Part of the fun of solo travel is having the freedom to make up your plans as you go along. You can set a loose itinerary, all the while knowing that something else might come up that you’d rather do, and voilà, plans change.
Another part of the fun? Talking to fellow train passengers en route to a new city. I was on the way to Vienna from Berlin, and my seatmate struck up conversation with me. I told him how I’d just been in Germany for five weeks and spent an unforgettable three weeks at a medieval castle. I told him I had made some wonderful friends, but I was glad to be on my own again and planned to spend my time wandering aimlessly in Vienna.
He asked if I like chocolate, and of course, I replied yes. You must try to the famous Sacher-Torte, he said. Go to the Hotel Sacher, you will love it.
I took his suggestion to heart, because what more valuable travel recommendation is there than one coming from a local?
However. I had no idea how fancy the Hotel Sacher Vienna was. Also, somehow I had traveled to Europe at age 23 with no dressy clothes in my backpack at all. No dressy shoes, just some hiking boots and Doc Marten flip-flops. My tan North Face pants that I’d bought in Stockholm were going to have to do.
I was beyond intimidated, beyond embarrassment at my lack of proper attire. Full of nerves, I said to myself Well, this is it, it’s going to be fine, just walk in there like you belong and order the damn cake.
And that’s what I did, despite my hiking boots. I walked into this luxury hotel and asked to be seated in the café. All the while my cheeks burned, my hands shook, and my eyes darted all around me, taking in my surroundings while trying to avoid the hostess’ gaze.
This is one of the first times I ate in a sit-down restaurant by myself. I was in the center of the room and didn’t have a book or a phone to keep me occupied. I probably wrote down a few notes in my tiny spiral notebook. I mostly people watched and tried to be as present as possible while I waited for my Sacher-torte to arrive.
Of course, the chocolate cake was fantastic. I savored it as best I could, and didn’t even think to photograph it until I had already had a few bites:
Also, I felt terribly self-conscious about even using my camera in such a high-class setting that I took the picture very quickly, so of course it turned out blurry.
But it didn’t matter. I have a blurry picture of a renowned Viennese chocolate cake in an impressive hotel that was recommended to me by an Austrian on the train. I did this incredibly intimidating thing even though I knew I stood out from the rest of the patrons. Nobody cared but me. I was still served. I was treated like everyone else.
And I walked out of the Hotel Sacher Vienna smiling, in awe of my audacity. That’s not something that happens everyday.
This post is H for Hotel Sacher, part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Yesterday I featured a photo essay of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and the day before that was all about my ferry ride across Puget Sound in Seattle. Thanks for following along!