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Vienna 11.2.19

So, now that I’m back in Beijing I thought it best to wipe away the two-week-old dust that has been gathering on my laptop and get to work on relaying my time in Vienna to you.

It was so fucking sick. It was one of those weeks where you want to go back and hit replay over and over and over again because every single moment was just amazing. Wandering around with aweing eyes, neck cricked back gazing at the towering buildings and somehow “floating” into cafes is how I want to live my life forever. I felt like a kid at the sweet shop, and I’m sure Dominik can confirm that I looked like one too.

However, before I’d arrived in Vienna there were a couple of “situations’ per se that got me riled up or could’ve hindered me getting there at the intended time. Let’s start with the very beginning of the day. Picture this: you’ve gotten to the airport pretty early via subway so that you knock 70rmb off of what would’ve been a 100rmb DiDi. You decide to get in line for Check-In 20 minutes before it’s set to open, you know to get it over and done with as quick as possible, but in front of you is a lone man with 3 fucking trolleys of cases and he’s pushing them one by one. WHERE ARE YOUr FRIENDS?! You offer to help using your best Chinese but he refuses because his girlfriend will show up soon… she didn’t for a while. After several to and fro’s with the 3 trolleys his family members showed up, they cut through the very front of the check in line, his girlfriend ducks under the line divider thingy but the old guy tries to joy ride the back of a couple at the desk. Obviously he’s told to go into the line which he does BUT he just leaves his suitcase in the middle of the floor to wait for him. Now I don’t think this old guy was carrying anything destructive however, if he was in a different airport he’d have been classed as a suspicious figure. 

ANYWAY, they’re all snug in front of me when a group of around 12 people walk around the corner and the old guy begins to beckon them over, and that’s when I could feel the anger brewing in my face. Of course this family tried to cut the line right in front of me, and by this point we all know how fed up I am with ignorant Chinese people, so I begin shouting anything and everything in chinese that suggests this is not okay and I’m not having it. The old guy looked around in complete confusion and asked “why can’t they?” and then I began tapping my watch aggressively. I don’t give a flying fuck if queueing is not in someone’s “culture”, it is in mine and I wasn’t fucking having it. In the end the woman controlling the line told the family to go to the back of the VERY long queue that had been building for 45 minutes and then pulled me to the front to be seen to first, HA.

As you can imagine I felt a little enraged after that incident but the worst was yet to come. My transfer between Moscow and Vienna was only 1 hour, which includes landing and parking time so in reality it’s about 30 minutes before the gate on the other side closes. The plane is descending and I’m tapping my feet impatiently before unclipping my seatbelt and springing into the air ready to dart down the aisle (much like those crazy people I described on the way to Vietnam), only to be told irritably to sit down. I made it off the plane, fumbled through passport control and was shouted at by the Russian lady and then my things fell from my open bag as I was sprinting through the terminal. One woman who was doing the same as I had to sprint back because she thought she forgotten her passport. The look of panic and desperation in her eyes when she ran back past me was heightened, yet all I could think was “thank fuck that’s not me” and “sorry, you’re on your own lovely, BYE!”

There was a slight glimmer of sunshine during my commute from country to country and it came in the form of an 8-year old Romanian girl. She and her father were travelling from Beijing to Moscow too. I’d asked to borrow his pen and that’s when we got chatting about what we do and where we were heading. Once I’d settled into the seats next to my gate the little girl came over and started nattering away to me. So, she’s an 8-year-old Romanian girl who is fluent in English, Chinese and knows a little German and Russian too. She can roller skate, play the violin and practices in ballet. Her ability to engage, withhold and create interesting conversation as an 8-year-old is more than I can say for most men that I’ve matched and chatted with on Tinder. She was incredible, and yet I forgot her name.

When I reached the airport in Vienna I came to learn that the poor woman did infact make the plane because she was impatiently waiting at the baggage conveyor-belt just like I was. Suitcases went around and around eventually causing my eyes to blur a little, until the belt just stopped dead. FUCK. Just my fucking luck. I made the plane but my suitcase didn’t. It could’ve been worse though, my suitcase could’ve been all lonely and confused in Vienna whilst I sat in Moscow airport grumbling to myself. 

I was well and truly shattered by the time I’d approached Dominik, he didn’t seem to think I looked so bad but I was convinced I looked high. Dominik, if you remember, is one of the guys Spencer and I met in Vietnam. We had dinner together cooked by the host of the Guest House, played drinking games, and turned classic small talk into solid conversations. And then, well you know the rest. He grabbed me underneath his arms and gave me the biggest squeeze before pulling back looking at each other and saying “this is crazy!” – we’d known each other for a total of 12 hours yet here I stood. I couldn’t resist the urge to see what the raves, he so highly praised, were about. 

We’re stood in the airport carpark and I’m expecting to see a small car fit for a student of 23 years old but Dom turns to me and says “which car do you want? I’m trying to look for a Mercedes.” I looked at him puzzled as fuck until I glanced at some of the cars surrounding me, and noticed that they were branded with “car2go”. Car sharing, fucking car sharing… Vienna is living in the year 3000. You open an app, search for the closest car, click a couple of buttons and BOOM it’s open. We used them a few times during my stay and the novelty did not wear off. Trams are another sick way of getting around the city. Once every so often you’ll see one of those really tall and narrow vintage looking trams, the bottom half a deep red and the top half a creamy colour. The steps to climb inside are steep and bring you face to face with dark wooden seating. If I held my gangly arms out to the side I bet my fingertips would brush the windows. 

The best thing about having someone visit your own city or town is that you see your home in a completely different way – you explore public places you’ve never been or eat out in the restaraunts you’ve always wanted to. The week I spent with Dominik meant exactly that for him, he was able to try out and see so many things he wouldn’t think twice about and experienced lots of firsts. 

There wasn’t a single meal we ate that was awful, each place we visited or ordered from hit that hunger spot and satisfied us greatly. We ate a ton of falafel during our time and I mean that’s your evidence. Falafel is the fucking best and I’m sure we even got our hands on the best producer of falafel in Vienna. It was from a stall in the food market called Dr. Falafel, you could either have a pitta or a wrap and then you can load it with hummus, spices and vegetables. I inhaled it like NooNoo from the Teletubbies inhales tubby custard. Dom must’ve have 3 bites and I was already finished. I’m not one of these people who take their time or pause when they eat their food, my eyes are locked on the prize and my mouth is ready. I don’t let my food settle in my stomach which is 100% why I can eat and eat and eat and then an hour later I’m rolling around the floor groaning like Tina from Bob’s Burgers.

On our first full day together we crammed so much in, which was stupid because we were pretty tired come the time we were heading out to Thomas’. Nonetheless it was still awesome. Despite not being massive breakfast eaters Dominik and I thought why the fuck not? We were on holiday. Cafe Francias had a breakfast menu that almost became impossible to choose from. There was a plain croissant with spreads and fruit, salmon and avocado on toast or even an espresso with a breakfast cigarette (Breakfast of Champions), you know in case it’s a Monday morning and you need something strong. Austria lifted the indoor smoking ban a couple of years ago and restaurants could provide a room specifically for smokers. 

With our stomachs satisfyingly full we set out for Dominik’s University, the first stop on our packed out day. It was as incredible as he’d described to me – like most buildings in Vienna it’s of the Baroque style, made from white stone/concrete with carvings bordering archways, columns and ceilings. The stairs are as wide as they are long, just like Hogwarts, and perched above the marble bannisters are black victorian-esc lampposts. Universities like this exist, yeah but I thought it was only the elite ones like Oxford and Cambridge not an average one slap bang in the middle of Vienna. Universities in Austria aren’t highly ranked but it’s for a good reason though: their higher education system is free, thus Dominik is on his second degree which he’s studying out of personal interest. Like how fucking cool? I’d seriously study all my life. 

During our week we visited several galleries and palace museums, the first of which was the Albertina. It is home to one of the most important art collections in the world with around 65,000 paintings, and just like Dom’s University the interior much resembled that of a palace. Our tour began with the painting and sculpture collections, so the shit that looks like 4-year-old children on a sugar high had created it. I quickly came to realise that Dominik wasn’t the keenest fan of cubism and contemporary art when the only expression on his face was that of confusion and disgust. After about a half hour in this section he abruptly turned to me and spouts “Who decides whether this is good or not? What is that? I just don’t understand this kind of art.” Our remaining wander around this part of the gallery was just us ripping the shit into the work in rather loud whispers and choked down laughter. One collection of scultures were decieving, at a glance they looked like a Year 5 had paper mache’d giant fruits but in fact they were made from pigs’ bladders.

The next part of the gallery was incredibly more engaging. The 2nd floor featured the work of portrait/street photographer Helen Levitt who began her career in the late 30s. Her infamous images are set in the streets of New York and capture the candid lives of its inhabitants mostly in black & white, therefore making some scenes, like those of small children playing in 1940s Halloween masks, incredibly sinister. One photograph jumped out at me and kicked me in the stomach as soon as I laid eyes over it – it was of these 3 young girls who were all of colour and had three very different facial expressions but all conveying the same negative feeling toward the tall white man. His hand was blurred and his face looked stern whilst the girl at the forefront of the picture had fear driven anger on her face. It was the 40s, still a time of fear and uncertainty for those of colour especially those who are female. I really wish there were a little description of what Levitt saw, but I can only interpret what I think and that is that the white man in the suit had smacked the young black girl at the front. The longer I looked the more goosebumps appeared.

Our day ended with our stomach growling and groaning at us because we hadn’t eaten since our breakfast at Cafe Francias that morning. Luckily there was an Italian close by that Dominik swore by and we stuffed our faces with pizza (the best food to eat for a night out) and sipped on wine before going back to his. After a super quick power nap and a reapplication of my face we were bound for Thomas’ house for pres. We had managed to get tickets for a DnB event with Macky Gee that was held inside a huge abandoned train station kitted out for events like this.

The rave was fucking incredible, it was my first time to a DnB event as big as that. There weren’t as many people as we thought mind, but it was still SO sick. I don’t think I stopped dancing and waving my arms like a crazy person until we were kicked out of the venue at 5am. Bass so dirty I needed a shower afterwards.

Our week of firsts continued, minus a write off hangover day, we decided to spend our 4th evening at the Outdoor Ice Rink that sat right in front of a church nearby to Dominik’s home. It was a part of the Christmas Market that happened to still be open and providing mulled wine and cider, winner winner. There were 4 rinks with a winding “ice path” connecting two of them together. Ice Skating was so much as a first for me, in fact it was my third time however it was the first time I hadn’t given up and thrown a strop. I had a mental pep talk prior to getting on the ice telling myself not to get angry or moody because that’ll make you look ridiculous in front of Dom. It worked, I didn’t act like a child despite feeling the annoyance flowing hot through my veins at the beginning.

Dominik had told me to try and keep my legs and back straight whilst trying “glide”, easier said than done Mr. “I used to go ice skating every week and look like an angel on the ice.” After 2 very terribly awkward laps with the stability of his hand, a woman who had been watching and giggling to herself began to give me advice, in German obviously so Dominik had to translate. The woman told to lean forward a little, bend my knees and push off… the complete fucking opposite to what Dominik had said, cheers pal. Things got a lot easier when I embodied the right technique, I wasn’t speeding round and doing spins to stop like Mr. Show Off was but, I definitely picked up pace and improved in the hour we were there.

The more I thought about how to do it the closer the panic crept before dragging me away from my mind like a riptide. I was seriously determined NOT to fall over 1) the ice is fucking freezing, and I hate the cold 2) knowing my luck I would break something and 3) I’m proud and didn’t want Dom laughing at me. Each time I had a wobble I let out ridiculous fucking yelps, threw my arms around Dom and had him steady me until my heart stop racing. There was one fall and it was hilarious because it wasn’t me. LOL. Dom was whizzing around a freshly wiped rink looking pretty awesome when he suddenly went ass over tit and collided with the floor. His eyes fell on me where I stood proud and smug that it wasn’t I who had hit the floor like a sack of shit.

Dinner was well deserved, I didn’t realise just how much ice skating could take it out of you. Despite being outside and surrounded by freezing cold flooring I ended up a deep shade of burning red. Once the post-skating mulled wine had slithered down our throats and settled in our tummies we made our way to a place called Veggiezz, where we ordered fake doner meat. It was fucking delightful.

Vienna has a royal history – the Habsburg dynasty, and with this comes fuck off big fancy buildings and gardens. The Belvedere is south-east of the city centre and consists of two Baroque palaces, lower and upper. The grounds between the two palaces are connected by a wide gravel path right through the middle with symmetrical swirly bushes and flower patches either side. Weird Princess Leia looking Sphinx statues with busty boobs and gaping assholes line the paths to represent power and strength. Why they needed to add the bum hole like a blowfish feature to represent that is unknown to me. The washed out mustard building that is Schonbrunn Palace was the “summer home” for the Habsburg rulers, kinda selfish living in a palace of 1,441 rooms for one season of the year. The gardens, like the Belvedere, is dotted with sculptures representing different deities and virtues. Sat on top of the hill directly opposite the rear of the palace is a Gloriette, the most famous in Vienna. It’s panoramic view of Vienna is gorgeous. Franz Joseph I used it as his breakfast room, probably where he had his breakfast coffee and cigarrette.

Our plans after visiting Schonbrunn was to meet some of Dominik’s University friends and drink with them, but that wasn’t until 8pm in the evening and we’d already ended our day by 3pm. I was a little surprised at how often the sparks of our minds fused together and the same thoughts bursted out of our mouths…. DAY DRINKING. This thought came at the beginning of our tour around Schonbrunn and so all I could think about was the sweet crispy taste of a cold cider the WHOLE time. Living without decent cider is hard man. A woman has needs. I had umm’d and arrr’d about whether trying Austria’s famous delicacy was a good idea, it is meat after all…. covered in bread-crumbs and deep fat fried. I gave in obviously, but on the grounds that I should try the delicacy of the country I’m in, aside from that I wouldn’t eat meat. It was nice though, shhhh. We also ordered nachos which ended up being the biggest plate ever. So we munched and drank away until we felt a little tipsy and were given the okay to head to Dominik’s friend’s house.

That was the beggining of the end for us, why? Because there was wine and rage cage, and the two team up nicely to fuck you over. The last time I had played rage cage was with the Frisbee lot at Uni, who happened to be the ones that introduced me to it and the only ones who played it so I kinda squealed when I realised they played it in Austria too. You have 2 ping-ping ball and 2 cups that start on opposite sides of the table, the aim is to bounce the ball into the cup when it goes in you pass to your left. The person to your right is doing the same thing but they are trying to catch you up so that they can catch you out. If there is a cup to your left and you get the ball in your own cup you can stach yours into there’s so that they have to drink a cup from the middle and continue. Now, if you manage to get the ball in first time you can move your cup ANYWHERE on the table (ideally to the right of the other person with the cup). Ultimately, you can screw people over that are terrible at the game i.e me, by putting your cup to the left of them so they end up drinking so many drinks and making one giant stack.

How Dominik and I got home is beyond me. I don’t remember leaving his friend’s house at all, it’s just one massive blank. I found video evidence of us the next morning and we looked GONE.

My week in Vienna really was the best getaway from Beijing, it was exactly what I’d craved and needed for a long time. Being surrounded by Western food, culture and night life was like taking a breath of fresh air (quite literally too in comparison to Beijing). Like I said before it is totally crazy that Dominik and I both agreed I’d come to Vienna after just 12 hours of knowing each other. It was kinda like “fuck it why not be spontaneous?” Before going I really panicked about whether we’d even find things in common or have an easy flowing conversation, cause it wasn’t like we spoke much in Vietnam lol. It really wasn’t at all though, as the week went on we got more and more comfortable with each other and it was just lush. We bonded through telling nostalgic stories, watching stupid shit on Youtube and getting kinda philosophical and deep over pizza. There wasn’t one unhappy moment in the week that we spent every waking moment with each other. I’m super glad that I was mega keen and overexcited about our love for raves that it took me all the way to Austria.

Meeting Dominik and Thomas was a super breif thing that happened on mine and Spencer’s holiday and it’s given me some awesome fucking friends. This only gets my insides all fuzzy at the thought of real travelling.

Australia, I’m fucking coming for ya.

JMW x

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