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Trip in January 1999. All "facts" are how things seemed to me at the time.

Vienna

Like all European capitals, Vienna has many pieces of fine architecture, many statues, a huge big catherderal, trams, cobbles and the like. The thing is though, if you live in Europe, you can't help thinking that all European cities look kind of similar, and very nice though it is, It just doesn't have the same wow factor as somewhere else further away. If you like that whole Europe thing, you'll just love Vienna. Whatever you do though, don't go in winter, as it'll literally leave you cold.

Austria is a bit better kept than the Czech Republic, though in a few generations time they will probably be near-identical. The bus ride to Vienna from Ivancice (in the Czech republic) was about 2 1/2 hours, and cost me twice as much as a Czech person, which I was annoyed about, however when you buy the ticket, you have to show your passport. As soon as they know you are foreign, the Czech bus company double the price, even if the country you are from is poor. There is no getting around this either, as all the bus companies operate the same way, leading me to question their morals on other parts of the service too, like the quality of the bus. The bus in question was just like the town to town buses, not what I would hope for such a long journey.

In Vienna, and all Austria, things are very expensive. The McDonalds, (which I had to try it just to see if it was the same, which it was) was the second most expensive I have been too, after New York.

Vienna is all very neat and tidy with it's neat little patches of grass and organised trees and things. A little bit like a European Singapore in parts, except without the heat. There is not really much to say about Vienna, because I was only there for one day, and it was much too cold to have a great time.

I've been a couple of time since then, both in the summer, when Austria is much nicer. One of the trips was to a town called Krems, and a cruise down part of the Danube. The architecture is very nice and European, and it's all very clean. There are plenty of castles, stately homes, cathederals and catholic churches with tons of gold and the like, enough to please any Euro-culture seeking tourist.

The weirder stuff is on the border though, such as Excalibur city.

Excalibur City, Austria/Czech Border

Wow. This place makes Disneyland look authentic. A giant shopping and leisure complex at the border, after leaving one country and before entering the other, welcome to Excalibur City. It must fall out of jurisdiction of everyone, such is the lack of style and grace of this place. It comprises of several large markets and shopping malls, all decorated externally with painted plywood and plastic in order to resemble a cheap copy of an English castle, complete with fake dragons on the top. There's also a parked up disused Ilyushin airliner with a cafe on it's wing. It's like mini-Vegas, and there's a Casino nearby to help you along with that feeling. There's also a giant Vietnamese market, full of the type of stuff you'd commony find in a South East Asia market, such as copy T-shirts, copy baseball caps, copy this that and the other. There's also a larger variety of swords, nun-chakas, knuckle dusters, throwing stars and the like - A ninja one-stop-shop. inside the shopping mall are a variety of restaurants too, so I ate at the first Chinese restaurant I'd been to that had no chinese staff whatsoever. Still, the Czechs that were running it had good instruction in the liberal use of Monosodium Glutamate.

Nearby Excalibur city, at the side of the road is a gnome stall, providing not only gnomes for the Austrians and Germans, but life size plaster farm animals. Now what would somebody do with a 1:1 scale plaster model of a cow I wonder?

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Copyright © M.F.Hughes 1999-2003

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