After out sticky portion of Sachertorte we walked around the outside of the Imperial Hofburg Palace and the Heldenplatz and through the gardens and past a replica Greek temple and over the road past the Parliament building an on to the large and impressive Town Hall building next door that was being prepared for Christmas. There was an alarming lack of attention being paid to health and safety with sightseers and the general public having unrestricted access to what was a busy construction site.
In this part of the city there were wide boulevards and tall buildings and we took a direct route from the Imperial gardens looking for the river and part way down we were seduced into a pavement café for some coffee and beer and we sat and soaked up the sunshine on the terrace of a café of magnificent Imperial splendour. Resuming our walk we reached the Donau Kanal but sadly we didn’t get as far as the Danube on account of the fact that it actually quite a long way from the city centre so I don’t know how it compared with Bratislava.
The city was in very good condition compared with others we have visited and this is due to the fact that it wasn’t destroyed during the Second-World-War and fell quite quickly in the Russian Vienna offensive of 1945 and secondly because after the war the Russians were prevented from adding Austria to the Soviet Bloc and therefore it never suffered the indignity of years of communist neglect and concrete makeovers.
Kim was determined that we should all now walk to see something that had caught her eye in the guidebook, the Hundertwasserhaus, which is a communal building designed by a painter and sculpture on modern ecological principles sometime in the 1980’s. It was quite a long way and on route we stopped at a bakery for pastries to sustain us in our quest and when we finally got there we declared the place a bit of a disappointment, took a photograph of a British telephone box that stood outside and set off back for the city centre.
It was obvious now that this lengthy detour meant that we had no chance of catching our intended five o’clock train back to Bratislava so we stopped on the way back at a convenient and authentic bier kellar and we enjoyed a drink in the courtyard and we were having such a good time that we forgot the time and then had to get a rush on to make the six o’clock. The quickest way to the station was through the baroque Belvedere Palace gardens and it would have been nice to have had more time to enjoy them but because Christine had insisted on that second glass of red wine we were up against the clock.
Consequently, this was a bit of an undignified dash through the Palace grounds because it was becoming obvious that we had badly misjudged our timings and there was a very real danger of missing our second choice return train as well. We emerged from the gardens at an unfortunate exit because it was directly opposite the Greek restaurant where we had enjoyed the extra large glasses of red wine earlier this morning and the owner had interpreted our ‘we’ll think about coming back’ as a firm booking and he was waiting expectantly at the door to greet us. Even though it was starting to go dark and we slipped surreptitiously through the gate he spotted us and shouted and gesticulated wildly to us to return for our evening meal. He clapped his hands and waved his arms madly, drawing attention to himself and to us, so we quickened our pace to Sue and Christine hill climbing speed and ignoring him as best as we could made our way back to the station to catch our train with only a few seconds to spare.
All the way back a nervous Kim kept a watchful eye out for the border police but I was less concerned now because I couldn’t imagine that they have too much trouble trying to prevent people slipping over the border into Slovakia from Austria. Anyway there were no police and once we were over the frontier we felt safe to sit back and relax and enjoy the rest of the return journey. Now that we were securely on our way it seemed almost James Bond like to be dashing across Eastern European borders and sneaking like fugitives through custom checkpoints without identification, but next time I shall try and avoid this sort of tension and definitely remember to take my passport with me.
Back in Bratislava we walked again to the old town and selected a pavement bar in the Town Hall Square where we had a champagne party that we had promised ourselves to celebrate the departure of an unpopular and particularly obnoxious former member of staff back home at work. If you ever get to read this Tim, we mean that most sincerely!
It was time for evening meal so we wandered around the quiet streets for a while looking for somewhere suitable and eventually we selected a Slovakian restaurant in one of the main streets. We were the only customers and I think that the man responsible for ordering must have been expecting many more and had a lot of food to shift because when Micky ordered a simple starter of local meat and cheese he received a mountainous plateful of food of John Norman buffet table proportions. He had to fight his way through and we all had to respond to his invitation to assist him before we could all set about tackling equally large plates of main course, which were impossible to finish and which left the waiter enquiring if we had enjoyed our meals. Of course we had there was just far too much.