Wednesday, January 23, 2002

A Day in Vienna

A Day in Vienna

Last night, I could not sleep. No matter how hard I tried, it would not come. I finally succumbed at 5:30 am to be awaked at 7:30 to get ready for catching the train. I was determined to make it through the day without complaint, so as not to spoil the day for Ron. Sleeping on the train has always come naturally, so this was some respite. If it were not for the interruptions of the Hungarian conductor, then the Hungarian passport control followed by the Austrian passport control, and then the Austrian conductor, it would have been a long restful nap. When Hungary joins the E.U. in 2004, the two passport control interruptions will be eliminated, but until then, my beauty sleep will be on hold.

How do you do Vienna on ten euros? It is not easy, but I was determined we were not going to spend a lot of money there since we had spent so much on our week in Innsbruck and Venice. We had ten euros left from that trip and since we had the Europass for transport that was our budget for the day. Ron made sandwiches ahead of time and we packed fruit along with it. We took the 9:30 train and arrived in Vienna at 12:00 noon. Vienna is a wonderful walking city and there is so much to look at. I was looking in every store window, while Ron was looking at every historic building. The buildings are breathtaking and when you know a bit of their long history, they really come to life, but I was obsessed with finding shirts at bargain prices to supplement our meager wardrobe. Having five shirts, three of which are too sporty to wear for work just does not cut it. We keep thinking of the boxes of clothes we still have in storage, but the cost of shipping them here or flying back and retrieving them is more than replacing them.

The last time we were in Vienna, the cost of things was so prohibitive, it prevented us from seeing much. We had paid the equivalent of $12.00 each for one museum, five dollars for one coffee and pastry at a café and the list went on. This time was not going to be different since we were on a poverty budget. However, the euro has brought prices down considerably. Chestnuts are my favorite winter snack and I have not had them once this year, so I bought a bag of ten for one euro and twenty cents. We had a coffee late in the afternoon at a wonderful little café and it was three euros and twenty cents. With our budget, we did not avail ourselves of any of the museums, but we had our lunch in the park that sits between the Museum of Natural History and the National Art Museum. It was enough for this trip to just admire the architecture and the wonderful fountains that grace the park.

Vienna has many pedestrian malls, which were crowded, but I had the sense from listening to languages that it was not crowded with tourists. In one square, there was a man performing a puppet show with a leopard puppet that was dressed in a coat and tie and ‘playing’ the piano. With canned music, the leopard performed with his god obviously pulling the strings. The puppet came alive with this man’s magical hands. He had superb control of the music, being able to stop it at a whim and the puppet interacted physically, with the people in a nature manner. It was an incredible demonstration of art at its best that would not be available in a museum.

We had not planned our day well. The trains back to Budapest were at 4:30 and then not again until 7:35 pm. By 4:30, I was dragging my tail. We went to McDonalds for a McFlurry, hoping the sugar rush would help me get by. Where else but McDonalds can you get a cheap sugar fix. We continued walking and looking in stores. When we did find some shirts on sale, the store did not take credit cards, so we passed them by. Stores close by 5:30, so we decided to walk back to the station and that is when we realized we were going to be loiterers for two hours, homeless vagabonds waiting for the train. We had enough change left over for one cup of tea. I told Ron he should wait until the train arrived in the station and then find the establishment with the longest line to wait in so that we could repeat our drama.

The return train took three hours to get back to Budapest; making more stops on the return then in the other direction. We did not get back to our apartment until 11:00.

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