The only flight the client approved was the 09.05 from Heathrow and we weren’t needed on site until the evening.
Q: What do you do with an afternoon to kill in central Vienna with a budget of zero?
A: Go for a walk.
The pull of the swish hotel was strong, saved only by my room not being ready (as we were ahead of the check-in window). Previous forays into Austria have been up an Alp so this was a maiden visit. (Much like Krakow in March.)
Luggage ditched and shanks’s pony it is then.
And what an elegant city to wander around. (I say “wander” when I really mean “stride at pace” because them calories don’t burn themselves right?) Whilst I am a massive fan of the sci-fi-made-real/super easy-to-use Google Maps, I yearn for simpler times. That means phone away and following your nose for a self-guided tour. Ignorant to the cultural significance of landmarks, buildings and street locations the (anti)plan developed in a grand loop with stops for scoff at some sort of cakery. Cities define themselves with their natural boundaries of transport, topography, look-at-me buildings/features and a whole raft of other nudging factors that serve to steer.
Anti-guidebook is a thing. You’re not lost if it doesn’t matter where you are going.
The comedy highlight came in the form of a Chinese tour group swarming a formal garden I happened to be traversing. At about five metres out I could – shades of Terminator – project the near jogging arc she was taking, noticing she was not paying the slightest attention to her surroundings. Drawing to a stand I stood fore-square apparently to give her the best possible impact zone. (Personally I find looking in one direction whilst walking in another is not the best recipe for incident free tourism.) As she bounced off my chest, half fell and stumbled she turned her head babbling a fabulous apologetic fusion of the-only-words-of-German-she-knew and – forgive me – Cantonese? “Láojià-Gutentagdanke.”
Both of us unharmed, I – for reasons that seemed wise in the moment – bowed slightly.
All that remained was for a split second of silence before her gaggle of chums fell about laughing.
About a minute later I froze. My heart skipped a beat: My wallet!? My phone!? My passport?!
All present. (Sad that we have to suspect a scam all the time…)
Back at the hotel the evening business was curtailed in short order and – joy! – the client did not require us until 07.00. Still early, a peer was on a mission to find the Danube and waltz over it. So that’s what we did. Luckily no footage of the dance has survived.
Next time in Vienna a guidebook and spot of Opera I shouldn’t wonder…