were bold plans to head for the 'bermuda triangle'- an area of vienna famous for pubs and clubs- that night. However, I had forgotten to eat all day. After a few pints I was ready for bed.


The next day I went back into the city and in the evening met up with Annie, who I met in Brussels but is now studying in Vienna. We went for dinner and ice-cream and wandered around chatting. It was great to re-meet someone from my travels- it was like seeing an old friend, and more generally helped the friendships I'm forming as I go seem less fleeting.


On Wednesday evening I went to the very highly regarded "Porgy And Bess" Jazz club. I paid eleven euros to listen to traditional-indian-music-style violin and a man wrestling an eight-string double-bass. Not what I was hoping for and very overpriced. This was fast becoming my image of Vienna, a city I had been looking forward to from day one. I had intended to leave on Thursday morning, but I was determined to give Vienna one more day to redeem itself.


Having decided to open myself to the best of Vienna, I began the day by making my way to the morning training of the Spanish Horseriding School. This is an ancient tradition from way back when. The riding school itself is a huge, ornate building, much like palaces and classical town halls in other towns except it's a riding school. You can watch the horses and jockeys train to the soundrack of Mozart, Schubert and Bach, lit by chandeliers.

In the afternoon I went to see the Picasso exhibition in the Albertina (Vienna'a main art gallery). The exhibition was of Picasso's later works, from what is variously known as his green period, his Jacqueline period, and (by me) his dirty-old-man period. Many paintings and etchings depicting sex and sexual tension, either implicit or explicit. The text suggested this may have stemmed from both the personal and societal tensions of Picasso being wed to a girl 45 years his junior. I concur. Some of the paintings were pretty good though. (Quelle surprise)

In the evening I went to the Volksoper. Opera being one of the things for which Vienna has a "Reputation", I felt somewhat duty bound. The performance was The marriage of Figaro, and after my inability to follow puppet-Don Gionanni, I took the wise precaution of googling "marriage of figaro plot" and studying the results. Through stategic (I had been well advised) late arrival at the boxoffice, and flashing my (out of date, but don't tell anyone) student card, I managed to purchase a ticket for the front row of the lower balcony, (in my view, one of the best seats in the house) for Eight Euros. Intending to fortify myself before the performance I had nipped to the cafe over the road for a sandwich and a glass of very drinkable red wine. This did not have quite the intended consequence- but while snoozing through the second act I dreamt of excellent music. At half time I scoffed some more food, coffee and water, hoping that this would perk me up for the finale. With this keeping me going, and the advantage that Acts III-V are much easier to follow without understanding the words, I was able to enjoy the rest of the show as Mozart probably intended (viz. conscious). It was actually good fun- I have resolved to see more operas on this trip, as you dont lose out much if you don't speak the language.

I left Vienna the next morning with a greatly improved sentiments towards the city. It wasn't what I was expecting, but that's my fault for having inaccurate expectations. It is a large, expensive city, but I enjoyed it in the end.
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dynamo on

Re: Misdirections
Typos have been duly corrected, thank you for your pedantry. This is what happens when you nag me to get this thing updated.

kirstyscotter on

I have just come across your blog and I love it although I am from Bexleyheath so don't diss it mate ahaha and Dartford is not far off!!!

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