In an 11-day trip you need three pairs of underwear. Some say you can get by on fewer, and they are right, but not when travelling with a wife. It’s always a great feeling to start the day with a clean pair of underwear, and today is one of those days. It’s also kind of bittersweet (the day, not the underwear) because since this is the last fresh pair you kind of know that the trip is nearing its end.
Then, to make the day really special, I even pulled on my last pair of clean socks. And before alll of that I broke down, shaved, and took a shower. I am ready to greet the queen if she should happen by.
Today is also they day when I decided to nut up and go see the Lipizzaner Stallions. First, though, I have a couple of minor tasks to get through but all should be easily knocked out before breakfast.
- Finish the last 200 pages of my current novel.
- Memorize all the kanji for Chapter 29, “In China We Do Not Eat With Our Hands.”
- Translate the Gutenberg Bible into Pig Latin.
As an alleged cyclist, it is always weird to foreswear two wheels and spend a week getting around on foot. Vienna is an amazing foot city, not least because Ms. WM found a Birkenstock shop where she can get sandals for $65.
Vienna is also an amazing foot city because the area surrounding Hotel am Billigsten is chock full of handcraft stores. For example, there is a store that only sells pepper mills. Yep. They are made from wood, in various shapes, and they all come with a Swiss-made, adjustable grinder, which is shorthand for “it will never break and you can grind pepper the size of marbles.”
You might wonder how a trendy young felllow in an orange scarf, goatee, and designer glasses could pay the trendy rent and the $50,000 espresso machine lease selling pepper mills. The answer is, “They are really expensive,” and “Like deodorant, everyone uses pepper.”
In short, you can walk around Vienna with a convenient map and hit all the trendy places filled with trendy things run by trendy people, but the key word is “walk.” Now then, walking tires you the fuck out and quick. You might not think so when you’re just standing there comparing the cherrywood mill to the maple mill, but after several hours your legs want to fold beneath you like a Donald Trump Presidential Campaign.
But the Viennese are smart people and they have prepared for this eventuality with something callled “coffee shop.” You stagger in, deflate into the chair, then pump yourself up with caffeine so that you can go look at hand-crafted fire logs, each one custom designed by a hipster who reads Marx and personally shapes each log to be artfully tossed into the fire and burned to ashes.
Before long (I’m told) your legs get fit and strong and it’s nothing at all to walk over asphalt and cobbles for six hours. However, we haven’t reached that point yet, although the lone pair of sneakers that came with me are now ready for the dumpster.
Which brings up the most amazing thing of all, aside from the crisp underwear, which is that Vienna thrives on small shops. You know, like America once did before people realized that small business is for suckers, and that the best societies are ones where small people get ground up by billionaire concerns that sell stuff imported from China and etc.
It has been weird to go into shops where the proprietor has a real stake in his success. For example, the pepper mill dude, whose shop opened at ten, ushered us in even though it was nine when he saw what appeared to be potential suckers. Or the lady in the organic cafe who smiled and talked about each food item with knowledge because she viewed each customer as *GASP* a potential repeat customer whose patronage would affect her bottom line.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that minimum wage, no future jobs in big box retailers are bad or that we should have communities where individuals own their own businesses, support their own communities, and have a stake in the outcome.
But I am suggesting that if you take an 11-day trip to Vienna, it might be a good idea to bring a solid pair of walking shoes and maybe, just maybe, a fourth pair of clean undershorts.