One of the things we are realizing is that you need a combination of things to be able to tour a big city while RVing. You need a secure parking place near enough to the city to access public transportation, and the weather has to be cool enough so you can leave your pet for a few hours in a locked-up but ventilated Roadtrek while you’re gone. We were too far from Barcelona where we stayed to really access the city center easily, and Florence was so hot when we went there that there was no way to leave Fiona in the Roadtrek. So now we’re checking the weather forecasts and timing our city visits for highs in the 70s. We are also checking camping places for access to public transportation.
We hit the jackpot in Vienna; the Reisemobil-Stellplatz-Wein (which translates as Vienna Motorhome Stopover) is 150 meters from a subway stop, 20 minutes from the center of Vienna, and has very good security. It doesn’t even show up if you Google “camping near Vienna” because it’s more of a parking lot than an actual campground, but we didn’t really mind the lack of scenery. It has all the showers, fresh water and dumping facilities, etc. you need to operate, all maintained in a brisk Teutonic fashion, it’s 19 euros a night, and there’s plenty of room this time of year. We had to hold still for a few days to receive a package from back home, and they even agreed to accept and hold it for us.
Everybody is sort of jammed in, with the spaces all right next to each other – the design goal was to maximize capacity. Of course, this early in the summer it’s at least half empty, so we were able to find a spot with no next-door neighbors which got shade in the late afternoon from a nearby building. Fiona was a little put off by all the traffic, but when it was quiet she enjoyed walks, and gained a few admirers. The spots were divided by flowerboxes, which had lavender in bloom this time of year, there were volunteer red poppies still in bloom – one of the nicer parking lots we have stayed in.
A group of about a half dozen campers came in and all set up together – it became apparent that it was an informal group who wanted to do what we were doing – go into town a few times – and spend the rest of their time socializing. They set up a big ring of folding chairs in the evening in an empty spot a little bit away from us, and laughed and joked and smoked bad cigars until it got dark – 10 PM this time of year this far north. On the last morning, they all hugged, said their goodbyes, and drove off tooting their horns at each other. It was nice for us to see such fellowship here, where we don’t know a soul on the whole continent.
There were a couple of cool days where we were able to take the subway into town, stroll the boulevards, hit a cafe, see the museums, and generally take a slow-paced self-guided tour of Vienna. The Ringstrasse is where the old city walls used to be, and they were torn down in the late 1800s just as Vienna was experiencing its heyday as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A hundred years ago, Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin all lived here and walked these streets. The architecture is a little ponderous, but all in all it’s very impressive. For Sharon, it’s been a lifelong dream to wander around downtown Vienna and see the sights. So we did. The campingplatz had plied us with brochures and they had combination 24, 48 and 72 hour passes for sale with museum admissions and subway passes, but we were too slow paced to get our money’s worth of of them. Our itinerary was still a bargain – we both could ride the subway downtown and back for 5.60 euros, the Natural History Museum was ten euros, and the cafes were affordable.
Sadly, the weather warmed up and we spent the last day just waiting for our package to get here – it was high 80s as a heat wave set in and we needed to stay put through the middle of the day and afternoon and leave the doors open to stay cool. It was so warm that Fiona only ran away a few times – we provide entertainment for our fellow campers wherever we go, because Fiona will wait until she thinks I’m not looking and jump out the open side door, circle the van with me in hot pursuit, and then jump back in after one lap. For some reason she finds this entertaining. So do people watching the show.
We were glad to see our package show up so we could head for the Alps until the weather cooled off, but all in all our Vienna stopover was perfect – see the sights at our own pace, with no worries about our kitty or Roadtrek. We will try to replicate this combination of circumstances on our future visits to other European large cities. It’s a great system.