Travel Thursday: Vienna, Land of Wine and Flamenco

Since I had nothing in particular to do this day, I was walking around Vienna, looking in at places I’d seen before but hardly remembered, as well as locating others I’d been told about, trying to decide where to take the lady who’d be arriving tomorrow.
I was pretty sure I’d never go back to places like the Elektropathological museum, or the two museums with wax replicas of body parts and diseases–the locals seemed to be obsessed by death–but this was the last thing I wanted to take a date.
The museum devoted entirely to funerals was no better, but at least the cemeteries, of which there were plenty in this town, were a good place for strolling, hanging out, any euphemism you’d like to use for mating. I guess it’s understandable, since the young ones can’t afford a place of their own, and if you’ve got a classical music buff, she’s likely to swoon at the famous musicians’ area, but somehow I was sure I’d have to come up with something more romantic.
Much to my surprise, my wanderings eventually left me in the Gurtel, in itself not a bad place to be, but it did get tiring saying no to all the hookers. They hastened to assure me that they were licensed and had regular checkups, and didn’t understand why I kept refusing them, even when I said I would never pay for it. They would frown and ask if I only looked like an American, or if I was in some kind of rigid religious order, or. . .
When I saw a redhead that made others things rigid, I decided it was time to clear out, quickly. I wanted to be fresh for what would no doubt be a very long day with a very energetic traveler. . .

The lady who sold roses at Vienna’s Flugplatz Aspern could not remember witnessing a more beautiful reunion, especially when it was punctuated by some of her wares. Terry was smiling at said lady as she placed her new rose behind her ear, which made me notice her hair. I’d often told her that the ponytail was her best do, making her face and especially her green eyes stand out more, but right now it was done up in some fancy style that would have cost her hundreds if I hadn’t known she’d done it herself in the plane’s laboratory.
Deciding to be extravagant, at least for us, we took a taxi; with the airport being basically over the river and through the woods, it would be silly to subject both her and her luggage–of which there was mercifully little–to public transportation. So once her things were in the trunk and we’d settled into the back seat, I leaned over to undo her hair. She looked startled for an instant, then remembered who she was with and blushed in her endearing way as she sat there and took it. Once it was loose all over I took the scrunchie that she always wore like a bracelet, then figured it would be much more effective to let her do it. Smirking at me for forgetting that, she took less than three seconds to ponytail. {Can that be used as a verb? Apparently.}
With that business concluded, she stared out the window with her usual sense of fascination. Even though we were heading for the center of the city, known of course in a German-speaking place as the Zentrum, I’d told the driver to take a more scenic route. We headed north until we hit Wagramer Strasse, then went approximately southwest along that wide street through the eastern suburbs until we came to the old Danube, the original channel of the river. It was nice to look at, and it got an “Ah!” of loveliness from her, but there was much better to come.
I had to grin when she suddenly exclaimed, “I want to see the Spanish riding school!”
I was just about to open my mouth to answer when her finger in front of it distracted me, and she was too quick when I tried to bite it. “I know there’s a long waiting list and you have to buy tickets long in advance, but I also know that you can do anything, so I don’t want to hear any excuses.”
Waiting until I was sure she was through, I finally tried, “It would be easy to call Jolanda and get some passes, even though she might get jealous–”
Her eyes narrowed. “Another of your conquests? I swear, I can’t let you out of my sight for a minute!”
I found it easy to ignore her as I added, “Had she and the rest of the riders been in town, of course. Since they’re away on tour, you can’t hold it against me, no matter how hard you try.”
She looked absolutely crushed for a few moments, but as we continued on through the island, she saw something interesting to her right and sat up in her seat again. “What’s that?” she asked with the excitement and wonder of a child.
I chuckled as we tootled along the major strasse right past it. “That’s where I used to work, United Nations City.”
She kept gawking at the unusual architecture as long as she could while the taxi continued on toward the Zentrum, crossing the New Danube, the long strip of land known as Donauinsel–Danube Island–and finally the main stream of the Danube river. It did get confusing without a map, all these Danubes, and we still had to cross the Danube canal. Begging for a walk along the river, and getting the promise from me, Terry giggled as she saw the little plaza to the right immediately after crossing. “Is this place actually called Mexikoplatz? Why?”
I could only shrug. “They must have run out of names.” That was easier than a long explanation that might not be true, involving Napoleon’s ill-fated attempt to take over Mexico by installing a puppet king from the local ruling family, which included the famous Cinco de Mayo battle, which she definitely would not want to hear.
After that it was an easy ride to the hotel, since the train station to the right didn’t interest her much. I knew she’d perk up when we passed the huge Ferris Wheel known as the Reisenrad at the Prater amusement park. Of course she said she wanted to ride it, but surprised me by saying she wouldn’t mind if I didn’t want to go on it, since she knew of my fear of heights. That saved me from having to mention that I’d already ridden it, for that would have brought up the subject of Jolanda again, plus it would allow me to earn some points by reluctantly agreeing to go up with her. . .
Now the driver took a circular route so she could see as much of the inner ring as possible as we made our way toward the hotel. I tried not to grin as we passed by the Hall where the Flamenco Festival was being held, hoping she didn’t see it or me; she did claim to love surprises. . .
Vienna teddys
Stopping at the hotel only long enough to unload her luggage–I knew she’d be too excited for jetlag–we found another taxi and kept going west toward the address Terry had of a wine garden in the famous, or infamous, Vienna Woods. I instinctively wrinkled my nose but didn’t say anything, preparing to be bored for a few more hours.
The instructions by the friend, who had obviously not driven there, turned out to be wrong, so the taxi had to go back to the nearest northbound road to get back on track to Grinning, which was quite a distance from where the original directions had said. I hoped this wouldn’t become a trend as we passed Turkenschanzpark and Terry commented that the scenery made the detour worthwhile. But then I knew that she was the world’s most eternal optimist, and she would start to cry and make me feel guilty if I said anything otherwise, so I wisely kept my mouth shut.
When we finally got to the area we needed, we were startled to see a large number of tourist buses, most of them discharging hordes of tired-looking visitors who seemed in need of a good drink. Getting yet another bad feeling, I listened to the driver enquire as to where our particular Heurigen–places devoted to sampling the young wines–was located, obviously not asking from the competition. Luckily it turned out to be well-hidden and too small to accept busloads, so we were welcomed graciously and led to a communal bench as a band played unknown songs while everyone drank their wine slowly.
The man who greeted us turned out to be the owner of the place, as well as the waiter, so when he brought our glasses he was much puzzled and almost insulted when I held up my hand, signifying I wanted nothing to do with the wine. “Then why are you here?” he asked in English, taking in our appearance at a glance.
I turned to Terry, who was already sipping. “She wanted to.”
“Ahh!” He nodded his head in understanding. “I see it now. Young love is fantastic to see.” He turned to Terry. “You have a good man here; don’t let him get away.” Then he moved on to the next table.
She turned to look at me, so I had to say, “Don’t you ever forget it.”
She laughed even more as she saw me examining the bread and crackers on the table, covered with something orange that I could only guess was cheese. The orange stuff was covered itself by paprika, cucumbers, anchovies, onions, and mustard. Everything I hate, seems like.
Turning to her, I very sternly voiced, “I have tickets for a special place tonight. You are going, and I am not going to tell you where, and there will be no argument.”
Remembering her own tone when she’d told me she wanted to see the Spanish Riding School, she didn’t protest, instead lowering her face, especially her eyes, demurely. Before we’d met, it was an instinctive reaction, but now she did it more because she knew–or thought–I loved it. Unable to help herself, she whispered, “Anything you say, my masterful. . . um, master.”
I turned away from her in mock disgust, making some of the people who’d been shamelessly eavesdropping laugh and then hide their faces behind napkins.

{To be continued. . . especially the flamenco bit}

;o)

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