dedalus Posted September 5, 2009 Share Posted September 5, 2009 This station of memories* and former times seems strangely diminished, reduced, made smaller in a way, I don't know how; outside in the hot and baking squares, the clang of trams, the rush of the traffic, a statue of the rascally old Mayor, Karl Lueger, "I decide who iss a Chew," he famously said, just before Hitler moved on to Munich and old Austria-Hungary went to hell. I stop for beer and directions: Kennen Sie Mittelgasse? Na, geh' drei Strassen entlang und gerade links. Thank the Lord I left the suitcase behind, that heavy old bugger, the bane of my life, now sulking (I should hope) in its Bahnhof locker; and so with hopeful stride, a spring in my step, I make my way to the Strawberry Hostel and run smack into a vision of beauty. Hallo, mein Herr ... you haff a reservation? Anna. Anna is -- my God! -- something else, twenty-three at a stretch, she looks seventeen, with red, no SCARLET hair, pure marble skin, a ring in her nose and impish dancing eyes. Willkommen in Wien, says she. Welcome, indeed! This town is starting to look better already. In a twinkle I've popped back out on the streets, sussed out the transport system, soon a rattling ride carries me under the shadows of dear old "Steffl". There's something in the air in this relaxed old city, an injection, a puff of air beneath your heart, and you start smiling, you do, as you walk along, feeling light in your mind, a perambulating fool. Jeez, this is so much better than Amsterdam, less rackety, less contingent, less faintly menacing, a sort of soft and smiling granny among cities; soon enough you begin to meet the denizens, make brief and friendly intense connections. Half drunk, well fed, and at peace with the world, I jump on an evening tram that is heading off somewhere and meet young Dolores, she's in a bit of a panic, a medical intern, she needs to find some assigned hotel and the morning ticket for her flight back to Mexico. She is lost in the night and her German deserts her among the wary side-glances, the stiff Viennese. Sir Galahad (belch ... oops) takes her on his arm and with his lately-discovered excellent German guides her through a labyrinth to her "home". She kisses me chastely, with girlish gratitude. Men, I reflect, have occasional uses. Back at the Strawberry Hostel I sit up half the night with Bob or Bill from Wisconsin, a professor with sins on his conscience, and we exchange the stories of our lives for once not heavily edited over four or five bottles of Heuriger there in the silent lamp-lit garden: we will never see each other again. These are the things, these are the things I love about random travel. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1. This is a diary of sorts about a previous visit to Vienna which incorporates an even earlier visit remembered. The Westbahnhof features: it used to be one of the worst hangouts for drunks in Europe. Not that I'd know anything about that. You don't have to read the whole thing. Go for the italics, the account of the earlier visit. http://dublinerinjapan.blogspot.com/2004/0...express-iv.html 2. "Steffl" is the affectionate name given to Stefansdom or Saint Stephen's, the large cathedral at the very heart and centre of Vienna. It's a bit like calling the place Steve or Stevie's. 3. Heuriger are the newly pressed wines from the vineyards surrounding the city, particularly the village of Grinzing which is as far as the Turks got in their 1683 invasion. These white wines are light and refreshing and can make you remarkably articulate without the price of a hangover the next morning. Quote Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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