Monday, April 01, 2013

Short European Trip - Thurs

On the flight from Singapore my travelling companions are a slightly older German couple from Göttingen, was it? Somewhere between Dresden and Halle an der Saale. They were returning from three weeks in New Zealand. I introduced myself in German, which broke the ice, but they wouldn't tell me their names. Difficult to make conversation with my very limited German but I tried. The lady spoke so quickly so it was a case of trying to get the gist of it.

No chicken left by the time supper was served so I had to have the braised pork which turned out to be fabulous. Mashed potato was inedible though.

By crikey the German girls seated behind me can yack and the one directly behind me kept bumping my seat. So close to me unleashing a bit of air rage.

Watched Lincoln which was great apart from the background aircraft noise which meant that it was very difficult to hear and detracted from the enjoyment greatly. Subtitles would have been handy.

Awake until about 2:30am back home (7:30pm Frankfurt time). Woke up about 1am destination time but listened to music on my mobile - glad I charged my mobile when using the laptop.

Landed about 5:20am and was able to find my way to Terminal 1 section A within an hour. Could've made the much earlier flight if I'd known how simple passport control and no luggage to collect was going to be. Funny thing at passport control - one guy was directing the human traffic flow for the foreigners and was getting a bit upset that people weren't lining up into two lines near the exit point. It wasn't marked, mind you. Then one foreigner behind me got angry with him for "treating people like cattle," and told him so. The guy called out to a passport controller. He started yelling at the protester, who spoke German well, and it was highly amusing to see them yell at each other. The protester suspected that he would be given quite a hard time afterwards but following some words with a security guy nothing more came of it.

Obtained my boarding pass, found my gate, and plugged in the laptop and mobile for a couple of hours of emails and charging. Internet charge was Euro 4.95/24 hours. Toilets were nothing special but some of the lounges were very comfortable. By boarding time for the flight to Vienna I had a headache. Not enough to drink on the plane, I guess. When I went to take my seat I noticed an older guy sitting in my window seat but thought not to argue and took the aisle seat. Later, another gentleman wanted a seat on the other side of the aisle which was taken by someone else who then wanted my seat and we found out that the first guy was in the wrong row! Couple of no-shows so a delay to remove their luggage was experienced.

Quite a few Asians working at the terminal - their German was fine. Don't see too many typical looking Germans doing the menial tasks at the airport. And Frankfurt Airport is enormous. It has a Camel Smoking Booth - but I didn't see any camels in there, only humans.

Nice view of the Alps en route to Vienna. At one point I was able to spot five planes heading in the other direction at the same time. Quite a busy route. Saw a falcon or hawk sitting on one of the runway signs at Vienna International Airport. Supposedly only 3°C in Vienna. Lots of snow surrounding the city. Couldn't see any animals outside on the farms as we approached the airport.

Free WLAN in Vienna! Exited the arrival area and found the ÖBB Intercitybus counter. Cash only so had to change some British pounds that I had left over from the last holiday. Bought my return ticket but was too late for the 11:30 bus. Bought some sandwiches, a bottle of water and a block of chocolate @ Spar Gourmet for less than six euros!

Bus ride took less than one hour - free wifi onboard. Even got to call my missus for free. You can see Bratislavsky Hrad (Bratislava Castle) from so far away. Only waited about 15 minutes for my friend, Michal, to arrive although the bus was a little early. He had a conference to attend so took my luggage and asked me to meet him at the Danube Hotel @ 4:30pm.

I headed off to Ondrezy Cintorin, a cemetery, and had a look around. Some famous people buried there, all of them dead. Then wandered around until I found Centrum - centre of town. Searched for the tourist info which had signs pointing to it but the building itself wasn't that obvious so I missed it the first time and did a lap of the city centre. Obtained a map and made my way to Michalska brana - St Michael's Gate, the only remaining city gate of four originally. It houses some very old weapons and war memorabilia, along with Slovak independence history, and there's a good view of the city from atop the tower. Had a bit of time left so walked up to the hrad. Good view of the city too. Didn't have time to check out the castle so walked around two of the walls and then went down. Passed the US embassy, which was a pedestrian-free zone, and saw the national theatre (divadlo) before making my way down to the Danube River. Visited the port to see if I could catch a sightseeing boat to Hrad Devin but they only operate from May. Discovered that there is free wifi in the city. Walked along the Danube until I reached the Park Inn Hotel Danube where Michal came to pick me up.

Picked up his son from school and then went to the Max Inn Hotel to meet his brother-in-law. I had fettuccine prawns and it was close to the spiciest meal I've ever eaten. Very nice though.

Back to Michal's house where I met his eldest son. We watched some golf, had pizza, helped his youngest boy with some English homework (reading) and saw the dog and cat.