Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Albania via Vienna

Some of the first flights I took to Albania were with Austrian Airlines through Vienna. It didn't take me long to decide against this route as the return flights always left about 3 am from Tirana and my luggage never arrived at Heathrow with me. And as long as one booked ahead in plenty of time British Airways direct flight from Gatwick was much easier and cheaper, and you had your bags with you.

So it was with some cautuion that Ann and I flew this time with Austrian. We decided we would make a long day of it leaving Heathrow at 09.15 arriving Vienna at 12.35 but then enabling us to spend some time in Vienna city centre. Another reason was the BA ticket price. Some schools have just finished for the summer holidays as was evident the moment we stepped into the airport and consequently ticket prices are high. The flight queues were enormous swelled with hordes of children all flying off somewhere with their parents. Even though we were there early, eventually people for our flight were called forward as time was going and we needed to booked in.

All aboard and things went smoothly arriving on time into the very modern Vienna airport. We left some of our handbags at left luggage and caught the train S7 into Vienna city about 30 minutes, and then the undergroud U3 to Stephansplatz. It is like arriving in the middle of London only much smaller in scale. Groups of singing schoolgirls sat in large circles on the pedestrian areas with plenty of space all round them. Here is St Stephen's church.

Time for lunch and as Ann is coeliac this is not always easy to sort (sandwiches, pasta, cakes etc. are out) but McDonalds are a good bet and in the UK will put a burger on her bread with no mayonnaise without any problem. And so it was this time with a McDonalds hoving into view within a few paces of walking down Karntner Strasse. We were headed for the Wiener Staatsoper and a guided tour round the Opera House.
Come 3pm and we were separated into groups depending on language, German, Japenese, Italian, Spanish or English. Off we went on a most interesting 45 minute tour. My photos just don't do it justice. As some of you will know, parts of the building are original, like the staircase below, but other parts were rebuilt in the 1950's as a result of bomb damage from the 2nd WW.





One of the aspects that impressed me most was the behind the scenes, behind the stage storage space. It is huge, absolutely huge, enabling them to change scenery quickly. The stage itself can be lowered 10 metres to clear it and then be raised with fresh scenery in place.

After this a break was called for and I knew just the place. The Hotel Sacher is just across the road from the Opera House. It is famous in Vienna for the Sacher torte and I just had to have one with my coffee. Ann cannot enjoy such treats, she is coeliac remember! So cakes, pastries and biscuits are out unless made with gluten free flour. But Ann can eat the chocolate on top of my cake!



Time soon enough to retrace our steps and head back to the airport for our onward flight leaving at 22.20 arriving in Tirana at 23.50.

And time too to eat again this time at Henry's in Vienna airport and time for a snooze for Ann.

Not to be out done I found a good place to lie down! there are several of these chaise lounge in the airport lounges. All I needed was my own pillow and I would have stayed the night! (My grandmother used to say "Don't stand when you can sit, and don't sit when you can lie down." She lived to be 94)

And here is another good idea! In one area there is this artificial fireplace with cosy chairs round it. It looks so homely. I spoke to a lady with her son aged about 5. She said "Whenever we pass through Vienna airport my son insists on coming and sitting here." I am not surprised.

And then one of the joys of travelling is meeting people. This couple saw the chaise lounge and also thought what a good idea. We got talking and they are from Wanganui, NZ returung home after going to a wedding in Portugal. Later this year Ann and I will travel to see my sister in Auckland, NZ and so we talked about the sights we had seen in NZ on a previous visit. And who knows, tthis time we may get to visit Wanganui!

And so we arrived at Mother Teresa airport in Tirana, Albania just before midnight to be greeted by Iir Kochi from Elbasan and a waiting taxi. Now the last leg of our journey and finally we tumbled into the apartment, unpacked our cases and then fell into bed at 2am, just 21 hours after I woke up ready for the day.
Lots of love from Ken and Ann
PS Sorry we have not blogged sooner but have not had internet connection until today.



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