Across Continents

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At home with the Habsburgs

Fortunately I was in Room 329, not 101. Outside, the youth hostel had an austere appearance, inside it was functional and the staff very welcoming. If Austria had ever had a Secret Police, this would have been their headquarters. This was Vienna, but not the nice bit. I’d arrived mit Emma mein fahrrad whilst the staff were quietly dealing with a large party of young people. They’d let me have the key to the cycle garage straightaway. I could check in later. That way I’d have a fighting chance of still having a bike in the morning.

My room mate was Japanese. His German was worse than mine, but he knew a few words in English. He looked hungry. I’d some tinned fish. He’d probably like that sort of thing, but I was secretly keeping it back for my first demilitarized zone. Serbia. Apparently they do brisk business selling souvenirs these days, you just need to specify the calibre. The hostel was large, and unlike most of the smaller ones in Austria, you could come and go as you pleased. You could even stay in bed all day if you wanted to. I suspected my room mate might.

I’d a day here and was feeling obliged to visit the old city. I’m sure it’d be impressive, but I’ve already seen quite a few imposing buildings, churches, cathedrals and the like. They blur after a while. What was really intriguing me was that Vienna is supposedly just one of four cities to host the United Nations Organisation. I say ’supposedly’ because London’s not on the list, but is definitely home to the International Maritime Organisation. Cycled past it for years. Even got a free lunch out of them once.

I’d had various brushes with the UN in the past, and suspected our paths might cross again over the next few years. They often get a bit of a bad press, especially over their aid programmes, although never from 4 x 4 manufacturers or five star hotel chains. I knew there was more to the UN than just aid, just wasn’t sure what exactly. So I’d made an appointment to visit and find out. Even washed my clothes especially.

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