March 16, 2010


“Welcome! Step inside. We are pleased to care for you from now on. You deserve it.” – Sign outside a closed shop in Vienna.

Wien, Vienna, Wien. We approach Wien before dawn, glimpsing Narnia lanterns strung through the rushing black trees. Having not slept –we spent the night stretched across seats on the train- we struggle to wake, and when the train stops we don’t clock that we’re alighting at Wien Hutteldorf in the 6 a.m. suburbs, not Wien Westbahnhof near the famously pretty centre as we’ve been planning.

“Inoperable loves emo chicks” – Graf on a box

Vienna is wedding cake, Wien is cheap sausage. The city we see is definitely sausage. The ticket office for our Budapest journey isn’t open yet, so we wait in the Anker Frisch rail cafe and watch two women (red visors, white shirts) work with desperate efficiency, serving fuel to busy early workers. On one end of the counter there’s a glass cabinet displaying a giant loaf of fleischleibchen, pink luncheon meat weeping pus from a hole; a treat we don’t try. In the toilets, there’s a used condom sitting by the sink, tied at the teat end. The trains pulling in and out have Wiesel marked on the side.

“We are the futur” – Graf on a wall

Once the ticket office opens, we ride the Wiesel to the Westbahn, but by the time we navigate the big station’s exits we don’t have enough time to get to the Grand Achievements in the middle of Wien, so we find a smoky caff on the strip of chain stores and restaurants by the station, and talk about past relationships for an hour. We try to stroll the area but the sleet defeats us, and we end up sheltering in a half-closed shopping centre, buying fruit from a supermarket.

The train to Budapest leaves at 9, and we’re quite glad to be on it.

PHOTO: Viennese Woman at a bus stop,sheltering from the rain.

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