Travel 2006 – Vienna, Day 1

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Friday, 1st December 2006 – Vienna, Day 1

Friday we were up at some absurd time to haul ourselves to the airport. We picked Steffie up at 6 am and had an easy drive to Heathrow, parking in the Short Stay Car Park which is right next to Terminal 4 (this was a damn good deal – it’s usually £44 per day, but the weekend rate was £62 for 4 days). Anyway, the seven of us eventually met up at the check-in desks, and so Lynne, myself, Steffie, Angela, Heather, Janice and Irene set off, via Costa Coffee, for the 4th Annual Girls’ Weekend Away.

Steffie’s Timberland boots caused some difficulty at security (turns out there’s a big chunk of metal in each heel) but that was OK, since it allowed Janice to sidle into the Duty Free Shop and emerge with a bottle of port and a bottle of Baileys! This is Janice we’re talking about – there had to be port! Lynne and I took that as an excuse to grab a couple of bottles of Champagne too, so we were all set for pre- and after-dinner drinks…

The flight left on time, BA attempted to make us eat industrial quality chicken sandwiches, but I declined, as did Lynne (though only after she’d bitten into one of them and declared it horrible). Arrival at Schwechat was painless, and the bags were already circulating on the carousel by the time we’d cleared passport control. We were booked into the Koenig von Ungarn, and they sent a pair of cars to collect us. Half an hour later we were checked in and investigating our rooms (two “apartments” with a sitting area, two separate twin bedroom/bedroom areas, huge bathroom with two sinks, separate toilet, and lots of storage space). It was looking good – though it was much too warm, especially as Vienna seemed to be in the grip of an unseasonably mild spell.

A brief flurry of unpacking later and I assembled the troops in the hotel lobby with a plan in mind. First, we managed to squeeze into the coffee house just round the corner from the hotel, Diglas where coffees and hot chocolates laced with alcohol and topped with whipped cream were demolished, along with the inevitable cake (Apfelstrudel for me).

It took a while to pay, but eventually we trooped out and back around the corner to the Stephansdom. We stuck our heads in but it was really too dark to see much by then. We agreed to return in the morning, and instead headed to the Underground station to buy or Vienna Cards (€16.90 for 72 hours of travel along with discounts on museums, cafes and shopping). The Wiener Linien people run what I consider to be the best public transport system in any European city, and we promptly headed out to make use of it, travelling round the Ring on the No. 2 tram to try and give everyone a sense of the city, and help them get their bearings…

The Christmas lights were sparkling all over, especially on the Rathaus, and put us in the mood to go out to Schloss Schoenbrunn to see the building from the outside, and to wander round the Christmas Market there in search of amusing tree ornaments, and more importantly gluhwein and punsch. The darker it got, the colder it got, so after buying stars for our trees (made of gold and silver ribbon, little bells and cinnamon sticks), we met up again by one of the drink stands. A mug of raspberry/bramble punch was just the thing, frankly. There were takers for that and for the gluhwein as well, and most of us made off with out mugs rather than reclaiming the €2 deposit back… Lynne and I were both sorry not to indulge in various of the fine wooden ornaments, or the glass baubles for tree decoration, but common sense prevailed – we couldn’t figure out how we would get them home undamaged, so we had no real choice. There was talk about coming back with a van next time…

Anyway, we were now cold and hungry, so we made our way back to the hotel, dressed for dinner (yes, we still do that) and met up in the foyer bar, which is basically the glassed in and very comfy former courtyard of the hotel. A couple of glasses of sparkling sekt later and we were ready for dinner in the hotel’s rather fine restaurant. The charm of the place was further enhanced, for me at least, by the fact that we were eating in the “Mozartstueberl” where, it is claimed, Mozart composed “The Marriage of Figaro”. Whatever the case, the aperitifs on the house, along with the various crisp, fresh vegetables and excellent breads to dip into the cream cheese and herbs mix soon had us turning our attention to food and wine instead of music (though the pianist in the corner did his best to make us notice him). To my own surprise I found myself ordering veal (stuffed with ham and cheese) and served with a pea risotto, but not before I’d demolished a plate of Krautfleckerl, a pasta and cabbage-based dish I’d forgotten all about, but that I loved when I lived in Vienna. The next time we end up with extra cabbage I must make some! Some people went for dessert, but most of us didn’t. Angela accidentally ended up with two (long story) so the rest of us picked at it, and we eventually (after compulsory fruit schnapps of some sort) staggered off to bed, full of food and wine. It was a good start.

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