Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Oh, Vienna!


Vienna is a fantastic city and one which I had to slide into my writing at some stage or other, so it's no surprise it appears in TOPAZ EYES my ancestral mystery/ thriller which is currently being VOTED for in THE PEOPLE'S BOOK PRIZE FICTION 2014 (winter- ending 28th February 2014)

Votes can still be placed using the above link- thank you! 

When writing that novel, it was exciting to be able to recreate in my mind a trip taken to Vienna some time ago. Yet, memory alone cannot be relied on since cities, even majorly historic ones, can change quite a lot over a decade. I only have a few relevant photographs from that visit in October 2002,  but I'm sharing some today before I make a new Pinterest board.

The fantastic exteriors of the museums I visited haven't altered though I've no doubt the interiors will have changed considerably as museums have 'upgraded' for popular consumption. Personally, I preferred the older more crammed museum style of the 1960s/1970s with loads more items on show, but the 'hands-on' aspect is deemed to be more user friendly now.

The architecture of old Vienna is absolutely fantastic and in many ways best seen on foot.

This isn't meant to be a travelogue but I was wowed almost around every corner of the ancient city centre. Even on a rainy day the grey skies didn't diminish the sometimes subtle, and at other times very vibrant, colours of the exteriors of the intricate facades- though the weather was mostly kind to me that October.

It can be tiring tramping the streets, especially cobbled ones, but if you're not inclined to walk and have a deep pocket then you can explore in a horse drawn carriage.

My photo is a bit old but I'm sure this method of transport is still available.

Yes, I'm more than a bit awed standing there in my blue jacket admiring that fantastic fountain and entrance area.

The Kunsthistoriches Museum is one of the best and so jam-packed full that a day is not nearly enough. Keira in TOPAZ EYES agrees with that staement and would have loved more time to explore all it's fascinating collentions. Of course, she was being stalked at the time which thankfully- I don't think I was!

I don't know why in particular this building caught our attention (my husband and I) but it is quite beautiful and I'm sure behind those windows it is very grand too.

The detail on the frescos and statues in niches is breathtaking- even down to the boots he wears.

What am I looking at? Why the statues embellising the roof, I image.

Am I a happy cable car traveller? Yes! You might not think so but the view of the city was brilliant!

This photo below dates my trip quite a lot. This tram style went out of use, I believe around 2011, and gave way to the new YELLOW trams on the Ringstrasse which skirts around the old city.

When writing TOPAZ EYES, I'm glad I checked the details before using this photo in my book trailer video because that was when I discovered that the Ringstrasse tram line had been upgraded. Good research can be invaluable if, like me, you want to be as authentic as possible.

I hope you've enjoyed my reminiscence of Vienna. I'll leave you with an excerpt where KEIRA is finding that riding the Yellow tram is a lot more exciting!

Instead of walking back to her hotel, she hopped onto the Ring-tram as it squeaked to a halt outside the impressive museum frontage. Entering through the middle doors, she punched her ticket and squeezed her way to the rear of the car. It was jam-packed, but she found an empty seat when a couple made an impromptu late choice to get off at the stop, jumping up in a flurry. As she settled down, her gaze drifted to the front of the tram. Just before the doors closed and the car slid into motion, a man forced his way through the closing space at the front doors.

            Oh God! That shit again?

            Panic set in. She stared out the window for guidance, from who knows what, or whom. The grip on her bag threatened to break the leather strap, her fingers trembling against her chest.

            Rat in a trap.

            Not absorbing a thing outside, she willed calm to descend. She was being ridiculous again. The back of one hand snaked up to towel her sweaty brow. The tram was packed full of people, the man trailing her couldn’t do anything to her while she was on… but when she got off? Her eyes tracked her surroundings. Wide open.             Squelching down her fear, she made plans. Exit really quickly, so fast her hunter would be unable to follow her. He was still wedged down near the front and that was a good thing. Wasn’t it?

            Oh God! Why was the tram so hot? The window close to her was open, but she felt as if she was a tasty bit of meat on a spit… just ready for the picking. Or more like the meat in amongst all the vegetables on a plate: her pursuer the fork, poised and ready.

            Having got on at the Museumplatz area, she guessed the tram might get less busy by the time it reached the University quarter. That was a good few stops ahead. She had to get off before then to lose her shadow. Once she lost him, she could do normal things like... find somewhere to eat? She felt nauseous already. Drawing on reserves of strength, she fought back the bile threatening to erupt and concentrated on the elusive being-normal thing.

            According to her guidebook, there were plenty of good restaurants around the area called Schottenkirche, and it wasn’t too far from her hotel. She yanked open her map so fast a split screeched down the middle. Her eye movements were feverish as she blinked to a clear vision, one finger tracing her route. When her tram passed along the Rathaus Park, she could get off and walk down the street named Schottengasse, and stop at some place when she was sure the man wasn’t following her.  

            She avidly scanned to confirm her bearings. When the car hissed to a halt at the next stop, lots of people around her were exiting. Finding no street name, she swallowed her alarm. She must be at Schottengasse already! How did that happen?  Scrambling from the seat, she ducked down as low as she could and followed the queue. When she was almost out of the door, she leaned to the side to track her snowy-haired follower.

            Her stomach almost heaved up its contents. He’d forced his way to the nearest doors. Panic overtook her; her foot froze on the lowest step, her body fully out of the vehicle. In slow freeze frames, her pursuer got off. A pile of travellers surged behind him and forced him to move further onto the pavement. 

            Keira’s chin whipped around. No-one exited behind her. Zipping back inside, the doors hissed to a close before the tram wheezed into motion. Thumping down onto the nearest seat, her eyes gravitated to the window. Her stalker speed-walked alongside the tram. She was terrified. He looked furious. Now he wasn’t just a white head as his features imprinted on her memory banks. An aquiline nose sat above tightly-drawn thin lips. Strong blue eyes flared his anger. 

            Keira shut her eyes tight. She couldn’t look out the window any more. Her hand willed the rapid pulse at her neck to still. Involuntarily, her lips curled up in a nervous smile. Her nerves were still a jingle, but she also felt exhilaration, a heady excitement. She’d lost him. Steeling herself to be braver, she scanned the street up ahead. He’d have to run much faster to keep up since the stretch they were travelling on moved alongside the edges of the Rathaus Park, now a greater distance between the tram stops.

            That was confusing.

            Pulling up her map, she checked again. A genuine smile of delight split her face; her body slid even further down the vinyl seat, beginning to relax a little. All those people had exited at the Burgtheatre, the city theatre, and there was still a bit of park to pass along before the next stop. She wasn’t near Schottengasse yet. Relief flooded as the tram clicked into an even faster pace. No-one got off or entered at the next stop. Keira heaved a sigh of relief when there was no sign of her shadow alongside.

            Her legs trembled like mad when she got off at Schottengasse.  As she walked down the fairly major thoroughfare, she willed her nerves to calm. She sporadically scanned back on her speed-walk, relieved there was no sign of her pursuer. After a few long blocks, she slowed her pace and regained her breath. She couldn’t truly appreciate the marvellous architecture around her, though she tried. When she was close to the Schottenkirche, the local parish church, she selected a place to eat.

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