There's a wonderful anarchy about cycling around a city. Especially one like Vienna, in a group with a guide.
Actually, the city makes it relatively easy with lots of cycle lanes and priorities at lights and intersections. But you still have to be seriously alert, because there's a busy mix of pedallers and pedestrians, not to mind the motor traffic.
Cycling is my favourite way of getting to know a city in a hurry. I used Vienna Explorer, based on Franz Josef Kai, close to the S-Bahn station of Schwedenplatz. Booked online, cost €24 (I got €2 off as a Senior). Various cycle tours offered include a Wine Tour through the villages in the lower Alps outside the city. Another time.
We went out to our bikes. Continental high bars, tough as farm barns. Three simple speeds. Perfect for city work, and a long way from the nice hybrid I use at home. Saddles adjusted, Horst led us off at a strong clip. The group stretched, but pauses at traffic lights allowed us tighten up.
Over the next while we stopped at the University, the City Hall, the Parliament, the Natural History Museum and the Hofburg imperial palaces, all conveniently on the Ringstrasse around central Vienna. Horst told a story or two about each spot. The first was a church at the place where somebody had tried to assassinate Emperor Franz-Josef, erected in thanks by his brother Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico.
While waiting, we learned that Billy and Kimberly had gotten engaged the previous week. In Berlin, where Billy had gone to meet her on her backpacking trip. Kimberly hadn't been expecting it. That explained why they were so obviously into each other.
The next area was the once private hunting grounds of the Hapsburgs nobility, now the Prater Park. Where Empress Sisi, an accomplished rider, amused herself. "She also loved mountain hiking, and could go for eight hours, leaving her servants behind. Because every day she smoked a pipe of cocaine. A medicine because she was depressed over deaths of her children, a daughter aged two and a son who shot himself."
Horst is still good with his ex-father in law. They recently explored the cellars under the buildings in the area, going all the way to the city's Opera House. "The cellars are deeper than the buildings themselves, wine stores from the Romans two thousand years ago when the soldiers were kept calm with wine on paydays, in the face of invading German tribes. In a year or two I hope to have permission from maybe 20 private buildings to do tours through the connected cellars." Jerry suggests an arrangement with the owners, of a drop-box in each cellar into which every tour participant will give a donation as they pass through. Horst likes the idea.
Three hours had seemed quite a trip at the start. But we were already close to the end of the ride. Horst brought us across the river for choice views of the main city. And of the lower Alps not too far away. "We are famous for white wine, but there are good reds also. You can reach the wine villages by bicycle along the river in 20 minutes, or take the train to the last stop in half an hour."
Back at the offices of Vienna Explorer, Horst got his 'thank you's in euros-kind. He'd earned them. We had Vienna in a perspective which many tourists don't get. And maybe, because he was feeling good in his current career, we felt we had a perspective on him too.
But the real gig was being on the bicycle. The anarchy bit is exhilarating.