Day 8: Vienna to Bustling Brno

Once again we slept in a bit this morning, and then headed out for breakfast but decided to switch things up a little (no more schoko-croissants from Aida’s.  Sad).  We went to a place just down the street from Aida’s, a place we had been the day before for our coffee stop.  They had a croissant/coffee special for €3.40 a person, but they didn’t have chocolate croissants and the waiter brought me a Nutella on the side – but charged €1 for it!  Should’ve stuck with Aida’s.

Our next order of business was to acquire the souvenir magnet, so we plunged back into the underground U-Bahn stop near our hotel, Karlsplatz, which was not only the gateway for getting onto the metro, but it was a large underground mall filled with stores, food shops, and Vienna’s drunkest, most repugnant, and shadiest characters.  Jim had hated it every time we had descended into these depths, I thought it was quite the slice.  We found our magnet and then headed back to the large mall with Jack Wolfskin, as there was a fancy grocery store in the basement and we wanted to get a picnic lunch to eat on the train to Brno.  We ended up with the most delicious paprika chipsies (Riffles was the brand), Jim got some more cheese-stuffed peppers, and we got a strawberry juice (the brand Pago seems to be the best).  The only thing we weren’t able to get was the sandwich, for which we plunged back into the Karlsplatz U-Bahn station and found a lovely tomato/mozzarella sandwich from Ströcks.

Back at the room, we packed up and hung out for a while before bidding adieu to the fancy Le Meridien and taking the U-Bahn U-4 line to the U-6 line to Meidling Train Station, from where we would head to Brno.  Once at Meidling, we tried to find our train on the board but it wasn’t there.  Huh?  We DID have the correct day, yes?  It turned out our train WAS on the board, but it left at 12:33 pm, not 12:53 as we originally thought.  Good thing Jim is a firm believer in getting places early.

We boarded the train at platform 5, found our seats (turns out we were 2 of only 3 people on the entire car, making the seat reservation even more worthless), and we were off.  Along the way we ate our lunch and I caught up on the journal.

Main square in Brno

We arrived in Brno around 14:30 and hung around the train station long enough to know we didn’t want to be hanging around the train station.  We made our way across the busy street to the TI, where the super helpful girl outfitted us with maps, town guides, and brochures, and told us of a lovely pension that had a room available for about 1400 CZK/night including breakfast (around $70).  We told her we’d think about it, as we were also armed with a map of the town with a host of fancy hotels pinpointed, a task I had completed before we left Chicago.  We exited the TI and proceeded to charge all over Brno, luggage in tow, with hopes of finding a fancy hotel and getting a room rate at a steal, but our plans were thwarted after going into 2 of said fancy hotels (Grand Hotel and Royal Ricc Hotel) and being told the room rate was the standard room rate – no discounts.  Ok, that’s not entirely true because the woman at Royal Ricc told us she would give us the room at €95, marked down from €99.  What is wrong with these people?  Here they have an empty room, it’s late in the day, and 2 weary travelers stop in to fill the empty room and they say no, no deal?  Strange.

Confused by this but not dejected (since we had our ace in the hole from the TI girl), we found the pension she had recommended, a place called the Natur Centrum.  It was FABULOUS!  Our room (along with all of them) had been recently renovated in a very spa-like fashion, it was spotlessly clean, and spacious – with a balcony.  Perfect.

After unpacking a bit we set out to get a feel for Brno, a town that doesn’t get a lot of tourists (but they do a booming convention business).  We rather liked the fact we were the only ones with a mappy, and we wandered amidst the bustling fray (the people of Brno like to bustle, like everyone is in a giant hurry to get somewhere other than where they currently are), seeing the main square, eyeballing the castle on the hill, watching with interest the many people who lined up at a pizza stand to get a slice of great-looking pizza, and poking our heads into a mall looking for non-white socks for Jim.

An “after work” beer

Along our roaming path, we crossed the Pegas Bar which is a place that brews their own beer and had shown up on our radar before we had left Chicago.  We decided to stop in for a beer, but having not had much to eat that day, the 0.6L beer made us each a bit tipsy (but not quite as tipsy as the 2 loaded girls who sat behind us who kept dropping everything – including their beer – and who ended up staggering out at one point, ditching the 2 guys they had either come in with or just met).  Not wanting to be as obnoxious as them, we quietly minded our Ps and Qs, observing all the people drinking very large beers on their way home from work.  Eventually we reached the bottom of our beer mugs, paid the tab (beers only cost about $1!!), and bustled back to our room for a bit.  It was on this bustle back that we had a revelation as to why people of Brno bustle so much:  if a beer like that is downed as a quick after work beer, then no wonder people go back out into the streets to bustle back home – nature is calling.

Jim fell asleep, but awoke around 20:00 and we decided we needed to get some dinner in us.  Our Dinner Stoll was a short one, firstly because it was chilly and secondly because we were starting to get a hangover from the beer and didn’t relish the thought of walking all over tarnation for a restaurant, so we simply entered the first Italian restaurant we found.  After some confusion as to where to sit, we settled in to eat a sub-par Italian meal (Jim had spaghetti Bolognese with a salad and I had a pizza margarita) with a very friendly waiter who went home mid-meal, leaving us with another waiter who didn’t speak English.  The entire time, too, the owner kept a close eye on us (well, we were the only people in the joint so perhaps he would have closely watched others, too, if they had been there) and men kept coming in and out, going into the back for a while, then coming out again.  We surmised there was a poker game going on.

By this point we were starting to get tipsy again from the wine, so we left and hit the sack.

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