Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Austria - The first flares

Hello everyone!

One final day in my week-long adventure to the continent. Lots of fun, I must say.

One thing I have been noticing a lot more this time than on my previous Eurotrip is the architecture. Yes, that sounds boring, but live in Asia for a year and you'll understand how beautiful the buildings are in this part of the world. Today we started with another quite frankly bizarre house - the Hundertwasserhaus. Don't ask me what it means. Actually, don't ask me anything about this house, as we couldn't get in. Normal people actually live here. Well, as normal as you can be if you live in this pad.

Another aspect prevalent in Europe that is missing in much of Asia is quite a simple one. Green. No, not that kind of green, though I know a few places where you can acquire that. No, I mean the colour. Parks. Grassy strips. They inject life into a city. Asian city planners obviously saw it more important to house their burgeoning populations at its expense.

Without trying to bash Asia too much - I love the place, and will be back in a few months - there is something else it lacks, this time in the food department. Now don't start burning effigies of me here. Korean food, Japanese food, Chinese, Thai and Malay food - all absolutely fantastic. As a main dish. But I have a sweet tooth, and Asian sweets don't really cut it for me. Not the bean paste breads. Spolier alert - not even the rice cakes. But European countries. We do cake. And boy, do we do it well. This one underneath is certainly now in my top three. It's called Esterhazy Torte. Interchanging layers of cream and slightly firm sponge, with the bakewell tart icing on top. WOW.

We had ran out of new things to see, so hit up a couple of places I had been before so I could see them in a different light. Literally. Last time I was here I saw the big wheel in daylight, and it had Petr Cech's giant frame adorning the side. See the comparison, and ask yourself which is better.

One of our days in 2008 was spent in the charming Schönbrunn complex; the summer palace of the Habsburg royalty. It was a great day - partly because we are part of a select band of British folk who can claim to have beaten the Germans in a penalty shoot-out - and I wanted to see how majestic it looked under lights. Of course one of the drawbacks this time was that...well...I went at nighttime, and...well...it's not open at nighttime. Unless one of the staff inside unwittingly leaves the sidedoor open as she finishes her shift. Well I just had to go in, spontaneous exploration is my nature. It looks incredible when illuminated, and has a bit of an aura to it when no one else is around.

Inbetween these events Kristina had gone to work, so I had done what I often did when travelling alone around Europe, and gone to see the city's main football stadium. It is home to SK Rapid Wien, one of Austria's most successful sides. Intriguingly, many of their fans were mingling outside the metro stop, so I followed them. They were heading towards the stadium. Through the gates, with the Gerhard Hanappi Stadium towering over us to the right. They headed...left. To a floodlight astroturf pitch where some men were about to start a kickabout.

Or not. I had stumbled upon a friendly match involving SK Rapid Wien. They actually have a couple of players I've heard of - step forward Jan Venegoor of Hesselink. I chatted to some locals to get information, and discovered that the winter break was still in force for the Austrian league, so they were keeping match fit with this friendly. As you can see from the video at the bottom, the fans were happy enough. Happy enough to light flares after 30 minutes. For a practice match. Don't see that at your standard British pre-season game.

I've had a great week, ended with if not a bang then at least a spark. The spark of a red flare. No more travelling for the next six weeks, apart from the occasional trip to London to sort admin stuff out. For what, you ask? I'll tell you. The next time I post a blog it won't be from Europe. It will be from Asia, and specifically will tell some tall tales from...SRI LANKA!!! Auf wiedersehen Europe, and a very good morning to the Indian subcontinent on March 2. Europe do cakes well, but I hear this region produces a mean curry...

Love you all


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