Subject: Vienna Travelogue 2
30 of December 1999 - Tuesday A really early day. 5.30 in the morning, thanks God that the shower is good. I still cannot understand how my mother manages to be so awake, so early. We went down at 6.15 for our breakfast (supposed to be coffee or tea, juice, bread and croissants) and there was only coffee and bread. After a lot of pleading we got 4 croissants, and they took away the bread. Great. So we got out of the hotel by 6.30, and mum picked up one paper, Le Figaro, because she thought we deserved. Not having a good breakfast, what a disaster. We had to buy a couple of baguettes at the trainstation.

Thanks God we were early at the station. We found our train (EC Mozart to Vienna and Graz), but when we arrived to our car, I saw that two seats were missing. We had the reservations since October, and I thought it was funny. I found a couple of unreserved seats, left the two girls taking care of the places, and went hunting for a conductor. When I finally got him, we found that there was an austrian woman complaining that she had the reservation for the only seat we had left. It happened that she had it booked for the next day, I don't know if by mistake. Nevertheless, the conductor found three places for us, and changed our bookings.

The train belongs to the Austrian Railways, and it is a bit different to the french ones. We had place enough behind our seats to put the carry-ons and the bags, but I think you have to arrive early in order to get enough place. We were travelling in an open car, not in compartments. That gave us more space for our things, and although it was a mixed car (smoking and non-smoking), there wasn't so many people smoking. As the train was leaving from France, we had to validate (composter) our tickets prior to departure.

And there we were, sitting in our train towards Vienna. There were an american couple going to Vienna (they slept all the way to Vienna from Paris), two iranian businessmen, some french people, and us.

The First World War plains were running in front of us, as we headed towards Nancy and Strasbourg. Mum was checking her Europe map, chanting names as we were passing through, and Gabi slept on the window seat. The weather was gray and dull, and we couldn't see much light.

Also we were going very slow, due to railworks, as the previous day with the TGV.

In Strasbourg we got more travel companions, mostly japanese people. We went across the border, and the police got on the train in Kehl. They were checking very thoroughly all the people that were carrying middle eastern passports, specially the iranian ones. I think that it might have been caused due to the death sentence of Ocalan. There is a big kurdish minority in Germany, and I understand the german worries.

Also, through the whole travel in Germany we had to show the tickets to I donīt know how many conductors. Thinking that the german railways have been privatised (and they have lost a lot in the meantime), it looked as if they were trying to fight the unemployment.

We went for lunch in the restaurant car. The menu was thoroughly an austrian offer. A good way to get into the mood. If you pay by credit card, you get charged in Austrian Schillings, but you could pay in FF, DM,... It wasnīt very expensive, and the food was nice. Vegetable Strudel, a huge salad, goulasch, apfelstrudel, coffee, beer and mineral water, 332 ATS (not counting the tip). And it was a refreshing change from our seats.

My only problem was that Gabi began to read (already one day into the holidays), the dossier I had printed for them, and then she realized that we had 15 hours by train from Paris to Vienna. A few glances towards us, and mutterings of you deceived me. Alright, life is hard, sometimes. I was happy that mum was enjoying her time in the train.

There we were told by the waiter that it was going to be a delay in Munich, and that we would arrive to Salzburg with 30 minutes delay.

The train goes across Baden-Baden, Stuttgart, Ulm (we see the cathedral tower really well from the train. Itīs huge and impressive). Many people travelling around.

We still had a bit of light before reaching Munich, so we could see the Alps in the distance, gleaming with the last rays of sunshine.

We were on time in Munich, but afterwards we got diverted (the cause of the delay). The ground around us was pitch black, and the snow falling, and the fir trees so dark... By the time we arrived to Salzburg, we still had three hours of journey. We could see the fortress as we crossed over the river. There they took away the last three cars in the train, that were heading towards Graz.

We passed Linz and St.P#lten, and we could see Melk Abbey from our window, and after a while, there we were. Vienna at last!

It was almost 21.45, and we had -1š. Not so bad for that time of the year. There are elevators from the platforms to the entrance and to the metro, so itīs not a problem to carry your luggage. More complaints about there are planes that fly into Vienna, only poor people go by train, I am freezing, and into a taxi. Brand new Mercedes, I could sit in the front, didnīt try to get us through a long way, and 140 ATS from the station to the hotel, including tip. The driver took us across the Hofburg into the old town (another complaint, Vienna is not like Prague), and we reached the hotel. Itīs a bit difficult to get there by car, too many one-way streets, but we had arrived. I had sent an e-mail the previous week saying that we were going to be late, and they told me that wasnīt a big problem.

The hotel has a beautiful Jugendstil-lift, and they also have a small roof garden that might be nice in the hot summer nights.

We got our rooms, 405 and 404. Our room didnīt have much place to put the clothes, but we werenīt carrying so much, twin beds painted in white, two small armchairs with a coffeetable and cable TV. The bathroom was big enough, although it had a small problem, as mum said: Where are the shower curtains?. We managed during the week with a hand-held shower. Gabiīs room was smaller than us, and she had a shower-stall, which she regretted, and she kept complaining about the lousy travel agent that had booked the hotel (it had been me, via Web, and asking my friends to check my list of hotels and say if they were OK). Her room had not been completely renovated yet, as ours, but I had seen worst things in 4-star hotels in London.

Anyway, we left the things and went out for a quick walk along K#rtnerstrasse and Graben. There were plenty of people walking around, and by the time we got back to the hotel we were so tired that we fell straight into bed.

More later... Covadonga in Bilbao