You can't overcome genetics

By Peter Brooker, February 2024.

Essentials; Wilde & Harte Osterley Razor, Aspinal Passport holder, Oris Divers Watch.

Wilde & Harte Osterley Razor, Aspinal Passport holder, Oris Divers Watch

Above: Petes travel essentials

I rode shotgun in the taxi from Vienna Airport to the Gutenbrunn Thermal and Sport Hotel in Baden Bei Wein. The four generous Bellinis I'd had in the first class lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3, and the five glasses of champagne I drank on the flight over, had caught up with me. My head was throbbing and it wasn't even noon.

"People in Austria have all the time in the world," said David our taxi driver. Anastasia was in the back seat, nodding in agreement.

David was one of those deep thinkers who found himself more at ease talking about the heavy things in life. He delivered short prophetic bursts with a terrific economy of words.

"Their lives are flat." He waved his hand in a horizontal fashion, like a cricket umpire signaling a boundary with the utmost precision. "If people in Austria want a rollercoaster, they have to make it happen themselves. Otherwise...", he again waved his hand flat. Slower this time, as if he was stroking the bonnet of an invisible car, checking for any imperfections.

"Quite the opposite in our neck of the woods," I replied.

"I want to get out of Austria," David mumbled, pulling away from the traffic lights with an unhurried ease. He adjusted his white cap and fixed his sunglasses.

"Full time or do you just fancy a break?"

"I want to get out. I want get out OUT."

"Come to London David," I said. "We make the best breakfast in the world."

"Yes but your weather is shit." Anastasia let out a short laugh. She always enjoyed it when people mocked the British weather. "In Austria I feel like an eagle with clipped wings. I want to go America. I've applied for a Visa. I'll work hard, opportunities will follow."

Peter Brooker with Wilde and Harte safety razor

Above: Pete with his Osterley Safety Razor.

We checked into the hotel, dumped our bags in the room, quickly got into our swimwear and went to the spa. The spa is adjacent to the hotel, and one doesn't need to leave the hotel to gain access. Which means it's patrons can vacate their rooms, saunter down to reception, meander through the multitude of connecting corridors, walk past the assortment of beauty clinics, through the gym, through the locker rooms and into the spa, all whilst wearing their bathrobes and flip flops.

On their website they talk about the benefits of the sulfur water. The sulfur healing water, which was made accessible in Baden through 2 wells, has an excellent antioxidant effect and can therefore make a valuable contribution in the prevention of chronic civilization diseases - anti-aging in a natural and gentle way.

I scoured the weather-beaten faces of the clientele that were blissfully bathing, unaware of my harsh scrutiny. "Hardly an advert for anti-ageing." I said cuttingly to Anastasia.

"You can't overcome genetics," Anastasia said. I laughed and wrote it down on a napkin. "That's one for the brochure," I said. "That"s not even one for the napkin," she screamed, grabbing it from me. She knew me well enough that I would publish anything if I thought it would get a laugh, no matter how close to the wind it sailed.

Gutenbrunn Thermal and Sport Hotel

Above: Thermal spas at the Gutenbrunn Thermal and Sport Hotel

Like slugs we waded from pool to pool, sauna to sauna, hot tub to hot tub. I'd say hello to everyone that I paddled past. I think it's a very British thing to do, saying hello to strangers. Although Austrian's don"t like to be disturbed with pleasantries from tourists, especially when they're up to their chin, in 36°C of sulfuric healing water.

"Stop saying hello to people," Anastasia said, dunking my head in the water playfully. When I re-emerged she kissed me on the lips in a quick peck-like fashion. Next to us, a young couple were also in an embrace. This one however was far too passionate for a public bathing area. A bearded man with antler tattoos scrolled over his back, had mounted his young girlfriend and was gnawing at her neck like a gorging vampire.

I didn't quite know where to look.

"I do hope she comes up for air soon," I said. But the jet streams kicked in with a huge splutter and whir, drowning the noise of my snipey remark. Anastasia pinched my lips shut and I sunk further into the pool, closing my eyes and allowed the jet streams to needle and nook between my shoulder blades.

Anastasia at the Gutenbrunn Thermal and Sport Hotel in Baden Bei Wein

Above: Anastasia with white wine at the Gutenbrunn Thermal and Sport Hotel

For three days we bathed from 9am to 5pm, only taking a break to lunch at the spa cafe that overlooked the children's pool.

I ordered the same dish every day. Käsekrainer with pomme frittes, an overly generous portion of mustard, a white bun which I never touched and a dark lager, a Gösser Stiftsbräu. The Käsekrainer is a cheese-filled parboiled sausage and is affectionally referred to by locals as the old stalwart of Viennese cuisine.

The hotel bar is unmanned. It's based on an honesty box system, that to my knowledge is very well respected. A pad of buck slips are placed by the wine fridge, and everything from the pear schnapps right down to the butter biscuits is clearly priced. Anastasia and I played Ludo every night, and for several hours. On the last night I read about the passing of the famous actor Carl Weathers.

"Oh no, that's really put a damper on things," I cried. "Carl Weathers has died."

"Who is Carl Weathers?" She asked.

In Carl's memory we toasted a shot of schnapps, the Russian way. Sadly, I've become all too familiar in recent times to the Russian way of toasting the dead. The key thing to remember when toasting the name of the deceased is to never chink the glasses.

Every morning we had two servings each of double expresso. Anastasia would have the yoghurt and fruit, I would shovel myself an assortment of muesli from the differing troughs. Kokos Mandel, Protein Powder, Wienerwald, Knusper Nuss, Dinkel, Schoko, Fruchte and I ignored the cornflakes.

Wilde and Harte stainless steel safety razor and piano

Above: Wilde & Harte safety razor and Art Deco piano

On checking out, Anastasia indulged in a bit of small talk with the receptionist Claudia. Claudia told us that she and her husband were often visited by wild pigs that lived by the infamous ruins on the edge of town.

"What infamous ruins? I asked.

"The ones by the rose gardens at the foot of the mountains," she said.

"Oh those ones," I said, none-the-wiser. "Quite windy last night wasn't it?" I said as a complete non sequitur. It sounded like I was filing a complaint. Maybe I was. The British don"t have the monopoly on shit weather.

"Yes," Claudia said. "We have a fire place in ours, but we can't light it when it's that windy as the wind comes down the chimney and sends the wood and ash everywhere. Luckily my husband installed halogen lamps in the ceiling so we never get cold. That was eight years ago. He knew what Putin was going to do, and we don't want to be a slave to Putin."

She peered over her glasses and paused for a response.

"Your husband sounds quite the futurist," I said. "You should count your lucky stars that the cost of living in Austria is 27% cheaper than the United Kingdom."

"We're doing alright as a country," said Claudia dryly.

Never a truer said.

About the author

Peter Brooker is the co-author of From Tailors With Love an Evolution of Menswear Through the Bond Films and is also Editor-in-Chief of From Tailors With Love, a blog, vlog and podcast dedicated to men’s costumes and cinematic style.

Peter Brooker playing chess in Austria

Above: Pete playing chess at the Gutenbrunn Thermal and Sport Hotel, Austria

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