The Bouncy Bus to Vienna

August 21, 2011 - 4:15 am No Comments

A local guy with a minivan provided us with shuttle service from Český to Vienna. He drove like a bat out of hell, swinging around the windy, crumbling roads of the Czech hills without even tapping the brakes. I don’t normally get carsick, but this was pretty extreme.

The road straightened out a bit, and we passed under a nondescript wooden canopy in the middle of nowhere. Turns out that it was the border, and just like that, we were out of the Czech Republic and in Austria. Signs changed from Czech to German, and the roads got smoother. An expressway took us into Vienna, or Wien (“VEEN”) as it appeared on the signs. Seeing the local spelling, it suddenly dawned on me where wieners and wienerschnitzel comes from.

After stopping at the hotel to check in, we took a train into town for another one of Tomi’s city orientation walks. At the train station, I spent 20 euro cents on a public scale and weighed myself with all of my gear: 96.5 kg (212.7 lbs). No wonder my feet hurt. They are used to 30 pounds less than that.

Vienna is expansive, with nothing that really stands out. It’s got some history, but there’s nothing all that impressive about it. The cathedrals, churches, government buildings, and museums all seem to have scaffolding around them. Vienna seems to be in a constant state of repair.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

Flower Shop in Vienna

Kunsthistorisches Museum

Gottfried Kumpf's Bronze Elephant

The city center was packed. I get the sense that there’s been a lot of immigration here. While Czechs and Poles have their unique characteristics, I didn’t notice a distinct Austrian “look”.

Keeping the group intact as we negotiated through the crowds was difficult. The stress of staying together, scorching heat, and head-splittingly loud police sirens made us all moody and tired, and we collapsed at the first place we found food. The curry chicken I got was nice, but the water had gas in it, completely gross in my state of overheated, dehydrated exhaustion. How does anyone find that refreshing?

Later in the afternoon, a few of us went to a Mozart Requiem concert at St. Charles Church.

Kirtan, David, Frank

St. Charles Church

Angel with Cross

Mozart: Requiem Ticket

Tourists in St. Charles Church

Choir of Mozart: Requiem

I thought I knew Mozart, but I didn’t recognize any part of this performance. And to my amateur ears, the choir reverberating in the cavernous church drowned out the strings. It didn’t satisfy my urge to hear quality classical music in Vienna. Maybe I’ll get another chance tomorrow.

After the show, we walked around some bit and ended our day with some custardy desserts.

Alex on Ka?rntner Strasse

Viennese Dessert II

Now back in the room. Frank and I are sharing a no-frills apartment. There’s no AC in the building, and leather furniture without AC is no fun. I’m getting a bit tired of being constantly hot and sweaty.

I am dumbstruck by Austrian toilets. Inside the porcelain bowl, there is a flat surface towards the back onto which one deposits his/her dirty work, giving one a chance to inspect the goods before depressing the handle to flush it off the surface and down the chute in the front. The force of the water is not nearly enough to wash away all the goods, so one must choose between spending an entire afternoon repeatedly flushing the toilet or leaving some evidence behind for someone else to enjoy. Frank seems to appreciate this “catch and release” technology, but it can be quite embarrassing when you have to share a room with someone. The way I figure it, the only way one could use an Austrian toilet without making a horrible mess is to face backwards and straddle it.

Austrian Toilet

Now halfway through my trip, I am horribly behind on this blog. My days are packed with activities, and when in transit, I find it difficult to get anything done. Short trips don’t give me enough time to properly dig into it, and on longer trips, whether by train or by bus, there’s always someone sitting next to me, very curious about what I’m doing and what I’m writing about. That makes it impossible for me to focus on what I’m doing or write freely. With my peripheral vision, I can see that they are using their peripheral vision to read my screen. When I turn and try to bust them, they look away and pretend that they weren’t looking. Of course, I can’t call them out on it because such an accusation is easily denied, would come across as rude, and could potentially make things weird between me and the accused for the rest of the trip. So instead, we keep playing this game where they look at my screen, I try to bust them, they look away, I continue to work, and they look at my screen again. I spend more thoughtcycles trying to get them not to look at my shit than I do actually doing anything productive.

The good thing about this room is that there’s wifi, so with Frank passed out like a champ on the other side of the room, I’ve stayed up very late tonight to catch up on things. There’s a special kind of detail that you get when you’re writing in the moment, and that’s why I’ve been doing by best to stay up-to-date, but perhaps I’d enjoy my trip a little bit more if I caught up on my sleep. A difficult balance to find.

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