Sunday, June 25, 2006

Did you eat my schnitzel?

Vienna and Tulln, Austria

Way back in the day, the OC met two Austrian girls on a beach in Koh Tao, Thailand. The brief meeting was primarily notable because of Jason's unusually high level of inebriation brought about by a "bucket drink" - literally a cocktail served in a bucket. He drank something like a liter of Long Island Ice Tea in a half hour. The consequent -13 penalty to his dexterity was equal parts hilarious and understandable. Before Jason became totally useless, we had a good chat with Karoline (pronounced care-oh-lean-ah) and Sonja. Karoline ducked out early in the evening claiming hangover, but Sonja carried on with us to find a place to dance. Jason stumbled off home early leaving me to walk a combative Sonja back to her hotel while she yelled at me about the evils of hunting. While not a particularly memorable OC evening, it was not a bad one.

A bit after, I started exchanging emails with Karoline. She was a flight attendant and therefore always on the move. We tried to arrange a meeting in Australia or New Zealand, but schedules did not mesh. Sometime around Egypt (I think - maybe earlier), we started talking about a visit to Austria. As it turns out, the wedding of Yashi and Nina was going down between two of the OC's World Cup matches and just after my family was to split Deutchland. After waving goodbye to my folks in Munich, we made a mad dash south by train bearing newly-validated first class Eurail passes. Since we are old men (over 27), they made us buy the first class pass. A bit of luxury won't kill us, but I resent no longer being officially a "youth". Karoline and Sonja were there on the platform to meet us when our train pulled into Vienna's West Station.

It was only our second meeting and some nine months since the last one, but it felt to me like a reunion of old friends. The girls lived in a village about a half hour away from Vienna. The journey by car was scenic and our guides made sure to point out every castle, convent, and giant summer music festival along the route. We quickly escaped the bright lights of the big city and settled into a seasonal wine garden on the banks of the Danube to sample the local tipple and munch on delicious plates of farm-fresh meat, cheese, and salad. All this was set against a slow sunset. After dinner, the party moved to Karoline's balcony where we downed a few more bottles of wine between fights for the hammock and episodes of spilling wax all over my trousers. It was not a heavy night, but it was a good one - the kind that you might expect to enjoy at a time when your preference is shifting from downing vodka and redbull in smokey clubs to sipping merlot in the homes of friends.

As our hosts would be occupied all the next day with wedding stuff, Karoline arranged for her sister Charlotte to be our tour guide. We met her over a tasty breakfast before setting out for the city by car. Vienna is not as overwhelmingly scenic as Salzburg, but it is a lot more vibrant and functional. Our quick sightseeing route took us past the city cathedral, down some busy shopping streets, to a famous cafe for famous cake, and into a leafy park for a rest. Then it was back to the village to suit up. Due to a delay in the proceedings, our reunion with Karoline and Sonja was pushed back. We frittered away the extra time in a beer garden next to the Danube. This part of Austria is not hurting for pleasant river-side drinking holes. At the appointed hour, Charlotte drove us over and around some hills to the site of the post-wedding party.

A more bride-pleasing location might be hard to come by. The event was split between the grounds of a small barn and the cave-like rooms below it. Outside there was a projector hooked up to some kind of drawing pad casting artful images onto the outside wall. Inside there was a DJ and no shortage of drink. Jason and I did our part by hanging up a sampling of photos of the couple all around the venue. Things kicked off around sunset when the couple and the bulk of the wedding party arrived on foot. They seemed like a nice pair, although one with definite hippie sensibilities. I was terribly overdressed in a shirt and tie, but it didn't matter much, as we stayed for only a few hours. The high availability of good quality booze took a predictable toll on the wakefulness of our squad. Karoline bravely drove the OC home sometime around midnight.

The next morning, Jason and I caught the early train to Vienna and connected from there back up to Munich. The World Cup website had misled us into believing that we had to exchange our ticket voucher the day before our first 2nd round match. The early departure deprived us of a few more happy hours with our Austrian friends at the cost of peace of mind. Never believe what you read on the Internet. It was a long way to come for just a few hours at a party, but I reckon it was worth the journey. Making the effort to see someone in the flesh is the only way to convert acquaintances from the road to real and lasting friends. You can only know forge so many bonds via email.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Jason&Mike,

hope you guys are doing fine.

just a short reminder to the wedding day. I was the nice (maybe a little bit drunken- but who wasn't? ) guy, asking you for a second card, as one might be used for different things... now, a few month after I found one of the cards in the back pocket of my trouser, the other one was used as presumed at the party.

I guess you guys have never been thinking that I will ever visit the site or that I can remember... but here's the proof.

Nice site, nice report about austria!

Hope to see you some time back here in austria and have a nice stay on our planet!

greets Michael

9/29/2006 10:18 AM gmt


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