First and foremost, thank you to all who have read my past blog posts and my book, “Homey’s Adventures.”
As promised, I am continuing the series of all the chapters of my new book, “Homey’s Adventures Too.” I am now 71 and I decided that I did not want to spend my time haggling with editors, literary agents, and publishers. The main thing I am interested in is to write for your pleasure and mine. I have posted this chapter before and I am posting it again for your convenience so that you can see the series in the right order. So, without further delay, here is Chapter 5:
Chapter 5 – Vienna
After I left Odessa, I was at best confused and at worse dejected. When I booked my flight, I booked a cheaper way which had a 20-hour layover in Vienna on my trip back home. I had a similar layover in London the year before, so, I viewed it not as a delay, but a welcome chance to see another part of Europe. I can tell you now that it was an exceptionally good decision.
Vienna is a beautiful city, but more than that it has been a part of the free world since World War II. The cultural differences are striking in contrast with the Ukraine. I think if the Ukraine continues its path of freedom, then the cultural differences may decrease or even disappear.
I can only tell you what I feel and experienced. I do not think the Ukrainians are poor by choice. I believe it is a poor country because of the impact of a failed ideology, communism.
I was asked by Sexy Cutie: “In your opinion, when will it get better in the Ukraine.”
I answered: “I don’t really know, but I think as the Ukrainian economic and cultural freedom grows, it will get better.”
Odessa has a small airport. On this trip, I heard others belittle it because of its size and lack of sophistication. I liked the Odessa airport. I like small airports. The Dallas and Atlanta airports are massive. You must walk long distances and take trams and then you still might not get to the right gate because the departure gates change all the time. Odessa has two departure gates right next to each other. I was quite sure that I could find the right gate.
I had brought my erection medicine with me in case my trip was successful. This medication needs to be refrigerated. For trips, I have a small square canvas pouch where I can store the medicine using ice packs. I have traveled many places with the medication without incident. I carried a prescription letter from the Men’s Clinic that was for air travel.
When I was pulled out of the boarding line in other airports, I provided the prescription letter, and I was waved on. Ukrainian airport security did not know what to do with it.
Unfortunately, the suspicious nature of the Ukrainians prevailed this time. I waited while they discussed it in Russian at length. The supervisor asked me to count the needles and ice packs as if she could not count them herself. They discussed it some more. Finally, they called in an Austrian airline person who was not Ukrainian security. The airline representative looked at the medicine and ask me a couple of questions. She talked to the Ukrainian security and suddenly everything was okay.
The Ukrainian security person apologized for the delay and waved me on. I saw this as just another remnant of the old Soviet system. I was thinking back to my experience in the Ukrainian convenience store: Trust no one, they might steal your toothpaste.
I still had lots of Ukrainian money or UAH. I knew from before that you cannot spend or exchange UAH outside of the Ukraine. So, I found a tax-free perfume shop near the gate.
I handed the money to an attractive salesperson and made my request: “I want to spend all my UAH. I can’t spend it anywhere after I get on the plane.”
We looked and smelled the various perfumes, and I chose a couple that were not overpowering. This was the best customer service that I received in the Ukraine. The salesperson was not only friendly and helpful, but she also threw in a free tote bag. I could see that these people were already embracing economic freedom. The contrast between the armed guarded convenience store in Odessa where I bought tooth paste and the tax-free shop was dramatic.
I told the Ukrainian website support staff that the greatest national treasure of the Ukraine is its beautiful woman. This flight out of the Ukraine was no exception. I saw one young woman that could have been a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. My seat was next to a young thin woman that was equally attractive but dressed down and had no makeup. She looked younger than she really was. I am thinking another model. I made small talk.
“I can’t resist asking. Are you a model?”
She was abrupt: “No”
I decided I would not bother her anymore and took a nap. I often napped on planes because it makes the trip seem shorter.
As we walked down the gangway out of the plane. I saw the two beautiful young women together. They had stopped and were talking to each other.
The abrupt one turned to me as I approached: “We are looking for another plane departure gate.”
I pointed to the map while taking in their beauty: “You might be able to find it on that map.”
Dismissing me and abrupt: “Thank you, we can handle it now.”
I inwardly sighed and smiled: “You’re welcome.”
I was thinking: Is this the last time I will see Ukranian beauty up close?
I walked on feeling rejected thinking: I did not ask her for directions.
When I got to Austrian customs, the customs agent looked at my passport and plane ticket and pointed: “Connecting flights are that way.”
“I have a 20-hour layover and I would like to explore your beautiful city.”
He shrugged and then stamp my passport and pointed to a different doorway:” Go that way.”
I have been through customs in several countries, and this was the easiest of all! I was thinking Things are looking up for Jim!
I waited briefly in the cab line and got a cab. I asked the cabby: “Please take me to a cheap hotel near City Center.”
Unlike the Ukrainian cabby, he did not ask a lot of probing questions and I found this refreshing. I volunteered that I was on a 20-hour layover, and I wanted to see more of Vienna. He dropped me off at what looked like a youth hostel hotel and gave me his card so that I could call him for my return trip to the airport.
When I tried to check in, the desk person apologized: “Sorry sir, we are full.”
“Do you know of any other hotels nearby?
“If you go wait in the waiting area, I will check around.”
While he was doing that, I got online using my cell phone and found a hotel with a vacancy.
I showed my find to the desk person and asked: “Is this close to Vienna’s city center?”
He said: “Yes sir, I will call a cab for you.”
I am already feeling the warmed and kindness of the people of Vienna. I am a stranger in a strange place and here is someone helping me with no expectation of getting paid for his troubles.
I booked the hotel room online. The hotel room was clearly a lot more than I wanted to pay, but the location was perfect. The hotel was a boutique hotel. The hotel room was about the same size as the one I had in Odessa. The Odessa hotel had a larger lobby and was a little nicer overall. The Vienna hotel room cost $325 per night, and the Odessa hotel room cost $130 per night. One of the costs of economic freedom is that you pay more for things because people earn it.
Sexy Cutie scoffed when I told her how much my hotel room in Odessa cost: “It’s outrageous.”
I did not tell her what my hotel room in Vienna cost. Nor did I tell her that if I stayed in any hotel a few blocks south of where I was, the hotel would have cost over $1,000 a night. I saved $700 by selecting a hotel two blocks north of City Center.
I laughed when I got to my room because Alice in Wonderland was all over the walls and the bed spread. This room was for families. I did not unpack because I was only going to be here for one night. Prior to my flight, I made sure my carry on had the things I needed for my short stay. I then went down to the desk to set up a cab back to the airport for the next day.
When I started speaking, the desk person smiled: “You know, I grew up in Los Angeles.”
“Wow, what brings you here?”
“I went to school here and I liked it so much, I decided to stay. I always enjoy hearing another American’s voice.”
“I now live in St. Louis, but I have lived all over the USA because of changes in jobs. I lived in Culver City for 4 years and in Chino for two years”.
We both knew that Culver City is just east of Malibu and that Chino was on the east side of the hills that surround Los Angeles.
He then offered: “I grew up in Malibu.”
He tore off a map of City Center from a pad of disposable maps and started showing me just where to go in the brief time that I had. I was thinking: This is fantastic! So far, Vienna is wonderful!
My new friend at the desk smiled at me: “City Center is safe to explore in the early evening, so, have fun.”
The last time I heard this, I was robbed in Kiev, but I believed my new friend. I would be safe.
To get to City Center, I had to cross the Danube over a bridge. The Danube is just as picturesque as I have seen in the movies. I started taking pictures with my camera phone. On the other side of the bridge was a McDonalds. I was thinking: A little bit of home for me. I went in and ordered a soda because I was thirsty.
The menu toggled between Austrian and English, so, I had no problem ordering from the menu kiosk. I think back to when I was in Kiev, and I could not order anything because it was in Russian. This brought back memories of being lost, alone, and robbed in Kiev. I put those thoughts aside because so far, my exploration of Vienna was great!
I walked right down the main street through the center of City Center from north to south. I did not bother to notice what street I was on, but it was pedestrians only and was very wide. It looked like what I imagined a main thoroughfare from the Hapsburg dynasty of the 13th century would look like. I kept walking investigating an old church and side streets taking pictures with my cell phone until I realized I was now on the south edge of City Center.
I saw what looked a hot dog stand. I decided that I wanted a Vienna sausage in Vienna. In Vienna, they cut one end a baguette of bread and place it on a long steel tube and make a sausage size hole in it.
He then asked me: Do you want ketchup or mustard?
“I want both and a Heineken please.”
He placed the sausage in the hole and squirted in the condiments.
I walked around the south side of City Center as happy as I could be.
I enjoyed my Vienna sausage in Vienna so much that I went back: “Please give me the same thing. I love it!”
He looked dubious. I doubted he got that many people who got so excited by a hot dog and beer. If I find something to eat that I really enjoyed, I do not usually deviate from that. I am sure there were wonderful places to eat all over City Center. I was happy as a pig in shit with my classic meal. It was dark now and I decided to walk back to my hotel.
About halfway back, I ran into a street performer playing a violin in perfect serenade with music coming out of a boombox. He was playing a concerto that I did not recognize. I was mesmerized by the sight and sounds. I videoed him with my cell phone so that I could share it later with friends and family. I gave him some Austrian money and traveled on to my hotel.
Just outside the hotel lobby, I spotted my new friend smoking. I regaled my adventure of what I saw and showed him the pictures and video.
He offered: “I think more people should enjoy Vienna like you just did, walking around enjoying the sights and having the street vendor food.”
“I am happier than a pig in shit and I owe you for helping make it happen.”
He laughed and then invited me inside to the small hotel bar. He served me a beer which tapped off a perfect day. I will never forget this day for the rest of my life.
I told you, my reader, about Vienna because I enjoyed it so much. I also told you to show contrast with my time in Odessa. It is like being starved (in the Ukraine and then eating a big meal (In Vienna). I am sure now that Vienna was even more wonderful because I was starved of the warmth of loving gracious people while I was in Odessa. I found that warmth in my brief time in Vienna.
Again, I do not want to sound like I am judging the Ukrainians. They fought a revolution to break the chains of the old Soviet empire. They are still fighting on the border near Crimea for their economic and cultural freedom. I now sympathize with their fight even more than I did before I went on this trip. I see it as a fight of good versus evil. I saw firsthand the tragic aftermath of what President Reagan called the evil Soviet empire.
End of Chapter 5
I hope you enjoyed chapter 5. I will give you Chapter 6 – Gift of the Magi next week. My new book has 32 chapters. So, if you want to receive all 32 chapters as soon as the post is created, then become a follower of this blog.
If you do not want to wait that long and you have not read my first book. I encourage you to go to my website, www.homeysadventures.com. You can read the first two chapters for free, and you can also purchase it. Or you can purchase it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other fine retailers. Just search for it using the words: Homey’s Adventures by Jim Wish.
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I liken myself to the Vienna Violinist. I play (write) for your enjoyment and mine. God bless you all.