I live in DC, which is a great place to live and visit. I try to make the most of it. However, I also love to leave my home and see what the world has to offer. Come and join me!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Saturday, September 1 2007 Vienna and Europe with no Credit Card

We arrived in Vienna early so I figured it was a sign I should take the CAT (City Airport Train) into the city for some fresh air and to keep myself awake. I had slept not even a wink on the plane, not even a light doze. Ugh! When I went to get my CAT ticket (16 E round trip) I realized I had somehow left my credit card at home!!!!! Horror! I had my Visa branded debit card, but worried I'd run into trouble at hotels. K and I had planned to put the rental car on my credit card because its rent car insurance covers international rentals. So much for that!

I have always had a relatively healthy laissez-faire approach to forgetting things--It's Europe! I tell myself. They sell things there and you can just buy whatever you need. Well, you can't just buy a credit card. I also realized, in frantically searching through everything in my modest carryon, that I had thrown my razor in the carryon when I realized I had forgotten to put it with toiletries. They didn't even mention it at Dulles security but I feared I wouldn't get it back in through Vienna's security. But a razor *is* something you can buy in Europe, even with only a debit card.

I had looked online to see what was near Mitte station, where the CAT drops. The City Park is across the street and I thought it would be perfect. It's smaller than it looked on the map, so I made a couple laps rather than a ramble, but I had a pleasant hour and a half walking around it. I took the obligatory picture of the gilded Johann Strauss statue.

My favorite, though, was this guy. I love the contrast between his wild, biblical beard and his mincing, foppish shoes (not to mention the knickers).

I was getting hungry and the ATM had given me a 100E bill. In the States it is hard to spend a $100 bill and I feared it would likewise be so in Europe. I went to the Interspar in the train station, which appears to be an Austrian WalMart, carrying everything from groceries to clothes with a restaurant above. For 3.78E I got sliced emmenthaler cheese, pumpernickel "party rounds," an apple, and a chocolate bar. The clerk didn't blink at my 100E bill, for which I was relieved.

I needed to use the restroom (the story of my life; my bladder is the size of a walnut. Ironically, I am allergic to walnuts.). I asked the clerk to give me a coin. She didn't speak English and I don't speak German. I used my thumb and pointer to make a circle to indicate coin and said "Bathroom? Toilet? WC?" She got the picture and gave me some coins. But the bathroom was .50 and I had only 1E coins and the stalls appeared to be coin op. Oy! There was a woman in the bathroom who I thought might be the attendant, but she was primping and didn't notice me so I figured I was mistaken. I did the potty dance over to the convenience store and picked up the first thing I saw that would be me 50 cents change, a Milky Way Crisp Bar for .45. I came back and tried to put my 50 cent coin into the stall slot. No dice! I was getting fearful. The primping woman came over and I gave her my coin and she put her giant key into the slot and unlocked the bathroom stall.

Much relieved, I went back to the park to enjoy my picnic. I was having my taste of Western Europe's damp, cold summer! I was wearing my sweater and pashmina wrap, which I had looped around my neck in that oh so European way. These were the only warm things I had brought. It was alternately drizzling and sprinkling.

I sat down on a bench and tucked in. Apparently, eating in public is Not the Done Thing in Austria, as everyone who walked by gave me a good hard look. Perhaps the fact that I was eating in public in the rain had something to do with it. I didn't care and enjoyed my picnic very much.

When I had asked the Austrian Air help desk attendant if I would have any trouble getting back through passport control if I left the airport she said no but cautioned me to come back early enough for my flight, so I got back about two hours before the flight took off. I needn't have bothered! At the Austrian gates in the C terminal, each gate has its own passport control and security, and they don't let you through it until your plane is boarding. I sat in the Starbucks area for an hour while the tiredness hit me full force. I dozed in Starbucks. I went through and dozed in the secure waiting area. When I got on the plane it was empty and I had my own row and completely sacked out for an hour of the 1:40 flight.

You can see all my photos from Vienna and all my photos from this trip to Greece if you'd like.

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