Sunday, December 09, 2007

Logbook: Vienna I

Viennai1I was up and out really, really early on Monday morning in Krakow for a dark and very cold walk to catch my last Polish train out of the country and on to Vienna. As I have written many times by now, I have very much enjoyed my time in Poland and I am very fond of both the country and its people. I would like to visit again at length some time, but it will not be in winter. The weather is just too harsh and unpredictable to be enjoyable or practical. I have also enjoyed my many experiences on Polish trains, and despite their idiosyncrasies I can recommend them. They never fail to amuse and my last experience was no different. A couple of hours out of Krakow we crossed the Czech border and pulled into the first station then waited while "the man" boarded to examine our documents. While this was going on, the last car -- in which I and just a few others bound for Vienna were seated -- was disconnected from the rest of the train and left by itself at the station platform. A few minutes later, "the man" left the train and the platform, followed by the conductors and everyone else who had been in the vicinity. The few of us who remained sat in the silent, cold, darkened car for about half an hour before I and a couple of others decided to wander out onto the platform to take a look. As you can see, it is a bit of an odd site -- and an odd feeling -- to see your "ride" sitting by itself in the middle of nowhere while you wait and hope that the "system" is going to work and remember to pick you up for the rest of your journey! Sure enough, within the next half hour another train pulled up, hooked us up and took us through the Czech countryside for a couple of hours to a crossing point into Austria and then on into Vienna.

My friend Matt -- whom I have known since we went to college together 30 years ago! -- lives in Vienna and had very helpfully set me up in a charming little hotel/apartment that is owned by some of his friends. So, after an easy bus ride from the train station, I was happily checking into my new home, which consists of a bedroom/sittingroom, a bathroom and even a little efficiency kitchen! After dumping my gear, I hit the streets, checked out the neighborhood and found a grocery store where I bought some basics. As usual after a long travel day, I was ready to call it an early night and have a good, long sleep in my new home.

Viennai2Vienna is a city in which I am very comfortable. I think this is partly because I have been here a few times before, but mostly because it is a city that just makes sense to me. So, I enjoyed walking the streets at various times this week while I worked on one of my primary objectives for while I am here, which is to arrange the next major segments of my transportation on The Voyage. I'll save the details for when I get it worked out, but for now I will just say that after eight months in Europe I'm feeling ready to start moving on again. If you look at the map, you will see that land travel heading east from where I am now is very complicated at best and downright impossible at worst. So, I'm working on arranging sea passage through the Suez canal and that is not easy at this time of year either. I really pounded the pavement trying to find a travel agent who could help me, but was completely unsuccessful. Thankfully, there are an ample number of Starbucks to keep me fueled up, something that I will admit I have missed during my time in Poland and the Baltics.

Viennai3Having a good friend like Matt who lives here is certainly another big reason Vienna is such a comfortable place to be, and I have really enjoyed catching up with him. We had dinner on Tuesday night and I accompanied him to a class he teaches at a local college on Wednesday night. Yesterday we took a walk in the famous Vienna Woods -- where I took this photo of him standing next to a remnant of a WWII fortification -- and we had dinner together again last night. Throughout, we have enjoyed the same kind of lively and philosophical conversations that first brought us together in college, proof once again of the old adage that with good friends you can pick up right where you left off no matter the time in between. I look forward to spending more time with Matt over the next week or so while I am here and to using him as the invaluable resource he is for what's what in Vienna!

Viennai4I was up and out early this morning to catch the metro and the train out to the airport to meet my niece Jennifer who has flown in from the States to spend her second week on The Voyage. We had such a good time in Paris that she has decided to give it another shot and I am delighted to have her here. After making our way back to the hotel we got her checked into her room and had a little breakfast while catching up on everything since we last had the chance to talk at length. This afternoon we did a little wandering around to give her a very brief overview and orientation of Vienna then stopped in a cafe for a real meal. We both were in the mood for some nice hot soup, but the chef explained to us that something else on the menu was "the best" so we acquiesced. A few minutes later, two plates of meat and potatoes showed up, giving Jennifer the opportunity to get into the culinary swing right away. After that, she toughed it out for a few hours more but finally gave in to jet lag and has hit the rack, hoping to get herself into shape for taking the lead on our Vienna co-exploration starting tomorrow. So, stay tuned for the next update on that, my transportation challenges and whatever else happens next on The Voyage of Macgellan!

1 comment:

Alden Siegel said...

I called your mother tonight and she mentioned all the visits you two have been on and told me to get on this site. It is great and I wish I were half as creative. Keep up thje good work and I will be checking back again in the near future. It is snowing here in NJ so all the little people will probably be thrilled. GOOD LUCK Alden