Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Tandem Tour 2018 Part 5: Dürnstein to Klosterneuburg/Vienna

I reluctantly observe that very large cruisers have replaced the barges along the Danube. They have their own particular bulky cargo that is decanted at points along the way. The towns and villages adjacent to the berths have spikes of activity as the visitors arrive en masse. So it was with Dürnstein, across the river from our campsite at Rossatz. It looked gorgeous at night illuminated, but the central area at peak time is congested. There are gift shops galore. And plenty of attempts at flogging of the local wine. We did find a bakery for breakfast, but even parking the tandem safely and out of the way was a bit of a task. Incidentally, just a little way out is a cyclists’ cafe, probably a better option.

We’d also been advised that the path on the north side was really nice. We can confirm that the south is probably better through Mautern rather than Krems. Krems has a historic western approach, but once the path reaches the prison (which riders cannot miss), then it is downhill from there. The path is incoherent and actually quite difficult to follow. We took the first post-Krems opportunity to cross the river back to the southern path over a relatively new bridge in the direction of Wagram where the cycle track is built under the roadway (right).

We think we were right to revert to the southern path. We found ourselves in a riverside restaurant at Traismauer, suitable for lunch. Then all very quiet until Tulln which is quite a resort. There is a camping site, a live stage floating on the river and a multi-activity park. As well as a bakery, naturally. It is also, as we noted, at the end of the S-Bahn to-and-from Vienna. It might not be a bad place to base oneself. However, we decided to go further to Klosterneuburg which is very much a suburb of Vienna. Another 20kms further and, by this time, we were feeling it. But Klosterneuburg has a great camping site, frequent trains to Vienna, and its own very particular brand of restaurants and cafes (including an icecream parlour where ridiculous quantities of icecream are loaded onto a way-too-small wafer cornet). It is fun to watch and delicious to eat. But impractical.

We took two days out in Vienna. The tickets by train to – and around – Vienna currently cost €9.30 (taking in trains, Underground, tram and bus). We visited a cafe that we had failed to get in during previous visits; namely Harvest (above left). We also visited the Jewish quarter and came across Rachel Whiteread’s holocaust memorial (right). A signature concrete construct with books to symbolise both knowledge and, of course, the Nazi penchant for book burning. It is fitting and just-about works. All of the Nazi death camps are listed around each of the four sides. Chastening.

Vienna is truly a gift for anyone interested in architecture. Whilst there are plenty of examples of imperial architecture associated with the Habsburgs, there is also quite a bit that is – and was at its time – rather challenging (particularly to the establishment). But eventually became accepted and then celebrated in the city. Take, for example, the Postsparkasse (left) built in 1904-12 by Otto Wagner. It is an imposing building and is not fancy apart from very small nodules being placed perfectly in vertical and horizontal lines. To see them, readers will need to click on the photograph and then enlarge. It should not work, but it does.

Wagner’s art nouveau and modernist architecture is not in short supply in the city. Wagner was a founder member of  revolutionary artists’ association, Vienna Secession. I suspect our next visit will take in all of these buildings in turn. Apparently we will be hunting down a number of residential properties, railway stations (U-Bahn) and the Danube Weir. The Postsparkasse is, clearly, not art nouveau, but apparently it is a masterclass in modernist interior as well as exterior. Seemingly everything from radiators, counters to desks and door handles are worthy of note.

For readers wanting to get back to Munich, we can report that the operator of the rail route between Vienna and Salzburg (Westbahn) does not accept tandems. So we had to come back with OBB and Deutsche Bahn via Leoben. Not the most direct route, and certainly not cheap. There is dedicated cycle space, however. It was wonderfully scenic. The ride in to Vienna to get to Hauptbahnhof took about an hour. The path takes riders past Hundertwasser’s power station (right) and then further along the Danube canal to Schweden Platz. From there one needs help as Hauptbahnhof is not well signposted. We resorted to Google Maps.

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Tandem Tour 2018 Part 4: Ottensheim to Dürnstein

In light rain we continued along the north path towards Linz. We decided not to cross the river into the city, but rather to shelter under the entrance to the Information centre in Urfahr (the partner town to Linz on the north bank). An hour later we moved on in light rain.

Deceptive sun, Linz

There is no functional path on the south because of a sizeable industrial area. It can be viewed from the north for those interested in such areas (myself included; the river’s frequent hydro plants are extraordinary constructions). As we hugged the bank of the river the weather improved. At Abwinden the path moves inland for a short way, through St Georgen and rejoining the river at Langenstein.

Rural idyll. A quiet Danube

We took a break at Mauthausen; the town’s Nazi history – large labour camp and its satellites – is confronted in memorials, activities/seminars, etc. Austria was annexed by the Nazis in 1938. This part of Austria had a significant cluster of labour camps where prisoners (many of them non-German) were worked, in many cases, to death in quarries, mines, munitions and aircraft factories.

Then on to Au, where there is a campsite, with “Badesee” and other water attractions. The tranquility of this stretch is wonderful: the Danube at its best. It is easy to make progress on the dykes. Inland again through Mitterkirchen.  The sun was by this time dominant, though on the approach to Grein we met both a road and railway. The campsite is located on the path to the south side of the town.

Grein is a lovely town. In the market square one finds the Town Hall and a host of cafes and restaurants. Sunday night is a shade limited. We went to a sort-of-Italian restaurant (with significant Greek influence on the menu, Pizzaria La Vita) frequented by locals and campers. We had not fully accounted for the Austrian laws that do allow smoking in restaurants. This place was like going back in time in the UK. The fug was extraordinary and the environment unpleasant. Sitting outside was not an option because the temperature had dropped significantly.

For breakfast we started at the bakery in the marketplace (smoke free) and then to the Konditorei on the bank of the river for a second coffee. There is in the town a fantastic bicycle shop. It reminded me of childhood. Everything had a place and it smelled of oil – bicycle oil, that is. Marvellous. My beloved bought a new cycle jersey that smelled, until it met with some soapy water, of that bicycle shop.

Across the ferry to the south side where the track was again dedicated. Beautiful in the sunshine, tree-lined and hugging the river. Not too many refreshment options before Ybbs. There we found another baker’s shop and ate outrageous (by which I mean large and full of gooey nice stuff) pastries and coffee in the sun.

23 kilometers further through the vineyards and orchards is Melk. This is always a reminder that, whilst I may be on holiday, many people are not, especially the migrant workers who harvest the grapes. Lots of migrant labour is in evidence, trying to earn money for their families, let alone a holiday. I should not need to be reminded.

We half had a mind to stay there at a campsite on the river just short of Melk. We were slightly put off by its location, adjacent to a mooring for large cruise ships – industrial scale holidaying – of which there were five already decanting their load on to waiting coaches. Plus, we were feeling fit and up for a little further in what turned out to be a sunshine-blessed day. From a distance, the monastery at Melk is visible; it is imposing and against the backdrop of blue sky, worth a photo (above left). But we were soon on our way.

The path is quite challenging at this point. The valley becomes very steep – there is a bit of climbing to do on the road close to Schönbühel. Slightly beyond that is Aggstein. The Gasthaus there has a nice garden. We stopped for more food (locally-grown pumpkins are very much a feature of Gasthaus menus in the area, so I opted for Kurbis soup). Then finally on to Rossatz which really just emerges along the route. It is a curious campsite – patches of grass on the roadside, but it was a suitable end to the day, and the night-time view across the river to Dürnstein (right) seems justification enough.

 

 

 

Tandem Tour 2018: Part 3 – Passau to Ottensheim

We had breakfast in Passau Market Square before recrossing the Danube to follow the track on the North side. It follows the main road until Obernzell. One needs to be patient.  From there it is dedicated cycle track to – and beyond – the border (right).

We stopped at Niederranna at a dedicated cycle station (cafe) and did a bit of tent drying in the breeze after overnight rain. We decided to stay on the north path and take the ferry over the river to Schlögen (below left). The north path beyond this point is converted into a ferry ride as the river bends back on itself in what is a particularly picturesque spot. We thought that, because of the distance for the day, we would try to do a shortcut from Schlögen to Haibach ob der Donau and cut this section. Shortcuts area always good in theory, never so good in reality. Out of Schlögen we had to climb 300m on the relatively main and bendy road. With our tandem that was quite a challenge. We then missed the road back to the river at Haibach. We carried on towards Hartkirchen and then eventually to Aschach. We saved kilometers, but probably not time.

View from ferry to Schlögen

From Aschach the path is again dedicated. It began to rain heavily. There was a marked campsite on the south side of the river near Ottensheim. It turned out not to be there. We were forced, then, to seek shelter in Ottensheim itself. We used to car ferry to do so. A great ferry that uses minimal fuel by using the current and a cable slug across the river. The motors are intermittently powered to provide momentum. Our guide recommended a hotel in the marketplace. It was full. We carried on out of the town for a couple of kilometers to Rodl where we found a campsite with a Gasthaus opposite. The landlady was brilliant. She made us some veggie pasta supported by a glass of Zweigelt.

Finally at the peak near Haibach ob der Donau

The site provided cover in a hut with electricity, sufficient for us to sit and read for a short while. The rain continued into the morning. It lightened whilst we showered.

Tandem Tour 2018: Part 2 Marktl to Passau

The first night under canvass is often not the best. A working farm, of course, invites an early cockerel, bleeting sheep and, of course, tractors. But after breakfast in Marktl we followed the Inn cycle track to Passau; a curious place where three rivers meet, often too enthusisatically (right).

View of Passau heading east along Inn

The route itself is quite rough in places. There are long stretches of shingle on dykes zapping energy. The river also has many tributaries. This makes it an ideal river in which to swim; and indeed, there are frequent “Badesee” – areas for swimming, sunbathing and having lunch. This contrasts very much with the Danube where we found few places to swim safely.

We stayed on the north side of the river in Gemany. The river forms to border with Austria. At these times of tension around migration, this is significant. At Simbach, for example, there is a border check on the German side. And yes, brown people were being checked.

The route takes in few towns and villages, so if refreshment is needed, the south – Austrian –  side may be a better option. For example, we were getting a shade hungry and thought we might find something in Neuhaus (about 20km short of Passau). We rode through finding nowhere. We think that we would have been successful if we had crossed the river in the Austrian town of Schärding. Actually, a little further on we found a welcoming bakery in the village of Vornbach (there were lots of cyclists already there). It is also worth stopping there because the final few kilometres into Passau are quite challenging. There is a climb into a forested area; it is bendy, dangerous (steep drops are possible) and rough under the tyres. It is also exquisite. Some creative soul has carved some faces into felled trees (left). There is also a wonderful wooden bridge (right) over the Rott at Weihmörting.

On arrival in Passau, we immediately had to work out which river was which. The campsite is on the Ilz to the North. The route to the campsite in the end was quite simple (and signposted), but when one is tired, it does not seem so. There is a significant road that leads towards Hals which has been carved out of the rock; it is certainly not designed for cyclists, but it’s the only way.

We ended up with a day of 80kms. We decided to pause for a day in Passau. It is not a big town. It has an old town – the Danube cruise ships offload in this part) – with a fine cathedral, squares and cobbled streets. The regular town with the familiar retailers isfurther to the west. We ventured there really only to find a bank.

Campsite, Passau

The campsite (left) is directly on the river Ilz. It has a good toilet block with a washing machine. Dotted around the site are clothes drying frames. At first we thought that a lot of people had somehow brought them with them! However, the true gem is the “restaurant” adjacent to the reception. It looks like a takeaway, but dig a little deeper and one finds some brilliant authentic Italian cuisine. It is so good, that we ate there twice, despite the opportunities in Passau.

Tandem Tour 2018 – Munich to Vienna – Part 1, Mühldorf to Marktl

Hunderwasser’s power station, Vienna

Regular readers will know that Vienna is one of my favourite cities in Europe. It is home to some great art, architecture and cafes (never underestimate the importance of the cafes). We have been twice so far this year, so the decision to cycle from Munich to Vienna for our summer tour this year was easy. There is that famous river, the Danube, to follow using largely dedicated cycle tracks. There’s sufficient – conveniently-located – campsites.

We’ve been off the tandem for a couple of years arising from various self-inflicted injuries on increasingly ageing bodies. Last year my back protested – though we salvaged the summer with a bit of trekking (not the most obvious response to a back injury, I know). The previous year we did our Tilman Riemenschneider odyssey.

So, having avoided injury, we checked our gear. I decided to upgrade my sleeping bag in line with my partner’s. I now have a Mountain Equipment Helium 250 – suitable for summer use. It is very light (254g) and packs very small. We also replaced our Salomon Goretex shoes – we were expecting some rain and wet feet are always unwelcome. I went for another pair of Salomon X-Ultra, whilst my partner tried a CMP trail shoe.  Other than that, all seemed in order.

We took the train from Munich to Mühldorf which is approximately 100km from Passau on the river Inn. That would give us a total ride distance of about 450km (for a couple unsure about fitness and stamina this year, that seemed far enough). The train on this route has space for a tandem, and travelling off-peak in the middle of the week, we managed to have the cycle carriage largely to ourselves. There are suitably-sized elevators at Mühldorf to get from the platform to the main street without unloading the tandem. So, in the first day arriving late afternoon, we made it to a working-farm campsite close to Marktl, the birthplace of former Pope, Josef Ratzinger. There is a museum in his “Geburtshaus”. Perhaps more importantly, there is one restaurant in the town, an Italian. The baked vegetables were interesting. We managed breakfast at the cafe in the marketplace, where the nearby pharmacy bears a mural eulogising back-breaking work in the fields (left).

The annual tour serves a number of purposes. It tests – and develops – our fitness. As people who work in a sedentary environment, keeping fit is not so easy. Being away from that environment with a machine that only works if one puts energy into to it, reminds us of our limitations – or our capabilities. It also helps to think about resources more generally. When I first started cycle touring back in the 1980s, there were no electronic gadgets that needed charging. I had a manual “mileometer” and a (camping gaz) cooking stove. This year I took my mobile phone, but did not turn it on (not least to avoid emails and other social media for 10 days).

Cycling along the River Inn – tracks are often rough but usable

We focused on keeping the Garmin Edge 800 navi charged using a now-ageing “Power Monkey” (charged where possible using sunshine, and if not a power socket at a campsite). Any spare charge went into my partner’s mobile which we used to find a posting box for our postcards, public toilets and to navigate to Vienna’s main station, Hauptbahnhof. We fuelled ourselves with a good breakfast (from local Bäckereien or Konditoreien); Apfelstrudel and some bizarre but good offerings from Gasthäusern or Restaurants. All vegetarian food seems to be open to interpretation.

 

Cigarette advertising blooming like summer flowers

It is true, I did say it was quiet, not much doing on the cigarette advertising advertising front. Anything but, now. First up Camel (left). Sticking with the “Do your Thing” strapline here we have two relatively young people with (unlit) cigarettes in their mouths (always an unattractive image, surely?) doing their own thing. In line with the campaign more widely – and there are many examples elsewhere in this blog – the message is “Fuck off”?

Next up, Pall Mall is back with some fantastic tosh. Take “New Neighbour, New Friend” (right) as part of the “Enjoy the moment” campaign. How nice, meet on the balcony and be introduced by sharing a death stick. Most people do the introductions safely using an intermediary, such as a dog or cat.

Same campaign, same nonsense. Sorry about this one, it has been literally defaced, but none the worse for it. Strapline is very clever: boring short holiday or long-time short holiday. I do not know whether this a a play on the old British saying that I know confuses German speakers. “What did you do on your holiday?” We did nothing”. “Great!” “How can doing nothing be anything but boring?” “Is doing nothing good?”

Finally, (un)Lucky Strike is back (right). Now this one is truly bizarre. And it is almost in line with the Pall Mall neighbours above. The innovation here is that the cigarettes are brown. Not great, I would have thought, but there you go. But added to that, there is now a Luck Strike dating app, “Cigarillo”, presumably for people with a death wish?

“Flaschendrehen trifft”, by my translation, is something like “meet by spinning the bottle”. Random? But to make it even stranger, if one looks at the packet with the “cigarettes are deadly” warning on the white block, one finds, “Wollen sie aufhören?” – “Do you want to stop smoking?” Mixed messages, at the very least.

 

All a bit quiet on the cigarette advertising front

Despite my best efforts with my blog – posts about politics, art and travel – it is the cigarette advertising that brings in my readers and sparks interest. It seems, in particular, that Germans are the most curious about my posts, even though all of the examples are free to be seen in any German city.

Of late, the billboards have been few in number, and when they do appear they are boring as anything. The latest JPS (left) is a case in point. “Maximales Vergnügen” translates literally as “maximum pleasure (in death)”

Then there is “Passt Perkfekt ins Jetzt” (right) sort-of Perfect Fit now? And this “compact” innovation. That is interesting. Does that just mean it is narrower because it seems to be cheaper than “Maximales Vergnügen”?

There is, however, a new kid on the block, as it were (left). The no batteries needed, of course, refers to the considerable competitive challenge coming from e-cigarettes. And whilst I do not like the latter – users fail to appreciate that the vapour that they produce smells and has emanated from their mouths. It is also voluminous (I am sure this is deliberate on the part of the manufacturers and is unnecessary for the efficient delivery of nicotine). Users Blythely inhale and exhale with no care at all for anyone behind them who gets a face full of the stuff. I almost prefer the real thing.

Anyway, not only are batteries not needed, but users get American Spirit. New to me. Looking forward to more genius straplines from this brand and its marketers. And here’s me thinking the Germans were in hock to Russia!

 

 

A return to Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna: Low Countries and Germany

We made our first visit to KHM at Easter and we managed but a fraction of the artworks (largely the Habsburg’s Italian collection). So we went back to see the work of some of my favourite 15th and 16th Century artists.

Let me start with Valckenborth whose series of scenes from the months of the year. Five are in Vienna. They are hung really badly (high), one has to take a photo to study them; but the snow on this one is almost 20th Century impressionism.

Talking of snow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder made his career out of depicting ordinary people in the landscape. His show scenes are always cold, but equally, there is always people enjoying themselves. Skating is a particular outdoor fun activity, but here there are also hunters. For some, I assume, that is worth getting out of bed for.

There are some 12 Bruegel the Elder’s paintings in this collection (more than a quarter of all those that survive in the world). All that I have seen in various museums are always a thrill. Though the subject matter of another winter scene, “The Massacre of the Innocents” is not a positive thrill. It recreates the biblical scene of Herod’s infanticide in the low country winter landscape.

Perhaps Bruegel’s most recognised painting is his depiction of the Tower of Babel (1563). What is remarkable about this picture is its encyclopaedic detail and depiction of considerable technical and craft skills. All made up of course.

This period is great if you like ghouls, demons, witches and hell. H Francken the Elder’s wonderful Hexenküchen (witch cooking) is a wonderful example of the genre. I particularly like the church in background as a reminder of some sort of duality. But the witches surely win? I am not quite sure what is going to happen to the naked individual on the far right, but I suspect it is not good.

Next up, Hell. I rather like David III. Ryckaert’s “Dulle Griet” (on a Raid before the Entrance to Hell). I have to say I am not quite sure what is going on but the thrashing woman seems to be managing the fantastical collection of ghouls. Difficult to know how long she was going to keep them off.

Here is another great depiction of Hell. This time from Herri me de Bles (somewhere around 1540). It is circular – maybe Hell is circular? – and the hellish colours are brilliant. It does not look so bad relative to other depictions. It is almost Boschian in the strange creatures that are there. Maybe it is some sort of subterranean eco-system? It is not the usual hellfire. Survivable, maybe?

Next up is Man at a Window by Samuel van Hoogstraten. Hoogstraten, apparently, specialised in trompe l’oeil – translated as “deceive the eye”. So we have a wonderfully painted window in a frame with a man’s head protruding from it. Forgive me, I am not entirely sure what the deception is in the literal reading. However, historically, Jews were not permitted to live in the Leopoldstadt district of Vienna in the 16th Century. The man depicted may well be Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann Heller who achieved permission to live there. The picture has a symbolism associated with looking into the forbidden district?

This being a Low Countries collection there is Rembradt, one of his many self-portraits (I am sure the Habsburgs would have been delighted to have The Nightwatch instead). However, there is this fantastic Vermeer, The Art of Painting. The model is Clio, the muse of history, who inspires and proclaims the art of painting in the old Netherlands. These can be seen on the maps with the provinces prior to their division into North and South.

Left is a picture that looked familiar and indeed it was. This is the work of Hans III. Jordaens entitled the Cabinet of Curiosities. I always feel that I may be developing a bit of cultural capital if I can draw a comparison.

 

There are a couple of depictions of stag  hunts in the collection. Actually, they look more like massacres in terms of scale (Lucas Cranach the  Younger, Stag Hunt of Elector John Hendrick). These are all Court commissions. Frederick of Saxony himself can be seen on the far left with Emperor Charles V. But the scale of the endeavour is troubling.

 

So there we are wandering around and there is a Holbein! Holbein, of course, was Henry VIII’s court painter who famously got sent out to paint potential wives for the King. Sometimes too complementary for the king’s liking. This is his portrait of the elegant Jane Seymoor.

By contrast, Albrecht Dürer portrait of the semi-naked grinning mature woman was unlikely to charm a king. It is unclear what this picture is about as the woman grins with her bag of money. Maybe it is a picture of seduction or avarice. Maybe Dürer’s patron wanted to caricature his then wife, the wealthy Dorothea Landauer? I am a shade confused on this, but whatever the meaning, older people are always more interesting sitters.

One thing I  have learned to do is not to focus always on the central characters. As a form of communication, the whole canvass carries messages, some more interesting than others. For example, Bernaert van Orley’s Alterpiece of St Mattewand Thomas. St. Thomas is being martyred. This involves walking on hot coals, accepting a poisoned chalice and, of course, being thrown in an oven (left). I think I will stick to mortal being-hood.

Finally, a branch of feminism that I was not previously aware of. Otto van Veen’s Persian Women, depicts a scene from Plutarch’s Brave Women (new to me, I have to say). They revealed their nethers to shame the men from fleeing in the face of the enemy. I am not quite sure how that works, but apparently it was a great victory in the end.

 

Joan as Police Woman, Vienna, 31 March 2018 and Hove, 23 April 2018

We are regulars at Joan as Police Woman gigs. I think this is about our fifth time, though the first outside of the UK. All bar one of these share one thing in common: the intimacy of the venue. Intimacy enables Joan Wasser to play to her key strength: emotion. The venue matters, therefore. Last time we saw her, in her collaboration with Benjamin Lazar Davis in Brighton, UK, the venue was rammed and the bar was simply in the way. Tonight was perfect, though as bizarre as they come. At the Ottaker Brauerei (a real working brewery) one might have expected the bar to be in the way again. But no, the bar has its own room and the concert space is what it says on the can. Space. Nothing fancy – a dark hole with steel girders. Perfect for Joan as Police Woman (seemingly she has performed there twice before).

l-r Parker Kindred, Jacob Silver, Joan Wasser, Eric Lane and Jared Samuels

By contrast, The Old Market in Hove, UK, is rather less industrial. Once it was a market hall, but as venue it is versatile, fully furbished, though with visible wooden beams holding up the roof. I think it was her first time at the Old Market (having previously also appeared at Brighton’s Concorde 2, if I am not mistaken). It did not matter, the intimacy was there. The audience engaged, though clearly the band, coming to the end of a comprehensive European tour, were admitting their weariness. For some bands, this could easily lead to fractiousness; but these musicians seem very much at ease with one another. It was a much more relaxed performance than Vienna.

Now this was the Damned Devotion tour. Dammed Devotion is her latest solo album and it is worthy of a collection to add to her existing body of work. Actually, it was not until seeing Joan as Police Woman in Vienna that I realised how different this album is from its predecessors. The big clue came in the stage setup – three sets of keyboards – not seen before. We were reassured to see her long-time percussionist, Parker Kindred (left), mount the stage. He was intricately supported by bassist, Jacob Silver. Together they kept an order to the proceedings; Kindred’s timing is impeccable and it was great to be close enough to spend time watching a master caress and cajole a drum kit. It was also the first time that I have listened to a band from the drum kit outwards. By which I mean, the beats come first, followed by bass, keyboard and vocals. And with Joan as Police Woman live, that seemed to make sense.

And that is another reason why Damned Devotion is different, Kindred gets his moment to let rip on Joan’s uncharacteristic “dance track”, Steed (for Jean Genet).   I’ve never heard Wasser sing so high at such tempo and with so much noise

Wasser with Jared Samuel in background

behind her, not only Kindred’s percussion, but also two sets of keyboards played by Jared Samuel and Eric Lane. Equally, Wasser must rightly assert herself. On her album, Classic, I always celebrate her divinity captured in the song The Magic: “And I find I am face to face with none other than me; I’ve got the mirror up against the marquee; And all it reads is, I am fine, I am divine; But there is a wild side going on behind the sign”. We got it in the set, of course, but it is now complemented by her lastest self-anthem, The Silence with its clear lyric “My body, my choice, her body, her choice”. The Magic is subtle in tone, if not lyric. The Silence is neither.

This is a tour to promote The Damned Devotion, it is certainly not a greatest hits. Though it was good to hear Eternal Flame, the song that introduced me to Joan as Police Woman back in 2005 with its beachy-kitsch video. And there is one other addition to the repertoire. What is it Like to be You?, Wasser tells the audience, in a peculiarly revelatory exchange with the audience, is about her deeply missed father who passed away a couple of years ago. Of course, she is not the only daughter to fail to ask questions of a parent before they die. Wasser laments this with her father and captures her lament in this song. This is doubly intimate and it is why venues matter.

Vienna’s washrooms

So there we are looking for breakfast. We end up at Schwedenplatz. We cross the Donau Kanal using the Schwedenbrücke and stumble into Spelunke on Taborstraße. It is one of those cafés that doubles as a nightclub. Versatile. But as we have found over the years, the proof is in the toilet, and Spelunke is special. The breakfast was ok, too.

So, the first challenge is to get in. Because one does not expect to find instructions on the floor, the tantalising glass door just refuses to open. It takes a couple of helpful women to point out the floor sensor (above left).

Once in, there’s more going on. Now I did not go into the women’s toilet, but my partner came out with a couple of interesting shots from inside a cubicle where the portal window has a couple of surprises (left and right).

And just in case you cannot find the loo roll, it is illuminated.

So the next day, we are after breakfast again. We concede Stadtcafé adjacent to Freyung, a rather central location. The café is pretty regular. The porridge was good. Then in the toilet one finds another mysterious piece of equipment, albeit designed by Dyson (right). These three-in-one contraptions never seem satisfactory and always challenge. The wash basin itself is a bit of a mystery. It is more of a drainage channel.

As a design idea, this borrows directly, I think, from the old ghastly Wallgate three-in-ones that seemed very popular with English public authorities either building or refurbishing their public conveniences (left).

Wallgate picture by Retroscania (Flickr) from Dudley bus station