Thursday, 15 September 2016

A Viennese whirl...

Tea and a Bakewell tart, Costa Coffee, South Terminal...
The first problem was getting confirmation. I needed confirmation before I could open up the lap top and book my flight and hotel. A week prior to the trip – and only one day after returning from Vienna – I sat at home and I knew that in seven days I would be back in Austria. Or would I be? Biting the bullet and booking the trip would have been a mistake. What if the meeting was cancelled? So I left it and the lack of any real confirmation continued. As the uncertainty mounted, the flights got more expensive.

I wanted to fly BA, like last time, but as time moved on, the likelihood of those Island Bakery Lemon Melts and a small bottle of red wine – for no extra money – and not forgetting the dulcet tones of the Biggles-like BA pilot, were fading fast. There was, I knew, just one option: easyJet.

I nipped in here to buy a Skipper's Tablecloth
And sure enough, when the meeting was finally fixed and set in stone, the BA flight was far too expensive. so I was left with no other choice than easyJet. Look, I'm not anti-easyJet, it's just that they're not as good as BA. Full stop. But I found myself online, booking my flight and my hotel and quietly regretting the whole thing.

On the train towards Vienna Hbf from Vienna Airport...
It was going to be a rushed trip. Flying out on Sunday evening at 1735hrs, getting into Vienna at 2050 and then jumping on a train to a place called Linz. Last week, somebody in my hotel (the Austria Trend Europa in Vienna) said it was an hour, but the reality was one hour and 52 minutes and that wasn't including the train from the airport to Wien Hbf. But hey, if the flight had been on time, there might not have been a problem. But the flight wasn't on time. It was late. I arrived in Vienna later than scheduled and it had a knock-on effect. I took the train to Wien Hbf, that was fine, but the train to Linz wasn't until 2255hrs. Time for an ice-cold fish burger! I was starving and you might be wondering why. I'll tell you. Once airborne, the easyJet cabin crew calmly announced that they would not be accepting credit or debit cards and were unable to provide receipts. Well, sod that, I thought. I was starving – and while I had a tenner in my wallet, I wanted to use my credit card, because that's what I use when I'm on business and the ten pound note was for my own private use. Furthermore, I didn't want to give those capitalist scum my money, not after being so inconvenienced. So I sat there. I couldn't even stare out of the window because, by the time we'd reached 'our cruising altitude', it was dark. I didn't even read as there was no in-flight magazine for my seat, and even if there had been, I wouldn't have read it. It wouldn't have been anywhere near as good as BA's High Life and yes, I was yearning for John Simpson's monthly column.

Crap wine and the remains of a cold fishburger
When the plane eventually landed, I found a Spar store – another brand, like Lipton's, that you no longer see in the UK (another sign of our decline as a nation) – and bought a cheese and ham sandwich for the train ride to Vienna Hbf, but I was still hungry when I got there, and now I was tired too and the thought of two hours on a train to Linz made me seek solace in a Nordsee fish burger. It looked great in the photograph over the counter so I bought one and a bottle of cheap 'rot' wine (plus a plastic mug). I took the food and drink to a table and it was there, having taken a large bite out of the burger, that I discovered the awful truth: it was stone cold. With an unpleasant expression on my face as if I'd been sucking a Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil lolly, I approached the counter. "This is stone cold, can you heat it up?" The woman looked at me as if I'd stolen her last Rolo. "No, sorry, we don't have any ovens," she said. No ovens? You mean everything is sold stone cold? Well, I didn't ask that question, I simply skulked back to my table and finished the burger, having realised that the Austrians DO eat their fish burgers cold. How do I know? Because as I sat there, pulling a face with every bite, I watched as other people bought the same fish burger, although I did wonder whether they were planning on taking their burgers home to a microwave oven.

And then there was the train journey to Linz. Not one hour, but two, in a train that might well have been in the movie The Great Escape. It was mainly a sleeper train and oh how I would have loved a cabin to myself and a ticket all the way to Bregenz on the border with Switzerland, the train's ultimate destination. But I was alighting at Linz, the first big stop, and sitting in one of the two compartment carriages, like something out of a Harry Potter movie. I shared a compartment with two elderly people, a man and a woman, who got off a couple of stops along the line. Then there was a beefy-looking bloke in a tight tee-shirt, and a fat guy with smelly feet who later stretched out, taken off his shoes and tried to get some shut-eye. He, like me, was travelling to Linz and eventually it was just the two of us in the compartment: him snoring and me sitting there playing with my watch, unable to take in the view outside because it was so dark.

A cold fish burger? No ovens to heat it up? Get out of here!
So let's have a recap. First, no food on the delayed easyJet flight. Then a cold fish burger, courtesy of Nordsee – I won't be going back there in a hurry – and now something else to add to the party. I found my way to the taxi rank, told the driver my destination – the Austria Trend Schillerpark – and what did he say? "That's just five minutes away, you can walk!" So off I went, my suitcase rolling noisily behind me. It was almost 0100hrs when I reached the hotel and the fact that I found the hotel was only thanks to the fat guy from the train who I caught up with while walking. He pointed me in the right direction and soon I was in a lift, heading towards room 306 and a few hours of sleep.

Room 306 of the Austria Trend Schillerpark

The following day I had a hearty breakfast of cereal, a croissant, scrambled egg with two sausages, fresh fruit and a small pot of tea. Later on, after my meeting was over, I made the same journey but in reverse. I took a train from Linz to Vienna Hbf and then a train to the airport where I checked in and then sat in the restaurant next to the gate awaiting my flight. I had around two hours to kill and fortunately time flew by as I'd met Mark – on holiday alone in Vienna – and we passed the time of day (or night in this case) chatting about motorcycles and travelling before it was time for me to stand in the queue, go through security at the gate and then wait to board the plane. It was delayed again, this time for longer than before due to a mechanical issue with the landing gear, and while we were scheduled to depart at 2130hrs, it was nearer 2230hrs when we were finally airborne.

The flight was pleasant enough. The cabin crew accepted credit cards so I enjoyed tea, cookies and some fizzy lemon drink in a can, although somehow I managed to get chocolate over my suit trousers – odd when you consider that the cookies were on the tray and my lap was underneath tray. We landed at Gatwick at past 2300hrs and after queuing for the electronic passport control, my taxi driver failed to show. He eventually arrived having gone to the wrong terminal and soon I was on the last leg of my awful journey. By the time I got to bed it was 0130hrs. Needless to say I went in to work later the following day.

No comments:

Post a Comment