However you look at it, we are the lucky ones. Anyone who stays at such a lovely hotel as the Park Hyatt, Vienna, should consider the same. This is high end luxury and should never be taken for granted. Occasional reminders appear, as this morning, a particularly emaciated young girl comes up to Mark and I outside, begging for money.
Vienna airport is not far from the city so it’s one of the better ‘hubs’. A sort bus ride to the plane and we were airborne and ‘en croute’ once more. Touchdown in Ljubljana and Goran’s team ‘A’ met us airside and whisked us through beautiful countryside to the venue that from a distance, looks more like a clam than an arena. As we drove in, I had a flashback to Fish and Chips. That’s what Dave and team prepared in catering the last time we were here in May 2013.
Arriving as we do, in plenty of time before sound check, Steve in catering led me to the huge, unused space below the venue as there was some interesting graffiti on the concrete walls. This space must have been planned as a car park but it had clearly never been completed and looks to have been untouched for a long while. Being careful where I stepped, I wandered the eerie space taking photos. Sound check was next up, then a ‘small’ bite in catering (Schnitzel) then a show to an audience that were up for it from the word go. It seemed to us that the average age was lower and as a consequence, there was noticeable, youthful exuberance. We had an absolute blast up there and didn’t want to leave.
Ljubljana airfield is remote and late at night, there aren’t many people on duty. It seemed pretty deserted. When we pulled up in our post-show black Mercedes convoy, the gates opened as if automatically and our tarmac escort arrived swiftly. With luxury of ramp-access, still in stage clothing, we boarded the WAJOJ (White Asparagus Jet Of Joy) still buzzing from the intense Slovenian reception at the gig. When our pilot closed the plane doors, he took his seat and with tower permission, thrusted forward. The twin engines roared a small percentage of their 8,500lbs of thrust (each) and the plane lurched violently, enough for half of the band to spill our drinks onto the carpet. We all knew it was caused by something unusual and sure enough, the pilot confirmed that one, or a part of one of the ‘chocs’ was left in front of the undercarriage. Cockpit safety systems showed there was no apparent damage and we continued our exit from Slovenia unhindered.
A day off in Vienna followed, and for me and Alex (team ‘B’ lead driver) it was golf at the beautiful Schloss Schönborn Golf Club. What a beautiful setting, the only issue was the heat. It was 35 degrees Celsius. We used buggies, conserving our energy all the way round and by the time Alex dropped me at the hotel, the band were convening for another Schnitzel-fest round the corner. I showered and donned the lightest Hawaiian shirt and joined the party. It definitely is the thing to eat here and we demolished plates of it before word of an Irish bar session round the corner came from Mike. Old friends of his were in town and the bar was only 5 minutes walk away. Guinness flowed.. After-band dinner sessions don’t come any better. The Bodhran player let me have a play and before you could say “fiddle de dee” I was initiated into the folk world, well that’s what it felt like. The funny thing is, the session carried on in ANOTHER Irish pub round the corner. Both pubs are within 2 blocks of our hotel. As I write, the session continues elsewhere, a 5 minute cab ride, another Irish bar, deep into the night.
Thanks to John McCusker, Graeme Blevins and Boštjan Pilej for additional images