Going to country number 87 with my girls.
VIENNA, Austria- I have to watch my kids for the month while my wife goes to school in Prague but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I can’t travel, does it?
I never took a trip with my two daughters without my wife. The opportunity just never came up before. The closest thing that I’ve done approaching this was taking an overnight trip to Nanjing with Petra when she was three. Now I have two girls and we’re going to Austria for three days.
On the train there was an irritated old guy sitting in our section. He didn’t seem to neither like the idea of riding near kids nor Indians. Across the aisle there were three South Asian 20-somethings. When a girl from Brazil came to take the remaining seat in their section he muttered, “They talk too much,” in reference to the Indians. She gave him a look like he was a creep. He may have been. Not feeling much love from anyone around us he split to another section of the train.
The ride was suddenly peaceful. The girls hung out, played with their tablets, ate snacks. Rivka went to sleep with her head on my chest. Petra made friends with girl from Brazil across the aisle — she was a student in Portugal -studying law or something.
Our first look at Vienna:
I booked an AirBnB right next to the train station for 20 euro a night. Can’t beat that. It was advertised as a full apartment but after I booked it the person who listed it got in touch and said that she will be in it too. Whatever, it was 20 euro per night. I couldn’t be bothered to be bothered by this.
The night before an ATM in Prague ate my main debit card. In 19 years of world travel and hundreds — perhaps thousands — of visits to ATMs this has never happened to me before. I suppose it was due …
I broke every travel rule using this ATM: it was not physically connected to a bank, it was at night, and the last time I used it the machine hesitated to give me my card back — I had to pinch the slight edge of it that stuck out and rip it out of the machine.
Why did I use it again? Convenience. It’s right next to my apartment … and my wife was like, “ATMs don’t eat cards anymore. That was something that happened in the past” and I thought that I was being silly for not wanting to use it. After all, I’ve seen plenty of locals using it after my first encounter with it. What’s the chances?
It ate it.
So that meant that I was relying on a Paypal debit card that only works 10% of the time for cash in Vienna, and the first hours of our “daddy and two daughters adventure” were spent walking around the city from ATM to ATM.
None of them worked.
Fortunately, I’ve become pretty lackadaisical about cleaning my wallet out of money from previous countries that I’ve traveled to, so at any given time I have a big wad of currency from all over the world. As a last ditch effort to get some cash, I walked up to an exchange counter at a bank and spilled around ten countries worth of bills out on the desk and began picking through the heap for anything exchangeable. I left the bank with 199 euro in my pocket — more than enough to have a blast for three days.
We decided to chill out from this fiasco in a McDonald’s. I got a beer the girls got orange juices. The Paypal debit card worked to pay for it — kind of a kick in the balls.
Petra and I had a meeting about how we would budget our newfound euros and what we would do for the next few days.
I like this time with her. We are partners working together to solve problems. The dynamic is different when the mother is around because she is the one that I work out things with, not Petra.
Petra also has to help a little more with taking care of Rivka than she normally would.
Basically, her responsibility level has been elevated, which is something that kids seem to resonate to.
We spent the evening at a playground beneath the aquarium. The aquarium in Vienna is inside of an old air raid tower. Kind of strange.
We then went to a bar. Kids can go to bars in Europe. Apparently, dogs can too. The guy sitting next to us was smoking a joint with a dog at his feet. His name was Zack. He introduced himself as Eurotrash. The dog’s name was Little Pig. He was introduced as a vegetarian.
“He never had to kill for food.”
What could I say? I thought it was dumb but the fucking thing successfully survived for 12 years on cucumbers and granola so what do I know? Before taking any high road I had to remind myself that most people feed their dogs processed dog food from China, which can contain just about anything from plastics to formaldehyde to misc chemicals and toxins that you’d never imagine being served up to a living, breathing mammal. At this this guy knew what he was pumping into his dog.
Zach was intentionally vague about his origins so I pushed him. It became kind of a game to guess where he was from. I looked at him long and hard.
“You’re from Cyprus or Greece,” I declared.
“No, Bulgaria,” he replied.
I looked at him skeptically until he admitted that his mother was Greek.
My kids had fun playing with his dog. I had fun drinking my beer.
The AirBnB girl had a love affair with China. She goes there often. She’s tries to learn the language. I mentioned to her that we’ve spent a lot of time in China and that I established myself as a journalist there and published by first book about the place.
She had no interest.
I became intrigued: how could she have no interest? People pay me a lot of money to talk to them about China and what I’ve done and discovered there. I pushed a little deeper and told her some more of my experience there.
She had no interest.
Petra then ran out from the room — she was supposed to be sleeping — and exclaimed “I want to talk with you guys too!”
“Okay, [hehehe] we can talk later. Right now I’m really hungry and really want to eat my dinner.”
She then scurried back into her room and that was the last we saw of her.
… It’s 20 euro per night.
Austrian soldier doing his national service on the metro. He didn’t make it into this narrative.