With five days in Austria we continue our odd little city hopping before meeting our bike tour in Venice. If Kiev was all about churches and Ukranian food, Vienna was about museums and parks, especially the UNESCO-cited historic center. Consistent with our three-plus weeks in Europe now, it rained pretty much every day. I think it’s distinctly possible that we’ve gotten more rain – certainly more days of rain – since flying to Paris than we’d had in the first three years of travel combined. Even so we would get patches of beautiful weather and when it was rainy there were always half a dozen museums worth going to.What were the highlights? One thing we loved was the CAT, a 16-minute nonstop train from the airport into the center of the city, one of the best airport commutes I can think of. And just to add to the greatness of it, we could check in for our flight at the train station so that was all done before we got to the airport and we didn’t even have to schlep our bags onto the train and into the airport.
And our hotel. Hotels in Vienna were pretty expensive, so we stayed at the Imperial, one of the grand old dames of the world. Why stay there if even normal hotels were expensive? A trick we learned in Madrid when hotels were too expensive. We used Starwood points to lower the cost to a pretty normal range. And then we could pretty much count on an upgrade to a lovely suite, which we got. So there we were right in the heart of everything with a space that practically begged us to have cocktails in our room before going out for the evening. Hell, we couldn’t afford not to stay there!
Parks. Vienna has a ton of really beautiful parks and they’re not afraid to let people use them, lie in them, enjoy them. Twice I got kicked out by the rain, but otherwise Vienna is a great city for whiling away hours in the park with a good book.What didn’t we like about Vienna? The food, to be honest. This was our second relatively brief stop in a Germanic country (the other being last spring in Germany) and after about three meals we’d be pining for something more interesting. We love sausage and sauerkraut but you can’t eat that twice a day for very long. Otherwise everything was just too heavy and too breaded and had too many potatoes. We quickly found ourselves scouting out the best Indian and Italian restaurants available.
Oh, and high on the “hated it” list was T-Mobile. Even for just a few days in a country we try to get SIM cards for our phones so we can surf the web, make maps, and text while we’re out and about. The T-Mobile SIM card was kind of expensive for the five days we were going to use it, but it still made sense. Until Mark’s quit working after just three days. Couldn’t get online at all.
So he trudged back to the store where they explained that he’d texted a picture. Yes, that’s true; he took a screenshot of his Google map to show me where he was when I was going to join him in a park. They explained the while the package we’d bought included texts it didn’t include texting pictures; they cost something like €1.25. And since he didn’t have a €1.25 credit on his account they shut everything down until he paid it. Now, the normal thing to do in a situation like that is to just block the text from going out, but they let the text go out and then shut him down until he paid up.
All frustrating enough, but it gets worse. He’s willing to pay the money just to get his Internet back but the smallest “package” he can buy to cover the one picture he’d texted was €10. Right. T-Mobile lets the text go out and then is going to charge him €10 to recover the hostage. That was just too far and although he fussed a good deal, they weren’t budging. And he wasn’t paying. So T-Mobil sucks.
And Airbnb sucks too. We finally got notice about the broken bed in Paris that we didn’t break. They charged us $800 for it and, because they already have Bart & Ann’s credit card for the deposit there’s not much we can do about it.
Except for all that, though, life is good. We’re getting caught up on all the rain we’ve missed over the last three years, got lots of time in some great museums, and spend happy hour aghast over whatever it was that Donald Trump said today. We had a chance to explore a little bit of Austrian history. Did you know, for instance, that if Queen Elizabeth of England lives for five more years she still won’t have reigned as long as Emperor Franz Joseph, the guy running Austria at the outbreak of World War I? Or that his successor, Charles I, who ruled from 1916 until the empire was abolished in 1919, was beatified by Pope John Paul II. Not quite a saint yet, but well on the way. I’m not certain, but I would bet he’s the only near-saint who ever ordered the use of poison gas, as he did during the war. Mother Teresa he wasn’t, nor was he exactly the man of peace you might expect for a modern saint, but who am I to question the pope?