TAXI RIDE IN VIENNA
I arrived in Vienna at 10.30am on Friday morning 27TH June 2014, after another excellent aer lingus flight from Dublin. The purpose of my journey was to speak at a hugley influential European Multiple Sclerosis event later that afternoon. These kind of events are an incredible platform for me to share with the audience some of my ideas and thoughts in relation to Multiple Sclerosis, and also some of the ideas and thoughts of the many hundreds of people who I have connected with over the past few years in relation to their own MS journey.
On arrival at Vienna airport, my taxi was waiting for me and Mikel introduced himself very professionally and warmly, and told me to jump in and that it would take us approximately 30 minutes to get to the Hilton in the centre of Vienna. It was a beautiful morning and I could see that it was 25c on the cars dash board, hot enough for early morning in Eastern Europe.
I have been very fortunate in my life to date to have done a lot of travelling and no matter where I am in the world, I normally find that the most informative and interesting people I meet are the local taxi drivers. Mikel was no different. So I started out on my normal fact finding exercise about all things Austria.
Mikel was a taxi driver most of the time but he also had another business which involved the selling of printing equipment. He told me that his taxi job didn't pay the bills of late and that in four weeks he is going to China to start building his printing business. Austria has a population of 9m people and although unemployment was a mere 4%, most of the country would be struggling to make ends meet. Many Austrians are disillusioned with Europe and as Mikel stated himself, "how can we continue to keep bailing out countries like Ireland and Greece." I thought that was a very interesting mind set. He felt strongly that in Austria there is a real class divide in that the rich are getting richer and poor, poorer. The housing market has remained steady enough and the banks for the most part appear to be coming back to a level of stability.
As we were entering the city centre I couldn't but notice how clean and functional the terrain was. Like many European countries bikes appeared to be very popular. I also noticed at least ten huge tall cranes hugging the skyline which normally suggests that the economy is growing, as real estate development is happening, typically meaning the banks are lending.
I then asked Mikel what's his view on the Ukraine/ Russia crisis. He tells me that Mr Putin was in town only yesterday but that the general consensus was that nobody likes the Russians. He tells me that the reason Russia is in Ukraine is that they don't want Ukraine to enter the euro. He also tells me that Ukraine is rich in resources and Russia have their eye on these too. He doesn't see a quick solution to the crisis and feels the Russians are there to stay.
Mind blowing information and all for free. As we stopped at a red light I could see the hotel in the distance. We briefly discussed the world cup and thats when Mikel told me he was originally from Hungary. We discussed the great Puskas and very broadly the economic state of Hungary today. which in short - isn't good.
"This is your hotel Mr Devine. Ok Mikel. Thank you for the lift and was great to meet you"
Have a great time in China Mikel. We shook hands and my lesson was finished. What a great ride that was through Vienna.