Dream trip Day 68 More rain, another HRC pin, metal bar

The loneliness hit me hard this morning. I questioned my decision to travel. What am I really doing here?

I laid in bed and soon realized that I could go home whenever I wanted, just buy a ticket and leave.

I could do whatever I wanted. Few people ever get to say that in their lives and here I am, in Vienna, moping about, woe is me.

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Ribs would help me get over most anything I reckoned.

I knew the local brewery down the road would be good and inexpensive compared to the tourist brewery I was at the night before.

The pretty Asian server was there and we again had communication issues, but nothing that couldn’t be solved via pointing at the menu.

Really good pork ribs were delivered soon after my pint.

I’m not sure why I was surprised by the availability of ribs throughout Europe. I knew they have pigs sure, so I guess it was just the Texan in me thinking no one does it as well so why would they try?

Everyone, everywhere cooks similar things and some are probably better than you’re used to.

It’s ok to think your area’s version is the best, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying because it’s different. Not better or worse, just different.

After ribs n beers I took a longer, circuitous route next to the river on a gravel walkway so I could see the island restaurants and bars that were in the river.

I had walked past another Hard Rock Cafe and knew I needed a pin for my brother. How this chain selected locations I literally stumbled upon was quite amazing.

I never searched for one, I’d always seemed to pass by one on my way to another landmark.

After my pin was secured I popped back to my hostel and picked up my clothes.

I dropped off the pin and clothes in my room and walked the short distance to the metal bar.

It was small, L shaped bar with seats for maybe 7 people.

The bartender saw me and walked over my way. He looked like a biker: long grey hair, multiple silver earrings in each ear, leather vest exposing his tattoo sleeves, a chain wallet and ripped jeans completed his outfit.

‘Muraurer, bitte,’ I said.

He asked a question in German, I shook my head, then he asked another question in French!

‘Uh English please.’ I stammered.

‘Oh wow ok you don’t look English, haha,’ he exclaimed with a hearty laugh. He then pronounced the beer properly as he cracked it open.

I handed him a note and out came a huge leather wallet from a leg pocket that opened up revealing a number of smaller sections for different note denominations plus a pocket for change.

He pulled glasses from his vest and slowly counted back my change.

‘We don’t get many Americans here, they don’t seem to like Vienna!’ He said as he guffawed.

I sat at the corner of the L, window behind me. In front of me down the bar were three guys, one was eating soup.

They spoke Austrian and the bartender joined them in conversation.

A bottle from a shelf behind the bar was pulled down and they all took a shot.

80’s hair metal blared from the speakers.

I sat near the door and people watched out the window awhile. No one to talk to here it seemed.

A pretty gothic looking girl with multiple facial piercings walked in accompanied by a skinny guy with his hair pulled back in a pony tail.

The skinny guy hugged the bartender who then handed him a cash drawer.

He disappeared through an archway, a sign posted above a drawing of a smoking cigarette and an arrow pointing down.

Smokers lounge was inside, in the basement.

It didn’t make sense until I thought about the weather, it snowed here so they probably wouldn’t want to huddle outside.

As if on cue, it began to rain pretty hard. Guess I wasn’t going anywhere for a while.

I waved and got the bartender’s attention for another beer.

Now Black Sabbath was playing, I always liked those guys.

Another shot went down with the guys so with no one to talk to I figured I could at least kill a few minutes and check out the basement smokers lounge.

These old buildings were for shorter people, I nearly bonked my head on the low ceiling as the stairs spiraled down.

The lounge was tiny, a small bar to the left of the stairs with a couple of chairs, a couch was in an adjoining room.

A wooden shelf jutted out of the stone wall to the right, no chairs, but it was an ideal place to rest your beer.

The music was loud down here, uncomfortably loud. I was the only one here aside from smoking goth girl and bartender who somehow were holding a conversation despite the blasting hair metal.

The walls were covered by promo photos of forgotten 80’s bands, most I’d never heard of so I presume they were local acts.

A few photos were signed, all framed in long precise rows.

It was a small space, loud, and reeked of stale smoke, beer. I had to get out.

Back upstairs, I noted it had stopped raining and I was now the sole person in the bar.

The bartender grinned at me and held another bottle in his hand. Now he was interested in talking to me because he didn’t have anything else to do.

Why not make a friend over a beer? Not often you get to talk to an Austrian after all.

He had been to Texas and was amazed at how big it was.

‘I flew over it and it was such a long flight I fell asleep! Haha,’ he wheezed.

My Austrian friend had lived all over the world. In the US, Switzerland, France which made me wonder what exactly he did for work that allowed him to move so often.

Our talk eventually came to music. I do enjoy hard rock, metal, so I mention all the classical history of the city.

‘Ah you enjoy symphonies. I love opera! Haha!’ he exclaimed.

I wish I were making it up, but he indeed laughed after nearly every sentence he said.

‘I like metal, but I love opera. I need fucking passion!’ He exclaimed.

We talked about some of his favorite operas and my favorite symphonies.

I mentioned music memory contest held in elementary school as my I introduction to classical music.

‘Haha, we are born with that music here in Austria! And why is everything in the States a contest?’ he exclaimed.

Mozart came up and he highly recommended Salzburg, Mozart’s home village.

I had a chance to go to Salzburg after my visit to Munich, but I chose Zurich.

I soon finished my beer and more people wandered in so I felt it time to leave.

I waved to my new fiend and he grinned and toasted me with his beer.

This bar was very close to my room which was great as it started raining again.

If I walked close to the buildings the awnings kept me dry.

Once I got inside, I decided to hang outside in the courtyard with the smoking chess masters.

No conversation, they were really all in on chess.

It stopped raining, so I sat a moment and reflected on my stay in Vienna.

Since 3rd grade I’d dreamed of Vienna, Mozart, and the Danube River and here I was, in the very city, breathing in the same air, seeing the same buildings. Wow !

Now my time was over here.

Tomorrow I was on to Prague.

Beer: Murauer  Märzen

Song: Mozart’s  Requiem

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Dream trip Day 67 Walk through the (historic) park, protests, 1516 brewery

The days were usually very overcast and I grew paranoid about being caught in the rain so I would stay in my room, writing and researching my next move until the afternoons.

Doing some research I located a castle and park a short walk away through Vienna’s city centre.

I also began to realize I was weary of making decisions, walking everywhere. I missed conversation, my friends.

Hours of introspection sound nice, but if silence is forced on you, as in sitting at a communal table and no one speaks English, well now I know what being alone in a crowd means.

This hostel offered free laundry service so I packed up everything except what I was wearing and dropped them off with the friendly receptionist.

All the hostel receptionists were super friendly and welcoming, they usually were the only people I talked with so I tried to think up a question to ask for a bit of conversation.

‘What’s a good place for coffee? What is a cool landmark to see? Where do you like to go in town?’ Those types of small talk helped me stay connected.

I was directed by the receptionist to a coffee spot inside the park that I had walked around in this area, but never walked through. It was huge space, a full square city block.

The coffee spot was still closed but I did walk around the grounds which were full of flowers and a small fountain full of turtles.

This was a royal summer residence turned to a park and art museum.

There was a small coffee shop across the street so I had a cup there and plotted my route downtown.

It was pretty much a straight walk down the street, only 1 turn.

I passed by a rock bar and made note how close it was to the hostel. Maybe tonight or tomorrow.

Vienna was a pretty city to walk around but it seemed to not have many big or historic landmarks. None of those things that you have to see like in other cities, this was just a city filled with old, elegant buildings.

I came to a huge, Gothic cathedral, sadly undergoing renovation as one side was covered in scaffolding.

Across the street was Sigmund Freud Park so I walked around for a more head on view of the cathedral.

I wound up in wino central, as several approached me for euros, others just sat on a bench close and passed out. Time to split.

The park is near a bus, tram stop so that’s likely why it was so full of winos.

Soon I make a left and the avenue opens up and cars are replaced by bikes and horse and carriages.

I soon find a film festival area in front of a large ornate building. A large screen is in front of several temporary bleachers.

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Alas they only show films after sunset.

There are food booths on the walkway to the screening and each stall offers a different country’s cuisine.

The servers are all dressed in their restaurant country’s attire, a great attention to detail, but stereotypical.

I know most Germans don’t wear lederhosen and presume Aussies don’t wear all khakis a la Steve Irvin.

Soon I’m in Volksgarten, a huge green space in the middle of the city.

Benches, roses and statues are everywhere. Many people are picnicking, children are running and laughing. It’s a very calming place.

The history is wonderful as well, Johann Strauss, Brahms and other composers have conducted symphonies here.

I closed my eyes and try to imagine what that would’ve looked and sounded like over a hundred years ago.

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This is my favorite pic all grey so the yellow really pops!

All those wigs, huge dresses, very formal attire, seated near a small symphony, the poor likely lined on the other side of the metal fence, fighting for a view.

Across from the park is another public space in front of an ornately decorated building likely used for government purposes long ago.

I hear singing, trumpet and drums. I soon see about 50 people marching around the grounds.

I follow them and they make a circle, dance a jig while circling a guitarist, drummer in the middle before moving into a courtyard nearby.

A man holds up a megaphone and begins talking in Spanish. I don’t get the gist of their protest, but they have Mexican flags waving.

Perhaps this is calling for justice for the missing students, overall corruption in Mexico, trade practices, I’m not sure how or why this is going on  in Austria.

I grow a bit hungry and located a brewery whose beer I’ve previously had on this trip a short walk away.

Past elegant fountains and street performers to the end or start of the tourist quarter, I locate the brewery just off the main street.

I pull up a stool at the bar and order a pint.

I’m seated next to a lady and Japanese man who is eating a whole pig’s worth of ribs, a tremendous quantity.

He is practicing his English, she has never been to Japan and is from St Louis I put together eavesdropping.

I attempt to make an aside to join in but she is set on only talking to the Japanese guy, which I get, that’s why you travel.

She can talk to anyone about St Louis but only on this trip will she get to talk to a Japanese guy.

I have a few pints, making small talk to the two bartendresses as the tap is directly in front of me so we are always looking at each other as they pour pints.

I’m careful to be a considerate tourist as they are just in college, young ladies so I focus questions about the city, country.

They are both from rural Austria and don’t know much about the city activities and weren’t aware of the film festival going on a short walk away. They just go to school and work apparently.

Soon the people next to me leave so I get a light snack, soup, to sate my hunger and save a bit of €.

This was a tourist spot and the prices reflected that. Servings were huge though.

I finish up my pint and head out.

City centre is even more beautiful at night when it is lit up by streetlights against the night sky.

The walk back takes longer as I walk slower taking it all in as well as trying to capture a picture of this night scene.

I pass by the rock bar and decide to save it for tomorrow.

The hostel sells beer so I get a bottle and sit outside watching the chess masters smoke and argue about strategy.

A light rain lulls me to sleep, a cool breeze from my open window is also welcome end of the evening.

Beer: Sipper Pale Ale

Song: Blur Mirrorball

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Dream trip Day 66 Wien, new hostel, new friend, new blues

After checkout, I had about 4 hrs to kill before I could check into my new hostel. This one did not have a free breakfast but did have a cafe with a barista.

‘Kafe with milk please.’ I asked.

‘Ok, please sit, I bring to you. Pay after,’ said the barista.

He proceeded to make me a latte to my puzzlement. Sigh, I still had a lot to learn about coffee ordering it seemed.

I sipped my latte and hunted for a lunch spot as the hostel would tolerate you for only so long, not all day.

I overheard a business meeting going in a few tables away. From what I could translate, the couple were buying a house in Germany.

After my latte, I walked to a main street that lead into the city, there’d be a place to eat on it and it was on the way to my next hostel.

There was a pizza joint as I turned right heading into town. Nah, need to attempt to try something Austrian.

I saw a spot with a sign advertising lunch specials. It was a nice day and it had large, open windows.

I ordered a spoetzel, noodle dish, but with meatballs. It was close to spaghetti and meatballs, but no tomato sauce, more meat broth sauce. Plus the noodles were thicker than even tagliatelle. Very good.

The place I moved to turned out to be college dorms that weren’t used in the summer by the look of them.

Three stories of single bed rooms, each with a desk inside. Each floor had gym style showers,  1 gender per floor. This way there weren’t any encounters in the showers.

It was cloudy, near rain so I stayed in my room and wrote for a bit, then napped.

I’d located another brewpub a short walk away so I dressed and walked.

There was a huge park I saw along the walk and made a note to explore it tomorrow.

The beer was good at the small pub. They made 3 beers from light, amber and a stout. This way they had a beer for everyone.

I liked small places like this, they made just enough beer for their customers, it was never sold anywhere else. Likely they were made from an old family recipe.

I got a bowl of soup, seemed like the right thing to have as it was an expensive restaurant more than brewery.

It was still early so I located another brewpub and walked that way.

Instead of going in, I spied an Irish pub across the street. Time to switch it up.

Again, a subtly attractive bartendress took care of the entire pub. At the bar and outside she walked around ever so often.

I didn’t know how she handled the volume and still managed to suck down cigarette after cigarette, but she always seemed to be in a corner smoking.

I sat at the bar next to a thin guy hand rolling a cigarette and ordered a beer.

‘Ah you are English or American?’ He asked.

We chatted for a while. He was from a small city in Germany, but was studying in Vienna. He loved skiing and loved America.

He was fascinated about the Grand Canyon, Mississippi River and any mountains that could be skied. He was surprised I didn’t ski.

‘It is so great to talk to an American. Not many come here and are so friendly and cool. Let’s take a shot.’ he said excitedly.

We talked scotch for a while, that’s what he was sipping on. I told him I enjoyed scotch at home, but it was expensive compared to beer and I had to save money.

He soon grew silent after his beverage and after a while announced he had to leave.

Taking my hand to shake, he leaned in and kissed me on the cheek, then smiled. ‘Really good talking to you, good travels,’ then he disappeared.

I still had half a pint so I watched a couple of locals talk to the pretty bartendress, who laughed and stubbed out her smoke just about halfway before making a beverage or walking around the patio.

Soon, I finished my pint and headed out into the night.

Walking after 10pm in a foreign city is always an adventure as is locating the correct route back to the hostel.

Every shop is closed so you cannot orientate yourself by the businesses, so I always have 2 points of reference including rail station, strange building or street name.

As I walk a guy appears in a stoop and says something in German, then English, ‘hey, hey…’ I turned around but did not stop. Now is now the time to see what someone wants or try to help.

Usually at this hour, guys are trying to sell drugs or girls to tourists or it’s a trap!

I waited an appropriate time, until I was at a cross walk, to casually check behind me. I’m not being followed.

Once I’m back at the hostel, the tables are set up for chess and there is a table permanently occupied by guys playing while smoking.

I hangout for a bit and watch, procuring a beer from the receptionist, but they don’t seem to want to talk or do anything that doesn’t involve chess.

Beer: IPA 55 Lichtenthaler Bräu

Song: Billy Joel  Vienna

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Dream trip Day 65 Wien, real Budvviser, biergarten 

After having a cup of coffee at the hostel, I made my way towards a large park.

It was still early and cool as I walked past a community garden and cafe. Great idea!

A yard without a garden used to be a sign of wealth, that you had land you willing didn’t use for food. We are slowing going back, using our land to grow a few things or house chickens.

Inside this park were several huge concrete structures with domed roofs. These were used during WWII to spot air raids as well as look over the citizens.

This park had at least two of these structures and they were fenced off, but still had graffiti on the base.

More walking in this park revealed a small kid’s pool with diving boards. What a cool park!

Only a few blocks away and the area totally changed to small bars and dancing clubs, which were more than likely brothels.

Most of the cities I visited had businesses on the ground floor and 2 or more stories of dwellings on top. I’ve no doubt that most of the shop owners lived above their work for the ultimate in commuting.

I soon was upon a rail station, but the Danube River was still 30 min walk further and I was hot, thirsty.

To my great fortune I was close to a real biergarten inside an amusement park.

Such a huge place! Rows and rows of wooden tables, most sat 8+. All full today.

There were some large wooden barrels that looked ok for standing as they had a stack of coasters on them.

Surprisingly, I was served quickly despite how crowded it was.

They had real Budweiser on draft, Budvar as its called. You could only get this beer in Europe, well I’d only seen it in Europe anyway.

Many years before Busch moved to the US to brew what became Bud, they made Budweiser in the Czech Republic. I’m sure he didn’t ever think it would be an issue.

Flash forward and now US Bud keeps suing to use the name, yet the original has been around a lot longer. In fact you cannot get a Budweiser overseas, just Bud or Budvar.

They poured beers here with a tremendous amount of head, it’s frothy suds stood several inches over the rim and slowly oozed down the side of the glass.

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I spied a local who sucked a space through the foam to the rim, then with each sip, sucked more of the foam until it settled.

I copied his system and drank my first draft Budvar. It was good, a light pilsner.

The thing to eat here seemed to be pork knuckle, an immense pig knee that the waiter delivered to the table, grabbed the bone that was sticking out of the meat, cracked it forwards and wriggled it clean out.

After ordering another pint, I watched a guy slowly consume nearly an entire knuckle slice by slice, even the crispy skin. He was aided by his wife who he cut pieces off for with surgical precision, even cutting pieces of skin for the other ladies at the table.

I had been standing in silence next to an older guy reading a newspaper at the barrel, but he finished and bade me ‘gutentag’ with a wave as he left.

While I finished my pint, I thought I heard rain, so I looked up to see a glass awning and plants. They were just watering the plants up there, the water rolled down and dripped into a large barrel to be used again, no doubt.

I got a bit lost on my way back, ran into a group of Hassidic school kids, who had either skin shaved heads or large brimmed black hats. Long ringlets of hair flew in the breeze as they rode by on razors.

I’d been walking over 2 hours by the time I made it back to my room. I soon dozed off for about an hour.

I woke up fairly hungry and recalled a noodle joint next to the river, only 20 min walk.

The spot was very small so I decided to eat outside and watch the sun set in a small park with a nice view of the river.

Almost immediately upon sitting down, I was approached by 2 guys who sat near me, softly talking to each other.

One turned to me and said something in German, Austrian I didn’t understand. He then made hand gestures to his mouth, food.

I had noodles and dumplings so I paused a second, better to give him my dumplings, he needed it more than I did.

He began to cry and his friend consoled him as he ate the each of dumplings in one bite.

I always feel vexed by beggars because I see both sides. Feeding them is enabling them to continue to live off the streets, but that isn’t the best or healthiest living arrangement. Yet they are humans, so do you just not give them food? If you have enough, why not share?

I was a short walk to a local brewery, Beaver Brewing, and I figured I actually deserved one this time seeing as I gave away some food and all.

Of course the bartendress was very pretty Asian lady, but not immediately apparent. She gracefully took care of the entire bar plus the outside.

She seemed to speak a few languages, talking to me in English, Austrian and a bit of French I believe I overheard.

After a couple pints I sauntered home, my final night in the 1 bed room suite.

Beer: Beery McBeerface

Song: Mozart   Marriage of Figaro

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Dream trip Day 64 Farewell Bratislava, long long laundry day, Vienna

A much needed amenity at this hotel was access to their washer dryer in the basement.

I woke up and got my clothes into the wash early so I felt good that I’d be done soon and on the train to Vienna.

It took over an hour for my clothes to wash, I’m not sure if it went through those pre and post wash cycles.

There were only 2 dryers and they were both spinning so I had to wait until they were done before I could start. At least there was a chair right by the basement stairs so I saw everyone coming and going.

The simple but necessary decision to do laundry wound up taking about 4 hours. I wish I was exaggerating but these were the worst dryers I’ve ever encountered.

Pretty much all I saw of Bratislava was a restaurant and hotel, rather depressing.

Made it to the bus station and soon saw how pretty Slovakia is: green grass, wind farms and mountains in the distance changed my sullied view of the country.

Also why does this poor country use wind turbines and the US doesnt? They are at least smarter and future thinking. Oil coal and wood will run out.

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I arrived in Vienna late afternoon and learned that my hostel  was well over an hour walk away from the bus depot.

I wonder if Uber gives discounts if used in German speaking countries? No they do not but they ask the same question about having a preferred route because, of course, I knew my way around the city having just arrived 5 minutes ago. Haha well I guess drivers don’t know that.

I chose this hostel as it was same chain as the one I stayed at in Brussels so I knew it was good, plus they gave a discount for a previous stay at any of their locations.

I needed help, Vienna was expensive! At least I was only staying the weekend so things are usually cheaper during the week.

I was in an odd location, not near too many activities so I knew I had to find a place closer to the river, downtown.

I located a bar library a short walk away and headed out. I was about 25 min walk from anything to do. I’d see the city though!

The city and buildings were very pretty. Old and ornate.

I crossed a bridge to get closer to city centre and saw tiny islands in the water that had restaurants, bars. Made me wonder if these were natural land or artificially created.

After crossing the bridge I noticed the stairs that lead down to a walkway right on the river so people could access these islands as well as run or bike.

They had good beers and friendly servers at the library bar so I hung out awhile and wound up catching a half of a German futbol game.

Stacks of German, Austrian magazines surrounded my table. I thumbed through a couple, looking at pics and trying to grasp the gist of the articles.

There were hundreds of books and they seemed fine with you reading them without buying as I saw a couple people doing.

To one side of the store were stairs leading to the basement smokers room.

The stairs were near the restrooms and you could smell the stale smoke once you were near the doors, which wasn’t pleasant but did overpower any restroom smells so I thought that was a bit clever.

Across the street was an Australian pub, full too, there was a line to get in. Seemed a bit heavy on the stereotypes as khaki was the servers dress.

I’ll bet they greeted everyone with a ‘g’day, mate!’

A neon Foster’s sign glowed out front, a beer every Australian I spoke to said no one drank down there.

On my walk back I realized how hot the city was, I was sweating yet it was after 10pm.

Luckily they rent out fans as there isn’t ac and the windows barely crack open, ‘for your safety!’

The hostel also sells beer, so a couple beers, fan and an evening in my room was complete.

It was money saving time for awhile.

Beer: Goldbräu/ Stiegl beer
Song: Beethoven  Moonlight Sonata

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