Wednesday, 7 November 2012


We walked in the cold air.   Freezing breath on a window pane, lying and waiting.  The man in the dark in a picture frame, so mystic and soulful. A voice reaching out in a piercing cry - it stays with you until the feeling has gone - only you and I.  It means nothing to me. This means nothing to me.
Oh Vienna.
The Hundertwasser museum

Gayle is humming along as I strum my zither.  Oh Vienna.  Habsburg palaces.  Ornamental gardens.  Oh Vienna.  The Big Wheel at the Prater (just as it was in The Third Man.)  Oh Vienna.  Gustav Klimt and Hundertwasser.  Oh Vienna.  A city famed for coffee and cake in its cafes.  We do what every other tourist on a budget probably does in Vienna and go for a kebab.  It's one of the best I've had outside of Turkey.

Stefan greets us when we arrive with a huge beatific smile.  After a while we realise he's always smiling.  The first and last time we saw him was in a lodge in the Helambu region of Nepal in 2009.  He had set off walking from Kathmandu and was heading in the opposite direction to us, but we spent the evening chatting.  He had met a local guide along the way with whom he is still in touch with.  In fact, he's returned to Nepal several times since and his appartment feels like a Nepalese oasis in the desert of Viennese architecture.  Incense, nepali folk songs, prayer flags and Buddhas.  Stefan's a real hippy.  A very happy one we think.  I'm not a huge fan of Facebook - but Gayle uses it to stay in touch with folk and Stefan wrote to her whilst we were in Slovakia inviting us to come and stay.

Autumn in Vienna
While we have the chance we leave our bikes with Stefan and take a bus to Prague.  On our last evening in Vienna he takes me with him and his dad to a Rapid Vienna match.  Who're they playing?  Gayle asks.  Oh, Stefan replies, just some farmers.  The home team have a very vocal support at one end of the stadium - non-stop singing and chanting egged on by a man with a megaphone.  Before kick-off flags are rolled out, flares are lit.  I'd forgotten what it feels like - the buzz, the expectation, the hope.  Within five minutes the Farmers are 1- nil up.  The crowd sing louder.  It's not quite end-to-end stuff, more like side-to-side.  Rapid don't look confident.  Half-time and there's some discussion in the stands about the state of play.  I'd forgotten what it feels like - the moans, the dissatisfaction, the hope.  It's the hope that gets me every time.  Second-half starts like the first with a goal from the Farmers.  The crowd get angry. After singing for an hour the fans at the noisy end finally chant 'Goodbye' to Rapid and collectively turn their backs on the team and depart.  I've never seen this before.  The stadium feels quiet afterwards. Final result: Rapid 0 Farmers 2.  Stefan and his dad seem quite stoical - a reaction I recognise well as a Man City fan. Oh Vienna.

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