Friday, 20 May 2016

Not doing a lot, except spending some time with naked pensioners of both sexes (this is Austria, remember). And I give Peaky Blinders a plug

Bad Gastein - Day Two

I call it Day Two, but actually it is my third day here in that I arrived at Wednesday lunchtime, so really it is Day Three. However, I am discounting Wednesday because after getting up at 4.30am to get to Stansted airport and arriving here at just after one to be confronted by a surly Austrian workmen doing some kind of repair work to the drive to Pension St Leonhard where I am staying, I retired to the nearest bar I could find for a glass or two of wheat beer. He told me - actually, he swore at me - that he needed at least another hour to get done what he wanted but I gave him two so as not to cross paths with him again.

Trouble was that at my late age in life, two steins (or whatever) of wheat beer at what was pretty much lunchtime knock me sidways and then some. So within minutes of checking in and unpacking, I was crashed out on my bed and sleeping intermittenlty till 7pm. That's when I got undressed and made a night of it. Hence there wasn't much left of Wednesday to qualify as Day One. And that makes yesterday Day One and today Day Two.

Yesterday I went explore around town, although 'town' really does misprepresent Bad Gastein thoroughly. In many ways it reminds me of the towns which established themselves in the South Wales valleys - I lived and worked in a place called Abertillery for a while - and given that space is at a premium, unlike I should imagine from what I've seen in pictures of your average Mid-West town, the folk became adept at somehow utilising every last metre there was. Pension St Leonhard is up a slight hill just of the Bundesstraβe 167 (one for the nerds that, the ‘road buffs’), which is the main road. But almost all of Bad Gastein lies, if you are heading due south, off to your left, but you don’t really see it when you drive past. That’s where I went exploring, and I discovered that nine-tenths of the town is made up of hotels. Here are a few pictures to try to convey what I mean, Oh, and that's not smoke but clouds - the weather hasn't been great.

. . .

I said yesterday that there wasn’t much going on. Well, that is something of an understatement: there’s nothing going on. About 90pc of everywhere is closed to give staff some time off between the end of the winter skiing season and the beginning of the summer walking season. I’m told it all gets slowly back into gear next week. As I said, I don’t mind because all I want to do is exactly fuck all and that is what I am doing. Fuck all. Loads of sleeping, a bit of reading, a bit of watching films and series on Netflix (of which a little more below) and basically chilling out.

Today, for example, I patronised the Felsentherme, a complex of a swimming pool, saunas, Turkish baths and whatever, all based on the apparently healthy giving waters coming down from the mountain. Bad Gastein – the Bad is the giveaway – began life as a spa town with folk coming to take and bath in the waters. Franz Schubert came here apparently, and it was here that he wrote to of his Winterreise songs as well as a Gasteiner Symphonie, which has apparently been lost. (Maybe he just told folk he had written a symphony.)

The notable thing for we buttoned up Brits is that once you get to the sauna area it is nudity all the way – everyone of all ages (though when I was there it was mainly elderly folk) is in their birthday suits and not just in the sauna. And it is suprising just how quickly you get used to it. I have been in a sauna once or twice before (and wore bathing trunks on those occasion) but it is something you can get used to easily and I shall go again. I’m not too sure quite what the health benefits are, but, hey, who gives a fuck?

. . .

As for watching stuff on Netflix, I have been catching up on Peaky Blinders and I have to say it bowled me over. There are some very good TV drama series out there, notably The Sopranos (which more or less set the standard) and Breaking Bad (which I have seen very little of), Boardwalk Empire, Homeland and The Wire. There’s also some real cobblers – can’t say I cared much for Suits. But all were notably US productions and as they seem to have the money, the production values are usually far higher. Our Brit productions, although sometimes reasonable, though often pretty bloody awful, just paled by comparison. But Peaky Blinders has changed all that.

It can stand head and shoulders with the best of them, and, I have to say is perhaps even better than many. It is a gangster series set in Twenties Birmingham and London and convinces at every turn. And one of its most notable features is its soundtrack: it uses contemporary music but they tracks are all of a piece with what is going on. I can highly recommend it. The third series is now being shown on television here in Britain, but I’ve decided to wait until the series is finished and goes to Netflix so I can gorge on it as I have been gorging on the first two series. But now, as they say in other diaries, to bed.

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