Simon Calder: The Man Who Pays His Way

Night moves in the city of sisterly love

A brightly decorated young lady was reclining on a sofa in the window of the La Bada exotic club. When she hammered on the glass to get my attention, I wondered three things: how sad her circumstances must be; how unwise it was to walk through Vienna's red-light district at midnight; and how I had got myself in the position of declining offers from prostitutes when all I was searching for was an (empty) bed for the night.

You may be familiar with the concept of the "sister hotel". When a particularly popular place is full, prospective guests are "switch-sold": offered a room in a nearby property, which the proprietor may also owns. Last Saturday, I discovered the "distant relation hostel".

After a journey blighted by winter's opening salvo, I had arrived at the West railway terminus in Austria's capital much later than planned. Promising "pretty rooms, no curfew, kitchen and fridge", the nearby Do Step Inn sounded just right.

By the time I rang the bell and Did Step Inn, it was 11pm. The manager, Brigitte, welcomed me with a smile and the news that the hostel was full - but there was a bed at the sister hostel. Terrific, I'll take it.

Sibling accommodation, in my experience, is usually around the corner. But Brigitte produced a map and began to give complicated instructions for a cross-city expedition involving a walk, an underground ride, a tram journey and another hike. It was the London equivalent of making a late-night journey from Clapham to Cricklewood.

My heart sank. But rather than search for another hostel as the lights went out all over Vienna (except in the red-light district), I was prepared to defer the gratification of sleep. And the rate was a modest €29 (£21) a night.

Our negotiations were taking place not at the usual reception desk, but in what appeared to be the living room of a family apartment, complete with a large leather sofa left over from the 1970s. As I reached for my wallet to pay the bill, Brigitte asked: "Would you like a drink?"

A hostel manager offering alcohol to someone not even staying on the premises is a first for me. But with the clock ticking and my eyelids drooping, I knew the correct answer was "nein, danke".

TEN MINUTES later, Brigitte poured us another large peach schnapps. Knocking the stuff back in one go was the only way to tackle it, she insisted. By now, she was interrogating me about a part of the world she was keen to visit: the Isles of Scilly (which she sweetly insisted on pronouncing with a hard "c"). I could cope with explaining the trip by train and ship or helicopter, but when she demanded an assessment of the relative merits of islands of Tresco and Bryher, I changed the subject.

That leather sofa was looking rather welcoming. Might, I wondered, the €29 just about cover a night curled up on it?

"It's taken," she smiled.

Scilly me, I unwisely attempted to joke. It was time to go. Kindly but inexplicably, she awarded me a €2 discount on the room and sent me on my way.

ABOUT THE last thing I felt like was a sub-zero suburban skirmish with the U-bahn, the trams and the ladies of the night (though I must say I liked the look of the sofa in the window of La Bada).

When I finally tracked down the apartment block, the next hurdle was to remember the instructions for finding the light switches and using the three keys Brigitte had given me. A sequence that had seemed logical and manageable before the second schnapps now became an intellectual challenge to rival cracking the Enigma code. Six combinations later, I found my way into a room with the unlived-in look of an Ikea showroom (presumably few other travellers had made the journey). But Angelo, a jolly Italian, had found it - as, unfortunately, had his very well-travelled shoes, evoking the aroma of an Egyptian camel stable at daybreak. Never mind Do Step Inn; they were so pungent I thought they might Step Out on their own in search of sole mates. No more schnapps for me.

Do Step Inn, Vienna: 00 43 1 923 2769

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of Jane Austen classic - with a twist

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week