Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
149Trip End Ongoing
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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 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
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
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
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.