12.07.23 — Travel

Vienna Reunion

It’s been pretty much four years to the day since the last reunion of Cake Club, a silly name that Heidi, Loredana, Megan and I have used to refer to the four of us since we all met in Madrid way back in 2018. The last time saw us all four of us meet up in my little flat here in Madrid, and we’ve never managed to organise for more than two of us to be together at once since then.

I have visited all three in their respective cities at least once over the past few years: I nipped over to Oslo to visit Heidi a couple of times, I spent a weekend in Vienna a couple of years ago to visit Loredana, and then me and Megan spent a couple of weeks together last year as part of my month spent around Canada and the US. You can see why it’s such a challenge to get the four of us together: we’re all so spread out!

However, news came that Megan would be visiting Europe in June this year, and so we set wheels in motion to try and all meet up in Vienna to spend our first weekend all together since 2019. As is typical of us, we left things to the last minute, which meant that sadly Heidi couldn’t make it work.

Regardless, I managed to find some decent flights, me and Megan booked a hotel to get out of Loredana and her partner David’s hair for the two nights we’d be together, and the stage was set for a Vienna reunion!

I’d taken the Friday off work and so left my flat bright and early – although not early enough – to head for the airport. With my extra half hour in bed and the slow morning service of the train, I arrived at my terminal somewhat late, which left me on a mad dash through security. Once at my gate, I realised that I’d actually rushed a bit too much and thus had time to spare, and so I sat down and went to check how to get from the airport in Vienna to the hotel I’d booked for me and Megan.

It was then that I realised that I’d booked the hotel for July instead of June. If I remember rightly, I actually audibly laughed at how stupid I’d managed to be. I guess I could have panicked, but I simply waved goodbye to the deposit I’d paid and found and booked another one in a few minutes. I do dislike how online we all are at all times, but a decent mobile with internet proved to be an absolute godsend…

Then followed a three hour flight and an hour on a bus to the centre of Vienna. I then made the short walk to the hotel and checked in, heading from there over to Loredana’s flat where her and Megan were waiting for me.

With the three of us reunited at Loredana’s lovely apartment, we headed out into the garden and sat for a few hours just chatting away and catching up. Although we try to hold regular video calls between the four of us, it was awesome to sit around the table with a cup of tea and have a good old chinwag.

As the afternoon drew on we got peckish and restless, and so we headed out into the city to grab a drink and some nibbles before David joined us for tea. It wasn’t too hot and so I was waxing lyrical about how great the weather was – but then a storm rolled in and suddenly we were all dashing to squeeze under a parasol as it began to absolutely throw it down!

The big rolling clouds should have been a warning of what was to come…

The worst of the rain hit poor David as he headed to the pizza restaurant that we’d headed to for our evening meal: he arrived pretty soaked. Despite then we all had a good laugh and some good pizza, then headed for a local bar to play some games and sample some of the local beer.

After an early start in the hotel, Megan and I pottered down to a bakery where we met Loredana for breakfast. Once we’d eaten our pastries, Megan bade Loredana goodbye as Lore headed off to Munich for the day to celebrate her friend’s hen do. This meant that Megan and I were now alone in Vienna: just like we had been in New York.

So, with all of the possibilities that the city presented to us, what were we to do? Head back to bed and have a three-hour nap, of course!

In our defence, I think this much-needed nap allowed us to carry on the rest of the day in Vienna uninterrupted. We did wake up very hungry, however, and so the first thing on our agenda was to go and grab some food, and Megan had researched the perfect spot to grab some local grub.

As you can appreciate, we’d wound up with eyes bigger than our bellies and so went a bit crazy ordering schnitzel, sausages, potato salad, and sauerkraut. Realistically we’d no idea that the plates were going to be this big, and to our credit we did finish a good amount of it all off. Despite the overwhelming amount of food, it was all delicious and just what we needed to get us energised and ready for a busy afternoon on our feet.

Here’s a little Viennese scene that I managed to snap as the carriage went by.

As Megan had already been in Vienna for a couple of days and I’d already visited back in 2021, neither of us were too fussed about going around all the tourist sites again. We thus indulged in a spot of shopping and then visited a couple of spots that Megan wanted to visit: all I remember was going to see a big door and then touching the naked backside of a bronze man adorning a fountain.

We wound up in the Judenplatz, an area central to Jewish life in the city and the home to a somber Holocaust memorial that we took a look at before sitting down for a cool beer after all this walking around. We hung around in the square until the sun began to go down, whereupon I suggested we head down to the river in order to catch the sunset from there.

I didn’t expect them to have alcohol-free beer but it was pretty good.

Megan hadn’t visited the area down by the river – well technically, the ‘Danube Canal’ or Donaukanal – so it was a nice surprise to see that the area was bustling with activity when we arrived. From cyclists to partygoers to a waterside salsa class, there was much more going on than last time I visited with Loredana.

We headed down to the water’s edge and had a little wander around before settling in a bar for some chips and another drink. Megan and her keen eye for any Spanish speakers noticed that the waiters were Argentinian, so we got chatting away before we took our seats by the water and watched the sun set over the city.

Our idyllic evening drew to a close with Megan wanting to run over and join in the salsa class and me struggling with the local transport app in order to get a ticket for the tram back to the city centre. After my experience in Berlin where I wound up having to pay a 100€+ fine, I’m very cautious about taking foreign public transport without having my ticket sorted in advance!

I eventually got my ticket and persuaded Megan to leave the poor salsa dancers in peace. The two of us hopped on the tram which left us near a spot I wanted to grab some Kaiserschmarrn, the delicious Viennese tradition of shredded pancakes with icing sugar and jam. I’d planned to go to the place Lore took me to last time, but it wound up being very much closed. We did run into a huge rave in front of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, though…

Still hungry and without any sweet treats, Megan said we should go and get some grimy street food from the sausage stall that the tram had dropped us off outside. After her antics at the questionable hotdog trucks in NYC, I shouldn’t have been surprised!

I must admit that the Käsewurst (cheese-filled sausage) that I got shoved inside a hotdog bun really hit the spot, and Megan also very much enjoyed her monster sausage with onions, curry, and sauce! We sat on a bench to finish off a long day in Vienna: it had been fabulous.

Just before heading off on the final tram and in order to digest our greasy street food, we nipped across the road and checked out a nighttime view of the emblematic Hofburg. We then jumped back on another tram and headed off to bed with some pretty serious indigestion…

The next day was Megan’s last in Vienna, so we were up a bit earlier and out to grab some early lunch to make the most of her remaining few hours in the city. After having missed out on our Kaiserschmarrn the night before, I suggested we head to a spot known for making a good one. We had a savoury bite to eat and then shared two huge pans of the shredded pancakes: we’d fallen into the same trap of ordering too much as the day before!

Megan, being a true Vermonter, insisted that the dish could be improved with some maple syrup.

Thankfully the restaurant was happy to send us off with half of the Kaiserschmarrn in doggy bags, so the two of us headed for a wander around the city and one of it’s parks before heading back to the hotel so that Megan could head off on her way and I could check out in order to move into Loredana’s place for my final night in the city.

I eventually had to bid Megan farewell as she headed off to Paris, her last stop on her little tour around Europe, and then threw myself down in the hammock that Loredana and David have installed in their cute little garden. There I rested until Loredana arrived back home from her hen do, which she did looking surprisingly fresh and energised.

We decided that we should probably head out and something for my last afternoon in the city. Heading out into her local neighbourhood, Lore showed me some of her favourite local spots including a huge brewery that left a chunk of the area smelling of yeast. There was a little Bierfestival going on, but it was closed due to it being a Sunday, and so we looked into heading into the centre to see what was going on there.

After missing two trams and not enjoying the sound of waiting for the next infrequent Sunday service, we gave up on our hopes of visiting the centre of Vienna, opting instead to spend the evening at home. We ordered some delicious Korean and Japanese food, had a drink, and threw ourselves down on the sofa to watch “Her”, a film I’d never actually seen.

The next day I said farewell to Loredana and David in the morning as I sat down to work from their living room. I clocked off just before three o’clock in order to head out the door and wander down to Westbahnhof, the bus station where the airport shuttle would whisk me off to the airport for my evening flight back to Madrid.

My flight back was somewhat delayed and then the train from Madrid airport back to my house was broken down, so it wound up being quite a late night in the end. It was all worth it though, as I had an absolutely fabulous few days over in Vienna and seeing Loredana and Megan in person again was absolutely fabulous!

We’re already plotting another reunion as soon as we can, and I’ll definitely be back over to Vienna just as soon as I catch a few days!