Our Diary News from Vienna, Austria

We left Krakow and the flat European plain turned into the undulating Alpine foothills as the train approached Vienna. We were now in the heart of Europe; we understood the facilities and language - English was commonplace and Viennese was pronounceable - the transport maps were understandable and everything seemed to work. Our only problem was how do you buy Metro tickets? The information desk sold us two tickets which helped. We were booked into a hotel close to a metro stop so were planning to use the metro during our two day stay. We never did solve this problem; ticket machines were few and far between and you didn't seem to need a ticket to get into or out of the station - the whole system seemed to run on trust. Although feeling guilty we were forced to travel for free much of the time!

Vienna is a large urban sprawl with an historic centre, so a hop-on /hop-off bus sightseeing trip was a good way to get around - and it included a walking tour of the centre. This was a good solution to seeing this city in a short time. The bus tour was OK but it felt a bit like taking a suburban bus - with a mediocre voice over. The walking tour was better and gave us a "feel" for the city. The statues, squares and buildings were impressive and full of historical meaning. We particularly liked the statue of Minerva in the Hofburg Square - Minerva, the goddess of Wisdom triumphing over Ignorance and Hunger. With the thoughts of Auschwitz and the current issues in the Middle East in mind this statue rang a bell and could be used as a mantra - If we can overcome ignorance and replace it with wisdom and overcome hunger and pull people out of poverty will the world be a better place?

Less of this philosophising…that's what travel does for you! We had a great time in Vienna, coffee with Sachertorte, a local scrumptious cake, served by formally attired waiters. In all, good food friendly banter with the bar men, drinking out of the many pumps providing water from the Alps, good music and dance - what more could you want? However we were running out of time - we had arranged to house-sit for our cruising friends Mike and Jill in the UK - time to head south to Italy followed by a quick dash to Paris!
Up at 5.15am but no coffee! Not a good way to start the day. We asked the Hotel to order us a taxi to the station - the train to Venice left at 06.22. By 5.55 we were getting worried; the taxi had not turned up. The concierge didn't seem to care less so we left the hotel and flagged down a passing taxi. We should have done this earlier. Keith asked the driver to step on it - and he took him at his word. Luckily all the lights were green. Great driving and a big tip - we caught the train with minutes to spare. Our first and only near miss…