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

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
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
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice