Friday, April 24, 2009

An Evening in Vienna

We sat on the grass, inches away from the crystal clear waters of the Donau. The sun descended towards the horizon on the other side, playing with the clouds, turning the water in front of us into liquid gold. A large goose drifted towards us, in the hope of getting a last tidbit before nightfall. Cars whizzed by on the bridge, far enough not to ruin the scene, yet close enough to remind us that we were in the middle of the city. The towering skyscrapers of the business end of the town dazzled in the evening light, seeming incongruent with the rest of the place, yet reminding us that we were in a city, and a large one at that.


It all started with me standing outside Alt Donau station at 5 past 4 pm, wondering whether the girl who had agreed to meet me was going to stand me up, when Barbara came in in a rush out of the exit. I think I rather surprised her by offering to shake hands rather than the usual European cheek to cheek greeting which she was shaping up to do, which I must confess I still find a bit weird. I mean I guess there's nothing wrong with it, it's just that I find it a bit too intimate to do with strangers or friends whom I am not close to (still the quiessential Indian at heart ;)). A few hesitant questions and we were off. Thankfully, she was a fairly talkative person (and I mean that in a good way!), which made things much easier, for yours truly tends to be somewhat shy when around strangers, especially if they are of the female kind. She told me that she was going to show me 'Old Donau', which is what Alt Donau meant, and that we had to walk a fair bit. I was game, though how I was going to do the walk a fair bit part after running a half marathon earlier in the day was worth pondering over. Anyway, I could hardly refuse to walk when she'd so graciously offered to show me the place, so I went along.

It was one of those experiences which leave you wondering how nice life can be at times. I mean, here I was, wandering all alone in a strange city where I did not know the language, and there comes along this girl who takes out what must be the ultimate leisure time of the week - sunday afternoon - to show a stranger around, without having any idea who or how he was, and trusting him to not make her rue the fact that she did so.

So we talked and talked, and found out that there was so much in common that we had, our views towards consumerism, and capitalism, and food miles and dropping groundwater levels, and so many other things about the world, the environment, climate change and stuff. We walked to this nice little cafe a kilometer or so down the river. And then we walked back, and met up with 2 of her friends from portugal, and over some fresh beer, discussed everything from Vienna, Portugal, marriages and relationships in India, elephants and how we didn't quite ride them all the time, to how I had flown to Europe on a flying carpet, and how I had to leave my elephant back home because I couldn't get a carpet large enough for both of us, or rather, considering my size, for the elephant. In the meanwhile, Barbara proceeded to roll her hand-made cigarettes, which was a show in itself, and smoked them one after the other. Somehow I found the smoke from these things quite less unpalatable to those nasty looking productionized ones. The beer was great too, I don't know why we tend to put up with the crap that we usually drink in the name of beer. There was absolutely none of that disgusting smell which tends to put me off the thing here, and it was actually a very nice drink, something which I never thought I would say about beer!

After beer, I realized that I had forgotten by German - English dictionary back in the cafe, so we proceeded to walk back to the place again, and on the way back decided that the grass was too green and the light too beautiful to not enjoy it leisurely by the water, and proceeded to do just that.

The sun set at it's usual-for-here late hour of 8.30ish, and we walked back to the station. A few stops later, it was time for her to go. Just as I was getting over with thanking her, she placed a hand on my shoulder, did the cheek-to-cheek, somewhat startling me, said 'This is how we do it here!', stepped out, and vanished into the crowd.

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