Saturday, March 29, 2008

Vignettes from a Voyage

I haven't said much about my trip to Europe. Now that I've been back for more than two weeks, I guess I'm overdue.

I plan to do several posts. For this one, here are some random impressions, thoughts, and tidbits.

  • Number of times I felt endangered on the trip: 2. Once, when riding the MARTA subway train from my house to the Atlanta airport; the other time, when riding it home from the airport. Budapest and Vienna both are very safe cities, even at night, and even when you're alone. The worst hooliganism I saw in two weeks was a high school kid slapping his hand on a subway car window in order to scare a passenger inside. Contrast that with Atlanta, where passengers are threatening fistfights with each other (really).

  • Number of dirty toilets I encountered on the trip: Zero, unless you count the Atlanta airport. It didn't matter whether I was in airports, restaurants, museums, or cafes, I never had to deal with a dirty toilet or a seat that someone had peed on. It was bizarre.

  • Number of waiters who introduced themselves ("Hello, I'm Adolf and I'll be your waiter today!"), and number who came by every 10 minutes to ask, "Is everything OK?": Zero. The Austrians and Hungarians have a different view of service. Shortly after you come in (and seat yourself), the waiter approaches your table and asks what you'd like to order. He then brings your food and leaves you alone. When you're ready to pay, you catch his eye (it's not usually hard), he comes to the table, you pay, and you're out of there in 30 seconds. No faux friendships, no sucking up, but no neglect, either. They seem to realize you're there to eat, read, and converse with whoever came in with you; you're not there to be entertained by the staff. Although waiters in Vienna (especially in cafes) can be arrogant, even disdainful, I like this form of service better than ours.

  • Number of people in Budapest you can stare at: Almost zero. Particularly because I was alone, I did a lot of people-watching on this trip. But I found that's a difficult proposition in Budapest. It seems that the residents of this city have very active eyes, so if you're looking at them, they'll figure it out in about 2 seconds.

  • When I would like to move back to Vienna: Never. More about that later, perhaps.

Photos: Cafe Diglas (top) and Cafe Sacher (bottom), both in Vienna


  1. glad to hear you are not leaving us.

  2. Well, not for Vienna, anyway. I just got done watching a documentary on Keith Green, and you never know when the Lord will call your number.

  3. I like the waiter story. I would love to experience that, seems more efficient. I wonder if more places here adopted that way in their resturants, people would enjoy working in that industry more?

  4. Yep, Gene, I would.

    But now Americans are used to (and take for granted) the extra attention.