Rod McLaughlin


Attempting to camp in Austria (30 may 18)

I arrived at Vienna airport on May 27 and got a taxi to what is known as both the Life Hotel and the Euro Hotel in Fischamend. I had €30. To rent a cart in the airport to carry my bike in a box through customs, I had to change it and use €1. That left 29. The taxi driver wanted 30, but he accepted 29 - a negative tip. If I can keep this up, after a couple of hundred years I'll have made up for all the taxi ripoffs in my life before I discovered Uber.

Next day I put my bike together. I couldn't get the brake pads working, but there is a bike shop in the small town of Fischamend, and the guy put it together for nothing. Then I rode into Vienna, noting its beauty. I asked quite a few people (most of them speak English, because we won the war) where there is an outdoor store, so I could buy a tent and stove, but nobody knew, although Austria has a reputation as the kind of place where people eat a hearty breakfast washed down with schnapps, and go on long hikes singing and yodeling. 

I used a cafe's wifi to use Google to ask "where to buy outdoor gear in Vienna" in English, and the first result, in English, pointed me to Bergfuchs which I located and found it had all the brands I know and love: MSR, Exped, etc.. I bought the lightest MSR tent and stove they had. They also had a transformer which you converts between the various electricity plug systems. More on this later.

The woman who sold me the tent and stove suggested I go to Styria, to the south, which is where the mountains are.

I found "Camping Wien Süd", but it was closed. Nearby was the Karl Wirt hotel. It looked really nice for €90, so I took it, plugged the converter into the socket, my computer into the converter, and my phone into my computer. Next door is the Karl Wirt restaurant, which is as Austrian as the son of Mozart and Marie Antoinette. Schnitzels, dumplings, chocolate cake, beer - it's good to know you're about to cycle 2500 Km, so you can stuff yourself. 

Speaking of hearty breakfasts, the self-service breakfast at both the Life/Euro hotel and the Karl Wirt were so filling that even while biking all day you don't get hungry til the evening. Cold cuts, scrambled eggs, yogurt, olives, ten different cheeses, five kinds of wholewheat bread...

Having got stuffed again, I packed what I thought was everything and headed south. My phone guided me pretty well along the bike paths, and I came across a bike shop where I bought a thing to attach it to my handlebars. Shortly after this, the phone stopped working. I stopped in a little pub and pulled out my computer. It ran out of gas immediately. I hadn't actually recharged them properly. Never mind, the lady in the pub would let me charge them. I remembered the converter, but I didn't have it. I must have left it in the hotel. I no longer had  the benefit of Google guiding me along the bike routes. I stopped in a computer shop in Baden, and used Google maps to find the Karl Wirt hotel. I drew the route on a piece of paper, and used that to navigate back. It was difficult to find the bike paths, so I rode along some hairy roads with BMWs and Audis going past me at speed. At the Karl Wirt, they hadn't found my converter. I went up to the room I'd had the previous night with the evening receptionist, but it wasn't there. She said I'd have to wait til morning so she could ask the morning staff.

So... another massive Austrian meal in the restaurant, no internet, boo-hoo, a good sleep, came downstairs, and my converter was sitting on the desk next to the morning receptionist. I almost kissed her. Back upstairs, I plugged the converter into the socket, my computer into the converter, and my phone into my computer. Surprisingly, in this hotel, the card to open the door, you have to leave it in a slot to make the electricity work, just like hotels in SE Asia. So I wedged the door with a bit of paper, and left the card in its slot while I went down for breakfast. Now I have to figure out what to do next. I still haven't used my new tent and camping stove.



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