Tag Archives: vienna

Good Eatin’ – Food From Vienna

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Thanks to the wonderful Julius Meinl shop in Vienna’s rather ritzy shopping area – I have three more food items to cross off. I could have stuck these onto the end of my previous Vienna post, but I felt that it would work better separated off.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Dieimg_4588Food item: Butterzopf

First off, we have a type of bread known in Switzerland as butterzopf. If you just look at it you will probably see resemblances to the braiding of challah and the shine of a brioche. Unsurprisingly butterzopf also shares a lot when it comes to the taste and texture of challah and brioche as well.

This partial loaf of butterzopf was different since it has a warmth to it, like it had some citrus zest and some sort of spice added to it. It was like if you had stollen, but took out the fruit and the marzipan as well as making the texture ever so slightly lighter. In retrospect, this was never going to be a bread to go with these cheeses.

img_4589Food item: Tiroler Graukase

I arrived in Austria with three Austrian food items to find; with this cheese I managed to find the final item on the list. Calling your cheese ‘grey cheese’ is never really going to inspire much confidence in how it is going to look or taste, but the cheese didn’t exactly taste grey.

Actually it reminded me a lot of Harzer in both how it looked and the general squidgy jelly-like nature of the cheese. The taste is salty and immediately pungent… But the lack of any real aftertaste make me want to recognise it as being a mild cheese. The main problem was diminishing returns. The first taste was the best and after that it felt a bit blah and there was no real urge to go back to it after taste number three.

img_4590Food item: Oscypek

The other cheese that I got was a smoked sheep’s cheese from Poland called Oscypek. This is a cheese with traditions stretching back to the 1400s, which is downright incredible when you think about it. It’s especially incredible when you realise this is something that would have been eaten before potatoes and tomatoes arrived in Europe. Mind blown right?

The first impression is that it is a very smooth cheese. Rubbery even. Actually it was downright fun to stroke it through the wrapping. It also smelt so gorgeously smokey. and you’ll know from my experience of the smokey blue cheese just how much I love a good smoked cheese.

This is a cheese where eating the rind is a key part of the cheese eating experience. The main body of the cheese is like mozzarella in that it is creamy, has a slight tang but no real strong flavour. All the smokiness exists in the rind. Put them together and something magical happens. I do think it reminds me a lot of the generic processed Bavarian smoked cheese – but this has so many more nuances and (for me) is preferable.

So this properly ends my time in Vienna. I can’t quite believe that I have been to New York, Rotterdam, Lisbon and Vienna within two months. I am so incredibly blessed to be able to have done this. Of course, it is going to be a while since I am on my travels again (money, amirite?), but I cannot wait to see where I am going to end up next!

Progress: 596/751

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Oh Vienna – Day 3: Schönbrunn

My last full day in Vienna? That just feels incredibly wrong. This is the problem of having these short weekend breaks, as lovely as they are it is just over too soon.

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Still, we made the most out of today and the way to do that is with a good breakfast (well, brunch by the time we started). In many ways Vienna has similar prices to London, but if you are smart about it you will not break the bank. See this breakfast for two that I shared with the hub. It really kept us going through most of the day, where we were on our feet pretty much all the time.

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The destination today was Schönbrunn, which is a very short metro ride out of the city centre. The main draw is the UNESCO Heritage recognised palace and gardens.

The palace was the former summer residence for the Habsburg emperors of Austria-Hungary and is absolutely massive. I swear that we don’t have palaces to this scale in the UK, when you consider that this former hunting lodge expanded into well over 1000 rooms.

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I would be so interested to see what the grounds are like in summer with full flower beds and running fountains. In December it is still beautifully grand (and smells of cinnamon thanks to the resident Christmas market), but a little bit bleak.

There were signs that said you would need to wait 2.5 hours before being able to enter the palace to have a look around. What these signs did not tell you is that you could head in straight away if you bought one of the combined tickets to another nearby attraction. We know this purely because it was our plan to do this anyway.

The interior of the palace that we saw as part of the “Imperial Tour” was extremely grand. Sadly there were signs everywhere that said no photography was allowed inside, but I think we all disobeyed that rule when it came to the this grand ballroom.

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I haven’t never been to Versailles, but if the hall of mirrors there is meant to be greater than this ballroom… well I think I know where my next planned trip might end up being. Seriously though, going to this palace, the Imperial Crypt and seeing how much they still revere Maria Theresa makes me want to learn more about the history of the Habsburgs. If you have any suggestions of where I can start, please let me know.

After an hour long tour of the palace we walked through the gardens on the way to Schönbrunn Tiergarten (ie the zoo). This was originally started as an imperial menagerie  and has since expended into one of the best zoos I have ever been to.

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This is not just because of the variety of animals (which includes polar bears, sea lions, leopards and pandas), but also the condition of the enclosures. This is a zoo that has successfully bred polar bears and pandas so you know they are doing something right.

I has running about this zoo like a little kid (who was cold seeing how we didn’t get too far about freezing today) looking at all the animals that I could see in the few hours we had in this amazing zoo.

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Of course we ended up spending a lot of time with the pandas. How couldn’t I? They’re pandas! We were there a solid 10 minutes hoping it would turn around and only when we went to leave did she suddenly move and allow me to take such cool pictures. This was better than seeing the pandas at Ueno in Tokyo. Can’t believe I was actually so close.

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We stayed into the zoo until it closed. The closing announcement came through whilst we were in the aquarium staring at a rather lively octopus. So it was back to the city centre before we got locked in with the crocodiles.

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Rather than heading straight for food (we were all hungry by now) we visited the, now dark, Stadtpark to see some of the statues. The main ones were still lit up anyway so the emptiness of the park just added to the ambience. The statue that I came to see was this golden one of Strauss. It’s nice to see someone other than Mozart being revered in this city.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
img_4579Food item: Linzer Torte

By now we needed a sit down so it was an early evening cake and drinks before a final runthrough of the Christmas markets. Finally I was able to try some Linzer torte. I got it as a slice because could not find it as the typical torte. Better than Sacher torte by a mile. The toasted hazlenuts and the crumbly cake are brought together by the seam of redcurrant jam. Where the Sacher torte was a disappointment this Linzer torte is a pleasant surprise.

img_4582Food item: Horseradish
Progress: 593/751

One of the big things that my mum wanted to have from the market stalls was some Tiroler gröstl. We had it when we were in Kitzbühl back in 1999 and there were stalls selling it here. To my surprise they put grated horseradish on top. There is nothing I like more than a surprise list item and this horseradish really complimented the fried bacon and potatoes. Makes me feel like I am 9 again.

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The final Christmas market we went back to was the one on the Rathausplatz, which is both the biggest one and the nearest to our hotel. There were some last minute purchases and a complete final runthrough. I can’t believe we are going from somewhere this filled with Christmas and going back to a flat where the decorations aren’t even up yet!

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Of course I finished the evening with a hot dog. I have not had anywhere near enough wurst since I have been in Austria and at least I was able to finish this trip the right way.

That’s it for Vienna. There is a separate food post coming up where I will finish off this run of posts, but for now here are some things I will miss about Vienna:

1) Classically trained buskers – we have seen a violinist, a cellist and a tuba player playing film themes on the street. In London you are more likely to see a man playing a traffic cone.

2) Seeing Mozart’s face everywhere i go. We don’t do the same in London and now I want to know why we don’t plaster all our tourist shops with the face of Dickens or Shakespeare. Such a missed opportunity.

3) Architecture. It’s overblown and utterly amazing. The commute to work will feel all the more boring after visiting Vienna

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4) Christmas markets – come on London we can do something on this scale and with this high level of quality. Sod off with your Hyde Park Winter Wonderlands and give us something decent!

Oh Vienna – Day 2: Coffins and Art

So begins the first of the two full days that we have in Vienna. Being a city of coffee culture it is very important to find a good place for breakfast. Thanks to a bit of googling I found a place near St Stephen’s Cathedral called Haas & Haas.

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This is one of those places that was built for the long brunch. The sheer variety of breakfast items (from dim sum to a full English) was astonishing. Seeing as we are in the German speaking world there was no way I could say no to Weisswurst, a pretzel and Bavarian sweet mustard. I also had a lovely pot of rooiboss tea flavoured with cacao nibs and coconut. Truly this is the breakfast of champions.

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Of course the logical first place to visit after such a breakfast was the imperial crypt. Looking at it from the outside this is a very unassuming church, but this does not reflect what you find in the basement.

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Coffins. Rooms filled with the coffins of members of the Habsburg royal line. I have never seen anything quite like this. True, there were some coffins on the simpler side but, then there would be one covered in bronzed skulls, veiled women and maybe an angel or two.

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Nothing could compare to the massive coffin (if you can call it that) of Maria Theresa. This was bigger than a car and had many details including large weeping women and engravings of buildings. Every coffin afterwards just paled in comparison.

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You had a special room for Kaiser Franz Joseph, Sisi and Rudolf, but those coffins were still a plainer affair than Maria Theresa’s.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 65/100img_4470Sight: MuseumsQuartier
Location: Vienna, Austria
Position: #338

We walked from the imperial crypts to the MuseumsQuartier and…honestly I don’t have much to say about this place. Maybe it was the wrong time of year to visit? But after coming from the crypt and walking passed some amazing buildings via the Maria-Theresien-Platz; well it was an extreme let down to be honest.

How is this the only thing from Vienna on the Lonely Planet travel list? This has really given me some doubts about the rest of the list.

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After this disappointment we spent the rest of the afternoon in the Art History Museum (pictured is the Museum of Natural History, but apart from a few sculptures these are pretty much identical).

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Inside this building was a melange of marblework. The hallways were just an astonishing mixture of colour and polish, which just goes to show that some of these baroque are just as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside.

img_4482The first rooms we went through were paintings from the Flemish, Dutch and Germanic schools. In it we found the twin painting of the Tower of Babel scene we saw in Rotterdam. Strange, yet lovely way for these two rather different cities to be linked.

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Amongst the other paintings we saw were some rather weird looking Jesuses (so many great painters just cannot depict babies well), a strange depiction of groping and a very famous painting of a young Catherine of Aragon.

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We roamed around the other painting gallery for a while before heading for the antiquities. In the Roman section I was very much taken by the weird room where they had arranged a lot of statue heads/busts so they were all facing one direction. It was a very strange thing to walk in on.

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It was getting towards 4:30 when we left and we need drinks and snacks. Thanks to the Christmas markets you are kinda spoilt for choice at the moment. Personally I felt the flavoured pretzels calling my name and went for a pizza pretzel.

We headed back to the hotel room via a bunch of smaller Christmas markets and Julius Meinl (where I found a few food items that we will be saving for the day we leave).

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Dinner was our attempt at finding something Austrian to eat, and I found a place on Annagasse that did the trick. Pancake soup to start, Wiener schnitzel for main and a cheese strudel for pudding. I walked out of that restaurant a very happy man for I had eaten schnitzel in its spiritual home of Vienna.

We went for a final turn around the main Christmas market at the Rathausplatz before turning in for the night. We managed to be there until it closed…

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…but not before we got ourselves a langos. Think of it as a Hungarian treat where you deep fry a disk of dough and then brush it with garlic butter. Seriously, I love how much this city and their Christmas markets speak to my Germanic roots.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully some gröstl.

Oh Vienna – Day 1: Arrival

I know, I know. “Oh how the other half live” and all that. Honestly, I cannot believe how I ended going on 4 holidays/minibreaks in two months. I really need to space these out more. Seriously, my passport has been water damaged since the first day in New York and I need to get that dealt with.

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Vienna is one of those places that, for whatever reason, never majorly featured too highly in my holiday consciousness. I knew it was beautiful and know people who have been there and really loved it, but as I was walking around the city centre I felt this weird disconnect.

It was something along the lines of “I’m in Vienna? This is Vienna? How have I lucked out and ended up in Vienna?” Maybe I just went through a bit of disassociation due to having to get up at 04:55 this morning.

The first day in a new place has the tendency to be odd. You need time to get used to a place in terms of geography and culture. Having gotten to our hotel little after midday we still had most of the day to explore the local area.

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You don’t have to walk too far in Vienna’s centre to come to the conclusion that the architecture in this city Is deliciously overblown. Buildings aren’t only grand, but they are domineering with their flourishes, statutes and cornices. This is by no means a criticism. It’s just that in London you’ll get a small area with interesting architecture and then it’s pretty pedestrian, whereas in the Vienna city centre it’s pretty much all singing all dancing wherever you end up.

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I mean just look at their parliament building. There is nothing about this building that doesn’t feel grand about this place. Makes sense that it was originally built as a seat of power for the empire of Austria-Hungary.

We spent most of the afternoon wandering the streets, looking at buildings and trying to find some form of lunch. Vienna is famous for its cafe culture and, honestly, we were looking in all the wrong places as we found nothing for a very long time.

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Having given up hope on finding a place to have a sit down meal (where the queue didn’t stretch out of the door) so we opted for the classic bratwurst in a roll. You can never go wrong with that.img_4405

Of course this is when we started to spot cafes. So, we dragged our tired feet into the Mozart Cafe (side note: everything here is Mozart themed – it’s actually quite weird) and it allowed me to grab the first, of what may be a small number of, food item.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 591/751
img_4404Food item: Sachertorte

Aside from schnitzel there are few things more Viennese than a Sachertorte. It was invented in the Hotel Sacher around the corner from this cafe (would have gone in, but lines) and is pretty much the city dessert. Think of it as a dense chocolate cake with apricot jam spread around the sides and in the middle. It is then finished off with dark chocolate icing and a quiet of whipped cream.

Think this cake sounds rich? Then you would be right. Pretty damned moist as well, which is also helped by the side of cream. The cup next to it was a hot chocolate with pistachio syrup. I guess chocolate cake was to satisfy that craving.

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By the time we left the cafe the sun had gone down and we were able to enjoy Vienna for the reason we actually came here – Christmas lights. Not just one uniform set of lights either; it would appear that each street do their own lights since there was no real repetition that we saw.

Not only are there so many lights, but also there are so many Christmas markets dotted all around Vienna. I think we came across six different ones today and I am sure there are more left to be discovered.

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We meandered around and ended up at the biggest of all the Christmas markets: outside the town hall (and coincidentally a 3-4 minute walk from out hotel). There are over 100 stalls here selling food, souvenirs and all things Christmas. I know that during our time in Vienna we will be back here every night for a roam, a browse and a snack.

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For dinner myself and the hub opted for soup in a loaf of bread. Honestly, we just stood there eating soup out of the hollowed out loaf before then eating the bowl itself. There was just something so satisfying about ripping apart that bread bowl that had become saturated with garlic soup.

After an early start this morning it is an early night tonight so we feel human as we tackle the one Lonely Planet area of Vienna.