We checked out of the hospital at 9 and walked around the corner to a plush hotel and booked in. There weren’t any rooms available at that time of the day so we left our packs in the lobby and went out to explore. First of all we sat on a bench in the Hofburg Palace gardens and wrote some postcards, then wandered over to St Stephansplatz where we had arranged to meet an Aussie girl called Rebecca. We had all seen most of the sites around the centre of the city so we caught the underground out to the Danube River. We sat at a cafe in the sun and drank cold Coca-Cola then bought a schnitzelsemmel (schnitzel sandwich) each and sat down by the river to eat them.
The Danube runs in two parallel channels, somehow flowing in different directions. The small, slower channel is The Blue Danube but the main channel is a poisonous brown colour. So much for Strauss’s imagination!
We walked over the bridge heading back towards the city and stopped to look at an impressive church of distinctly Bavarian architecture, then caught the underground back into the city where we spent an hour or so at a street market along the Donaü Canal.
A half hour ride on a tram around the ring road aligned us with the bearings of the last few buildings we hadn’t looked at, starting with the foreboding Volkskirche church. The exterior of the church was definitely Gothic with spikes and spires and gargoyles aplenty, and beneath the darkening grey of an approaching storm the black and stone of the church would have dragged down the spirits of the most charismatic of believers. But if the outside of the church was foreboding, the inside was positively malevolent! Almost completely dark, the only points of light were a few lighted prayer candles and some dim sunlight filtering through the stained glass windows. The pillars rose up into the shrouding blackness of the ceiling and the place was as cold as a newly dug grave. Not a place to seek comfort and enlightenment!
Back outside it was coming on to rain so we sought the comfort of a cafe while it pelted down for about half an hour then cleared to give us a brilliantly fine evening. We walked along the Karl Renner-ring, stopping to look at the Rathaus, or state buildings, and the ornate parliament buildings. Back at the hotel we said goodbye to Rebecca and checked into our room: a grand affair complete with antique chairs, a chandelier and a balcony.
That evening, we went out for a meal at a French restaurant then we went back to the hotel where, out on the balcony under a bright full moon, I asked Linda to marry me. And she said yes. It was perfect: Vienna, a balcony…and a yes.