The Week I Got Fined By Austrian Ticket Officers

This Week:

  • A day in the life backpacking through Europe.
  • Getting a heft fine in Vienna.
  • Why is it so hard to find art galleries in Vienna??

September 2023

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Where In The World Was I?

  • Prague, Czechia
  • 🚅
  • Vienna, Austria
  • 🚅
  • Innsbruck, Austria

Live Travel Map 🌎

The City Of Unexpected Beauty (Prague, Czechia)

For some reason I think I had some kind of negative impression of the Czech Republic (or maybe more accurately, not an overly positive one).

Not that I had heard anything about it, but more like, well, it’s not like Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, etc. – all the places I’ve heard about most often.

So when I decided to come here, it was mostly because I had heard about it from someone in a hostel recently and it was the next major city on my way to Austria/Switzerland.

Boy am I glad I came!

  • The food was all a little bit cheaper then everywhere else in Europe but still high quality. They also use the Czech Koruna instead of the Euro.
  • There were numerous great cafes and coffee shops super close to the hostel I stayed in.
  • And everywhere I walked, the architecture was beautiful! I thought Prague might be similar to a lot of what I saw in Berlin (plain, simple buildings), but I was very wrong.

A Day In The Life

I haven’t really gone out as often as the earlier part of my travels, so in the past couple weeks I’ve more or less settled into a nice daily routine.

  • 9-10am (depending on the night prior) – wake up
    • Grab phone, wallet, journal and head outside.
    • Walk around and to a coffee shop/cafe, getting sun in my eyes to wake up for 5-10min.
  • 9:30am/10am-10:30am/11:30am – coffee shop
    • Most normal days I’ll just get a single or double espresso.
    • Some days I’ll end up at a cafe with a menu and will order some food.
    • I’ll just sit and drink my coffee, looking out the window, watching people walk by, watching cars and trams drive by.
    • If anything comes to mind, I’ll do some journaling (physical) or document some thoughts/ideas (digital), otherwise I’ll usually just sit and wake up.
  • Lunch – some days I’ll head to a restaurant/brunch place for lunch, some days I’ll just go to a supermarket, some days I’ll go to a bakery and just get some baked goods.
  • Afternoon – Photography Walk
    • I’ll grab my camera and head towards the city, exploring, wandering, and going to any cool destinations along the way.

(I posted a ton more than these, so check out the Photography page!

  • Late afternoon/Down time – Parks, hostels, chilling
    • Sometimes along my walks I’ll sit in a park for a bit and chill, other times after my walk I’ll come back to the hostel and chill.
    • I’ll usually get some Duolingo in (I’m still learning French! J’aime manger une baguette au parc avec mon sac ðŸĪŠ)
    • Or watch some YouTube videos back at the hostel.
  • Dinner
    • In the evening I’ll head back out to a restaurant for dinner, doing a bit more walking around in the evenings.

It’s been a fairly simple travel style, but I’ve liked it. There’s already quite a lot of stimulation from walking around the cities, being in completely new countries every couple of days, and taking in the architecture and views.

And as I’ve briefly mentioned before, I can go on tours, go to museums, and eat local cuisine all when I’m older and still have it be just as memorable. I don’t need to do it all. That’s my mindset.

Exploring Prague

I spent a lot of time walking around, taking photos, and just exploring – what I’ve typically been doing in most of these cities.

The best baguette I’ve ever had in my life:

Crunchy and firm outside, soft and chewy inside.

I would live in Europe solely for the baguettes.

The astronomical clock in the town square at the top of the hour.

Lol.

Look ,sure, it was cool, the skeleton pulled a string which opened a door and rang a bell, but jeez people 😂

Foooooood

🚅 to Austria

Off To A Rough Start (Vienna, Austria)

The Most Expensive Metro I’ve Ever Taken

Oof okay…

So I’m on the train to Vienna and I was looking at 2 different hostels. One was walking distance to the train station but further from the city. The other was 2 metro stops from the train station but closer to the city, so I went with that one. No biggie.

It would have been maybe a 30 minute walk (mid-day) versus 15-20 minutes taking the metro a quick 2 stops. I thought about walking to see part of the city, but I knew I’d explore later, so I decided to just take the metro.

I got off the train and headed towards the connection to the metro line.

On my walk there I was downloading Vienna’s public transit app so that I could buy tickets on my phone while I stayed in Vienna rather than needing to go to the physical ticket machines all the time.

I did this in Berlin and Prague and it worked really well.

By the time I downloaded the app, I was just about at the escalator down to the platforms. At the top of the escalator I passed by a little ticket validator machine on a post used to validate physical tickets.

See in Vienna, Berlin, and Prague, I’ve noticed they don’t use turnstiles like everywhere else I’ve been. Instead they just trust that you purchase and validate your tickets.

There’s nothing physically stopping you from walking on to the metro without a ticket. Whereas in places like Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, you physically need to present your ticket in order for the gate to open and let you in.

I opened up the app was browsing the different ticket options – one way (“started at” 1.20₮), 24hrs (~8₮), 48hrs (~14₮), 72 hrs (~17₮).

I thought, I’ll probably end up buying a 24hr or 48hr but let’s just do a one way for now.

I tapped “buy ticket” and it jumped to 2.4₮ (“with no discounts” 🙄), and I immediately thought man, 2.4₮, really? for just 2 stops? That’s a lot.

At this point I’m on the escalator down to the platforms.

I tap the “next” button and it takes me to a screen to log in or create an account. I search for a “purchase without account” option (which I did in Prague), but nothing, so I hit create account.

It takes me to this form to fill in my email, create a password, give my full address, etc. and I’m thinking ugh really? It’s going to take me longer to fill out this form than ride my 2 stops.

And by now I’ve reached the base of the escalator and look over to my right to see the exact train that I need to take, literally doors open, 15 feet away.

I look in the windows to see if there’s anyone official-looking that would be validating tickets…

And I get on.

Now here’s where some context is important.

See like I said, this system was the same in Berlin and Prague. But the difference was, I bought my tickets every single trip in all of Berlin and Prague and never once needed to validate them, or even saw anyone validating tickets.

In fact, one of the buses I took in Berlin was pretty funny.

I buy my ticket on my phone and it looks like a QR code. I walk in the front of the bus and see a little QR code reader, so I hold up my phone to the reader and stand there for a second while nothing happens – no beep, no light, nothing.

So I show my phone to the driver and say in broken German/English “Ist good?” and he says something in German while he shakes his head up sort of up and down and gives me this look like, “dude, you’re the first person to ever show me their ticket, just get on” 😂

So as I’m standing there on the metro, I’m thinking, well if it’s anything like Berlin or Prague, they’re chill and I’ll be fine. I’m literally going 2 metro stops. It would take me longer to fill out the form to create an account than ride this journey. Once I check in to the hostel and set everything down, I’ll create my account and buy my 24hr or 48hr pass.

Maybe <2 minutes later, my stop approaches and I get off.

I head towards the stairs and start making my way up.

I’m thinking to myself, man I can’t believe I didn’t buy a ticket for the metro. That’s the first time I’ve ever done that…

I get to the top of the stairs and can see sunlight from outside of the metro station when I see what looks like this big group of people blocking the way out.

I see some normal-looking people with lanyards around their neck and everyone coming up from the subway is talking with them before moving through.

I’m thinking, what is going on? Do I need to show my passport or something? Nah that doesn’t make any sense.

Shitttttttt they must be checking tickets.

My stomach drops. I don’t have a ticket.

What am I gonna do?

Can I just quickly walk past? Nah.

I pull out my phone and open back up the transit app to that form I left open to quickly purchase a ticket.

I’m far enough away from the people with lanyards on (in the corner by the stairs) and there are enough people there that nobody has made eye contact with me yet.

My hands start shaking.

I’m frantically trying to input details into this form and decide to sit down on the stairs.

I get maybe 2 form fields in when I hear someone speaking German really close to me and this man walks up to me.

He repeats something in German. I have absolutely ZERO idea what he says, so I say “do you speak English?”

He says something else in German then says “you can’t buy your ticket here, you need to show ticket.”

I respond “ohhh sorry… I was… I just… I had to fill out the account form.”

He says sternly “Give me ID.”

I hand over my license and he says “You need ticket to ride metro. 105₮.”

I respond “Ohhhh I’m sorry! I didn’t know… Can I just buy a ticket now?”

He responds, kind of looking around, as if he’s sick of my sh*t, “No you need ticket before riding metro. 105₮.”

He brings me over to the ticket validator machines where everyone else is.

I say, trembling, “I’m sorry, it was a mistake. Can I just buy a ticket now?”

I’m thinking back to the entrance to the metro, how I didn’t see any ticket machines (because I was downloading the transit app) and say “where do you buy the tickets?” He turns around and points to a machine literally right behind him.

He says “I’m writing you a ticket. 105₮ Do you want to pay cash or card?” as he scribbles on this note that looks kind of like a check book.

In my panicked state, I feel like I have no more options, I tried being surprised, playing dumb and not knowing, I tried negotiating, I tried admitting fault.

At this point in the crowd of people, this girl walks up kind of next to me, completely defeated holding up her arms like ðŸĪ·â€â™‚ïļ, and goes straight to one of the ticket officers and says “I don’t have a ticket.” 😂

I say, disheartened, “How much is it?”

“105₮. Cash or card?”

Fuuuuuuuuuck man. I still couldn’t believe it.

105₮ to ride a metro 2 stops.

Totally defeated, I hold up my phone and tap the terminal.

He gives me back my ID, hands me the ticket and says this includes one metro trip.

Against my habit and urge of saying thank you after a transaction, I just take the paper, turn, and walk away.

What started as just being in shock as to what happened slowly turn into frustration and anger as I made the rest of the ~10min walk to my hostel.

I wanted to just move past it, but my mind wouldn’t let me.

What if I just ran past them?

I should’ve just waited on the platform while I bought a ticket.

Why did I sit down on the stairs? What was I expecting to happen?

I should’ve walked back down the stairs, back on the metro, bought a ticket, then got off at the next stop.

105₮. One hundred and five? Freakin’ seriously?

I tried to fight it rationally, but I was just overcome with emotions. I knew that my ideal self, a strong man, would be able to compartmentalize emotions – let them happen, feel them, then move on and not let them affect the rest of my trip. But I couldn’t help worrying that I’m just gonna have a sour taste in my mouth of Vienna this entire trip.

I had no control.

Seriously Vienna? This is how you want to start your reputation? With a fine?

Does this guy even like his job? Like com’on.

Why me? What about all the other people who didn’t have tickets in all of Berlin and Prague?

It’s not fair. I was a good boy ALL of Berlin and Prague. I bought all my tickets. And literally the ONE time I try to just go 2 stops without a ticket, I get a fine.

In the past when things like this have happen, going on runs have helped, so after dropping my stuff at the hostel I grabbed my headphones and went on a run to a park. Fortunately the park had some calisthenics bars so I got a little workout in too.

On my run/walk back I was still thinking about it, but being physically tired helped to get my mind off of it.

There were 2 other notable thoughts:

  • Will this matter when I’m 80 years old? No. So it shouldn’t matter now.
    • This is something I pulled from Alex Hormozi. I realized that besides the act of paying the fee, this event won’t actually matter in 1 year, 5 years, of when I’m 80. That perspective shift really helped the most.
  • I felt a lot of fear and helplessness in that situation. I think something about the act of getting in trouble hit me more than the inconvenience of having to pay a fine.
    • I haven’t quite figured out where this has come from, but I do have a couple moments from when I was younger (not quite a baby, maybe elementary school through high school) to pull from. It’s hard to know if those shaped this though.
    • I’ve always tended to be a rule follower, to the point where I think this tendency has been detrimental in some cases. I always get nervous about doing something “wrong” and so pushing against this has been something I’ve been learning to do. So the fact that the one time I don’t follow the metro rules I get fined… I can’t help but laugh… and cry at the same time 😂😭ðŸĪĶ‍♂ïļ

And just for the record, I was planning on setting up my account and buying metro tickets for the rest of my trip once I got to my hostel. It just so happened the timing and context of this one situation and one particular 2-stop trip, I skipped.

Despite all the emotions of this event, I really tried hard to explore Vienna with a blank slate and reset my expectations.

The Courage To Ask

I was at a coffee shop the next morning, sitting outside with my journal and an espresso.

I reflected on the previous days events and thought about life, emotions, and navigating the two.

Mid-way through my journaling, (which, I posted here on Twitter), I looked up to think when this guy sitting at a table next to me speaks up and says “What are you writing about?”

Somewhat taken aback, I look over and say “What?”

He repeats with a curious smile on his face.

I laugh to myself, thinking, man, do you really want to know? But I keep it surface level and say “Oh I’m just journaling, writing about what I’m thinking about, ideas, and my travels.”

He responds with an eyebrow raise, “You’re traveling???”

We get into a little conversation. Turns out he’s from the U.S. as well and also traveling around Europe. After a bit of chatting, he says he has to run but that he’s going to this art fair later and invited me along so we exchanged contacts!

I left feeling energized and with a smile on my face.

There have been multiple instances throughout Europe where I’ve seen people journaling in coffee shops and hostels and been so curious as to what they’re writing about, but, I’ve never asked…

I always feel like they would lead to great conversations, but I never get enough courage to interrupt.

There’s something about that hump, that little barrier to get over of the initial contact that I have tended to struggle with.

This moment felt like a great example of what’s possible with 5 seconds of courage (something I learned from someone I met in Lisbon).

Exploring Vienna With An Open Mind

Despite a rough start, I felt like by the end I had not let it affect the rest of my time, which was good. I think I handled it the best way I could have.

Although, I did have a bit of some PTSD walking back to and around that metro station… 😅ðŸ˜ģ

Someone’s Got To Have Photos Right?

The art fair:

Left photo credit goes to Sasha.

It was a contemporary art fair (think, weird abstract colored painting, metal wires constructed into strange shapes, a blank projector pointed at the wall, etc.). Contemporary isn’t really my thing, but I was happy to go and open my mind 🙂

The next day, feeling a little inspired by art, I searched for some art galleries that had the kind of art I love – landscape photography.

Surprisingly it was a bit difficult… Contemporary Art? Super easy to find. Photography? Not so much.

After a looooong walk

I ended up finding 2-3 galleries that I liked, the last one being the best. I also had a really nice experience with the person working there. She was super friendly and nice, very unlike some of the other cold interactions I had.

I left that place feeling so energized and alive.

There are some photos that really fill me up with inspiration and energy.

That Stuff That Keeps You Alive

Best gelato I’ve ever had. So incredibly smooth.

Also speaking of landscape photography the gelato place had this huge photo of Turin (*waving your hands* To-REE-no), Italy at sunset that was absolutely gorgeous 😍. I swore I thought it was Salt Lake City, Utah up against Wasatch Mountains.

I don’t usually take photos of art, but let’s just say, I’m very excited to explore the Alps and Italy. I had no idea Italy looked like that.

Oh, One More Thing

Just to close out the metro incident…

On my way out of Vienna, on a Saturday, mid-day… when maybe you’d expect them to be validating tickets, there were zero ticket officers at the same metro exit when I arrived.

And after my 3 stop journey, there were no ticket officers at that metro exit either.

But I BOUGHT MY TICKET THIS TIME.

So I guess I just got incredibly unlucky…

Back To The Mountains

This was absolutely the most beautiful train ride I’ve take so far. Actually… to Vigo, Spain was pretty incredible (see: Why You Should Go On The Pub Crawl Twice Instead Of Once). So okay, one of the best.

Like I said I am VERY excited to be back in the mountains.

I’ll save this morning’s pictures for the next post 🙂


Location

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