45 Hours in Vienna: Before the Exam
By no means are 45 hours enough for Vienna! But I left the UK in late October, started a new job three days later, and had a professional exam at the end of the month. I had neither enough leave, money nor free time to give Vienna the time and attention it deserves, and right into the middle of my short weekend sits the European Board Exam, an oral examination lasting three hours.
Preparation was as thorough as it could be, with scientific matter following me even to the launderette (because I am camping again and do not own a washing machine).
The Start: Early, very early. I rise at 04.30, top up Princess Leia’s food and drive to the airport. Despite living in the middle of nowhere, it’s only 40 minutes to Berlin-Tegel, where you can park for free, then walk to the terminal in about ten minutes. The bakery is open and has fresh coffee, too. After the terrible, awful airports I flew out of on my pan-German epic job search (Hello, Stansted, Luton and Newcastle??), TXL is lovely. Short walks, no queues, staff friendly enough. And how nice to fly a proper airline again. Austrian A320 welcomes me in the dawn with smell of more coffee, newspapers and, ta-da, an exit seat. The only naff thing are the all-red cabin crew uniforms. The stewardesses, well turned out as they look, appear to be wearing scarlet unitards.
After a smooth flight and a bit of sleep, Vienna is welcoming me with drizzle. Ahh, perfect for more studying. Within five minutes, I am through the terminal and in an airport bus.
I later learn that you can buy a bog standard public transport ticket and use S-Bahn S7, which connects to the Underground train to nearly everywhere in Vienna. My hotel is on the “other” side of the Danube away from the centre, right by the Danube, and is called “Lena’s Donau”. Still a bit broke from moving house, deposits and new insurance premiums and pension contributions, I got the cheapest possible deal from Expedia: 179 EURO for a flight and two nights in a hotel. I really wasn’t expecting much! But… the hotel is a nice foggy walk across the Danube from the metro, room is very simple, but totally cosy and clean. Yep, the shower cabin in the room might be a little unusual, but it’s functional – fall out of the bed and into the shower! There’s a supermarket across the road and a McDonalds next door.
I can’t check in (well, it is only 8am) so off to study I go. There are two noteworthy (well, I read about them on the internet) librairies in town that may be suitable for quiet study. The Wirtschaftuniversität, a few metro stops away, and the Nationalbibliothek. I am very tired and hope a bracing walk in a still-foggy Prater might blow away the cobwebs, so I head for the Wirtschaftsuniversität.
The Prater on this grey November morning is eerily amazing. The ageing fairground closed, a bit eerie, it evokes a “Third Man” mood.
But, the bright white and orange of the Wirtschaftsuniversität Campus is in sight! The library is like a spaceship. Whoa.
Sadly, I am not permitted to study here. But… the nice librarian points me to the main lecture hall next door. On a mezzanine level there are loads of tables, a cafe, free Wifi for everyone. Perfect. I love this place. I study for four hours, check in, sleep.
At night, I distract myself with a walk around the Christmas Market outside Schloss Schönbrunn. I have not visited many Christmas Markets since moving to the UK ten years ago, so this is a great beginning… it takes a 30-minute underground ride to get there, but the backdrop of Schloss Schönbrunn, the absence of tack and the laidback mood make this one very special.
Look at those cute ornaments! And beeswax candles.
My haul (even in my bare flat I am not short of mugs). One day I hope to be settled enough to have a Christmas tree, so I’ve started collecting ornaments years ago, at the rate of one per year.
I eat dinner in a shopping centre (NOT a highlight of the trip!) and resist looking into the books once more.