Budapest to the Black Sea

Budapest to the Black Sea

Friday, 31 May 2013

Black Sea or Bust - Days 13 & 14 Vienna

I like Vienna. That's why there are two non-cycling days in my schedule here, but first, before I plunge into the cultural whirlpool, I have to attend to Doris. I google 'bicycle repair Vienna' and up comes the Vienna Bike Kitchen. Here are some quotes from their website.
 "Our legal basis is a club/association but we see ourselves as a non-hierarchical, open collective."
 "In the bikekitchen you can repair and destroy bikes, disassemble them and build choppers (tallbikes, longbikes, transportbikes, trailers..), drink tea, beer, make toast or cook for everyone and ride to the demo together."
"important keywords:
anticapitalist , feminist, anti-sexist, anti-racist, collective, plenum, consensus, Criticalmass, DIY, solidarity, Stencil, dumpster, bar, literature, archive, bike-fetishism, bike-art, bike-fun, bike-kill, jousting, bikepolo, nightrides, demoperformance, actions, screenprinting, workshops, excursions, caravans, making and watching videos, collecting scrap, reading group, concerts, DJing, experiments of any kind...."
You will be surprised to hear that, after pondering what bike-fetishism might involve, I scrolled down further to "die Radwerkstatt" where they appear to fix bikes. It was a ten minute run the wrong way down a one way street from my hotel. A sweet man said he would do all that was necessary to fix Doris in an unhierarchical way and that this would be done in twenty four hours.

One other errand remained before I hit the galleries. I need to work out how to get home from Budapest and I need to book some tickets. I go to the Westbahnhof ticket office and ask can I book a first class sleeper from Budapest to Munich. Yes I can, indeed there is a very good special offer available. Can I take my bicycle on that train? No I can't. I thank the booking clerk for his help and go out to pace up and down the concourse. What to do with Doris? I could go by daytime trains but that doesn't quite fit in with my schedule and in any case I love sleepers. I could store Doris in Budapest until I return for the second leg in the autumn or I could sell her. Cynical readers might say at this point that if I am free of Doris then I could fly back by easyJet but if you think that then you definitely haven't been paying attention. So I return to the booking clerk and spend umpteen times what an easyJet flight would cost on trains via Munich, Cologne and Paris.

I buy myself a 48 hour city travel pass and head for the Museum Quarter. I start with the Leopold Collection which is based on a single collection accumulated by a Prof Leopold who starting buying Schiele's and Klimts in the 1950s. Fifty years later he sold his collection to the state for around 170 million euros (the market value at the time was 575 million euros) and a gallery was built to house it. A great collection, there are other unrelated exhibitions as well, but worth the ticket for the Schieles alone. I do the Architectural Museum, which is splendid but would take me several years to take in. Finally in this cultural splurge I do MUMOC, the Museum of Modern Art, which is only partially open due to rehangs. It's mostly poor stuff and I leave uninspired. In the evening I have an invitation to a record release party from an old friend Andy Rescheneder, who I worked with on the German version of We Will Rock You. The party is in the Club Francais in Wahringerstrasse and I worry that my crumpled straight out of the dryer look will not be acceptable but It's casual casual. The artist, who Andy is managing, is a very pretty girl with a great voice called Soe Tolloy. I think that she is rather good so let's go viral for Soe Tolloy. See her on U Tube etc.

Next day an early morning stop to pick up Doris from A & E which goes without a hitch. I can't face the Vienna traffic on a bike so I leave her at the hotel and set off on yet another cultural sortie to the Albertina which is a collection that specialises in graphics and has stuff by Bosch, a Breughel, Rubens and Rembrandt. There is some conventional painting, Picasso, Monet etc and some Royal Apartments which looked the same as every Royal Apartment that you have ever visited. Royals have no imagination, particularly those inbred Hapsburgs. Finally there was a massive exhibition of the work of Gottfried Helnwein, who is apparently Austria's best known contemporary artist, whose main concerns seem to be in dental discomfort and little girls in unhappy situations.
The rest of the day is loafing and sitting in cafes and it is this aspect of Vienna that attracts me most though I had no idea how much we all owe to the Viennese cafe society of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century until I read Clive James's Cultural Amnesia, which is a collection of biographical and related pieces about some of the great women and men of our recent past. Many of the subjects started their careers and indeed some spent their entire careers in Vienna's Cafe Central and similar establishments, writers, musicians, philosophers, artists, doctors, scientists, many of them Jewish, excluded from the top university jobs by discriminatory Austrian regulations and quotas, fed off each other's intellects and  went on to enrich our lives. When it all went wrong in 1938, when the Nazis arrived, those that got out went on to write film scores in Hollywood or write philosophy in New Zealand, those that didn't get out died in the camps. So this is the background that, for me at least, makes Vienna a greater city than even Paris and at a much more mundane level explains why the bar called Schilling, which is fifty metres from my hotel, is one of my all time favourites. I went there only because I heard the hotel receptionist recommend it and because it was only fifty metres away. Wood panelled throughout, with sturdy tables and chairs that no one designed but someone thought about before they bought them, with no music, no TV, but with a magazine rack that doesn't carry the International Herald Tribune or Figaro but does hold the Austrian versions of Grazia and Motorcycle Monthly, things that locals might like to read with their morning coffee. The only advertising I could see on the premises was on the beer mats, in fact on the panelled walls there was no decoration whatsoever, just hefty coat hooks above each place to cope with a winter night's influx of well wrapped customers. The food was traditional, unimaginative and excellent, a plate of liver is just the job after a days cycling. I spent three evenings there, drinking beer, eating supper and writing this blog. Perfect.

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Cycling Down the Danube

Cycling Down the Danube
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