I looked down at the red patch on my jeans. It was sticky and had a surprisingly sweet smell. I knew I was in trouble but I was unaware just how dire the situation was to become. It couldn’t be surely? I dipped my finger into the viscous fluid and brought it to my nose for a closer inspection. It was as I feared. Raspberry. A single expletive left my lips as I hurriedly unpacked the rest of my case to see what else was covered in my now exploded shower gel.
Jeans, a jacket and a pair of brand new white trainers was the sum total of fruity destruction. Or so I thought. By some miracle the shower gel had only touched the wipe clean surfaces of the trainers. The jacket and jeans however sported dark blotches. There was no time to waste, I rushed into the shower scrubbing at the garments under the shower head watching them lather up, mocking me for not packing my suitcase properly. The shower scene from Psycho had nothing on this. Unlike at the Bates’ Motel there was a happy ending as far as my clothes were concerned though, the jeans and jacket lived to fight another day. But we weren’t out of the woods yet.
Having saved the clothing I returned to the scene of the crime to grab the offending shower gel from my wash bag and wipe over the other items that would have been covered in the gloop that had been intended for keeping me fresh while interrailing. Bottles of aftershave, deodorant and hair product are easy enough to wipe clean being my reasoning for leaving this salvage mission until last. Time for a second expletive as I remembered the other item that lived in my wash bag. My electric razor.
They say the first hour is important after an accident and there wasn’t much time to spare. I wiped the razor clean but there was still shower gel in the charging point that I couldn’t get to with a towel. An attempt to switch the wounded shaving implement on saw a faint sign of life, the display flashed up an incoherent message and the blades gave out a brief gurgle. Was this the death rattle or an image of hope? Like a rogue child in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory my hopes of shaving again with this razor were drowning in a sea of raspberry flavoured sweetness. With fruit on my mind my last throw of the dice was to turn to Newton. Gravity. I took a tooth glass and propped the wounded razor inside it so that nature’s strongest force would work its magic on the shower gel that was flooding it hoping for the best. I could do no more, it was time to wait.
You may have read the first four paragraphs thinking, “this means nothing to me.” Appropriate as this post is about Vienna. When writing about a city famed for its Opera House and great composers I was always going to shoehorn in a little bit of Ultravox.
The journey to Vienna was one of the least straight forward of the interrail trip, yet it just went to highlight the inadequacies of train travel within Britain rather than inconveniencing my travel schedule. At most I ended up an hour behind my scheduled ETA in the Austrian capital and this included another jaunt back into Slovenia en route. On arrival at Zagreb railway station it became apparent that a rail replacement bus would be running for part of the journey and I had to alight at Maribor, take a bus to Graz and then board another train to Vienna. This sounded like a headache. In reality the only headache I had was the blokes sitting behind me on the rail replacement bus eating crisps and seemingly not closing their mouths while doing so. Pet peeve alert.
On reaching Graz station I had an hour to kill and it was lunchtime so McDonald’s was the logical answer. This will be a recurring theme. The restaurant was busy so I took my burger, curly fries (yes, curly fries) and Emmental hearts and stationed myself opposite a woman in her sixties busying herself on her laptop. I had just taken a bite of my quarter pounder when she spoke, “how’s Archie?” How did she know I was English? How did she know one of my best friends is called Archie? Then the pieces fell into place, thankfully before I had managed to find the number of the local witch burning agency. Prince Harry had just had a son called Archie. I still didn’t know how she worked out I was English so she must have been a wiccan (I always thought the spelling was wicken too…) at the very least. I don’t discriminate however and we had a nice chat about how she used to live in London before it was time for me to hop on the final mode of transport of the day, onwards to Vienna!
All told the journey from Zagreb to Vienna took nine hours. That’s a sizeable chunk of the day, factor in shower gel-gate and there wasn’t much left of my first day in Austria’s capital city. So how did I spend it you ask? Drinking beer and watching football. What a time to be alive. It was the last day of the Premier League season and a title decider so I had no intention of missing that. I did manage to immerse myself in culture nonetheless, I was drinking Stiegl and on my return to my hotel room I hit room service hard. Apple strudel naturally. We can call it comfort eating as my electric razor was officially deceased.
While all other stops on the interrail trail had three days dedicated to them, time constraints left me with two days in Vienna, only one of those was a full day so my plan was to be up early and ready to hit the town hard. What they don’t tell you about interrailing though is that you will get tired. Tired of being on holiday? I know, blasphemy. I hit that particular plateau in Vienna rather inconveniently so my exploits didn’t take place all that far from my hotel. Honesty is the best policy, while I enjoyed my time in Vienna I feel as though I missed out on a lot too. I did however tick off the main item on my Viennese bucket list… Sachertorte.
While figuratively there are many places to go to eat Sachertorte, in reality there is only one place to go to eat Sachertorte. Hotel Sacher. Conveniently named right? This is where the chocolate cake topped with apricot jam and dark chocolate was invented. It is also where I had the best meal of my entire interrail trip. In quick maths style that Big Shaq would be proud of, three meals a day for three weeks equals 63 meals. This was the pinnacle of the lot. A trio of Viennese classics consisting of noodles and cabbage, beef with horseradish and goulash with vegetables. I don’t fancy myself as an aspiring Keith Floyd so I will make no attempt to use my words to try and paint a picture, or in this case a taste. While I did photograph this meal (I was that person in the restaurant, sorry), taking pictures of food is not my forte. The main was followed up by a slice of Sachertorte, served with whipped cream and a cup of tea. Immense. If you visit Vienna you must eat at Hotel Sacher. It is worth the time you may spend queueing outside waiting for a table. After my experience at Plitvice, I am now prepared for any queue life throws at me.
The architecture of Vienna is a sight to behold. It is a city of striking, huge buildings that my photography skills could not do adequate justice to. They say everything is bigger in Texas, I don’t think they (whoever they are) ever set foot in Vienna. When I look back through the photographs from this part of the trip I feel I have failed to truly capture the man made beauty of the place. Perhaps it is time to admit my photography skills are not very good, despite having an A Level in the subject… It’s not you, it’s me. Colour is used sparingly, a dash here and there to elevate elements of a city based mainly in grey and white stone tones all the while having the audacity to do so without creating a depressing atmosphere. A case in point is the statue of Mozart, one of Austria’s most famous sons, immortalised in stone and overlooking a musical note created in red flowers. I don’t profess to know what the musical note is, nor the type of flowers it is made of. Fancy embellishments are unnecessary, the tribute is simple and effective.
It may well have been a Mozart symphony playing to the converged masses when I was drawn by music towards one of my favourite Vienna landmarks, the state opera. Dressed in a denim jacket and ripped jeans, slightly damp from the falling drizzle I was not in any shape to venture inside the building. Luckily on a large exterior screen a performance was in full flow. Whether this was live footage of what was happening inside or not I’m unsure but it was a fantastic way to immerse myself into the beating heart of the city without lowering the tone too much. Despite the drizzle I was one of many who stood transfixed taking in the sights and sounds for a while, enjoying the moment.
With that my brief stint in Austria was over. I left wishing I had another day to dig deeper in my exploration, preferably a day with kindly weather. Had my interrail plans been less structured I could have done this but Prague was calling my name and I had to hop onto the next train of the journey. It is at this point that I realise I made a grave error in my last post by using Arnold Schwarzenneger’s most famous line in relation to Plitvice National Park in Croatia. I couldn’t close this post without the appropriate words of another of Austria’s most famous exports however. Vienna, I’ll be back.