As I think I said I first visited Vienna in 1986 with Geoff Quigley as we interrailed around Europe. But all I could remember is arriving there after a night of vomiting on the train and then leaving my wallet in a phone booth at the station. I returned within a minute or two but it had already gone. Apart from that our time in the Austrian capital is a blank. Were we just convalescing? Did we go and see anything? Nothing at all had seemed even remotely familiar this time round.
Today I searched out my 1986 diary to find out what had happened. I was pretty confident that there would be some info there as I was fastidious in diary keeping during that trip (alas not so for the subsequent months of my year off and my trip to America - I'd love to write something about this year and the diary really helps fill in the gaps).
We arrived in Vienna on the morning of Wednesday 26th March 1986. I had lost the contents of my stomach (the toilets on the train were locked so we'd been sick in plastic bags, which we'd had to pass, dripping slightly, to other passengers to throw out of the window - I hope they didn't hit anyone!) and now my wallet which contained 20 Austrian Schillings (yes, I am so old that they were using different currency back then) and all my credit cards, which as I note were my "only way of getting more money". I think credit cards was over stretching it. I had some kind of European debit card thing, with some funds in it that I could access at banks (and possibly cash machines). I noted that I could get money sent to me by my dad, but that would take a day or two at least and that the police and lost property were not help, adding, "and so for a while I am depending on Geoff." I suspect the 18 year old Quigley was not keen for me to get into debt with him, as I would not have been with him. We were young and selfish.
So on that Wednesday we found a hostel and slept. We met a New Zealander caled Michael and an Italian called Bruno. "There was also a couple of stupid Australians," I wrote, "who seemed very fussy (the type of people you'd expect to want a hotel, not a hostel) who looked down on us a lot." What a great detail that hotel line is. They weren't proper backpackers like us. They were all fancy, wanting a room to themselves and a little mint of their pillow. We were happy to bunk. I don't remember any of them now, of course, but I did like that element of inter-railing and Youth hostelling where you would make friends (or not) with whoever was there that day, occasionally bumping into someone you'd met in Rome in a hostel in Salzburg or getting tips about where to go next. Geoff and Michael went for a Macdonalds (important to sample the cuisine of every nation) but I was a vegetarian then so I cooked for myself. I am amazed I was ready to eat more after the events of the previous night, but we'd obviously bounced back a little.
On Thursday we were feeling a lot happier after some sleep. I went to the bank but no money had arrived for me. We walked up to the Hapsburgs summer palace which according to the 18 year old me was "fairly crap, but has a nice hill which we are having a rest on." I didn't go to the summer palace this time round, but again, no memories of it, not even of its crapness now.
I go on, "we didn't see much. We walked for miles and I got very tired. We split up and I arrived at the Art gallery with no money and my FIYTO card (CRAP card more like) was no help. I felt lonely, lost and penniless (though not penisless) and so went to the bank to see if my money was in. After much waiting around they finally gave it to me. I don't know what the problem was. With my new found wealth I bought a bar of chocolate and a coke." How could I not remember any of this? We were really making the most of our time in a foreign city. Geoff and me had only been together for about 18 days at this point, but we were obviously getting a bit sick of each other.
The diary continues, "The evening passed as we chatted to a fairly boring Canadian called Paul and that was about it." I don't hold anything back. Nothing is an scintillating or exciting as the 18 year old me. If summer palaces don't live up to expectations then what chance did Paul have?
On Friday I wrote, "Today we've been to the Cathedral," - so it turns out I had been there before, though nothing jogged my memory in that dark and impressive building this time round. I think I'd been so impressed by St Peter's in Rome that all other cathedrals seemed pathetic to me, though last week it almost took my breath away with its gloomy and sinister Gothic columns (I say Gothic, but have no idea if they are - to be honest it looked more like something from Hogwarts, but I am trying to look sophisticated). There's not much info about what I thought of it all then as the list of events continues, "bickered, walked around, got lost, got to the Art Gallery, found it locked and sat down. That's all. Goodbye!"
I complete the day's activities in the next entry saying "we sat in the gardens of the Art Gallery for an hour or so and then headed for a P.O" (post office, I assume - we did send lots of post cards, being scared and home sick most of the time)" and then went home (well to the hostel). We tried to plan what we were going to do and then chatted to Paul who was OK this time and we had a bit of fun with fake moustaches etc." Oh, you'd think I would at least remember that. Paul getting slightly more interesting, due to his willingness to mess around with fake moustaches etc. And I love that etc, as if that is enough to convey what we did. You know fake moustaches and all the stuff that usually comes with that.
The next morning we left for Salzburg and a hostel recommended to us by Michael. There we would meet a girl mad Australian called Tom (and his equally priapic friend Chris). I would later write a poem called "Tom's Life" about my disgust (or jealousy and repression, you decide) with his womanizing lifestyle. I have written about it on the blog before, so you can read it in all its glory here. Or see the routine I made out of this terrible bit of teenage poetry by buying the What is Love, Anyway? DVD.
I will leave the diary just by giving you my considered 1986 reaction to Salzburg (I really should have put together a travel guide) "We saw Mozart's birthplace (pretty crap), the Cathedral and the castle. It was OK, but we'd done the lot in an afternoon. It was very pretty though and had a better atmosphere than Vienna." And actually the roots of my disdain for Tom are probably held in the next paragraph, "We came back for a piss up which was nothing special, but we got drunk, met an English bloke (hoorah) and an American from Florence (ie that we had met there at the YH). They were Chris and Dan respectively." (I love that I record the names and nationalities and so little else. Utterly useless). "I drank a lot and was very loud etc." Again another etc which could stand for so much. I suspect it means I behaved like a dick. "though it was good fun" Looks like I almost forgot myself for a second there, by being positive about something that I have already dismissed as nothing special, so then add "(though not brilliant). I got very tired and went to bed" Something I do at most social gatherings still - in fact tonight we had a few people round for a little Halloween celebration and I did the same thing. "I crashed out on Geoff's bed and was asleep practically before I got to bed." I think it's pretty clear I was pissed out of my stupid Cheddar head.
I wrap the whole thing up by saying, "This morning we got a bit of a ribbing from the Aussies because they thought they'd outdrunk us. Perhaps they had,but not by much." Says the boy who had passed out on the wrong bed. "They were gits really. Only after drink and girls. I've realised for sure how fucking hollow and shallow that attitude is now. They were trying to fuck a couple of American girls that they'd just met and who weren't even attractive." Oh dear, Richard, as always, revealing more about his own ugliness than anyone else's. "It is sickening to think that people can have such meaningless relationships and I just wished I had realised this earlier." I had had one very tame snog with a German girl at a Youth Hostel in London on the day my adventure began. But now regretted it because I wanted to get back with my childhood sweetheart. In reality I regretted it because there had then been an 18 day drought of interested women (which would continue to the end of the five or six week excursion). I know I've made the point before, but my hatred of Tom was much more to do with myself than with him. We were eighteen, of course we should have been trying to get off with everyone we met. What a sweet little prig I was. That pompous, hypocritical, little killjoy is still within me somewhere and I wish I could slap him in the face or pump him full of ecstacy or throw him into an orgy until he relaxed a bit and had some fun. I do sort of love him too.
Well I'd better stop now before I just copy out the whole diary and pretty much write the book that I one day want to write. I was just trying to get to the bottom of what had happened in Vienna in 1986. The answer was pretty much a lot of nothing. No wonder I don't remember.