I don’t know exactly how it happened. Somehow, Chris and I were talking about Vienna over a beer on Friday and he mentioned the Viennese were the third biggest beer drinkers in Europe (after people in Munich and Prague, I think). He also mentioned some Viennese do the ultimate beer tour of the city by having one beer in each district. I think the blame for what followed can be shared. I take responsibility for thinking this was a great idea on Friday afternoon. I blame Chris for still thinking it was a great idea on Saturday morning, when more sober thoughts prevailed in me!
So on Saturday morning, along with my two Austrian friends, I headed to this sordid bar in a suburban mall, at 11h50. Sure enough, an old local guy was having a beer. Theory confirmed.
I also blame Tina for encouraging us, when I was trying to convince Chris this was perhaps not the best idea. I met Chris in Africa last year, so at least I knew he could take a few drinks, as you can see in this story about Malawi. But I was a little worried about Chris’s friend Tina, having just met her. But as it turns out, she can drink most men under the table. So this was stop #1, district 23.
Wait, did I write 23? How many districts are there? Does it start at #10? No, there are in fact 23! And we started with 23, and the distant suburbs, for logistical reasons. This was going to be a very long day…
Speaking of stupid ideas, or in this case, impressive ignorance, Chris, who travels a lot, informed me that a clear MAJORITY of people he meets outside Europe ask him about kangaroos when he says he is from Austria. Probably not the case in North America, because we all know Arnold Schwarzenegger, but certainly in Africa and Asia.
Stop 3, district 4, 12h52. The only place where we didn’t see locals drinking beer, but it was a minuscule cafe and we were the only patrons.
The day included all manners of bars, cafes and restaurants, including this little stand on the street, stop #5, district 11, 14h06.
And simply beer in the park, because this is not North America and we can! Stop #6, district 3, 15h00.
In fact, the Viennese love drinking outside. This place has these large plastic structures on which people sit with drinks for hours. Hard to find an empty one in the summer. This is in the museum district, hence the sign: “Add some art and culture to your schnitzel!”
There was a technology exhibit when we walked through (Note: on friday, non-drinking pictures not necessarily in chronological order). This device really spoke to me:
- [Device] Hello North American visitor. Do you know what I am?
- [Me] No, I have never seen one of your kind.
- But I bet you know I make no business sense whatsoever?
- Yes, my very heavily subsidized friend. I know.
At the amusement park, in front of the Wiener Riesenrad, one of the oldest Ferris wheel in the world, built in 1897. It was also the tallest in the world until 1985. Stop #8, district 2, 16h15.
There is a lot of old architecture in Vienna, a city which, surprisingly, we Allies didn’t level to the ground in WWII.
What would be a showcase iconic building in most cities is just another building here in Vienna. This is the public library.
Back to the suburbs, on the terrace of a Western-themed “saloon”. Stop #9, district 22, 16h53.
Speaking of the suburbs, I learned something very strange about Vienna: the majority of residential real estate is state-owned. This is not low income housing or anything like that, just Government owned apartments. They are quite nice, modern and well maintained (at least the one in which Chris lives). Rent is not crazy low like in North-American subsidized housing, but it is much lower than in equivalent private buildings. Unsurprisingly, house ownership rates are very low.
And drinking on the tram, because it’s Europe and we can. Wait, actually, we can’t, it’s prohibited! Oups. “Stop” #10, district 11, 17h36. This crazy pub crawl would have been impossible without Vienna’s excellent public transportation network.
The pedestrian streets also help, especially after a few drinks.
And drinking in another park, with the swans! Stop #11, district 20, 18h05.
Stop #12, district 19, 18h45. With some ribs, because food is important. Of note, we shared these 3 racks of ribs, but this is meant as an individual portion! Austrians love their meat.
In fact, the casual visitor might very easily think vegetables are illegal in Austria. I don’t know how these two slices of cucumber got on my plate of meatloaf.
In case you think it’s just me choosing meat on the menus, this is a local advertisement!
Here we crashed a private party. It hadn’t really begun, so they let us have a drink even though the whole bar was reserved for the occasion. And it turned out Chris knew some of the guests. Strange things happen in Vienna. Stop #14, district 18, 20h00.
Typical Viennese people, going about their normal week-end routine. (It’s because of all that beer!)
Stop #15, district 13, 20h55. Hey wait! That’s not a drink!
Drinking beer at McDonald’s! My personal request; exotic because in North America, we can’t. Tina had a coffee, allowed as a chaser for a shot of store bought chocolate liqueur.
Another weird thing in Vienna is that they have crazy regulations about stores opening on Sunday. As a general rule, it is not allowed, but some things are allowed, like food. But if the grocery store is open, that doesn’t mean they can sell you anything you want, only allowed items, so you can buy a steak, but not Puppy Chow for Fido! In this store, books are for sale, but half the place is in the dark because it is Sunday and they are not allowed to sell video games or music. I know nothing of Austrian politics, but I bet there are quite a few lawmakers who drink on the job.
Technical difficulties, stop #17, district 16, 21h50.
The main difficulty of this challenge was the transportation delays, and the fact Chris is a slow drinker. Stop #19, district 6, 22h45.
And finally, success, after 13.5 hours of transit and drinking! Stop #23, district 8, 01h10. At this point, probably a good thing for Chris that Vienna doesn’t have 30 districts
So I now know Vienna really well, having had a drink it all manners of establishments, in each and every district, and at most hours of the day. What else? Oh yes, tourism. People go to Vienna for the castle where Empress Sisi lived, so I went on Sunday. Here it is.