Day 1 in Vienna
As we set off from Teichhauser on Saturday morning heading for Vienna the first thing we did was ask Google where on earth we could find someone to issue us a vignette for entering Vienna as it’s a controlled environment zone. Google told us that most places were closed seeing that Monday was a holiday (in a kind but terribly condescending voice as only Google can have!) but that the ADAC (like RAC at home) shop in Zwettl may be open. Looking up, I saw the Zwettl sign flash by but the gorgeous Mr T was on it and with a swift manoeuvre we were back tracking to the turn off and following our instructions to the ADAC shop.
We were in luck (and I mean serious amounts of it!) because the shop was open and it happened to be manned by a wonderful English-speaking lady who couldn’t have been kinder or more helpful. 30 minutes later we had our blue Euro IV sticker attached to our windscreen and we were off. As an aside we now have loads of vignettes & various stickers attached around the windscreen allowing us to drive and enter controlled zones of almost every country we have visited. lord only knows what’s going to happen to Kaya next March at her MOT – declared a fail cause we can’t see out the windscreen – what environment?
Anyhoo, the rest of the trip into Vienna was uneventful and actually quite a pleasant drive. Have I mentioned that at the start of our trip we started listening to the Robert Jordan epic “Wheel of Time”? 14 books in all and a real fantasy epic. We’re both totally into it and it passes the time as Kaya eats up the miles to our next destination.
We had chosen to stay in a campsite on the outskirts of Vienna called Klosterneuburg as it is only 12km from Vienna and a fairly easy cycle ride into town – that is if (a) you know where you’re going and you don’t confuse the Danube River with the Danube Canal, ahem, (b) you have plenty of water to rehydrate in the 33degC heat and (c) you’ve learnt from previous experience about what happens after a long day’s drive, very hot days and setting out without a plan or water (see: Lindau, Germany). All of which we, of course, ignored and set off into Vienna on our bikes – intrepid explorers that we are! I mean, really!!!!!!
I will skip forward to us at 35km under our belt in 33degC without water, without seeing any sights, ending up going the wrong way up the canal (are you sure this is river???) cycling aimlesly around Vienna, missing the glorious architecture in a red mist……..and finally after much bickering, snapping and blaming each other, here we are having soooooo much fun!!!
But after the first litre of ice water and a double G&T, we stopped arguing, started to relax and started to look around ….. and actually we were in amazing surroundings! We had just missed the beach volleyball world championships in Vienna where various sections of the canal and river had been transformed into beaches with shipped in beach sand. With volleyball now gone, these sections have now been converted into beach spots with pop-up restaurants and deck chairs all along. Really quite fabulous.
On our ride out from the campsite, the gorgeous Mr T had smelt the glorious scent of BBQ at a roadside restaurant just near the Marina. So feeling a little more friendly towards each other and starting to get a little peckish, we set off again. On the way out we had missed the graffiti under the overpass, but finding our way back on the correct path to Klosterneuberg, here it was. We love graffiti as an art form and some of these were amazing – we even caught one artist starting a new one but, as you would expect, couldn’t persuade him to part with his mask!!!
Then it was on to supper where I swear we’d been transported into an episode of Fawlty Towers! Maybe we had cycled too long in the sun, perhaps it was that the G&Ts earlier that had hit the spot or even the relief that we were hydrated and friends again, whatever it was, but we had the funniest supper ever.
Picture this for a moment: The restaurant was split into 2 sections, the kitchen, bar and till was on one side of the road whilst the garden terrace was on the other, right on the edge of the River Danube with fabulous views of the river and overlooking the Marina. The waiter, already pissed when we got there, was keeping up a constant totter across the road between the terrace and the kitchen serving food and drinks. In all good conscience the gorgeous Mr T couldn’t send him off for our order of drinks as each crossing was a little more tottery, and as only a drunk person can do, he carefully and slowly checked for traffic on each side before lurching over the road yet again, the angle of the tray precariously tilted but curiously never sloshing a single drop! So with our drinks in hand, it was time to order food – another system that had us wide-eyed and breathless! Our food order was placed with “Manuel” (he insisted and with all good grace, we couldn’t refuse!). This was then slowly and carefully transported across the road to the kitchen. He then brought our ticket back to us (please, please let there be no traffic!!) which we passed onto the man at the BBQ (not our waiter), who fortified with a slug of schnapps, proceeded to cross the road to fetch our meat, bring it back to us for proper inspection and with all delighted oohs and aahs gratefully accepted from us, he slapped it onto the BBQ. We were breathless with anticipation and a little dread that a car may appear at the wrong time but the gods were looking down on them (and us!!) and as the meat came to it’s last turn, the BBQ man tripped gracefully across the road to collect our meal accompaniments and lavishly presented us with our plates of food. They were bloody gorgeous!!!!! Perfectly cooked meats, potatoes and delicately arranged salad on boards groaning under the load of food and, boy, after 42km, we did it justice! Bear with me with I add a little note at this stage because I you might be thinking “…but they ride e-bikes so 46km in total doesn’t seem quite that bad..”. We arrived back at our campsite with nearly half our batteries left and we had charged our mobiles from them as well. So with full bellies, a mild glow from some cheap G&Ts and schnapps and aching bodies, we collapsed into bed ready to begin our lives as fare dodgers the next day.
Day 2 in Vienna
Sunday morning up with the larks…….. We had a busy day ahead of us and all very exciting. I’ve always been a bit of a horsey person and here we were finally able to watch the Lipizzaners for real!!! So, off we went to the station leaving our bicycle behind this time – as much for convenience as the preservation of our marriage!!! But buying public transport tickets from a machine in Austria is not an easy thing to do if you don’t know that Klosterneuberg is outside of Vienna. But we did our best and bought a full day Vienna ticket for all modes. Luckily over our 2 days of criminal activity as fare dodgers we saw not one ticket inspector but on day 3 when refused a bus ride into Vienna from Klosterneuburg because we weren’t in Vienna (!!!!) we suddenly realised what we had inadvertently been doing. To compound our criminal activity we had “helped” a French couple into buying the same tickets (before we knew that we weren’t in Vienna!!) so that they too were drawn into being fare dodgers for the day!!! Oh lordy lordy, I hate breaking the law at the best of times but when I know I’m doing it, I swear there’s a blinking sign above me with a massive arrow pointing out CRIMINAL But even if that were not there, my sweating brows, swivelling eyes and nervous ticks are a dead give away.
We arrived at the Spanish Riding School in the magnificent Hofburg Palace without being arrested, well in time for the start of the show and managed to find ourselves a good standing position next to a pillar. We spent the next 45 minutes fending off invaders as they tried to sidle in front of us but at 5’ tall I was not going to let some 5’1” behemoth stand in front of me blocking my view. I was adamant! I was able to take a few snaps of the arena but once the show started, no photos otherwise the light disturbs the horses. All around me people were surreptitiously filming the show while I watched on with a little envy that I was obeying the rules and not able to take any pictures. Right at the end, whilst the horses were all facing away, I decided to take a little sneaky picture of my own…..and lo and behold, my sweating brows and swivelling eyes attracted the attention of an inspector masquerading as a member of the audience who swooped in to sternly castigate me in a stage whisper that swept across the people around us (who all managed to get their phones and cameras secreted very quickly!) as I tried to melt into the pillar, flushing with embarrassment! Oh well, I guess the life of a criminal is not for me!!! But actually I was glad that we didn’t take any photos as we were able to concentrate on the show ..and what a magnificent show it was. Horses and horsemanship like nothing we have ever seen before. Precision and grace. Strength and agility. Trust and love. A true relationship between rider and stallion.
And finally as we left bursting with “did you see…?” “oh my god, what about….?”, we were able to take time to walk around the city and admire the magnificent buildings and architecture.
And then we headed off for lunch. The gorgeous Mr T, as you well know now, has been on a never-ending quest for the perfect schweinhaxe or roasted knuckle of pork covered in a rich, crisp crackling. He found it in Germany and here we were again on the hunt. Several hours of investigation had revealed a restaurant well-known to the locals with the best one on offer, so off we trotted following Google Maps to our destination. As we came closer, I started to hear funfair music and suddenly …..we entered the funfair!!! Huh????? The best schweinhaxe here????? But I didn’t want to disappoint the gorgeous Mr T by not going in, so I followed him with major trepidation – this was my worst nightmare. Crazy, loud, clashing funfair music, cars banging, screaming adolescents as they were whipped around in freaky high rides, the overpowering smell of candy floss, “scary” houses of horror eugh, what were we doing here? The gorgeous Mr T, unbeknownst to me was suffering a crisis of confidence thinking that he had brought us to this place in a failed attempt to find his nirvana but the siren call of the schweinhaxe was in his hearing and he pressed on. Suddenly there is front of us, a restaurant full of locals all digging into enormous chunks of roasted pork like nothing you have ever seen before. It was a thing of magnificence, a pinnacle of piggie magic and since then we have met several Austrians, when hearing of our visit to Vienna have all asked if we had visited Schweizerhaus. What a surprise!!!
And have I mentioned that Vienna is not only a beautiful city but a massive one as well? No? Well, just walking the centre on Sunday racked up 13,453 steps (for me) which equates to 6.7kms! Think we may just have walked off the salads!!!
Day 3 in Vienna
I’ll try not to bore you too much with today’s activities. Suffice it to say that we walked another whopping 18,915 steps or 9.4kms. Ate some wonderous food in the Nacht Markt, strolled down aisles of the most colourful olives we’ve ever seen, gazed on a magnificent marrow (!!!), drank coffee and ate cake in a Viennese coffee house, ate a slice of sachertorte and attended the most bizarre concert that night – Mozart & Strauss performed by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra. Then to cap it all, rode the train back to Klosterneuburg…..without a ticket and without getting clapped in irons! And here ends our lives as fare dodging criminals, you might ask? No, there’s more to come!!! I’m a wreck….think we need a holiday!