Thrown out of the Hotel Probe; Blansko to Vienna; White marble and a nap in the park; A series of nice people and an antidote to bad couchsurfing experiences

After breakfast in the morning, as I was passing the reception desk at the Hotel Probe, our budget hotel for two nights, I heard angry shouts calling me back. The manager was furiously waving a ruined towel at me. Sheryl had coloured her hair two nights before and used one of the old towels in the room, making a mess of it. The manager looked a lot more upset than you’d expect over one towel, but I can certainly understand. If I were nicer, I’d have taken the flak for Sheryl, smoothed everything over and dealt with it. What I did was go and fetch Sheryl and let her get yelled at. Call me a bastard if you like, but it wasn’t me that made the mess, and cleaning up other people’s messes only encourages them to make more. Sheryl just stood there repeating promin’te (’sorry’), since neither of us understood the manager’s ranting in Czech. The pantomime of throwing the towel in the trash and then jabbing an angry finger at the exit made her meaning clear enough, though. I’ve never been thrown out of a hotel before (believe it or not). It was a curiously humiliating feeling. It was made even worse by the fact that we were getting thrown out of a dive.

With nothing to hold us in Blansko, we took the train for Brno and then on to Vienna. Austria is covered under our rail pass, but the Czech Republic isn’t. I still don’t understand the system as it relates to travelling between covered and non-covered countries, quite. When we travelled from Berlin to the Czech Republic we had to pay, but only from the border - so we expected something similar this time, and it was a very pleasant surprise to find out that we didn’t need to pay for the train. The train was running late, naturally, and we reached Břeclav where we were supposed to change trains, it was ten minutes after that train was scheduled to depart. Luckily for us, the connecting train was running half an hour late itself so we were able to catch it.

Vienna was very hot and very sunny. After the damp chill of the Czech Republic it was a bit of a shock - it felt like we were back in Portugal. We stored the bags in a locker at the Westbahnhof (it was so nice to see lockers in a train station again. Life is so much more annoying and complicated without them) and went out to wander in the historical centre of the city. Vienna has some very impressive architecture, befitting one of the most grandiose empires of history. Everything is huge and all in clean white neoclassical marble. Parliament, the Museumquartier, and the Natural and Art History Museums are particularly imposing. Vienna is one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever seen, too, and is filled with beautiful well-kept parks.

It was Sunday, though, and nearly everything was closed. No supermarkets and no restaurants were open. It took us an hour to find a bagel place that would sell us food, by which time we had been getting very hungry. The bagels satisfied us enough that we could walk around some more, though we only made it as far as a nice little park by the Rathaus before flaking out on the grass for an hour’s nap. When we woke up we got in touch with Regine, a contact from couchsurfing.com, who said she’d let us stay with her that night. Regine met us at Westbahnhof and we went for dinner. She turned out to be a great person - funny and intelligent too. She’s a software usability engineer, so we had lots to talk about, though I was afraid to give her the address of this site, since it has some rather glaring usability flaws (which I’ll fix at some point in the future when I have a week to spare). We spent a couple of hours over dinner and then went to meet a group of her friends at a bar. They were all fun people too. They’d been climbing and we’d been caving, so the conversation wasn’t boring - except maybe to people who don’t share a deep interest in rocks.

Flourish

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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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