WALES AWAY: Slovakia 2024 Part One (The Vienna Bit)

Never mind the Euros, here’s the away friendly in Slovakia. Ish.

Spoiler Alert. Blog features Japanese Psychedelic Stoner Drone, Costa Rican Surf Punk, Austrian Sludge and Herefordshire cider. But not a lot of football. Yet. Or any Slovakia for that matter.

“Four o’clock in the morning, still we cannot sleep,

They say there is no rest for the wicked ones, dear God what this evil that we’ve done?”

I’ll tell you what we’ve bloody done, Mr New Model Army. We’ve got tickets for Wales Away.

At 4am we were en route to Heathrow to fly to Vienna.

“But Wales are playing Gibraltar. In Portugal, then playing Slovakia in Trnava,” I hear you cry. “Why are you going to Vienna?”

Nothing is simple following Wales.

The disappointment at not qualifying for Euro 2024 soon dissipated when a friendly away game in Slovakia was announced. I’ve done Bratislava before and as a rule try to visit different places rather than go back, but it’s a nice little city. And after looking at the city where the game is actually being played, Trnava, we opted to revisit the city with the most amazing food I’ve ever tasted on my travels.

As with our last visit, we decided to fly into Vienna,  which is only a half hour bus ride away from Bratislava.  They are the two closest capital cities in Europe. However, having been through Vienna Airport several times without being anywhere near the city, we decided to go out early and have a couple of nights in this historic city.

Flights were booked, AirBnB booked, and even a little cruise down the Danube to Bratislava was booked. We put up our feet and lifted a glass to congratulate ourselves on a job well done.

Then the FAW announced another poxy friendly, against Gibraltar,  in Portugal,  whilst we were in Vienna.  Nothing is simple following Wales Away. But by jove,  we weren’t going to change our plans. As the song goes, ‘Gibraltar it means nothing to me.’

Our research told us that the Vienna public transport system is very efficient,  so on arrival we bought a 48 hour pass that covers all forms of transport.  It was 18 Euros, just 4 Euros more than a one way express train into the city centre.

The disadvantage of the cheap train is that it has loads of stops and, with everything being in German, we weren’t entirely sure where to get off, but Megan took charge and I think we got it right.

We didn’t see any ticket barriers, anywhere to scan your ticket, or any conductors checking tickets,  so it is possible to just bunk on and off. But presumably if you do get caught the penalty is quite severe, like being tied to a chair and bummed or something. (I hasten to add, I didn’t see any signs saying this, I’m just guessing here.)

Once we got off the train in the city we could have got on the Metro to the nearest stop to our AirBnB, but hey, we’re Welsh,  we’re on holiday,  we decided to walk and find a pub on the way.

We walked past loads of busy restaurants then found a quiet pubby looking place. We grabbed a seat and soon the waiter arrived with the menu. He unapologetically announced that the menu was in German and if we wanted to know what was on it we should bloody well use Google Translatenzie

And do you know what, if you point your camera on your phone at some words in foreign,  Google tells you what is says in English.  What a time to be alive.

After some cheese on bread and some beer we headed to the apartment. When we got there one of Megan’s mates from Amazon was waiting for us with a package.

Things started to get a bit sketchy at this point. We had instructions how to get into the building but not how to get into our room. After wandering around the magnificent but rather tired old building (it was probably rather splendid many years ago) trying to break into other apartments with the front door key, I messaged the host. It turns out ‘the new girl’ had only sent us half the instructions.

Armed with all the information we needed we proceeded to punch in a number of secret codes into bizare electronic keys. I think I know how a safe cracker feels now. That satisfaction of finally getting it right and walking into the vault after dozens of failed attempts.  We weren’t locked out for too many wrong attempts, no alarms went off and no security guards tied us to any chairs.

I’d read that Mission Impossible Five was filmed in Vienna.  I’m sure there was scene where Tom Cruise was also having trouble getting into our flat.

Once in it was quite a magnificent room, again, slightly dated, but not as much as the corridors. It’s got chandeliers and shit.

We didn’t hang about long though,  we were on a mission. After putting up a post on Facebook requesting advice, a friend that lives in Vienna had kindly provided a website with a gig listing.  I’d already spotted that NoFX were playing tonight, I sort of like them. A bit. But not enough to pay €83 to see them. My attention was caught by something else far more interesting on the list. Japanese outfit The Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paradise UFO. They rarely play Europe, and by coincidence  we saw them in the King Arthur pub in Glastonbury last month. Tickets were duly purchased and we headed towards the nearest tram.

Half an hour later we were getting off near a viaduct. All the way down the line the arches underneath had been converted into businesses, including pubs and music venues. We headed into the first one we came to, a place called Rhiz. There was a band setting up and we ordered beers.

When we went to pay we were told they were free. Seeing the puzzled look on our faces the barman said, “are you not with the band?” Honest to the core, we told him no.

“Well, we are not open yet. But I have already poured them so you can pay”.

We got chatting to one of the support band, a hardcore sludge/doom metal band called Forlorn. He seemed like a nice chap and didn’t look like you would expect someone from a doom metal band to look. We found them on Bandcamp and asked if we could buy a CD.

Apparently they only have cassette tapes. I’m not sure what I think about that, it’s a bit hipster but it’s also a cheap and practical DIY thing to do. But who the fuck has got a tape player these days? And I still have nightmares about untangling tapes from cassette heads and trying to rewind them with a pencil.

Unfortunately we were going to miss out on Forlorn, so we bid him farewell and headed in the direction of our venue tonight, Chelsea.

Walking down the railway line we took some photos of a really rough looking derelict pub with a Strongbow sign outside. I looked up to the sign above the door and just about made out Che***a. Turns out it wasn’t derelict. This shit hole was the venue for the gig. We loved it. We went in and ordered Strongbow.

The venue slowly filled up and the crowd lapped up the intense heaviosity of this Japanese outfit that have been around since 1995. They have released in the region of two hundred albums, but nobody is sure exactly how many. Not even the band.

The dive venue, the extremeness of the band and the crowd of freaks, together with cider on tap, in Vienna, made for a memorable night out.

But we were not going to be satisfied with that. Half way through their signature tune, Pink Lemonade, which we knew from last month would be the last, we headed back to Rhiz to catch the headline band, a Surf Punk band from Costa Rica called Los Crveles.

They hit the stage wearing gimp type  wrestling masks and took the age old sound of Surf Punk up a notch, giving it a hardcore shouty edge. I absolutely loved em.

All good things must come to an end though, and we eventually threw ourselves at the mercy of the tram system and got out somewhere near ish out flat and had a late night feast of noodles from a street food stall.

We managed to get back in flat OK.  Turns out the trick is to be pissed.  Then sat watching TV, which appears to be stuck on a channel showing old Buster Keaton silent movies.

And so it begins.  Wales Away. Can’t beat it.