Vienna looks like a city that was built yesterday, everything is new and seems to be working according to plan. I arrived the city early Sunday morning as part of a small group of African entrepreneurs invited by the World Summit Awards and Make -IT Africa (GIZ) to attend the High-Level Forum Africa-Europe hosted by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
As soon as I got out of the train station in Wien Hauptbahnhof, a walking distance from the hotel I stayed in, the first thing that greeted me was the cold. I totally underestimated the weather in Vienna, a rookie mistake I will never make again. The warmth that kept me going on my short trek to my hotel was from the kindness of every person I met along the way who gave me directions on how to get to the hotel from the airport at 5:30am in the morning.
All was going great so far until I arrived my hotel and realised, I couldn’t check into my room until 3:00pm. At which point the time was about 6:00am. I was tired from the 12-hour flight and 5-hour layover in Addis Ababa, I couldn’t sleep on the plane because the Asian-Dutch lady who sat next to me wouldn’t stop asking me questions and offering me her in-flight meal. I half-expected it and wasn’t surprised when she asked early on the flight, after I told her I was from Lagos, Nigeria, “How come you speak such good English?” I smiled as I replied her calmly, “English is our official language in Nigeria.” She didn’t relent. More on this later. It was a long flight and I just wanted to lie down and sleep.
There wasn’t much I could do about the hotel check-in situation. I had to sit and wait in the lobby until I could check in later in the day. However, what happened next turned out to be one of the best parts of my trip to Vienna.
While waiting I announced my arrival on the group chat created by the WSA and GIZ team, gave tips to the rest of the invited entrepreneurs on making their way to the hotel via the city’s impressive railway system, and informed the group of my hotel situation. Then everything happened quickly afterwards and I found myself on a hiking expedition with Nora, the Program Manager at WSA and her parents up Leopoldsberg, a 1,394 ft tall hill towering over the city.
Without the right gear, clothes or energy level, I climbed up this snow-filled hill, all 1,394 ft of it to the very top. I saw the Leopoldsberg Church overlooking the city and the beautiful vineyard around the hill. We sloped all the way down with my freezing feet and hands, and the cold smacking my face, but I was glad I did.
Somewhere along the ride to Leopoldsberg, on the hike up the hill, taking photos at the top of the hill and drinking some tea, the slope down the hill and the ride through the city and back to my hotel, I fell in love with Vienna and became friends with Nora’s parents. They welcomed me with such open hearts and eagerness, and I saw the beauty of Vienna in their bright eyes and kind smiles.
Back in the hotel and just like that, I was able to check into my room. The rest of the group arrived later that evening; Ivy Barley and Nana-Efua of Developers in Vogue, Sakhile Xulu of Qisimah and Stephanie Wiedner of Make-IT Africa. We visited the Christmas market and had dinner in a pleasant Greek Restaurant in the City. It was a beautiful evening altogether, and an exciting first day in Vienna.