Subject: Vienna Travelogue - Part 4
2 of December 1999 - Thursday Another early call. I thought I was on holidays, and it seems as if itīs getting worse every day.

First thing of all, we had to change some money. It doesnīt matter is you change in a bank or in an automat, they have the same rates. And afterwards, walk up to Karlsplatz, to get a three-day ticket and jump into the metro, towards Schonbrnn. The automatic ticket machines are not very good. They only have displays in German (and it looks as official German, worst of all), and if you donīt speak it. That wasnīt my case, but it is complicated nevertheless. The good thing about the 72-hour ticket is the fact that it lasts 72 hours from the moment you validate the ticket (yes, there are small orange boxes at the entrance of the metro where you put your ticket. But you do it only once). If you are planning to stay for a week, beginning on Monday, you would be better off getting a Wochenkarte (week card). You need a photo, and you can get it in Tabaks (tobacco shops) or at the counters in the main metro stations.

We got into the U4 line, towards Htteldorf, and got off at Sch#nbrunn station. The next one, Hietzing, has the imperial station building, built by Otto Wagner, but it wasnīt open that day.

There were many young kids around Sch#nbrunn, with the teachers, and very well behaved. I say it gets worse when you are a teenager. The small Christmas market inside Sch#nbrunn was already set up, but we left it for the time we finished visting the palace (another place I hadnīt been to). I tried to get the discounts, but they didnīt have any, and also they didnīt accept credit cards. Thanks God I had enough cash with me, but there was a Bankomat just in the foyer, so you can get money. We opted for the Grand Tour (the most expensive one), and it is really worth the money. Short after the entrance you can pick up an audio guide in many different languages, that is included in the price. Pick it up, because the explanations on the rooms are not so lenghty, and just in English and German. The good thing about this tour is that it takes you not only through the Franz-Joseph and Elisabeth rooms, but also you go through the Maria-Theresia rooms, and they can be impressive. The only hiccup we encountered was that we met with two of the guided tours of the palace, but it was in the last ten rooms. We had to fight our way through the people. One of them was in German, and the other one was in English, French and Italian. More than 40 people in each one. You can imagine how it was the multicultural tour. The guide was going up and down the line, trying to speak at the same time in three or four languages, people talking loudly,... and really, the audio guide tells you more than it was being said by the guides (in any of the languages, I assure you). I loved the China room, and when you see the state bedroom. Well, thatīs a real bed. They didnīt use it for normal sleeping, just to show off, and it is out of this world.

At the end of the tour you have the opportunity of sending an e-mail with a picture of Sch#nbrunn and another picture of yourself, so we decided not to send postcards to my brother and sister, and we sent them an e-mail instead. It only costs 20 ATS for 3 e-mail addresses, and I think itīs pretty good value. They thought it was hilarious when they got our message at the office, and my brotherīs boss has promised to send something in spring, when he will spend his holidays there. I wasnīt going to write it, but this time the one that got incensed was my Mum. Her friend thought that we were really careless by sending these e-mails to my brother and sister office address, because sure their managers would get the message before them... I closed my big mouth, and just watched Mum trying to explain how e-mail works, why it wouldnīt be such a big problem,... Interesting, very.

We got out, had a look to the Christmas market in Sch#nbrunn, and walked up to the Gloriette. The weather was quite windy, and I was afraid about the pictures, but I have just got them developed and they look gorgeous. There was still a bit of snow, and we really enjoyed the view upon Vienna.

By the time we were back in the city, it was late enough to go for lunch. Mum decided to go to a Wienerwald restaurant. The main food is chicken, and she thought that Gabi might like it more than a usual austrian restaurant, and maybe would talk to us. She had stopped speaking since Sch#nbrunn, and was walking up the K#rtnerstrasse muttering about the lousy travel agent that had booked the hotel. There is a Wienerwald just opposite the cathedral, in a small street. I had chicken breast with roasted vegetables, Mum had a chicken soup and Gabi had roasted chicken. It tasted good, and it is not expensive.

By the time we got out, it was beginning to rain. We thought of dedicating the afternoon to do a bit of shopping, so we jumped into the Badner Lokalbahn (blue tram, leaves from the Stadtoper) and went to SCS (Shopping City Sud) - V#sendorf. With any transport card you only have to buy a ticket for a single zone (that would be 38 ATS return). We went into IKEA, and had a look around. Finally we got some words from Gabi (I think she likes shopping), and when we were back in Vienna, we went into the Ringstrassen Gallerien. More shops!!!

What we did see, was a folklore group from Styria, dressed as goats and demons and running around the people, with bells and music. Very funny. The 6th of December is Saint Nicholas, aka Nikolo. Nikolo comes into the streets, accompanied by Krampus (a red devil), and bring presents to the children. There are many Krampus parties on that weekend, and you have to dress in black and red. The styrian goats were supposed to be the people accompanying Krampus.

By that time, we were quite tired, and we only wanted to have a cup of coffee. We rested for a while at the hotel, and then we went to visit Augustin, in the Griechenbeisl. I donīt know if you have heard the song of Augustin. There is a story in Vienna about an old drunkard during the pest times in the 17th century. He was sleeping in the streets after too much wine, and they thought it was one of the corpses, so they threw him inside one of the communal graves. To everybodyīs surprise, soon afterwards he woke up and got out of the grave, singing that song (O mein lieber Augustin). He hadnīt been affected by the pest, due to the alcohol he had in his body, and that was a way to solve the epidemics. I guess everything is fake, but in the floor at the entrance of the Griechenbeisl (Fleischmarkt, round the corner from the hotel), there he is, still sitting inside a hole, old drunkard Augustin.

>From there we walked up into the Café Hawelka, off Graben. Itīs a really funny place. It has the same owners since the Thirties, although this time I havenīt seen Herr Hawelka. Really old-fashioned, if there isnīt any place to seat, they put you up with some other people, always full, noisy,... Frau Hawelka is an institution, so old and frail, always in the kitchen but always keeping an eye in the café, to go and say hi if someone famous comes in. They have buchteln, a nice pastry. Mum was delighted with being there. We had three melanges, and just looked around. A table was booked, and a group of really well-dressed people arrived, with flowers. They looked as actors, and Frau Hawelka came out straight away, drying her hands with a tea-towel and kissing everybody. My mum interrogated one of the waiters (for the women in the list, a really good-looking waiter, like a young Alain Delon), and the poor thing couldnīt tell her anything, but offered to go and ask. It was funny.

When we went away, Frau Hawelka came unto us and began kissing my mum and telling her how young she looked, and thanks a lot for coming to Vienna, and enjoy, and all of those things. So Mum was delighted with herself, and really, really proud. Not that dear old Gabi was so happy. She had wanted to go into the Sacher, all gold and red velvet, and we were in this smoky haunt... But Mum was beginning to enjoy the time there, and that was good.

Back in the hotel I saw in the CNN that there had been an explosion west of Vienna, so we called home to tell that everything was fine. More later... Covadonga in Bilbao