Thursday, March 14, 2002

From Prague to Vienna

Prague, Czech Republic
Woke up and packed for the trip to Vienna later today. I have to vacate the apartment by noon, so I’m going shopping with what little change I’ve got left. Ready to go at 08:30, early by my recent standards. I took the Metro to Namesti Trida, got another pancake, then headed towards Wenceslas Square to pick up some absinthe. On the way, I passed an internet café, but it opens at 10am. For around $10, I picked up a Red Bull and 0,4 l of absinthe (half of that’s for me, half is for a high school buddy). So it’s 09:23, and I have to find a phone that takes coins because I only need it for a few minutes (a card will be useless in a few hours). The Red Bull I had for breakfast kicked in during a techno song, and I almost want to run around the city. That stuff is great.

So I found that over 50% of the phones in the area take cards and have instructions for calling internationally-the coin operated ones don’t. But I found an example for calling France, so it was simple to change the numbers for Austria. The first time I dialed, nothing happened. The second time, it connected immediately. I didn’t do anything differently. Anyways, I got in touch with Wombats, the hostel that I’m going to in Vienna, so they won’t give away my space. 09:42, nothing to do. Thinking back to my camera problems, I think I want my next one (I think this one is beyond repair) to have a wide angle and super zooming ability, quiet, and lightweight. There were a number of times when a quiet camera wouldn’t be distracting. I’m still debating on a digital camera, since their battery life can be fairly short. I think that I might have salvaged the couple of pics in the camera when it finally bought the farm. Or they’ve had three or more exposures on the same frame. I walked back to my previously discovered internet café, checked email, and just relaxed.

On my walk back to the apartment, I used my change to get gummi bears. I’ve about 60 CSK in my pocket for lunch. Watched the news until I left for the train. I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but the metro trains look to be of Russian design, and have wood paneling like a Calvin Klein advertisement. Also, the ‘air conditioning’ is just forced air from the train’s forward motion. Feels like a rollercoaster more than a subway. I exited the metro at the Muzeum and went down the street to the place where I got my first klobasa-I had to know if they were really as good as I first thought. It was even better than the first time. That, and 1l of Coca-cola drained me of my Czech currency.

It’s about 12:26 now, I’m at the station, and my train leaves at 14:15. There are two sub-levels, the first of which goes under the tracks. The second goes outside and also has access to the Metro below. While waiting, I read up on Vienna, so I should be set when I get there. When I got to the train platform, a song I heard in Berlin came on, Puretone’s Addicted to Bass. It’s really catchy. The train arrived about 7 minutes before it is scheduled to leave. I was wondering how you know if you’re sitting in a reserved seat. That is, until I saw the little board to the side of the door with names and numbers (of the seat). My cabin filled up with single guys. Loss. And they don’t even look like they’d be interested in talking to me. And for all my observance of the reservations, I think that I managed to sit in a smoking section. As I’m too lazy to look for a new cabin, I’ll ‘tought it out’ for the hour-plus until I change trains in Pardubice. I think it’s in the Czech Republic, but I haven’t seen it on a map anywhere.

When we arrived at Pardubice at 15:40 or so, I did find a map. But it was too localized, so basically it’s useless to me. I’ll be catching the EC173 Vindobona to Vienna (also known as Wien)…I think it’s the same one I was on from Berlin to Prague (also known as Praha). Two freight trains have blown thru the station on the platform I am facing. Unbelievably loud and very windy. The train came a little late, but we were on our way at 16:14, maybe one minute after it arrived. I snagged a single seat facing forward in a no smoking section. There seemed to be a fair number of Czech air force guys on the platform when we left. The conductor/”Chief of Train” filled in my Czech pass expiration date in addition to his punching duties. Obsessive? The other 2 chiefs didn’t care.

Speaking of other trains, this one is nice. The one from Prague was kind of a dive. When I boarded it, I noticed a sort of sweat and other smells mixing together. Fortunately, our windows opened. Well, except when we passed a farm/field that smelled like you’d expect it to. Or maybe worse. One girl had her head in the breeze for maybe 60% of the ride, seeking shelter from the farm near the end. The first town we made a stop in on the EC train was Ceska Treblova, smoke from wood fires dotted the landscape, and the people were running thru the nearby hills. The next city we stopped at was Brno, just after sunset. I had a little dessert/snack in the food cart an hour back, and I think it will hold me until I reach Wien. Passed thru customs, got a Czech stamp. Had to ask for it though. As I don’t speak Czech, I made a stamping motion with my hand after the officer gave it back to me. He took it gruffly and flipped to the last possible page and hammered the stamp down against one of the glass dividing walls.

Vienna, Austria
At the next stop, the Austrians got on, stamped my documents, and somewhere in the ruckus, my cheap-o camera fell out of my jacket pocket and hit the floor. As it’s so simple, I doubt there is any damage to it. But I’m beginning to think that I’m not supposed to have pictures from my second day in Prague. Arrived in Vienna around 19:30, figured out the transit ticket on my first try. I did not correctly guess the right tram direction (right tram, wrong way). But I was able to hop off and on to one going the opposite way at the next stop.

Now Vienna seems to lend itself to misdirection. After I got off the tram, I walked down far enough to realize that I have to turn around. Not much later, I found my way to the hostel. I was checked in and dropped my stuff at 20:50, a full ten minutes before I’d aimed for. Not too shabby. At reception, I was given a map with restaurants, etc. I ended up at Schnitzelwirt (Neubaugasse 52) where the map said “Schnitzels…the size of UFOs.” It just arrived and are they ever! One covers a standard plate, and two come per dish. Schnitzel Heaven. German potato salad, and an Ottakringer beer complete the meal. It never had a chance. In terms of eating all my favorite foods, today could only have been better if I had a few McDonald’s hash browns for breakfast.

I’ve become quickly fluent in the transportation system, as I took the tram to the U-bahn here with no mistakes. On foot however, I again had trouble orienting myself. I guess looking at a map only made it worse, because I was looking for the street that the area is named for. Tomorrow will be a full day, complete with required stops in coffee shops and bakeries. I think that I might be coming down with a cold, however. So with that in mind, I need to call it a night. But the waiters didn’t see me for another 15 minutes. Only 9.10€ for a beer and a big meal. Nice. Crashed at the hostel at 23:00. Awoke again after midnight as my 3 roommates straggled in. Two guys from Brooklyn (one of those from Brown…I guess a school with no core requirements fosters a desire to do something other than schoolwork), and a girl from South Carolina.

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