When I arrived in Vienna, I had pretty much maxed out my limit on schnitzel. I have the unfortunate habit of going native when I travel and consuming the local cuisine exclusively. While in Germany and the Czech Republic, this meant lots of beer and meat. Vienna was more of the same but followed by coffee and cake in one of the many cafes.
I am a fan of cafe culture, as it reminds me of my youth when you had time to spend in coffee houses. When you’re in college, there are about 48 hours in each day — enough time for class, studying, talking to friends on the phone and then hanging out with them over meals or mugs of coffee or beer. Then you graduate, get a job and you’re down to 30 hours a day. Then you marry and you have about 15 hours, half of which are spent at weddings. You have kids and you get 10 minutes, provided you wake up at 5 am. If you sleep in until 6, it’s 5 minutes and if you let it go to 6:30, you’ve missed a day.
The Viennese manage to keep life at a 48-hour day, which is both impressive and necessary when you live in a city with so many grand buildings. I stayed at the The Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna Hotel, perhaps the third-most pretentious hotel name in Europe. It’s ideal for business travelers who wish to arrange the murder of an associate. The front desk is very accommodating: “So, you’ll want your partner dismembered and disposed of by Friday? We are happy to assist.” The club room is stocked with free champagne and heavy appetizers that make dining out unnecessary, which is convenient as the room rates made dining out impossible. One night was about the price of four in Berlin, but as they say, Berlin is “poor but sexy” and Vienna is “rich but beer goggly.” When I saw the bill, I had to clarify with the front desk that it was in Euros rather than some meaninglessly inflated currency like Kroners or U.S. dollars.
The bathroom at my hotel had a bidet. I named mine Joan Crawford. Without a bidet, your bathroom experience is equivalent to a 19th century outhouse with a half moon on the door. If you have a child, you would gladly sacrifice him or her for the bidet. If you had two children, you would want two bidets in case something happened to the primary one. Also, having the other kid around would just remind you that you’re some kind of monster who traded your child for a bidet.
The reason U.S. residents are so uptight is directly related to the lack of bidets. Watch how the GOP presidential candidates walked on stage during the debates. These are men and arguably one woman without access to a bidet. The Democrats would still have the House if instead of universal health coverage they had pursued universal bidets.
I took a tour of Vienna with a charming guide who looked just like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Considering none of the women on the tour were groped and/or impregnated, the resemblance was just superficial. He was very pro-Vienna, which is run by the Social Democratic Party. This means the Viennese struggle under the tyranny of the government caring whether they live or die, which is in contrast to the U.S. system where you are free to die wherever you wish as long as it’s not on a rich person’s lawn or on an alternate side parking day.
I’m usually not big on nationalism of any sort, but when this guy said good things about his country, he backed it up with facts. In the U.S., you’re just told it’s the greatest country in the world — period — and if you don’t like it, you can take your commie ass and leave. And that’s in a public school history class. Our guide pointed out that Vienna is tied with Vancouver, Canada for quality of life and the Economist Intelligence Unit rated it the second-best city in which to live. I also personally rank it the best city in which to get a haircut — far out-performing the sloppy, clipper-driven butchery I received as a kid in Greenville, S.C.
Definitely rich but decidedly not beer goggly was our well-dressed and well-coiffed guide at the Vienna State Opera House. We seemed to inspire pity in her, sort of like she was volunteering at a hospice but with less hope: “These are the orchestra seats, which would sell for about 250 Euros each or the cost of one sleeve of my splendidly tailored shirt. Over there are the box seats, which I am sorry to say are far beyond what you could ever afford to pay given your own personal poverty, which, I am sorry to say, is considerable and bleak. We do offer the underprivileged, by which, I am sorry to say, I mean you, day-of standing room tickets for 2 Euro, which I would use to wipe my ass if it were paper like your U.S. currency, which I do in fact use to wipe my ass, as it is less expensive than toilet paper and is a good pairing with the bidet.”