We caught the ICE from Brussels Midi station last Thursday evening to go to a party in Vienna. The BordBistro, which is one of the things I appreciate about these German trains, had less good food than usual, but I could still drink a Weissbier. At Cologne we picked up the night train to Vienna. The 2-person compartment was clean and new. German railways withdrew their night services a couple of years ago. We owe a lot to the Austrian railway company, ÖBB, for keeping theirs going. It would be nice to have a little table, though, like on the Russian night trains.
In the morning the Austrian countryside was flat. The sky was curdly. We came into Vienna first thing and got the S-Bahn to Rennweg.
The hotel let us have a room straight away, a big room with a small window with a view over the city towards a new Russian orthodox church. Joy – a kettle, teabags, a Nespresso coffee machine. I could hear the hooves of horses drawing tourist fiacres.
At first I wasn’t so taken with the city. I found the grand late Victorian buildings florid – Manchester has some of the same things, for example on Portland Street, and I don’t like them either. Recent buildings showed flat stucco.
When you weren’t looking at a McDonalds
you were looking at a McDonalds sign.
The public transport system had an ugly square typeface, low ceilings, overlit spaces, angular angles.
Heaven/ Heaven is a place/ Where nothing/ Nothing ever happens.
But oh the public transport itself is marvellous. You can use it like water. Like turning on a tap.
And there are some lovely sculptures across the city of water creatures.
And of air creatures.
And of Mark Anthony in a chariot drawn by lions.
I was interested in the graffiti
(Europe without Greece is like a party without drugs)
and in the candle pricing policy practiced by St Stephan’s cathedral.
We went to a book reading by the author Robert Pimm, at the Café Korb. The electric bus, 2A, dropped us off right outside. His thriller Blood Summit kept me up till two. He said that he once went to a reading by P.D. James. She said that up to a point in one of her books, she didn’t know who did it. When he heard that he stopped wanting to read her. If she doesn’t know, how am I supposed to work it out?
In preparation for the party I went for a haircut in a city centre hairdressers with high ceilings and a parquet floor. A boy in a black elf costume gave me a 0 and a hot cloth head rub. How much will that be? I asked the tattooed leather-wearing manager. He looked at my head and smiled. You can have that for nothing, he said. Just give the boy a tip. Enjoy your visit to Vienna.
On Saturday the snow came down.
The party was at the British embassy, dancing late, and brunch there on Sunday morning.
The embassy crockery includes a set of egg cups.
Leaving the embassy we passed an anti-Putin demonstration corralled outside the Italian embassy; then a people queuing to vote in the Russian election (voting music was being played); then the Orthodox church we saw from our window.
On Sunday evening, after a visit to Cohen’s Smartfoods at the railway station, it was time for the train home.
Things that were different from home (Belgium): good internet in every café and restaurant. No bread with meals. You are expected to write the tip into the card payment machine, not leave a separate quantity of cash. The hotel room had a kettle. (It warned, however, that the kettle was for water only.)
On the way home we had a bit of a to-do at Frankfurt airport station; that’s another story.