TAILS OF A TRAVELLING CAT
Greetings, humans! So, did we make it to Vienna? Well, I told you yesterday we did so that ruins that surprise!
I’m sitting in the same park as where I related the second part of yesterday’s adventures to you, I’m just going to keep writing and fill you in on the story so far today.
I woke to a terrible occurrence! It was truly traumatic, it may be several years before I am fully recovered! My poor back right leg was coated in some horrible viscous bubbly stuff which Charlie said was probably shower gel, but we could not find out how this had leaked, the bottle itself appeared intact. It was horrible, I had to be given a bath in the train toilet wash basin, using wet loo-roll. Bubbles went everywhere and I feared my beautiful pink fur would never be the same again!
We eventually made it to Vienna HBF (Central Station) two hours later than expected and instead of heading out into the city, we did what any good travellers would do and headed straight to ticket sales to fill out compensation forms. Ok, we didn’t go straight there. We went to Information first and they told us to go to ticket sales, which slightly ruined the narrative but let’s just go with it.
The task of filling out the compensation form was made considerably harder by the fact that the forms were in German, but with the help of Google Translate (other translating services are available) and the Austrian sales person who gave us the form, we managed to fill it out and could expect 25% of our fee back, well hopefully. Although as we have an Interrail ticket and so really only paid for the reservation on this train, who knows exactly what it will be 25% of that we’ll get back!
Charlie and Jack were each given 8€ compensation in addition to this 25%, which was used to buy food, water and souvenirs (not necessarily in that order). I wasn’t given any cash but decided not to assert my rights, my reasons were three-fold. 1 – I didn’t pay for a ticket, b – I have no use for any of the three items mentioned above and numero tres – I don’t really understand the concept of money as I have mentioned on at least one previous occasion.
Our first stop was, surprisingly, a park. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that these humans of mine spend a lot of time in parks. I cannot fault them there.
This park was at the Belvedere Palace, or Schloẞ Belvedere to give it its native name. Well, technically I believe these would be called gardens, not a park, our first clue being that we were told off (in Austrian-German) for sitting on the grass – who knew that was even an offence, certainly not me!
The huge fountains and sculptures of sphinxes and topiary trees were our next clues, as well as the neatly gravelled paths.
We sat and admired the views, then after a short walk through the city, took a U-train (we are getting quite expert at these things now) to Schönbrunn park. This (apparently) contained another palace which once belonged to the Austrian royal family, but we are yet to find the giant building. Despite this, lunch under the trees was what one might term a ‘pleasant affair’ and we watched someone practice slack rope walking, an interesting spectacle. We also managed to capture the elusive crow-pigeon on film, the humans were very pleased with themselves.
You’ll be pleased to hear my poor fur has recovered from its hideous encounter with the shower gel, it seems as good as new.
I then took a cat nap and Charlie accidentally joined me, and why not? Us cats are geniuses (or should that be genii?) after all, maybe more humans should take up our ways.
Actually, on second thoughts, don’t! You would all be too busy sleeping to fulfil the roles I need you for while I’m sleeping!
When we awoke from our nap, we visited an organic supermarket because someone (Jack) didn’t bring enough food for the week and had to replenish, we almost passed for locals (I’m joking, my humans could never pass for locals). I’ve never been to an organic supermarket before, or a supermarket come to think of it, my humans left me in our room in Oslo whilst they visited Rema 1000, I was happy, I had the amazing view remember?
No matter, my humans enjoyed the supermarket (probably) and bought some food, which is important to them. No food = hungry humans = dead humans, not the case with me. I’m not sure how long humans can actually survive without food, but based on the frequency of meal times I guess it can be no more than 5 hours, longer overnight while metabolism is slower. Sometimes I surprise even myself with my scientific reasoning.
Food purchased, we returned to the park (we still haven’t found the palace) and enjoyed the shade of a different tree in another area of the park. It was another blisteringly hot day and, none of us having slept well on the train, a lazy day in the park was just what we needed. We also happened to have chosen a spot next to a drinking water pump (these are relatively common in Germany and Austria, I have noticed) so the humans were cool and refreshed all afternoon.
I took offence at this arrangement for, firstly and most obviously, the presence of water, and secondly, the constant stream of dogs playing with the wet stuff.
Right, we will soon be off for dinner and then catching our second and last night train to Geneva, so I will catch you up on these later… or whenever I can be bothered… I can’t let writing get in the way of napping!
Part II – we are on the train! In a very long tunnel, I believe. If not, all the lights in the world outside the train must have gone out.
And I learnt why we didn’t find the palace – we were in the wrong park, not in Schönbrunn, but another park across the road from it, called Hadikpark. These humans do make me worry. Well, it doesn’t really matter, we saw most of the same sights, you know, the important things like U-stations and construction work, which seems to follow us everywhere.
Our next journey was to dinner. Three short trips on three U-trains and a slight detour when we missed a turning later, we were at the Swing Kitchen.
Dinner, I’m reliably informed, was absolutely splendid once again – the Swing burger and the Vienna (schnitzel) burger with a side of huge chunky chips and onion rings for the first course. With the exception of our previous schnitzel burger in Berlin, this might be the only time we’ve eaten food native to the country we have been in, schnitzels are a famous German and Austrian dish, usually made with veal or pork (you probably knew this already), but can also be made from chicken, or soya in Charlie and Jack’s case. This was followed by a hazelnut crunch ice cream ‘burger’ – ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate cookies, the circumference coated in hazelnut crumbs – and a triple layer nougat cake with chocolate sauce icing, a blob of cream and a chocolate spoon (not too eat with, for decoration only) – both, again, were apparently fantastic. My humans highly recommend Swing Kitchen to vegans and non-vegans alike spending the time in Vienna.
This was the end of our Vienna trip, back on the U to Wien Meidling Station this time. I say, Charlie and Jack have really got the hang of this U-train business. Oh, schnitzels, I said I was only going to praise them once. Pretend that didn’t happen, let’s start again. This was the end of our Vienna trip, back on the U to Wien Meidling Station this time where we discovered the washing up liquid had exploded in Charlie’s bag. This is the true cause of that horrible substance which had coated my leg earlier. As well as myself, other less important stuff such as food packaging had also been mercilessly attacked. This tidied up, we were ready to board our second night train to Zurich, for the change to Geneva.
Vienna has been a fascinating city, not speaking Austrian was an unexpected development although Charlie did know this wasn’t a language. I would have loved to spend more time here, perhaps to actually visit the Schönbrunn Park and maybe even see the palace. Then I could give you another of my riveting history lessons. I will tell you that the palace was the summer residence of the Austrian Habsburg monarchy, built in the 1740s-50s and has 1441 rooms (thanks Wikipedia). Anything else you might like to know, you’ll have to find for yourself, seeing as we didn’t actually go there, I don’t think I can justify too long a history lesson.
Anyway, as I said, I would have liked to spend more time here, but the train timetable people wouldn’t let us, the two hour delay also didn’t help.
Yesterday I didn’t take much time to describe the train, and as it is the same type of train as last night’s, I will discuss them both together. If you’re not interested in trains or suffer a nervous disposition where description of vehicles is concerned, you might want to skip this bit.
The seats are in compartments of six and can be set back to recline, almost completely flat, although this does take a bit of manoeuvring and assumes, of course, there is no one sitting opposite you who would also like to lay flat. Or has legs. There was the option to have gone in the sleeper car and have an actual bed, but in a highly responsible yet completely idiotic money saving initiative, the seats were opted for by the humans to sleep in. The compartments were air-conditioned, but this only worked when the train was moving and also had a dial for speaker volume, not that we ever worked out what it was that we would be listening to.
Ok, it’s safe to read again now, we are settled into our compartment for the night. I can’t imagine anything else exciting will occur, if it does, I’ll tell you about it in tomorrow’s entry.
Until then, Chesh.
Greetings, humans! We have been sitting on a station platform in Hannover for over an hour, our train has been delayed by 105 minutes. So I shall fill the time by writing about our last day in Berlin.
We started by getting the U-train (the German equivalent of London’s Tube) to Checkpoint Charlie, one of the border crossings of the Berlin Wall (yep, more history lessons today, folks). This was the area of the West controlled by the Americans and named after the letter C in the phonetic alphabet (Alpha is the crossing point from West to East Germany and Bravo is between East Germany and West Berlin if you’re interested).
Unlike the Bernauerstraẞe sector of the wall (which was in the French sector), here an artist’s installation marked the path of the wall in the form of brightly coloured purple and blue pipes above the streets where the wall had stood, which I suppose was kind of cool.
What I realised today was that the Wall was not a barrier dividing the city into its East and West halves, but instead a circular wall cutting off the West side of Berlin from the rest of East Germany, a tiny bit of West allowed to remain in the otherwise Eastern country, Berlin itself being firmly in the east of Germany. France, Britain and the US were responsible for controlling their parts of West Berlin, and East Berlin was controlled by the Russians – see my helpful map if you’re confused.
The Wall was set up by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) to 'protect its citizens from fascism' as it was building a socialist state, however West Berliner’s referred to it as the Wall of Shame and its real purpose was to stop East Berliners fleeing to the West through West Berlin. Credit for this information goes to the information boards posted all around Checkpoint Charlie and at Bernauerstraẞe.
After some more souvenir shopping at Checkpoint Charlie, we moved onto the Topographie Des Terrors, a museum and memorial documenting the events of World War II including Hitler’s rise to power and the Holocaust. The longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall can also be found here, even if it was a bit torn down. The concrete tube over the top prevented people climbing it, concrete extending behind the wall stopped vehicles knocking it down by driving into it (I’m not sure how effective this was).
Strangely enough, when the Wall was brought down in 1989, the Limex-Beau company sold off parts of the wall, stamped for authentication to be used as road building materials. I find this very odd behaviour, but then what can one expect, they were human…
Things started to get a bit heavy so we took a break for lunch and visited another nice park and then headed over to Brammibal’s Doughnuts. My humans were very pleased with themselves for finding an all vegan doughnut bakery. They shared (ginormous) glazed ring doughnuts. They were chocolate peanut fudge, peanut banana fudge, nougat and hazelnut sprinkle. I have been reliably informed that they tasted fantastic, if you like doughnuts and are ever in Berlin, Germany or central Europe in general, a trip here is a must.
Doughnuts eaten, we headed over to the Brandenburg gate; it was huge! In case you're interested (and if you're not, I'll tell you anyway), the Brandenburg gate became part of the wall, separating the British West sector from the East. In 1987, US president Ronald Reagan stood on the West side of the wall and petitioned the East to 'tear down this wall'. Was Reagan an influence on its fall two years later? Probably not, but I'll let you make up your own mind.
I liked this area of Berlin, there were lots of old buildings and we also found the famous Tiergarten, but it was another 30˚c day and so we decided it would be a good idea to head back to our room and cool off with a cold shower.
It also allowed my humans to pick up their giant backpacks and say our goodbyes to our host. A short bus ride later, we were seated on our first train of the night, this one to Hannover.
A note on the spelling of Hannover: the English spelling has one 'n' (Hanover) and the German spelling has two, I like it with two 'n's so that is how I'm going to spell it!
This first train journey all went smoothly and we took our last look at the city as it disappeared from view. Berlin has been a fascinating city and we’ve had (accidentally, I might add) a very history based visit, the multitude of parks to eat meals and relax in has also been a great positive.
We arrived in Hannover and set off to find yet another park for dinner and to our surprise, discovered a piece of the Berlin Wall, stamped so there could be no mistake, at the entrance to the park. Strange coincidences.
Speaking of coincidences, I haven’t mentioned the cranes for a while. I am starting to wonder if they have followed us from Oslo, every city we have visited has been rife with cranes in an assortment of colours. Progress is everywhere, or so it seems.
Our night train to Vienna, as I mentioned earlier, has been delayed by 105 minutes, so that’s it for now, we’re all caught up. I’ll write later when the train eventually arrives and we are settled in for the night.
Actually, by the time the train arrived, it was so late we all went straight to sleep, therefore I’m actually writing this in a park in Vienna, so at least you know we made it to Austria, there was a point where I started to fear the train would never come.
In the end, the train was 130 minutes late – that’s over two hours!
A long time for a little cat to be sitting unmoving on a station platform in what, I must be honest, was not a good looking city. It was around 11:30 when the train was an hour and a half late that I seriously began to fear we would have no train and be stuck in this ugly German city forever (sorry, Hannover, I’m sure the areas of you we didn’t get to visit were beautiful).
The train finally arrived after midnight and we settled into our compartment, yes, this train has actual compartments like they do in old films. Although I don’t think the seats slide down into a reclining position like ours did in old films. How would I know? I’m a cat, I read books, I don’t watch films.
Finally! My poor, weary, exhausted, tired etc. body could rest!
Tomorrow I shall relate to you what we did in Vienna.
Until then, Chesh.