Vienna, Austria - May 12, 2010
Sorry I have been so remiss in putting out a dispatch. Planned to fire one off as soon as I arrived here in Vienna, but the hotel here has no internet. So I will write this now and send it off when I get to Budapest tomorrow. Also, I think Little Spot has found it impossible to get a signal out. Must be some kind of RF shield over the city or something.
But am in Vienna now. Very jam-packed last few days. I can't remember when I wrote last. I think it was at Strasbourg, France. Yow! Was that the one where I said that it had been the worst day on the bike ever? Well it wasn't! The NEXT day was... on the way to Hassfurt, Germany. Actually, even though that was only a few days ago, I have pretty much wiped it from my memory. Maybe it was just too cold for my brain to store it. Mercifully, however, I got into Hassfurt early enough (and the sun actually came out for two hours) that I had a neat stroll around the little town.
Going to Hassfurt was a bit of a fluke. I was online the night before booking a hotel for somewhere else and the website I was using to book actually had a bad link. I wound up booking at the wrong hotel in the wrong city. I only noticed it when I was putting the address into the GPS. What the...??? Luckily I could make it though and it was pretty much along the inteneded route anyway. It's an old hotel with a very creaky worn wooden stairway. Funky place. I met a guy in town at the mobile phone store. He spoke English reasonably well but was really funny in that he would speak it with different accents. He tried a little English as a Frenchman, as well as with a Dutch and German accent, and even tried a southern US drawl that actually was quite good. Anyway, we had a good time topping up my phone card.
The next day, I headed off to Prague. Weather was a little better, not much though. I have to say that crossing the Czech border I immediately felt very, very far from home. It had a very Soviet feeling. Windows must be at a premium as many buildings just didn't have any. And some crazy stuff too. I was headed down the road and saw a lane closed symbol, just an open circle, so assuming it was just for some of the ever-present roadwork that is going on, I went around it, followed by the car behind me and about 500 feet further on... SKREECH!!! The road just dropped away about 3 feet. The whole road. Not just one lane. Glad I wasn't driving that stretch at night! So the driver behind and I exchange shrugs, turn around and eventually went our own separate ways trying to find a way east. The GPS was crunching out all kinds of options. Drive here... drive there, stop. Let the GPS figure something new. Drive a while. Dead end. No signs. Anyway, I finally made it to the outskirts of Prague where again, lots of exits and entrance ways were blocked due to construction and to get to the hotel, the GPS took me around the most complicated knot of underpasses, overpasses, ramps, sideroads...you name it. But it worked! Right to the hotel.
Road's End on a Czech Highway
So the hotel was a bit out of town which required taking the subway into the downtown. Pretty simple. Have to say that whatever feeling there was near the border about being in a foreign land disappeared in Prague. What a beautiful, cosmopolitan city. Everything is in Czech, English, French, German, you name it. Happened to hit on the day of the Prague Marathon. Must be a real big deal. Very party atmosphere. Just a spectacular place really. Well, it is if you like all that bricky-bracky baroque stuff. There is some older and of course some later but Baroque rules there. Took one of those little jitney tours to get oriented, then just walked all day. Found a 1700 church that was offering an organ concert that evening... Bach, Mozart, Medelssohn, Liszt and Franck... so I bought a ticket and hung around for that. Made for a long day, but it was worth it. The church was pretty gaudy in that Baroque kind of way, but the music was awesome. The organist knew his stuff although he was never introduced, his/her name never appeared anywhere and they were never seen. Anyway, it was a real six-cheeker I'll tell you. Think they were the original 18thcentury pews. First you'd sit on one cheek, then when that one died, you'd quietly roll over to the other, then after a while roll back. But of course the first one had only partially come back to life so the pace of rolling kind of picked up through time. The music did of take you of to a different place though... which was good because I was quite happy to go anywhere my ass wasn't.
Lovely Ladies in Prague
Anyway, was sorry to leave Prague. I should have stayed longer but whatever. Can't stay everywhere too long or I'll never make it home. So headed for Vienna. Sucky weather in the morning but cleared up by noon and had the most rewarding ride in a long time. The GPS took me to some little ferry crossing of the Danube and I met a gent there... very interested in my trip... tons of questions, all this on a two minute ferry ride. Big handshake, pat on the back and as we pulled off the ferry and went separate ways, he opens his window and big wave. Very nice guy. Welcome to Austria.
What a difference when I got to the hotel in Vienna though. Ugh. Oh well, I won't go into it. I can't get out of this hotel fast enough. Just colored my whole time here which is too bad because Vienna is really deserving of more time as well. But if I die in the hotel fire tonight, I died by jumping out the window. Faster and less painful than being smothered by all the bodies piling up in the hallway.
Have a Gute One in Vienna
Am looking forward to Budapest though. Have had a lot of people tell me it is one of their most favorite cities. I'm a little ahead of time and so I found what looks like a house in Buda to stay. $26/night. If it's good, I might even stay 4 nights or so. I still need to do a little bike work.
Oh well, sorry Little Spot freaked. Guess the satellite 25,000 miles away couldn't hear his little call through all the noise. Actually, it's amazing that it ever works. Unbelievable.