October 8, 2010

A Trip to Vienna - Chapter 2

Chapter II

(08/10/2010)

We checked in, the EuroStars Embassy Hotel. Booked in advance, 0.5 Km away from the location of the hospital where my Aunt was suppose to come to get cut. Four stars and well reviewed on the net. Lucky, we checked in before going to the doctor as we were set to. After a phone call to our link to the famous Viennese Private Clinic we found out that that was not it, and that was just the hospital he was working in as a Anesthesia Doctor, during the mornings. We also found out he spends the rest of the day in another Clinic which was truly private, but located on the other side of the town, and that was where we had to come later in the day, 6 hours after our flight landed, for my Aunt physicals. The whole story came down on me like an avalanche. I felt stupid and I guessed I played that way for the rest of the trip. You see: My plan was ruined, and it didn’t stop there, destiny continued to tear down my plans one after another till the end of the trip. Maybe I should’ve consulted my horoscope before and guide myself from it; I would’ve definitely had a much more organized and cheap trip.

I think is the money’s fault; you see whenever I see money I tend to change and act stupid. I guess every one of us does that to a certain level; I’ve seen it happening around me, and you gotta take my word: For the last 40 years I lived in all environments, beginning with super poor to filthy rich and back to misery a few times and I think the circle did not close yet.

That’s where from the attitude and the wardrobe, which didn’t help much during this trip either. The first impression is that Vienna is a large town. As you drive in, through the complex archipelagoes of motorways and tunnels that brings one from a distant world into the core of the city, you pass by the huge OMV refinery, mostly ugly, industrial, shiny, mechanical… as a prosthetic heart of the city, left aside to pump blood in the what was once the capital of the Hungarian – Austrian Empire.

As you drive in, the city’s slums disappear under the highway and you end up right in the city’s core,  Central Vienna, that blows you away at a first look. I say "at a first look" because if you live next to it for an entire week it kind of shows you the other faces of it. It is all like the first EuroStar Hotel we checked in. My girl who came later described it perfectly for a native Romanian who shares our age range: “It looks like Ceausescu never died to them.” I know is somehow complicated for the English reader, but the definition of this is based on long feeling that my generation had that Ceausescu will never die. Somehow my generation understood that subtle phrase, and still know that even though the glamour is there, the shiny cupolas, the Famous Brands streets, the Kartner Strasse, the bumbles streets, the old vehicles driving down the center, the poorly dressed people, the roughly Mozart boys selling opera tickets in front of the famous edifice, the huge Imperial palace that gets nowadays a clean out, back to a sweet tone of ochre from a very dark black, that one wonders how many centuries nobody bothered to clean it… And further on, the other side and over the Rosensteing towards the factory that makes the most famous Austrian beer; Ottakringen, in an immigrant inhabited neighborhood, where laws of parking do not apply, where at the entering corner, eastern European hookers display in the window of the Pussycat Piano Bar just like the ones in Amsterdam, where coffeehouses are places where no native Austrian would dare to adventure himself; opposite which I got us a room, the other day into a second Eurostars Hotel called Eurostars Vienna and solved the internet restrictions for hotels to pay back an internet reservation in desperate causes. Got another room in the right area at a hotel... under the same reservation...

The first night we spent at the Embassy, I got hooked to the net. Not wireless how it was presented in the Internet ad on booking.com, but by cable. We arrived at the hotel and as I checked in I presented myself, and my Aunt as being Mother and Son, for skipping the misunderstandings, and with the same family name that thing was easy. I told the nice receptionist, that we are here for her operation and they checked us in, in room 666.

I am not a superstitious guy, but I didn’t see that as a very comfortable door to open. Although still holding my insides with one hand and pulling on the luggage with the other, we went in. The room was exactly like in the picture, but uglier: Again one of those looks: “Like Ceausescu didn’t died yet.”

I found out later, or so I think I did, that this was a Spanish own business that we just happened to burst into. The first night at the Embassy, I only spotted a couple of Asians, perhaps as lost as I was. We went down to the restaurant, not hungry, mostly because my Aunt had to take some pills which required that her stomach has some food in it. In the absolute cold pop environment we were presented the menu: Sandwich, Shnitzel, and gulash soup. I had the sandwich, my Aunt the Shnitzel, both plastic frozen and reheated dishes on a bill of a four stars hotel. Next morning for breakfast we've seen all kinds of tourists and especially Spaniards. We had a poor breakfast, as especially made for those who are suppose to get caught in the trap, and right on, I stand up to put my next plan in motion. I was ready. I went to the receptionist counter and told the story of my operatible “mother” once again. The lady understood every word of it and even felt for it. With truly sorry eyes she told me that if I leave the hotel they will have to charge me for the whole 7 days of booking, with no refund. Later, my girl, who has hotel experience, told me that they are supposed to do that because I mixed up their plans and they could’ve give the room to some one else and not lose the money. That was a moment I felt stupid again and later I tend now to believe that most of the people live in that state and it doesn’t hurt.

Ok, I understood to charge you for the first night, if you didn’t show up, but next day you rent the hell out of the bloody room, the first time you get a chance. My response to that was: Did they get themselves into the church business? Shouldn’t they take a risk like every one of us living in this world and trying to run businesses? Well it seems they don’t take any risk, none of them, not even the taxi drivers who display all over their expensive leather seats, yellow stickers announcing the passenger that if driven to the airport the costumer has to pay an extra 12 Euros for the Taxi fair back. Don’t get me wrong, my girl was not happy with the Austrian traditions either, we were just observing together.

Money run out fast in Vienna, faster than I experienced anywhere else in Europe, and despite their poorly, cold, communist look, where everything is in its place but not quite, the place is more expensive than London, Paris or any other big capital of the old continent.
Armed, as I am always in this situations, I came up with the back up plan: The EuroStars Corporation has another hotel, bearing the same name on Ottakringer Strasse, a district much closer to the clinic I had to take my Aunt in for her operation. (All researched by myself on the Internet, the night before in the room 666, where the wireless signal didn’t reach.)

She said yes, and we got ourselves a taxi and drove to the other side of the town to the new location. Vienna is big, but not so big, and the taxi fairs will kill you. Even though we moved closer to the clinic the bill was not much lower, almost insignificant, but the idea that I moved out of room 666, made me dig in all of it.

October 6, 2010

A Trip to Vienna - Chapter 1

Chapter I

(05/10/2010)

I just came off a plane from Vienna from a quick run, planed as hell, with the knowledge of a guy who discovers a new territory. The proclaimed territory wasn’t Austria, or Vienna what so ever, was Neurosurgery, the reason I traveled and knew not much about the situation I was about to go fencing for the next week. About a year ago on a trip back from Mexico, my Aunt, the only living blood relative I have left from my mother's side of the family got her back frozen instantly and thought it was a cold or something she caught from the change of temperature while traveling across the continents. She came back home and by some doctors advice she began physiotherapy, working out the soaring muscles. For the following months she got worst and worst and heard lots of stories about what that could be, until she finally found out it was a double hernia on the back disks at the base of her spine.

I for one, told her to take action every other time we spoke on the phone, and finally she decided to take it one year later when the thing got to her so far, as to unable her to step on her left foot which felt as an electricity conductor, under a triceps muscle who fought hard for holding her uncontrolled weight from the right foot which was beginning to crack as well. In fact her right leg lost control too a few times in what was to be her last week of severe suffering, and convinced her it is time to get under the knife.

On the 26th of September, last month I got the call I was waiting for the last year, and promised myself, once it came I should not ignore it, no matter what other business plans are waiting me. On the opposite, I “Mobilize” myself and jumped into action as an action hero. "Mobilize" as understood here out of the Romanian meaning it had as I grew up: "In times of war the Romanian tropes were mobilized by the order of who ever commanded them, first the Germans then the Allies, and that was the term young soldiers’ mom’s, sister’s remembered it was called, when they were packed up and sent to open each battle as the first line of raw meat. Well, as a much simpler definition the term stoke to the Romanian vocabulary as “come back to reality and give yourself into the action”, and my bread use it when someone close to you needs your help, and you are not suppose to think back for a second, even if the power that is needed, overwhelms you.

Back in my family we were all like that, as the attitude is based on an old lesson of my grandma' who once tried to put the bases of a new family she was trying to create, after loosing most of heir’s in the war; 9 brothers on the first line, then a broken hearted father and a overwhelmed mother who left the knots loose, at the instauration of the communist nationalization, not far after the strike of the 23rd economical crisis.

On the 28th of September I was booked to fly off to Vienna with my Aunt and get her to a private hospital, operated, recovered as good as jumping back in the plane for the trip home and back to Romania in 7 days, today.

The trip reached its purpose, as my Aunty is well back on her feet, but nevertheless left a strong impression in my mind with its atmosphere, adventures and blank ending; with me sitting and writing about it at 5 AM, when the film of it still rolls in my mind, making me not sure if I am home in reality or my spirit is still there.

I realized I learned many things in my life, from hard experiences, angels who come my way to help and a little study on psychology that I picked up doing my later years of film directing. Perhaps the need to tell this story comes from the same place; the love for adventure set in a different environment from the one I am used with every other day. Much like a film itself.

Therefore I think this chapter can begin with receiving both my uncle and my aunt the night before we had to fly away. What followed was a serious lesson of patience and self control, for I am a man who knows what my powers are, next to considering the hernia I got on my belly from a former story some years back; So I got served with the Aunt I haven’t seen to be as worst as the hardest pains began a week after I visited her last in my hometown, Constanta.

As we settled on our way to the restaurant down the back alley, over of the parking lot in front of my block we stopped several times and walk the 100 meters in about 30 minutes: My Aunt trying as hard as she could to keep up her smiles, and sounds of lion yowling coming out of her twisted face each time she stepped further. I thought he future looked bright with handling her away to Vienna, and driving was out of my mind right away, as I knew she couldn’t bare the ride and a night stop with that thing eating out of her spine.

Next day in the morning we took the plane and got there quickly, Vienna is not far off Romania. Once you cross Budapest you are already there. The first interesting scene happened as we got to The Vienna International. The airport there is weird, old and very badly managed. It reminds me a lot of "Baneasa Airport" in Bucharest, a small halt mostly for internal flights, of course at a different scale. We came right out of the terminal and walk, our walk, towards the check out like everyone else, when a young Austrian wearing an orange jacket with the word “Services” on his back; a kid of about 20 years of age, with the look in his eyes as coming from a long bread of airport workers, encountered us with a question, making sure my Aunt was not faking the walk.

He asked if we need a wheelchair and we said: Yes! I froze still for 3 minutes as he went off to get the chair, balancing on my arms: My Aunt, My Camera bag, My Laptop bag and a plastic bag containing my Aunt’s radiographies from the doctors back in Constanta. He came quickly and sat her down. He disappeared for another minute asking permission in the same time as bumbling some harsh German in his walkie-talkie, dialogize with someone else from the Airport’s premises, and once back, he pushed the chair with the sick lady up to a counter where we had to wait for another 20 minutes to ask permission to use the chair.

The girl at the counter was good enough to mark the event on her computer screen and I was sent with the chair into the elevator where the young Austrian excused himself for leaving me alone, for he had to attend other important business on the arriving floor. I found my way on the complicated alleys, got my Aunt through the disabled people check-in booth and sat on to look for the luggage. Time did passed and all this little adventure to the pick up baggage rolling band got us more than a half of an hour as I had to guess after laying my eyes on the empty room. The spinner drove soundless with three lonely bags that quickly caught the eye of the security guys who announced that they are ready to pick up unattended luggage for security reasons. Me, action! Kept pushing on the wheels of the crying wolf, who got pains now even sitting on the chair, with my other eye looking for a trolley and trying to move the bags a little so they see is not unattended.

I wore a classic jacket, well cut as a short military trench with double rows of buttons, shiny strong booths and a cap to protect the brain from the weather change I knew I’ll have to go thru after checking the internet the day before. I guess as seen on a wide lens I looked like one of the Marx Brothers running from the chair to the spinner and back to the exchange office to ask for 50 eurocents coins so I could unlock one of the airport’s trolleys, that I already knew I wont be bringing back to claim the cents. The image was almost black and white, as airport lighting is best set to light the metal walls and the advertising panels bringing people to simple spots of contrast on the cold surface of the shot. I guess it looked funny. It was much funnier once I gathered the luggage and came close to my suffering Aunt and asked her to stand up and try to walk the rest of the way out to the taxi cabs on the street. All this because it was impossible for me to push a trolley with bags at the same time as I would push her chair. She understood and “Mobilized” herself out of the chair, got her weight into her cain, to the street and into the back seat of the first Airport Taxi Cab in line, while I brought in the bags. The ride in the cab was smooth, as the car was one of the latest models, an E Class Mercedes, and as I got a break, I thought: How good is to know to do that when ever necessary, not blaming no one, and on the path of reaching your final goal.