My introduction to Vienna came about when the editor asked if I’d like to go on a press trip to the city for the launch of Guinness’ 1,000th Irish bar – or something like that. I think he was amused at the idea of sending a non-drinker. As for me, well any excuse to see a city I had always wanted to visit.
I took a flight to Dublin, joined up with the rest of the party, and we flew to London for the connecting flight to Vienna, where I made the shocking discovery that my passport was at home. I think I had a vague notion that because Austria was an EU member I didn’t need one. Not true. What ensued was a frantic call home to find the passport and arrange a courier to collect it, then despatch it to London. Of course it didn’t arrive in time and while the party flew to Vienna I settled into an airport hotel to wait the morning flight – and that passport.
The next day the airport was enveloped in heavy fog, my flight was delayed so much that I arrived in a panic and sweat at my Vienna hotel just as my group were heading to the bar opening! I just had time to change my shirt before heading off. At about 12.30am we headed back to our hotel and because we were heading home around midday I got up at 5 am and, map in hand, walked as much as I could of the Ringstrasse, gulped down a quick cup of coffee in a small cafe, sampled some nice confectionery, picked up some chocolate for the kids, then dashed back just in time.
What I saw, though, fired my imagination, glorious palaces, the incredible Karlskirche church. I couldn’t stop talking about the city for years and vowed to go back. Which I did some years later. More on that another time.