Tall William: 850 miles over the land
This past week I have been on tour in and around Austria. With Jules Verne's Captain Nemo, M. Annorax, Conseil (if Monsieur pleases!) and Ned Land as my constant reading companions I wanted to give this post-tour diary a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea kind of feel...
The tour began in the harbour of my adopted new home, Vienna on 1st June in the summer of 2018. I played an invigorating set to a slightly underpopulated Kramladen. The patrons were as attentive to the music as they were few in number. That is to say, very attentive. After I had discharged my culture reserves on this small sample of the Viennese public, I packed my trusted guitar 'Stella' in her case and proclaimed "We're going on a long land journey, you and I!"
The next day I set out in fine weather from Vienna Hauptbahnhof accompanied only by a small hold-all of clothes, 'Stella' and a favourable breeze blowing from the rear signalling an auspicious start into the unknown.
Stella and I arrived in Salzburg on the same train which had left Vienna Hauptbahnhof 2 hours and 22 minutes previous. That is to say, the route was direct and a very fine one. Swathes of Austrian countryside paraded past my viewing panel. The beauty of the land was only momentarily broken as I passed through St. Pölten. Fortunately I had prepared provisions of a Snickers, Coca Cola and Chicken Sandwich to counteract the ebb of excitement.
Plan B Musikcafe of Salzburg, Austria, was an excellent location to kick off the mobilis part of the voyage but figurative tempests built around my concert. A local street festival, a much anticipated sporting fixture plus the first sunny day in a week all threatened to keep potential fans away and generally clog my vibe. However, locals and regulars along with owners Capt. Zazi and Capt. Anja were kind enough to listen to the music. A light craft with the markings 'Renault Clio of Rosenheim, Germany' appeared on the horizon bringing friends from across the boarder.
After the concert Stella and I were taken across the boarder into Germany and on to Rosenheim. Here I spent a full day at leisure swimming in Happingersee, listening to Jazz and exploring Rosenheim with friends. With the next concert in Ljubljana on 4th June I was soon obliged to recommence my land journey and move on.
The sun rose at 04:55 in Rosenheim, and three hours later I was also on the move. The train journey from Rosenheim to Salzburg was firm but fair. However, this was as far as my luck held. Connecting with a southbound train to Ljubljana I was seated behind several Canadian travellers with very little idea of what is considered appropriate conversation in a train carriage. F-bombs and Jeff-bombs all over the place. This was tiresome alone, but the noise of being positioned between two teenage school trips was appalling. I was glad to arrive in Ljubljana and find a welcoming team, clourful customers and great sounding venue at Prucek.
I played the first few songs in the garden to catch the audience before reeling them in to the main room. Some were lost on the way but most remained to enjoy an extended 1 hours 30 minutes of music. My longest set of the tour. I was particularly flattered when on top of CDs being sold, someone asked for the set list to take home. Best of all, when I found that the communal room I was booked into at the hostel was completely empty on my arrival after the concert, my joy can be imagined.
The following morning I awoke with no little confusion as during the night I had somehow forgotten I was sleeping in a bunk bed. Eventually I rose, positioned my ring dial at the open window to gain the time of day and made my way to the station. On to Leibnitz and Graz!
My journey from Ljubljana to Leibnitz was a pleasant one, stopping at 31 intermediate stations along the way. By taking such a route Stella and I were treated to the sights and sounds of provincial Slovenia. The train stopped seemingly at random by tumble down barns, solitary cafe bars, rows of bushes or waiting busses. Out of these barns, bars, bushes and busses would come farm hands, business men with suitcases, men and women ready for a night out, children of all ages with and without adults, pets, travellers and the occasional musician.
As Stella got some well-deserved rest, I spent a few happy hours taking in the only thing in Leibniz worth seeing: The Habana Cocktail Bar and Lounge. Here I waited for fellow musician Louis Romegoux and his wife. They had kindly offered me a berth upon their vessel, that is to say, a bed within their house. A prospect to which I was looking forward to immensely. Louis has a fine collection of ale, a fine taste in music and a fine galley of a snug which he calls 'the pub'. Here we sat and sampled music and ale until late hours. There would have been an additional pleasure but we had no papers and no success rolling cigarettes with cooking paper.
The next morning I awoke (which I am always pleased about), made my ablutions in the guest toilet and set a course for Linz and the final show. Once I arrived in Linz I dressed and went immediately to the tourist information. I said 'this is an emergency, I have four hours to spare in Linz and I need something of interest to do!'. The woman behind the desk apologised and explained that she hadn't heard of anything like that, but I could leave my bags in a locker and walk around for a while until something comes up. This sounded perfect and exactly the type of thing I had in mind.
In a matter of just a few hours I was standing in Smaragd finishing a quick sound check. Linz has always given me great audiences and my third visit to Smaragd was no different. A full front room with lots of friendly and familiar faces including Christoph and Elisa from Subtext Blog. In my pursuit of tone and perfection my zeal outlasted my guitar strings and left two noble wires dangling and twanging from trusted Stella before the second to last song was over. I was forced to halt the performance as advertised and compete the set with an improvised number on just four strings.
With a dull thud and sharp twang of my broken strings the long land journey was ended. I am back in Vienna and thankful for my merciful deliverance. I can only reflect on a fantastic, tiring time and sleep for two days straight. I am vanquished!
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I would like to thank everyone who came to the concerts and especially those who drove out of their way to do so. I also want to thank Jörg, Sandra, Louis, Petra and Angela for your lifts, hospitality and support. Thanks to the venues, Thomas from Firle Tanz, Zizi and Anja at Plan B, Sasa and Adi at Prulcek and Adi at Smaragd.