Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Places in Europe I love 

As you can tell from the previous posts, I really did enjoy myself in Milan and Como. It's odd to me that Milan is not seen as a travel destination by many, though certainly it's a comfortable place. One walk through the Galleria did this for me, though finding a little cafe on Verdi Street to have a collection of Hollywood trivia was really enlightening in this way. The owner seemed happy to be found by us. You do NOT get this in Eastern Europe.

But Douglas Muir mentions another favorite place that I literally stumbled into many years ago: the Billa Supermarket.
In addition to the usual supermarket stuff, it has cold shelves full of salads and sushi, an icebox full of smoothies, and a deli that makes sandwiches to order. All fresh and tasty, and less than half what it will cost at one of the overpriced eateries on the departure level or out by the gates.
It's been awhile since I've had to lay over out by the airport -- if you live in Minnesota, you usually fly through Amsterdam or Frankfurt, not Vienna -- but I have a real love affair with Austrian Airlines that began with the Billa Supermarket. I was going to Slovakia and Hungary in 1993, then circling back through Vienna and up to Prague later in the month. The bags coming over from Dulles got lost, so all I had was my backpack; I was going not to Bratislava but a small town about fifty km east of there, where there was an old castle that was the Slovak Academy of Sciences. I had finished detailing the bags to the airline and was trying to find where my compatriots were hiring cars to go to Slovakia, and I ran into this market. All the things I absolutely needed for the next two days were there, including those sandwiches. (Being vegetarian in a Slavic country is no fun, so I had them make three sandwiches to go.) Eighty euros later, I was ready. Amazingly, the bags arrived two days later; I was walking outside the castle and watched a slow red truck wind up the road, with Austrian Air markings on it.

Every time I get caught with a layover at the Vienna airport since then, I hit that supermarket for the same sandwich. And I've rewarded the nice van that brought my bags into the Slovak countryside with business for its airline as often as I can.