As I waited for my bus to Wien , I looked up at St. Martin’s and stared at the golden crown at the top of the spire. I stilled marveled that the Kings and Queens of Austro-Hungary were crowned at this solid old Catholic church. Although not clearly visible from my shitty little cell phone’s camera , it was the last thing I saw as I left Bratislava. I managed a photo out of the moving bus of Bratislavsky Hrad , from out in Austria , I decided not to use it. The only thing one can see is a small white block on the horizon. With the naked eye , I is clearly visible from 5/6 kilometers away. I bought the most simple phone in order to communicate with my cousins and to have a European SIM card , instead of going through the whole process at home with my iphone. The cost was almost $100 to convert my iphone , and the ” Slovak phone ” was 77euros , with a $10 charge to have data and calls for the entire 2 months of my stay. I’d say it was a better deal , it took 10 minutes to do the whole thing. All in all , a better move.
I was nice to be on the bus , with air-conditioning and wifi. It was almost 90 degrees in Bratislava and no breeze , just like being in Chicago , just a bit less sticky. I had meant to send this blog out last night , but I fell asleep early , watching a movie on Netflix. It was the first time on this whole trip that I’d watched tv , outside of the World Hockey Championships. I felt alien , to sit and watch a movie , as I have spent the bulk of my time , either walking around and looking at this old world , or reading writing.
I decided that when I reached Wien-Erdburg , the bus station , that since my apartman was in the northwest of Wien , I would take a cab instead of dragging my bag through the public transport system. It was hot here too ; 94 degrees and sticky , this time. My cab driver , Zorin ,is a Croat and raised in Wien from 5 years of age. His family had escaped from the former Yugoslavia in the early 60’s and came to Wien to settle. Of course , his German was flawless and he was fluent in Croat. We traded words and sentences in Slav , as Slovak and Croat are not that far removed. I was an expensive cab ride – 30euros – but well worth not dragging my duffel all over in the heat. Zorin and I talked about the cosmopolitan nature of Wien and how it has changed with the influx of the Muslims. He was rather cool about it , but was excepting because his family did so well here. His father was a retired painter for the Austrian Rail system and his Mother was still a seamstress…. at 92 ! I enjoyed the ride , in a brand new Mercedes , and he was quite affable , offering to pick me up on Wednesday to drive me to the airport for 45euros. I declined , it was too much , and I am running out of money. I’m down to my last 300euro , and was hoping to come home with a little. Not bad for starting this trip with 3,000euro for nearly 2 months. Zorin dropped me off right in front of my apartman and wished me luck , handing me his card , if I’d change my mind. I had just found a shady and cool spot to wait for my host Viorel and just as I put my bags down , he messaged me ( another advantage to having the phone ) that he was home. Super ! I picked up my bags and turned around and there was a clean-cut young man who called out my name. ” Viorel ?” , was my reply. ” Hello and welcome to Wien ” , was his.
In just the few minutes of being outside waiting for Viorel , I was sweating and my shirt was sticking to me. We entered his apartman building , which is under renovation and I felt like I stepped back into the 19th century. These buildings are hard to describe ; somwhat plain on the outside , modern finishes , and startling when you walk through the ornate hallways and up the staircases. We opened the door to my apartman , covered in plastic and it was another place entirely. Clean , sleek and high-modern , I was very surprised. It was nice and cool despite the fact that it was not air-conditioned and there was a fan. We talked for a few minutes about getting to the bank and where to shop ( dining out is not an option ) and the post office ( I must send a wedding card to Lenka and Patrik as they will marry on 6 July ). As usual , the bank is a few minutes away , and I have to turn my euros back to dollars rather than do it at the airport. I’m a bit skeptical about how much I will recieve , but I can’t come home with euros as I will need some money to get home. There will be no one to pick me up at the airport , as Romaine refuses to do it because ” it’s the night before the 4th of July “…whatever. I have made my way alone this far and I can do it to finish off my trip. How fitting for me to solve my own problems on my own soil ; I’ve been doing it for the last 7 weeks , I can certainly do it at O’hare.
It is early here , 6am ; 11pm back home , so I will most likely go out for a walk and finish this dispatch a little later. There were massive thunderstorms here last night and I awoke late in the evening to open my windows and feel the cool , fresh air rush in. Viorel pointed out that I have Netflix on my tv and I watched a National Geographic documentary about Joseph Kony. I remember how my friend Gabor described the child soldiers and how they had no innocence . If I have time I will watch Beasts Of No Nation , which deals with the same subject ; Gabor is still torn by what he saw some 5 years ago. We may talk on the phone later , he has become a good friend. A serious guitar player , we had many good discussions about music last Saturday night. I met him near my apartman and we walked to a pub with live music. The band was playing covers of popular Slovak folk and a few American and English bands. They were very well rehearsed and I really enjoyed it. As Gabor had a few beers , we talked about the Congo and music and his prospects. He even joked that he would come to the US and stay with me. We shot that idea down because he knows that I don’t want to stay in the US too long.
It’s almost 8:45 and I am going out to the bank , the post office and then to shop for lunch and dinner. I may send another dispatch later when it is a bit quieter , as the construction workers are hard at it now and will be until later this afternoon. Although it’s cooler out , it is headed to 85 and sunny. I want to get my business done early and get back before it gets hot… I will take one last walk later , after supper when it cools off. It will be hard to leave in the morning , but I knew this wasn’t permanent…nothing is.