How not to park a car

Like the downtown area of every major city in the world, Vienna’s is largely made up of one-way streets. Even though I was aware of this, I still thought it would be a good idea to rent a car — a lovely little Opel Corsa — and drive there.

Everything up until the city was wonderfully easy, but as soon as the traffic hit, anxiety rose to an all time high. The hostel was impossible to find on our own so we called them to ask for help.

“We’re lost,” I explained into the phone.

“Okay, I will give you directions,” said the voice on the other end.

Thirty minutes later . . . the conversation that ensued sounded something like this:

“Do you see a pretty illuminated building on your right?”

“I do see a pretty illuminated building on my right!”

“Turn left. You will see a street that does not look like a street, but it is, so turn down that.”

“What? What do you mean a street that doesn’t . . . That’s a sidewalk, don’t turn there!!”

“No! That was it! Turn! Turn!”

“Okay . . . Get back on the bridge . . . ”

Eventually, the hostel was located but parking was not. It was the group decision to get back out on those one ways and try and find a spot for free.

After finally finding a spot, there were some parallel parking issues, mostly the issue was that none of us could do it well. I was left to guard the spot while the others drove around to regroup and attack it again.

Now, I am not entirely sure why I willingly hopped out of the car in the middle of the night, in a strange town, alone, with no jacket in February, but I did. After what felt like an hour, a car pulled around the corner.

Thinking it was my friends, I stepped out of the spot just in time to realize it was not them and instead was a man that cracked out some hardcore parking skills and stole our spot. Not to mention he almost ran me over and didn’t really care at all.

I punched his trunk, trying to be all mad and European, but he just shrugged at me and walked away. A long while passed until I heard the screech of my name from the end of the street; I ran over to the car and it was explained to me that they had gotten trapped in a circle of one ways and then had forgotten which street they had left me on.

Excellent. So, with that spot gone, we drove around some more until we found one tiny spot, in a row of cars behind a sign. We took our time, got two people outside the car to direct, and somehow managed to squeeze in.

Then we read the sign. I use the word read loosely, because the sign was in German and none of us knew at all what it said. There was some writing and a time frame, which we chose to believe as you can park here between this and this hour.

In our minds, we were golden.

Needless to say, when we walked back to check on the car the next morning, it was gone. We all took turns having minor panic attacks on the street, and then ran back to the hostel.

The man behind the desk called a bunch of companies looking for our little Opel Corsa and eventually found it. He said it was going to cost us 200 Euro to get it back, but on the plus side, if we wanted to leave it there until the end of our trip, it would only cost seven euro a day.

After little consideration we told him to leave it there; we were done with that shit. He pulled out four shot glasses from behind the desk and poured us all shots.

“Is 10:30 too early for shots?” the man behind the counter asked us.
“Umm no,” we responded.

“Okay good, you look like you need it.”

Three days later we picked up our car and we agreed to never again speak of what happened, our wounds of embarrassment still too fresh to share. We arrived back at home a mere five hours later, and everyone there was eager to hear about our trip. “So, how was Vienna?” they asked.

“Well, we got our car towed . . . ”

*Editor’s Note: Erin Lebar wrote a column about learning abroad for the Manitoban’s culture section for a number months titled “In a Land Far, Far Away. With this being said, I would like to use this example of an article as an opportunity to announce an open call for the submission of travel articles, school related or not. If you enjoyed reading this article about mayhem abroad and have some stories of your own about travel email