Vienna was a crazy couple of days as I had to deal with the broken down van, appease the chaps and try to explore as much as the city as I could. Discovering the outer suburbs wasn’t on the Viennese bucket list but was something that did take up a considerable amount of time as I travelled to and from the Porsche garage where the van was. Luckily, I had the bike to get around on which saved me having to walk the 20km round trip to sort out the repairs, but I still faced the dramas of trying to organise a new gear box, finding funds and arguing with the Austrian’s broken English skills. Many an hour was spent going around in circles with the confused mechanics as we debated about how to get Fanny back on the road. I needed a new gearbox, that much was clear, but their price and time estimates were ridiculous so there was a lot of time spent haggling and on the phone to both home and the insurance company. The conclusion on the first day was the worst scenario as it looked like the van was going to have to be sent home on the back of lorry.
To take my mind of the potentially trip ending transmission issues we spent the day wandering around the Austrian capital. Vienna is probably the nicest city I’ve ever had the pleasure of setting foot in. It was so clean, architecturally stunning (everything looked like a palace in the centre) and packed full of culture. Referred to as both ‘the city of music’ due to the legacies of Mozart and Beethoven and ‘the city of dreams’ after the work of the first psycho-analyst Sigmund Freud we weren’t short of monuments to see. Being the old capital of the Austrian- Hungarian Empire and a Nazi stronghold in the second world war it has a rich history to explore too, allowing us to discover that Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky and Sigmund Freud all lived within a few miles of each other and that the snow globe was invented there. We wandered through the parks and around the palatial buildings all day, enjoying the warm sun (Vienna actually sits in the middle of two climate zones) as we strolled up to the National History Museum. This museum remains my favourite museum building in the world (although that’s not saying much as I don’t visit to many museums.) Individually, it’s an impressive structure, but what makes it so special is that across the Maria- Theresien square (named after the Empress and the statue of her in the middle) is a identical replica, other than the statuary on their facades, that is the Art history museum. Built in 1889, the twin buildings form a remarkable spectacle and contain some amazing artefacts that are simply a must see in Vienna. Even on the walk back to our apartment we stumbled upon an outdoor cinema event, just to reinforce the cultural status of the city, which is probabaly why it is regularly voted as the city with the best standard of living.
Then it was back to the serious issues at hand. After another long cycle trip to my least favourite Porsche garage, more circular arguments and more long phone calls, we had found a solution. My absolute hero of a Father had worked his magic and found an old T2 gearbox on eBay and found a courier who could get it to Vienna before the weekend, defying the 6-week time frame given to us by the Viennese. This meant we could be back on the road in less than a week since we broke down, which was miraculous news and we wouldn’t have to pay the extortionate rates for a replacement gear box quoted by the garage. So, we decided to get the bus up to Prague for the next few days before returning after the weekend to pick up the replenished Fanny, turning a near- fatal breakdown into just a large hiccup. Embracing the good news, we celebrated with a lot of frisbee, a few beers and some good food. Jake cooked up his mum’s famous ‘Chicken Jo’s’, one of groups favourite dishes, whilst Bani embraced the musical culture and serenaded us on the apartments piano. It seemed typically Viennese that our temporary home had a piano and the fact that my seemingly Neanderthalian best friend is very proficient at playing it is one of favourite memories of the trip. Remarkably, I was in very high spirits compared to the devastating drive a few days previously, and the van life was treating me well again.