Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Happy Hour in the restaurant car on the EC-22, on 18 September, 2006.

After two rainy noontime hours were spent within the confines of Vienna’s Westbahnhof, with half-liters of fresh draft Zipfer Urtyp in hand and a roomy place at the stand-up counters at the imbiss facing the central hall, the sun magically reappeared at 15.00 west of the city – half an hour into the eight hour journey to Frankfurt, and serving as a signal to visit the restaurant car for scenic libations.

The train was making good time across the tidy and well-ordered Austrian countryside as I savored a Konig Ludwig Hefeweissbier. Wheat ale isn’t my favorite beer style, but it was a viable alternative to the pedestrian Warsteiner available in bottles or on draft (my feet rested atop a full 30-liter keg being stored beneath the high-top restaurant car tables).

The train was scheduled to make relatively few stops during the course of its long journey to Dortmund, but several of them were clustered in western Austria right around 15.45 to 17.00, prime commuting hours, and the “regulars” – mostly men – came on the train for a beer, cigarettes and conversation, then got off again further down the tracks and could be scene hopping over to adjacent platforms to switch trains and finish their trips.

All the while the vistas swept past, magnified by the oversized windows of the restaurant car. The attendant, a man in his mid-fifties dressed in an official uniform of dark pants, white shirt and red vest, regretted to inform me that the Hefeweissbier was gone, so I gritted my teeth and sipped Warsteiner, instead.

Later, when it was dark outside and the train station lunch of Weisswurst and “chili con carne” had worn away, I strolled through the six seating cars separating the restaurant (located in proximity to first class, not the bicycler’s 2nd class wagon at the rear) from my seat and settled down to a dinner of canned herring, black bread, and apricot jam, as purchased at a supermarket earlier in the day and packed for just the occasion.

Also in the picnic basket were two cans of Stiegl lager from Salzburg. They guided me into Frankfurt at 21.45, and I was in my room at the Hotel Bristol by 22.05.

Next morning, it was a quick commute to the airport, and back home.

No comments: