Ooooh… Vienna!

I was in Vienna for six days and I never once heard Ultravox’s “Vienna.” I was in Austria for eight days and I never once heard Falco. But boy, did I ever hear a lot of Mozart. Were there any other Austrian composers?

Saturday September 13 to Friday September 19: the odyssey begins – Saturday September 13th I had a nice dinner at home with Naoko and Zen, eating a cake to celebrate early Naoko’s birthday, which was coming on the 14th but I would miss. Went to the airport, got on my KLM flight to Amsterdam, watched Indiana Jones 4, and slept as much as I could. At some point I realized that I probably couldn’t sleep any more, so I woke up and ordered a beer. Watched Don’t Mess With The Zohan and a few Simpsons episodes and had breakfast. Didn’t take anything to read, and the flight didn’t stock any decent reading materials (No newspapers! No Economist!!). I filled the last six blank pages in my dwindling notebook with bad poetry and doodles and twiddled my thumbs for the rest of the flight. The airplane landed somewhat late in Amsterdam, just after 6 AM local time, and I had less than an hour for my connecting flight. I scanned my boarding pass when I got there, then walked across the whole airport, stood in a line to get through the Shengen customs so that I could get to my connecting inter-Europe flight, got lost, then sprinted to the real gate, which was a shuttle bus departure. I still had 8 minutes before departure, but the crappy people there told me there was nothing that they could do, I had missed my flight. I blew my top and screamed at them, but they showed no mercy, the cold nordic wenches. When I went to reschedule my flight I was told that it would be five hours later, and I lost my temper again, to no avail. My five hours in Amsterdam airport were quite dull, but I had a 10 Euro coupon for food, so I had a second breakfast of pizza and beer and chilled out in the airport, mostly wandering around and listening to my iPod. I got bored around 10:00, so I went out of the airport and chilled out in front of the airport in the open air, soaking up the sun and forgetting about my missed flight and feeling glad to be alive. It was just about the only sunlight I was to experience in my eight days in Europe and the warmest temperatures as well. Went up to the roof to look at airplanes on the tarmac, then went back into the airport, caught my flight with plenty of time to spare, and off I went to Vienna. In Vienna I saw conference people that I knew, including my colleague, and we checked into the hotel together. The hotel is a former place, and my room was right next to the elevator. It was a gigantic high-ceilinged
room with a huge ugly chandelier hanging over my bed. Interesting, but a bit yucky. The window looked out to a courtyard. I opened my suitcase, got a few things, then went off to my first party. That was from a major US bank and was held in a grand palace. Nice times, good people. Then off we went to the next party, past all sorts of other palaces and in a great big fancy restaurant. Great food, pretty good company, lots of beer and wine and bottled water (still and sparkling). Walked home and slept around 10:00. Woke up at 4:00 AM (jet lag), and slowly got ready for my day. Checked in to the conference, did a bunch of interviews, went to the opening plenary session, then off to the first party of the evening. That was in a nice little room overlooking the Stephansdom cathedral. We got out of that, walked through the rain to the next party, which was held by a PR company for some IT companies. It was full of IT people, i.e. men, and a few of the PR girls. Hanging out with a lot of IT people didn’t seem like it would be a lot of fun, and the music was terrible, so I headed home and got some rest. Went to sleep at 11, woke up at 5. The rest of the week went a little like that – interviews, parties, sleep. The final party was on Thursday the 19th at the Hofburg, which I guess is one of Vienna’s central palaces. Saw many people I knew throughout the evening, danced, sang karaoke (“A Boy Named Sue” and “Roadhouse Blues”). Ate a bit – they had an odd mix of buffet (queue up for cold food) and waiters bringing around dishes (often the same food). The tables were full of wine and water, but beer was hard to find. Wandered into the band area – the music was great, and at one point they had a pretty cool (if “cool” is the approiate adjective) ABBA set going, and the middle-aged bankers and IT people were really getting into it. The games room was good fun too, and there was a good jazz band playing in another area. Got out of there at 1:30, just missed my bus by seconds (d’oh!), walked home through the midnight streets of Vienna with a bottle of expensive wine in my hand, made it back to the apartment, slept.

Friday September 19th: peace at last – Woke up, packed quickly, went down for breakfast, met my colleague and my boss for a debriefing, my wonderful Austrian friends Norbert and Theresa came by, and we all had a nice talk. The business talk finished near 12:00, I got the last of my stuff together and checked out. Norbert and Theresa took me to the Naschmarkt where we gawked at the gorgeous fresh food and wonderful little eateries. We sat down and had a beer and a pretzel and the best food I had in my whole trip to Austria – a wonderful bowl of Fritattensuppe, which is a hearty clear soup with pancake strips in it. Yum! They took me to the Westbahnhof, which has been under renovation since the 18th (d’oh!) so we had to use the crappy temporary shelter stuff. They set me on my train and off to Salzburg I went. Nostalgia – ho!!

Nice livery!

The Vienna city hall.

The cathedral near our hotel. 

Our hotel. 

Me in front of Hotel Regina.  Cold…

Party number five in a gorgeous hall.

Party number eight with charlatans.

Charlatans in action.

Vienna cops hard at work.

At the Naschmarkt admiring healthy-looking fruits.

An artichoke flower.

Pretzel king.

The best food I had in Vienna – Frittatensuppe.

This guy is not so popular with Austrian vandals – far-right candidate Heinz-Christian Strache of the Freedom Party.

Movie reviews:

Don’t Mess With The Zohan – Not a bad movie, although I think that the concept of a nutty ex-commando bringing peace to the Middle East by opening a hair salon at the right time and the right place is a bit insensitive for the most part. With Zohan Adam Sandler creates a character instead of playing himself like he does in most movies (except, memorable, in “Little Nicky”). The movie in general is pretty funny, but mixing politics with grossout humour is a bit tough to take – if it’s not political satire then what is it trying to be?

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. What a dumb story. Shia Leboeuf isn’t quite as intolerable as he was in Transformers, but only marginally. The near-unrecognizable John Hurt also did absolutely nothing for the film, possibly his worst role ever. Cate Blanchett was good, but who knows why she had to be a “psychic.” Terrible, terrible, terrible, much worse than “The Phantom Menace.”

Forgetting Sarah Marshall – This movie was subdued, and actually quite charming. Lots of sex, and only one awkward “ughhh – why didn’t they rewrite that scene” moment. Good one.

Les Visiteurs – Jean Reno playing a smelly medieval knight, with his snivelling medieval manservant, and their misadventures with modern French rural bourgeoisie. I don’t understand French very well, but I know enough to tell that the screenplay dialogue kicked ass – even the subtitles were a scream.

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