Thursday, 16 March 2017

Vienna - final thoughts...

I promised myself to only write three blog posts on Vienna. After all, I don't want to bore you although I could write at least a dozen, but three was the promise I made and, like the loves of my life, that is what I shall stick to.

It was only three nights and days but what a different three nights and days they were. Of course, I will leave aside my bloody knees and my snoring. But even with that I left Vienna with a feeling that us British have somehow missed out and all because of the English Channel. So how should I do this? I know, I'll let it just gush...

I hate bloody airports. The walking is a killer, but once away from the planes and on board the two level airport to city centre train (fifteen mins non-stop) the Vienna transportation system was magnificent with bus, rail and the most spotless underground I have ever seen. A three day unlimited travel ticket was just over a tenner. It makes me wonder about the UK, just what have we done? The government claims that it wants public transport used, but it makes no attempt to encourage it. I won't ride that particular horse here, although I did quite enjoy the Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanish riding school.

Cakes, schnitzel, goulash, sausages, cheese, beer and wine for under three quid a bottle from the Spar. Yes, I loved the food and the easy going cafe's on the streets. I loved the little Austrian bar that we used to pop into on the way back to our hotel for a beer and a shot of blackberry schnapps. Just a bar, full of people coming back from work having a drink and smoking. Yes, I was shocked to find that you could still smoke in restaurants and bars. But hey, it's Europe who needs buttoned-up rules when a riot may break out any moment? Of course my 'shocked' is a result of years of conditioning by a government who want to control me - well listen up you Westminster John Bulls... I've been to Vienna!

I was surprised about the security too, surprised but not worried or concerned. At the museums there were no scanners and no bag checks. People wandered around with backpacks and bags that could have contained anything and there were no armed guards, just older men and women who sat watching or answered questions. In the galleries I walked up to within a couple of feet to closely study pictures worth tens of millions. Klimt, Schiele, Munch, Breugel, Raphael, Bosch, Rembrandt self-portraits. I could have easily reach out and touched any of them, or pulled a knife from my bag and slashed them, although of course I didn't.

Art and culture was everywhere and on such a huge scale that it made London look silly. The wealth of the city, its importance in a world long gone, was obvious. Huge spreading squares, massive symmetrically mirrored palaces, an exquisite art deco apartment house above a McDonald's by the Danube, the cleanliness. In the morning and evening at seven the church across the way from our hotel rang the bells to make the citizens aware that it was time to start or end work - just tradition these days. Busy people rushed to and fro, but not too fast and always without pushing. The bike lanes were adhered to and used, the cyclist polite with their bells, strangers came up to you and asked if you needed help finding your way and not wanting anything in return. I didn't feel threatened. It was all very un-British and not at all paranoid. It was European.

When we leave Europe we lose more than a silly trade agreement, when we leave Europe we lose our chance of being part of something much grander than Henry VIII and Winston Churchill, when we leave Europe we can never be Viennese again, not even a little. It's taken me a long time but I think that I almost understand what the 'community' in European Community means.

Thanks Vienna.

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