Once upon an Austrian…

Blog 1 of Austria (Day 6 of my journey)

So I am sitting outside on Kirsten’s back porch somewhere in Vienna. It has been a long day to get to this point. Today was the first day on this trip things went wrong.
I made it to the airport in Paris just fine … well mostly fine. Sure the ticket machine rejected my change (I’d really love if someone could explain to me why this happens so often) and the woman hiding in the booth deciding that 6:30am was the right time to empty the only machine in that station (forcing me to wait 5 minutes for her to do it), but still, I made it and with plenty of time to spare. A few days ago I was so concerned with making my 9am flight that I considered squandering 50+ euros to take a taxi to the airport. Fortunately I am now the master of the Paris metro system and that was unnecessary.
My farewell to Paris included the usual heavy police presence (guys in camo casually walking the streets/airports/tourist sites with machine guns) and forcing down the worst “latte” (read something that dripped out of a machine) I’ve ever experienced. I tried to mask the foul taste with a stale pain au chocolat but it didn’t really work. I’m pretty sure it took a few years off my life.
Even arriving in Vienna was pretty smooth – I didn’t even have to talk anyone. The prevalence of English in Europe sure is weird. Most Parisians spoke some french and there were all sorts of signs and ads in English. Then today on my flight over on Sky Europe (which I think is Czech but I might have made that up) – a flight between Paris and Vienna – the on board attendants spoke either English or some eastern European language. They appeared to speak neither French nor German. Odd. Worked out well for me though.
The EU also means that when I arrived in Vienna I didn’t have to speak to a single customs official or show my passport to anyone. It is very strange. I guess France knows I’m in and what I do once I am here isn’t anyone’s concern. My how times have changed.
The aforementioned difficulty came after I exited the “secure” area and searched for my cousin Kirsten who was meeting me. I waited and waited and waited but no Kirsten. Eventually after an hour I knew something was wrong and wandered a bit, then spoke English to some twenty-something at a taxi stand because I didn’t know how to make a phone call! Long story short: apparently telling someone your departure time rather than your arrival times means you both waste loads of time in an airport that they other one is not at. The upside is that I made my way into Vienna with a little direction by phone and other than being leered at by some creepy turkish magazine sellers at the subway while i waited for Kirsten and the boys to meet me, I survived.
Pro for Vienna: The ticket machines don’t make you come up with a gazillion dollars in coins like Paris’s machines and a weekly pass costs only 14 euros.
Con for Vienna: The secret subway police show up at stations to boot out beggars as the worst dressed people on earth. I thought the guy who was wearing black Lacoste running shoes, leather pants, a jean jacket and a red baseball cap (clearly he made me take notice) was just weird, but turns out he had a badge and everything. I have no idea what sort of badge but it was clearly effective. It also creeped me out that he made her produce some sort of identity papers. I don’t like this police-state-ness of Europe. I do however enjoy mocking middle-aged men in leather pants.
Pro for Toronto: I will never stand for anyone who tells me the TTC is dirty. In both Paris and Vienna the trains are old, hella-dirty and smell like urine. Sure, they are far more useful systems but I feel dirty every time I even come close to one.
I think that will be all for tonight. Clearly I have gone a little hardcore on the blogging (and you thought I talked a lot in person!). Read what you can and what you can’t, fake so I feel loved when I return.
Tscheuss.
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