Tuesday, 7 May 2013

From Old Manila to Vienna (Willkommen in Wien Part I)

If you've read my previous post prior to this trip, I took a well-deserved break away from my work desk, my sofa (my piece entitled The Occasional Couch Potato will brief you on what a sofa has got to do with my time-out), and British weather. The latter doesn't need much explaining; if you live in the UK you'd also want to run away from the weather as much as you can, which is practically nearly all the time.

I've been moaning about the sun and the sand since coming back from the Philippines. But since it was Mr. Tattler's birthday, he gets to exercise his right to decide. His is on an annual basis, mine's every full moon. Besides I haven't seen a big chunk of touristy Europe yet, which is a sin if you are in Europe.

Old Manila I Never Knew
I have a stark fascination for all things related to WWI and WWII, be it about a country that's been embroiled in the conflict and eventual disaster, the warped ideology that started it all, the man behind the ideology, architectural war destruction remnants, or individual stories of pain and triumph that show exactly who the casualties of war are.

 I must have lived in that period and reborn in the late 70's. Yesterday is one of my favourite TV channels. I get nostalgic over black and white original war footages even if my own parents weren't even born then. I imagine looking like the woman in the  below photo (meaning dressed up like this woman did), but darker, with a more snub nose, and straight hair curled to near extinction.

I'm not a Manila native but spent 17 years of my life from early teens to my late 20's in that part of the Philippines. I really believe that my awe and hunger for European architecture and culture stems from the fact that I didn't witness the best of the old city due to the annihilation Manila suffered during WWII.

We were continents away from Europe where the war ensued but the damage to Manila was equivalent to Stalingrad and in one Yesterday feature film that discussed the beginning and end of the war, Manila was listed as the second most devastated city next to Warsaw. 
File:Manila Walled City Destruction May 1945.jpg
source: wikipedia.org
 Aerial view of Old Manila in May 1945
source: fyi09.wordpress.com

source: pinoyshooter.org
San Miguel, Manila

Manila was once considered the Orient's international melting pot, fusing Asian and European (mainly Spanish and eventually early American) intercultural influences. European style architecture hosted by universities, churches, convents, monasteries, and government buildings did not stand the carpet bombing. They had to be demolished to make way for modern American infrastructure. How the likes of Warsaw and Berlin managed to restore their architectural heritage while we quickly embraced modernisation was probably indicative of how the Philippine government then and subsequent ones would misappropriate funds or mislay priorities. Very few pre-war buildings have survived and now serve as monuments to our cultural and historical distant past.
source: expatch.org
source: flickr.com

source: trekearth.com
source: hauscapsule.com
source: hauscapsule.com
source: ilovero.tumblr.com
source: facebook.com/Ivan Anthony Henares
  A few of pre-war buildings dotted around Manila, and churches in the Old Walled City of Manila or Intramuros.

source: getintravel.com
Metro Manila today

source: facebook.com
 Metro Manila at night

source: stories.travelista.tv
 Shopping centres around Metro Manila which can rival Dubai's in size and number.

The above photos present a very modern Manila which is a sad contrast to its glamorous architectural past. I have neoteric views about life in general but I'd like my surroundings to retain a certain old world feel. 


European cities would of course have roughly similar architecture. Unique features are subdivided into various periods in European history.

I did not fall inlove with Paris with as much ardour as others fall inlove with some Indian cities. My soul can do enough searching just by sitting quietly in my local park. Or spending a night on my couch. Other European cities have been quite tiresome. The last thing we wanted was another one-sided debate with our French friends as to why English still holds the banner for being the international language. I wouldn't want to take the plane either to another crazy city because I already live in one and I come from one.

Mr Tattler and I have heard of how serene and beautiful Vienna and Salzburg are. To be honest, any excuse to hoard all those miniature toiletry bottles from Boots is enough reason to pack the bags. At least for me. It's The Sound of Music for Mr. T.

Vienna has approximately 6.514 million less inhabitants than London and New York. Mr Tattler has read that there are more Viennese in their Zentralfriedhof (central cemetery) than the ones living and breathing in Vienna. The city has roughly 80,000 more people than Manila but my stress when travelling in the latter is magnified 80,000 times more
Our base u-bahn station: Pilgramgasse
A perspective of the Viennese underground; encircled are Pilgramgasse, Stephansplatz which serves the city centre and Landstraße where the airport train (similar to Heathrow Connect) takes you to the airport in 16 minutes.

London Underground is as straightforward but as there are more lines to negotiate and more people to rub elbows with, it does feel more like an Olympic hurdle. Rush hour in Vienna was equivalent to 11am on Piccadilly Line in London (not sure what the equivalent is in NY), and U4 where Pilgramgasse runs, is one of the busiest lines as it goes westwards to Schönbrunn where the world-famous Schönbrunn Palace is located. 

Trains arrived exactly every 5 minutes. We saw how the digits on the info board precisely changed down to the last minute. Their reputation for efficiency didn't let us down. 

Stephansplatz station at rush hour. It serves the main tourist belt, the equivalent of which is Piccadilly/Oxford Circus/Bond St. stations in London.
 Look at the above photo where turnstiles are not a main feature in the train station. We noticed that passengers went through with or without validating their tickets. Meaning you can get on the train without paying and no one will know because no one checks. We didn't risk it though. It would be embarrassing for two British tourists to get caught not paying the single trip €2 fare just because it looked like we could get away with it. But maybe the Austrians would've pardoned us when they find out how expensive it is to use London's public transportation and that's why we were trying to save while in Vienna.

In London, the cheapest oyster single tube ticket is £2.10 and you can only use it within zone 1. The same zone will set you back £116.80 for a monthly travel card. I didn't mean to be nosy (well, just a little) but a woman ahead of me in the queue (there were only the two of us) paid €45 for a monthly card which I assumed was valid for all u-bahn stops. That's a massive difference!

Magazines on some u-bahn carriages. We didn't see any left on the seats.
 It was 27-29 degrees Celsius when we arrived last week. We left London behind at 15. As what a friend once said, she'll pay for warm weather. We were getting our money's worth on the first day.   

It was an orchestra of snores on the plane for the 6am flight to Vienna. Had to catch up on some sleep. Next post, I will take you with me to see and hear the sights and sounds of Vienna and Salzburg.

Danke schön for reading!


  1. wait a minute - they dont check tickets and have no turnstiles? i have never been to vienna but isn't it a major city? and magazines? do they serve ice water as well? that is incredible - i cant wait to see for myself.

    it is really sad about the destruction of manila - i am sure there were so many gorgeous buildings. hopefully there might be a gem of a town that still has some heritage buildings both native and from the colonial time and they might put it under a unesco heritage site? I look forward to part 2!

    1. Yeah, for a major city it was a surprise not to have turnstiles. There were also no u-bahn staff roaming. I think the Austrians are not piss-takers so the government doesn't feel the need for uniformed staff to check on passengers.

      Occasionally, some validated their tickets. I didn't see the point. Mr T and I didn't validate ours. We just bought them just in case we get checked. Or in Mr T's case, he's just being honest. The Southeast Asian in me was being naughty.

      I don't remember the Metro in Paris coz I used it only once, but in Lyon, there was like a glass panel and I was so scared I'd get caught in between and I'd be halved in public. Hahaha. GO and see Vienna!

      The remaining heritage sites/buildings are outside Manila. You have to travel far out, which I intend to do. It would have been nice to see the golden days.

      Part II soon :)

  2. Before reading this post I had no idea all this happened in Manila, and I don't even live that far away. The destruction of it all is really such a shame; as if we needed more concrete buildings and skyscrapers hahah. It really struck me while reading your post how little I actually knew about the world, that was a pleasant eye-opener for me!

    Visiting Vienna would be dream! I have never set foot in a European country but I've been dying to go!
    I'll be looking forward to your next update! :D


    1. Thanks for dropping by Winnie!

      I think that's one reason why we love to connect to others who write about their experiences and thoughts--we like to learn more about the world around us through others' eyes and mind. I'm very pleased that you treated it as an eye-opener :)

      You MUST come to Europe! You'll have to visit the usual suspects such as London, Paris, and Milan and then branch out :) I'd love to do a proper Asian tour on the other hand. One day.

      Keep you posted for part II :D



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