...and now it's arrived - Jimmy Carter thinks I'm a sinner - CycleBlaze

April 30, 2007

...and now it's arrived

...Vienna, that is.

It's a city of manageable size, so we rode straight along the river to the edge of the very centre, or "downtown" as I learned to call it in America. We're staying at a travellers' hostel, an impressive place ten minutes' walk from the main tourist area which we booked by internet last night. In doing so, we took the last beds, so we were lucky not to have left it longer. The camp site is a way out of town and hotels here are notoriously expensive.

Beautiful place, Vienna, and a manageable size.
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First impressions of Vienna are favourable. We had a guided tour of the centre this afternoon, which I reckon is

We arrived in Vienna in time for May Day. The annual demonstration started in front of the parliament building and amiably followed a loop round the town. Far from uproar and mayhem, the greatest thought seemed to be to finish before the beer and chips ran out.
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the best way to come to terms with a strange city and see things you wouldn't have found for yourself, followed by posh coffee and cakes and a fumble about a map shop to sort out the rest of the route.

I think we'll stick with the river as far as Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia and our fifth nation. It's only a day's ride and, all the main routes being in the Danube corridor, there's no quieter way than the cycle path. We need to hold a planning conference to decide what to do after that, a routine which will entail more coffee and cakes (for which Vienna is justifiably famous). My forecast is that we will ride through villages from Bratislava to Budapest, capital of Hungary (capitals and countries all come at a rush in these parts) and then along still more roads away from the river right down close to Romania, where we reckoned on leaving the Danube anyway.

Vienna marks a transition. Until now we have been in western Europe. We are Europeans and so have been the people in the countries through which we have passed. We share a history, culture and behaviour. We use the same money. Though the language is neither English or French, it's not that difficult to figure out. From now on, we are in central Europe and history and culture will be one step different. On top of that, the language will be incomprehensible wherever we are. The money will be different, the way of life a stage removed from western Europe. When we get to Romania we will, for all the country is making huge strides and is now a member of the European Union, be moving from the first to the third world.

All that excites me. To me, travel is a way to see how things elsewhere are different. If they were the same wherever we went, there'd be no point in going. Some things will surprise, some delight and doubtless still others disappoint. But that's why you go, isn't it?

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