I wake up coughing. My throat has been destroyed by the second-hand smoke from last night.
Breakfast is again lunch meat and hard boiled eggs, but I find the bread and jam hidden behind one of the food baskets. The jam is the friendliest employee at the hotel’s restaurant.
Several in the group have acquired new luggage that comes close to overwhelming the trailer being pulled behind today’s transport.
“This group has set a new record for most luggage.”
We ride along a winding road through the Czech countryside and across the border into Austria. I buy cough drops at a convenience store when we stop for gas. Turns out, “Vicks” in German is “Wicks”.
The area of Austria we drive through appears to be made entirely of farmland and windmills. If not anchored by the weight of the Alps, Austria might fly away.
Vienna looks rougher than expected, but as we approach the city center, the volume of lame graffiti fades. The U.S. beats Europe on quality of graffiti by a wide margin.
Our hotel is near Schwedenplatz in an area of town called Fleischmarkt, which appears to be related to 18th-century, Greek butchers and not prostitutes. We drop off our luggage and immediately launch into the town for an orientation walk.
Everyone is hungry and this seems to fluster our guide as she has not planned to take a food break until after the walk. We visit a nearby market where I shove lava-hot prawn rolls into my mouth as quickly as possible. Something in my DNA drives me to never be the person who holds up the group.
Vienna’s town center is packed with tourists, but somehow seems better equipped to handle it than Prague. Our guide points out various landmarks for us to return to later. The juxtaposition of advertising and museums throws me off and I find myself frustrated with the signage and storefronts, but Vienna is otherwise a magnificent city.
It has reached 100 degrees and we take that as a signal to go back to the hotel. There is no air-con in our room, but with both door and windows open, it is bearable. A maid wandering by takes pity on us and brings us a fan.
The EU is doing everything it can to combat anthropogenic climate change while the U.S. government sits on its hands. I refuse to complain about no A/C and acknowledge that I am ordinarily spoiled by what is to the rest of the world, a luxury.
Self-righteousness be damned.
Dinner is at a beer garden in the outer ring of Vienna. A gruff-looking, bear of a woman serves as our waitress. Carafes of white wine and sparkling water are littered onto our table and our order is condensed into combined sets of the two main dishes and two sides that the restaurant serves.
No one touches the sparkling water.
The schwein schnitzel fills the plate it is served on and is very good. Conversation is lively and my respect for our guide grows as she responds matter-o-factly to someone complaining about Europe not having air conditioning.
“Yes. It is Europe in the summer. Maybe your country should ratify the Kyoto Protocol.”
The Australian end of the table has grown loud and our gruff waitress has asked us to quiet down so that the restaurant’s neighbors do not complain. They have out-rowdied the Austrians and I am proud of them.
Take that, Arnold Schwarzenegger.