|VIENNA 24 - THE SECTION RALLY TO AUSTRIA
29 August to 7 September 2008
|So named following my experience at the end of the CSS rally to Mülheim, Germany in September 2006. Fred Fruth joined the Mosel Rally for the last few days but when the participants left for home Fred, Kate and I drove across Germany and Austria to his home in Baden. We stayed with Fred and Monika until the following Thursday and that evening went to Vienna Westbahnhof and loaded the Corniche on to a train. We awoke early the next morning at Düsseldorf station and drove to Dunkerque, caught the ferry to Dover and were home in less than 24 hours! A distance of around 1,000 miles!|
|OBB train - Austrian Railways.|
|In June 2007 I proposed the idea of a Vienna rally to the Section Committee and to Fred who immediately offered every possible help should it transpire. An interest flyer went out in August 2007 and this produced a very positive response, so 'Vienna 24' was born. Over the next fourteen months Fred (BW2) and I (BW1) made enquiries and plans for ferries, trains, hotels, venues etc. The flyer/entry form went out in November and deposits were received from around seventy-five members.|
|In 2008 the ferry booking was paid in Sterling and forward currency was purchased (at advantageous rates) with some of the deposit monies. Unfortunately OBB (Austrian Railways) could not accommodate us on the proposed dates and so these had to be moved forward. This created advantages and disadvantages; it meant that some members were able to arrange their work and other rally schedules more effectively and that we could now attend the last performance of the Baden operetta. On the minus side we incurred a re-booking fee from Norfolkline Ferries and we would now be motoring to Düsseldorf on a Friday afternoon instead of a Sunday. Rally pens, badges and Display Books were purchased while they were on special offer (BOGOF).|
|Fred's Silver Shadow on loan from KGA.|
|I made a recce in April during which Fred and I followed the draft itinerary including visits to OBB head office, Schönbrunn, Karner & Grossegger (KGA), the Weikersdorf Hotel, Melk and Grafenegg, during which time we obtained maps, leaflets etc. Before and after this both of us were fairly heavily involved in the South of England Riverside Spectacular at Eton but with the SoE out of the way we both progressed with 'Vienna 24' and I made another recce to Baden at the end of July. One task was to visit the local County Council who had indicated that a grant might be available for our 'cultural visit'. Another task was to help persuade the Schönbrunn Palace to allow us to park on 'hallowed ground'. It seemed as if the moment I landed at Vienna International Airport the County Council official and the Schönbrunn manager both went on holiday! Nil desperandum, the recce still kept both of us very busy visiting the Spanish Riding School, the town of Rust, Lake Neusiedl, Casino Baden, Klaus Lorenz (Baden Tourism Director), the Weikersdorf again and also to purchase the motorway charge tickets.
Fred and I were also fortunate enough to have a meeting with Frau Bergermeisterin (affectionally known as Lady Erika) which resulted in Baden being our main and most generous sponsor.
|Spirit of Ecstacy painting.|
|Production on the rally Display Book continued. David and Anne Steel had made a quick dash (as you do!) to the Düsseldorf AutoZug and then composed detailed directions from Dunkerque. Fred and his friend Heinz had carefully driven over the projected tour routes and then prepared all the 'Tulip' directions by hand. These were posted to me at the farm and I put them onto the computer ready for printing and copying.
We had had a couple of cancellations but were still around seventy-three members and thirty-three motor cars. Derek Lord rang to say he would not be able to attend for health reasons and so I contacted Doug Skipper who took all of ten seconds to say he would like to join the rally. In the first week of August my printer and copier were working extremely hard and just after I finished around 2,000 sheets for the Display Books a very disappointed Keith Jay rang to say that, he too, would not be able to join us for health reasons.
After a few reprints Kate and I collated and stuffed the sheets, maps, leaflets and tickets into the Display Books with help from Jean and Ralph Taylor. With the envelopes these weighed out at 505 grams and so rather than take a chance on the postage, applied stamps up to the 'Large Letter' weight band of 750 grams. What I did not appreciate was that if a 'Large Letter' is over 353mm long it becomes a 'Packet'. Consequently around half the envelopes were surcharged, many took a week to deliver and one did not arrive at all! Four further Display Books were compiled and sent out, just in case.
|Friday 29 August dawned early (as it also does in August!) and the majority of the motor cars arrived at Dover Eastern Docks (four motor cars had sailed the day before). Tony and Aileen Spencer did make it to the Dock gates but left a message to say that with severe chest pains Tony would have to go to hospital and they would not be joining us. Fortunately the pains turned out to be from recent over exertion and not long lasting. Tony did send an email to the Weikersdorf with the good news but unfortunately instead of using the suffix .at for Austria, he used .au. I guess his email is still floating around Australian cyberspace!
The Norfolkline ferry gave us an excellent crossing to Dunkerque and we all made our way out of Port Rapide. Unfortunately at the roundabout onto the motorway our slip road was barricaded and closed. This left us no choice but to head in the opposite direction to Düsseldorf - a great start! A Friday afternoon drive on the European motorways proved to be the anticipated challenge.
|Awaiting loading at Dover.|
|The DB (German Railways) staff were very helpful and held the train until all bar one rally motor car had arrived, but then we had to leave. Brian and Pat Wardle telephoned the hotel the next day to say that they had given up trying to catch the train and would be motoring to Baden - what fortitude?
Some of the sleeping compartments on the train were minimal (also described as cupboards!) and it is difficult to get a good night's sleep on a moving train - it was just an overnight rest. However the alternative would have been to drive an additional 600 miles with at least one overnight stop and impose considerable wear and tear on driver and motor car each way. By using the train we saved four days' holiday and at least £40.00 costs per motor car.
|Loaded at Düsseldorf.|
|We arrived in the centre of Vienna on Saturday morning to be met by BW2 and some of his personal friends. To ease congestion, five motor cars were dispatched (with an Austrian lead Club motor car) direct to the, previously arranged and paid for, hand car wash near Baden. BW1 led the next small convoy to the hotel followed by other small convoys led or guided by one of our Austrian friends.
After booking in, some other motor cars went to the hand car wash. This was carried out by professional valeters at the commercial premises of the Lenardin Coach & Bus Company as environmental rules would not allow commercial washing of cars on the hotel premises. A couple of our motor cars had an adverse reaction to being washed and one needed to be repolished (which was carried out immediately, at no cost, by the valeters). I personally witnessed the washing of my own and two other Club motor cars and the results were nothing less than first class. I thought I had arranged a worthwhile service for members following 600 miles transportation on a train (even more worthwhile had the weather been inclement) - however, it seems it was only appreciated by a few members.
|Unloading at Vienna Westbahnhof.|
|A conducted tour of Baden, particularly for the ladies, was arranged for the afternoon. In the evening we gathered in the hotel lobby for a drinks reception and a welcome from the hotel manager Michael Pohn. Our evening meal was provided at the Ceidl Winery, almost too far to walk both ways and so our own RR shuttle service was devised and executed.
Sunday saw us travelling into the city centre by Lenardin coach to see a fascinating performance at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna followed by a little sight seeing and then return to Baden. Coaches again took us to the Summer Arena for the last performance of the season of Franz Lehar’s operetta 'Schon ist die Welt'. Some members took advantage of the excellent weather and walked back to the hotel where we all enjoyed a late buffet meal.
|The Spanish Riding School of Vienna.|
|After the planned break from driving, the Lake Tour on Monday consisted of really pleasant driving on good quality A roads, special parking in the Rathus Platz of the 'stork' town of Rust and a Champagne reception in the garden of Catherine Sica's gallery.|
|Rust Rathus Platz.||Rally participants in the Gallery garden.|
|Moving further on, lunch was taken in the lakeside Da Marco Restaurant and followed by a boat trip with another Champagne reception tasting the products of Peter Szigeti of Sektkellrei. The evening dinner was by the generous invitation of Casino Baden with some of our motor cars on display outside their splendid premises.
Tuesday was the Wachau Tour, a drive to the impressive Melk Abbey, parking within the inner courtyard and with a conducted tour of this incredible Baroque Abbey.
|We drove on alongside the Danube River to the Palace of Grafenegg where we were welcomed by the owner Prinz Tassilo von Metternich-Sandor. During our picnic lunch the Prinz introduced Dr Edward Habsburg aka His Imperial Highness Edward, Archduke of Austria, who gave us an interesting talk on some of the Palace history. Our evening meal was taken at the Märzweiller winery, just too far to walk both ways and so a coach was used again. Our guest for the evening was the Baden Director of Tourism, Klaus Lorenz, who very kindly presented Rob and Jane Pedler with a small gift to celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary on this very day.
Wednesday was our 'free' day with members exploring Baden, the Vienna Woods, Vienna city by tram or whatever took their fancy. The BWs spent most of the day finalising arrangements for the events past and those to come. Dinner this evening was taken in the hotel.
|The Palace of Grafenegg.|
|Thursday was the Palace Tour. Once again we divided up into small convoys and with the help of our Austrian friends (Fred, his family and friends) as guides or leads, drove into Vienna to the Schönbrunn Palace to park on one of the tree lined avenues within the grounds. A private guided tour of the Imperial Apartments had been arranged with one of our groups led by Robert Tidmarsh, an Englishman who came to Vienna in 1972 and since 1974 has been employed at Schönbrunn.|
|We drove on through the city traffic to the Schloss Wilhelminenberg to display our motor cars in front of this impressive building where we were joined by a large number of Austrian members in their Club motor cars. The occasion was the Austrian customer launch of the new Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé by Messrs Karner & Grossegger who not only provided us with a drinks reception and three-course lunch but who had also sponsored the cost of all our rally plaques. Before the Coupé was unveiled we were welcomed by Mr Karner, HE Simon Smith the British Ambassador, and representatives from RRMCL. The planned finger buffet and tea had been combined into the three-course lunch and so with no evening meal planned members feeling hungry made their own arrangements after driving back to the hotel, once again with the help of our guides.|
|The RR Coupé launch.|
|Friday brought a leisurely drive, in small convoys, through the typical landscape of the Helenental Valley of the Vienna Woods. Our destination was the working Cistercian Monastery of Heiligenkreuz, a magnificent complex where we displayed our motor cars in one of the courtyards. After some sight seeing a light lunch (although not so small) was taken in the first floor restaurant. With nothing planned for the afternoon members were free to explore, luxuriate (at the Gingerbread House) or just relax. Our Gala dinner in the hotel that evening was sponsored by the Bürgermeisterin and the City of Baden. The evening began with a drinks reception on the terrace from where members made their way into the covered courtyard which was laid out for us to dine.
At the appointed moment the main gates to the courtyard were opened to reveal BW1's Corniche bringing our host Bürgermeisterin Erika Adensamer to the dinner who was then escorted to the top table by 'Parker'.The Chairman welcomed our host who responded with a very kind speech in excellent English. Tony later presented her with a floral bouquet and a token of our appreciation. May I, on behalf of the ladies, say thank you to Mavala for their generous gift.
|Lady Erica escorted by 'Parker'.|
|Towards the end of the dinner we had a surprise performance from two of the Summer Arena Theatre singers accompanied by the Professor, which was organised by Klaus who unfortunately had gone to Russia on business. The Chairman gave words of thanks to the BWs (which included Kate and Monika) and presented them with engraved Champagne flutes (and a bottle). Fred and Ted duly responded.|
|The Gala dinner.||The BWs and their ladies.|
|Saturday 7 September was a calm day with members free to settle their room accounts, last minute sight seeing/shopping, whatever, and a picnic lunch on the Rosenterrace looking out on to the beautiful rose gardens. Around five o’clock, once again, our Austrian friends led/guided us in small convoys through the Vienna traffic to Westbahnhof where we assembled and then loaded our motor cars onto the train for the return, overnight, journey to Düsseldorf.
Early Sunday morning continental breakfast was served to each compartment and we arrived on time at 7am. The motor cars were unloaded and members made their way to Dunkerque to catch the ferry to Dover. One or two caught the noon sailing, the majority took the 2pm sailing and some the later sailings, which showed the flexibility of Norfolkline for our booking. Rally motor car No 33 made it back from Baden to our territory in only 21 ½ hours!
|The hotel garden and Rosenterrace.|
|Ted Meachem - Section Secretary
On behalf of Fred and myself may I say, again, thank you to all the rally participants for our gifts and also particularly to those who put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) in appreciation of our efforts.
|The BWs at the RR Coupé launch.|
|Last but not least a comment from 'er indoors:
"Sometimes fraught but always enjoyable and fun. Fantastic venues, hotel and weather. Well worth being a 'Vienna 24' widow for fourteen months."
|Photos: Kanchu McAllister / Andrew Honour|