Les gens qui ne rient jamais ne sont pas des gens sérieux

Be who you are and say what you mean, those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wienerschnitzel und Weizen

I left the hotel, smiling goodbye to the man on reception. I was grateful to him for humouring my attempts at German so well, without once resorting to English. The Viennese accent is pretty much incomprehensible to me, so I was impressed that everyone was dealing with my Bonn-learned German so well.

Turning left down the side street the hotel was on, I immediately dismissed the bar opposite. The dark smokey interior was visible through the open door, and the bare-armed waitress was wiping the bar in long, bored strokes. No, I needed somewhere with a bit of life. And food.

Turning left again, I scanned the street ahead for restaurant signs. I wasn't very hungry but it was dinner time, and I needed to distract my mind with something other than the hotel tv. I spotted some golden arches beckoning up ahead, but refused to take the easy option, and turned instead to an authentic-looking restaurant-bar type place. A quick look at the menu and I decided it would do.

Walking in, I didn't get too much of the silent staring I hate so much when walking into a new place alone. I chose a corner seat and soon the waitress handed me the menu. Wiener Schnitzel (pork not veal) and a salad. Yeah, I could manage that. And a weissbier. Definitely.

I took a look around, and wished I'd bought a book. Eating out alone just feels weird. There was a lone guy a couple of tables away reading a newspaper and putting his head up occasionally to shovel food in. There was also a table with a couple of business men, talking in hushed tones and drinking wine. Nothing to look at while I waited.

Then a man entered and without looking around, headed to what I assume must have been his regular table. He was old and disheveled, thick glasses magnifying his staring eyes. The waitress brought him a beer and he handed over the cash, a transaction that had the ease of one that takes place daily.

A rose-seller came in next, offering his bucket around with smiles and winks. He spotted Old Guy and went over to shake his hand, pumping it up and down enthusiastically. Then his demeanour changed and he brought his face close to Old Guy's, to talk directly into his ear. After a couple of words Old Guy exploded, throwing his arms up and spouting a load of incomprehensible shrieks. Rose-Seller retreated, smiling in a more sinister fashion and repeating aloud that he was owed two euro. While he weaved between tables, offering his roses to all the customers with no success, Old Guy shouted and cursed, denying the debt.

Sipping my beer and no longer feeling the lack of a book to keep my mind busy, I watched as Old Guy's friend arrived. He greeted the waitresses, and listened patiently as Old Guy spluttered out the story of roses and euros. Laughing it off, he scanned the room, a wide smile on his face complementing the jolly orange jumper he was wearing.

At this point my food arrived. A schnitzel the size of a large dinner plate, and a mixed salad. I thanked the waitress and tucked in.

'Guten Appetit!' Jolly Guy said, causing Old Guy to twist round in his seat and look back at me. 'Guten Appetit!' Old Guy added, giving me a toothy grin. 'Um, Danke.' I smiled weakly, unwilling to interact with the table I had assigned as my evening entertainment.

I ate quickly, the Guys' conversation creating a backdrop of sound, and tried not to think about the next morning. The waitress cleared my plate and I paid my bill. I felt the Guys watching me as I put on my coat, and heard 'Auf Wiedersehen' and 'Schoen Abend noch' as I walked towards the door.

'Auf Wiedersehen' I replied, and thought sadly that they were probably going to enjoy the rest of their evening more than I was.

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