The Cat sabotaged my trip. In the dark of the night a glass of water was dropped on my money belt and passport. I dried out my money belt in the oven. A half hour later two doppelganger porters loaded my bags, and I was on a bus to the airport. The trip has been much anticipated and much worried about. New England flies by, quaint docks and waterfronts. I wonder whether the Spanish coastline will look similar.
At the airport an emirates plane came sliding through, beautiful and even exotic with golden lettering and high volume capacity. It had been nine years since I left the country.
Saturday: Day 1- Barcelona
It was a great break that we flew Aer Lingus- The coffee was strong and black, the drinks were good and stiff, and the stewardesses were tight and had a pretty accent.
Arriving in Barcelona it was overcast. It was pretty much the way I had imagined it. We took a cab and then loaded like sardines into the elevator at our rental property. The apartment was a bohemian pad in the Born neighborhood. There were children playing with skateboards in the park across the street from my bedroom balcony. Every window in the neighborhood had a balcony. A scooter went by.
We resolved to go shopping, at the Mercado. The Spanish were lovely and helpful. There were like 20 different types of tomatoes, all with samples for our tasting. I bought an aubergine pastry from a bakery stand, they had a line so I thought I might score, but I didn’t like it at all. I found a shop that sold Gauloises, and went back to the pad and slept for a couple hours.
When I woke up I ventured out into the Barcelona Saturday evening, brimming with life and cheer. I felt like a million bucks walking down those ancient alleys. I entered a tapas bar and got the calamari, which came with fried baby octopuses. The red wine was delicious and the food was fine, although the octopuses offended my stomach. I started walking home and actually walked circles until I asked a cab driver, and then home in ten minutes. I relaxed and smoked gauloises on my balcony until I was welcomed by sleep.
Sunday: Day 2-Barcelona
Today was special. At about eleven we started out for the tourist info and then to the Barcelona historic museum. For breakfast I picked up a prosciutto sandwich at one of the many bakeries in the city. I don’t like prosciutto but I enjoyed the sandwich. At the tourist info they were flush with figurines of famous figures crouched on toilet bowls. Apparently they’re a Barcelona tradition. Walking into the gothic quarter there were beautiful cobble stone streets and busy church pleins with begging gypsies circulating. There was a wedding on one calle, with a bride in a white dress running down the cobblestones.
The Historic museum had a labyrinth in its bowels. The Romans would garnish their food with rotten fish and wash their clothes with urine. There were some great reasonably priced Catalan posters so I bought one for a friend back home. We had some seltzer in the outdoor café near the museum, then we headed to the “Call,” the Jewish quarter. It was amazing. The octopus was giving me trouble, so I thought I’d stick to Kosher for a while. On our way to an abandoned synagogue we smelled something delicious, and after reading the plaque where the synagogue was we followed our noses to a place called “Saltezia.” They had something like a fresh Caprese sandwich made in a sandwich press. The cheese was gooey and fresh and so were the basil and tomatoes- Magnifique!
I ended up the day sitting on my balcony smoking a pack of Gauloises that said “Fumar puede reducer el flujo sanguine provoca impotencia.”
Monday: Day 3-Barcelona
Where did day three go? I have a paranoid scribble from day three, that’s all.
Tuesday: Day 4-Barcelona
Today was another fantastic day in Barcelona. For breakfast Muesli with fresh fruit and milk. Then a walk to plaza de Cataluña to catch a hop on hop off bus that would take us around the city. I won’t get into details, but driving around on the top of a double decker bus on a beautiful day is to be relished. We ended up in the port de Olympia where we had paella. Every bite had loads of seafood in it. After that I went to the rambla for post cards, including a few off color ones for friends. After a gelato I returned home and again smoked on the balcony, watching a class, or business meeting in the window across from me.
Wednesday: Day 5-Barcelona
Today I saw the Picasso museum. The exhibit was comparing Picasso to Dali, and I didn’t quite see the connection but the collection was nice. For the first time it struck me as stupid that there’s no drinking fountains in European museums. The staff member I asked about it said it was hardest for her, not having anything to drink. I split off and went to the café with delicious sandwiches and had one. Then I did some shopping, chocolates for my Mrs from Valor, a lithographed poster of Barcelona, a pack of French playing cards with quack medicine advertisements on them. Then I got lost, walked the Rambla, found my way home, and back in the Born I sipped a Caffe con Leche outside a café and wrote post cards.
That night we went to the restaurant “The Born 300,” in the Born cultural center. It was owned by Moritz beer and they fussed over us wonderfully. I ordered the rabbit and it was tender and sweet. Everybody enjoyed their meal, and it was to be our best dinner in Barcelona.
Thursday: Day 6- Barcelona
I was sitting in the front seat of a bus, zipping along as the Northern Spanish scenery disappears. We were going to Girona and then Figueras, to see the Dali House.
The city of Girona was absolutely stunning. The whole city was formed of beautiful stone, and, built on several terraces, leading up to a giant cathedral at the top of the hill. I was hoping for some breakfast, but like in any super touristy European area worth its salt, all I could find was a cheese sandwich. I purchased a Spanish butterfly knife. I still have it today, but I find it to be too clumsy to serve as a weapon.
The Dali museum was kind of overwhelming. It’s the biggest Surrealist object in the world, and it was confounding. When we went out for coffee afterwards, I was bringing out the coffee and I smashed into a glass sliding door. The door is finicky when you come at it from the side and doesn’t open. I came away with a big lump on my head. (as with my fall off the bike in Amsterdam two years later the bruise healed) It’s worth mentioning that the food in Figueras was nice. We went into a restaurant that offered about thirty entrees, all cooked up right in front of you within minutes. I ordered the steak I think, half expecting to be served sawdust, but it was a delicious breakfast steak with a fresh salad.
After returning from the trip I had a craving for a good American hamburger, so I walked to Burger King and brought home a Whopper, and savored it.
Friday: last day Barcelona
On my last day in Barcelona I packed up my souvenirs, to which I added a deck of stripped playing cards, and I was ready for Vienna. Barcelona was a great place to cut my teeth. I could fill in my French for my Spanish and vice versa. What’s baffling is that there can be so many halfway decent restaurants. Also, I like that the stores are named after animals. “Ferretaria” and “Super Meer Cats.” Who doesn’t like Meer Cats? I could smell marijuana was wafting from a balcony across the way, Spanish rap blazing. I will return.
Day 1 Vienna
Going through security in the Barcelona airport I popped a pill that my doctor generously prescribed for me. I had a little bit of water in my bottle, and when they found it I tried to drink the excess, but the security grabbed it from my hands and yelled “Drink Out!.” We were flying air China to Vienna. I was looking forward to the wurst, expecting the wurst. The Spanish airport reminded me of Schipol, very grid like.
A couple hours later we were doing laundry at a filthy little place in Vienna near our apartment. We didn’t like the apartment, it was a very working class neighborhood. I went to a fast food joint and had some Wiener Shnitzel. I felt like I gained two pounds by the time I left the restaurant. We decided to change apartments because there were no available elevators and one of our party could not handle stairs. Plus we didn’t like the neighborhood, and the apartment was not great either.
Day 2 Vienna
We switched apartments, from the filthy little institutional hole in the wall to a fine modern apartment with a terrace and an upscale central location. There would have been a world class view of the old city, if there wasn’t a wall on the left side of the terrace. The terrace got me thinking of getting high, so I checked Webehigh about the laws, and no can do. We made a cultural expedition to the supermarket and bakery. I purchased some liverwurst. I knew from experience that while food stuffs in Europe may not be colorfully packaged, they can be top notch, and this liverwurst is evidence of that. I had sandwiches and it was delicious, and we had pickles, boiled fingerling potatoes, and beer. The beer wasn’t enough. I had dreams of getting wasted and hanging out on that terrace. I decided to buy myself a bottle of whiskey the next day.
We weren’t that impressed with the pastries, but we had a couple more shops to try. Three more days, we wouldn’t force ourselves to do more than we could.
Day 3 Vienna
Everybody slept in today. We shared muesli at about 10:30 am and then our friends who were hosting us picked us up on foot around 12:30 pm. We walked to Marie Halfenstraat and I took pictures of the graffiti on the way. I was really impressed with Viennese graffiti. Whenever you see a “Private Property, no Trespassing” sign, it’s always tagged. The tobacco shops were all closed on Sunday, but we found a way to work the cigarette machines in front of the Tobaccs. No liquor stores yet located, so I would have to get my bottle the next day.
We had Lunch at the famous “Café Ritter.” I had wieners and goulash, which were remarkably similar to the iconic “Hot Wieners” of Rhode Island. Believe it or not they were every bit as gross. We walked through the museum quarter to Saint Stephen’s Cathedral. I had a spiritual experience outside the cathedral. It felt like a Rimbaudian pilgrimage, a reliquary, if you will. People young and old, from all over Europe had made a pilgrimage to this holy spot. I went to the Manner Shnitten company store and bought gifts and souvenirs. I couldn’t convince the rest of my party that people back home would like gaudy European delicacies. Then I took a picture in front of the monument to the Jews of Vienna and we headed over to our host’s home for a traditional Bavarian meal.
I was looking for a satchel, because I think it would be nice to have, and also, I couldn’t fit anymore stuff into my luggage.
Day 4 Vienna
A symphony of birds
The holy grail hidden,
Invisible mist blesses the soul of Olam
Smoke curls up into the atmosphere
History is palpable, alive.
Time Ticks away- my vacation has an end in sight
The toilet in the bathroom has a little shelf inside of it so you can view your business after you make it.
This morning I went to Neubogasse to find a satchel. To kill time while I waited for the stores to open I had a pastry and cappuccino. I heard that the Viennese coffee shops were a UNESCO world heritage site, but I didn’t see anything to justify that. When I went to the Satchel store they had a German brand courier bag made of recycled Gymnastics material and aged leather. They had been nominated for a prestigious design award in germany, and each bag was handmade and came with a signed card and picture of the creator. It was expensive, but just what I had been looking for.
We took a tram on the ring around the city, which I was a little disappointed with, but everybody else loved it. Then we went to see the Habsburg crown jewels. The amount of jewels there could fill trash bags, maybe even a garbage truck. The sheer volume was impressive (although I would prefer the Danish crown jewels years later. Quality, not quantity.) I couldn’t find a flask of whiskey, but we had kebabs and sang songs on the terrace into the night.
Day 5 Vienna
Our last day in Europe was great. In the morning I went out to Neubogasse to buy some souvenirs and got the skull of a mountain goat mounted on a plaque. It was a bad purchase because the skull is broken on the right side, but now I put my keys on it.
I went into a small café and said “Dag.” They all said “Dag” back, which is strange, because it’s not a German greeting. I ordered the famous coffee with whip cream ( I motioned that I was spraying a can of whip cream onto a cup of coffee.) I chatted with an old equestrian man with a dog. I told him that I was an artist and he showed me pictures he’d drawn of horses. It seems to me that the dogs in Vienna are long and low to the ground- Wiener dogs! The old man seemed to think that all of the women in America were fat and ugly, but I knew different. There weren’t really even that many good looking girls in Vienna.
I returned to the flat and we soon left for Schoenbrun Castle. After having drinks and snacks at Schoenbrun’s outdoor café, we split up, some going to the gardens, and others, including me, touring the palace. That something like Schoenbrun exists and is open the public is a fine thing, a cultural treasure. We learned about queen Sissi, who would brush her hair for two hours every day, but was assassinated by an Italian anarchist. I bought a table weight music box contraption that plays Strauss’ waltz when you pick it up, with a picture of Sissi on it.
It was our last day in Europe, and I still wanted to try a wurst stand, so while the rest of the house had omelets, I walked the mile or so until I found one. I had never been out alone past 6 in Vienna, and it had a charged gypsy camp feel to it, with dangerous punks and unscrupulous hippies. I actually smelled some marijuana while I was queued up for wurst. It is coincidental that the only marijuana smoke I smelled in Spain was my last day there and it was the same in Vienna. These two young punks with motorcycle helmets tried to cut me in line but I asserted myself and got a beer and a bratwurst. On a bun. In a bun? I don’t know, I just know it was the best Bratwurst I’ve ever had. It had sweet mustard on it and Austrian ketchup. The city had been so wonderful to me, and I was sad to be leaving.
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