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.

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