Last Day in Vienna

Today was our last day in Vienna. We’re heading home on the train tomorrow at 9:30am. The connection in Salzburg will be tight; there are only 8 minutes to switch trains, so let’s hope the train from Vienna isn’t delayed. It’s been a great trip.

We set out this morning to take a look at Rochusmarkt, a local farmer’s market in Vienna. I immediately noticed how much warmer it was today – 9 degrees! Along the way, we got off the subway to try to look inside of Karlskirche. Sadly, it seemed to be closed on all sides, except for the paid visits to the look-out tower. I would have liked to take a look inside but maybe they reserve it for people who are paying to go to the concerts. Still, I took another good look at the façade and noticed some details I hadn’t seen before.

We continued on to the Rochusmarkt, which didn’t turn out to be too exciting. We’ve noticed the local markets in Vienna seem to have a lot of chain snack shops, probably a result of high costs for booths. I wanted some Christmas cookies but the prices were highway robbery, so I guess we didn’t do our part to ensure their survival. We moved on, in search of lunch.

Cafes everywhere

We had decided on Cafe Francais. We walked by it a few days ago and Jelena read up on it, finding only high praise and great reviews. We weren’t disappointed. While Jelena was unsure whether her salad would be enough, I decided to go for the club sandwich, a straightforward and solid choice at any restaurant. The plates arrived and we were shocked. The club sandwich could feed two and the salad was an entire meal. This is a cafe that you can imagine normal people going to. The prices were alright and it’s across from the university. Indeed, most tables were occupied by students.

I wouldn’t rate the food as exquisite but that wasn’t the point. Cafe Francais is a solid choice, good food for a normal price. I wouldn’t go to Cafe Central every day but Cafe Francais is somewhere you could easily frequent. Before we sat down, the waitress looked rather worried and informed us that we could only have the table until 3pm. We were worried until we checked the time, seeing it was only 1pm. A paltry two hours is nothing in the Viennese cafe culture but we were only there for lunch, so it was more than enough!

cafe_francais

With time to spare, we decided to keep the cafe train rolling and made for the exit. First we decided to peek inside the Votivkirche. We’ve seen it on days past and I wanted a closer look, since we liked the neo-Gothic architecture. There are nice stained glass windows on the inside, as you’d expect from a beautiful, old European church. We helped ourselves to an odd Geocache across the street, my first and only Austrian Geocache. This one was “hidden” underneath the telephone in a phone booth. Jelena discovered it but we decided not to sign the “log”, since we’d have had to lie on the ground in broad daylight and appear to deface a phone booth.

The next cafes

We made our way through the Rathausplatz Christmas market again, on the way to check out Cafe Landtmann. It was still complete chaos, so we kept moving toward Cafe Hawelka but we ended up skipping that for another known favourite, Cafe Tirolerhof. We knew that one was great and hoped it would be less hectic.

We’ve noticed the number of people in Vienna has steadily increased over the week and today was definitely the peak. There were people everywhere on the streets and Tirolerhof was no exception. No sooner had we made it through the door when hordes of tourists came in behind us, pushing past and looking for available seats. Luckily, a nice couple was just leaving from, perhaps, the best table in the whole place, and kindly offered it to us.

Kaiserschmarrn made an encore, alongside tea and coffee, as we relaxed into our now daily tradition. Unfortunately, the Internet connection is not so great in Tirolerhof, so I was forced to play Crusader Kings II, a cool historical strategy game about European conquest. You can imagine I was pretty upset. Jelena read her papers as usual. We talked a little politics as well.

When it was time for us to go, I noticed a couple was just discovering the saddest looking and only available table. I saw the chance to balance our karma and quickly pulled them over to our table, returning the favour that was bestowed upon us when we arrived. They were very grateful. I really think it was the best table!

One last Christmas market

Jelena saw a bowl she was interested in when we were at the Schönbrunn Christmas market, so we planned to finish off the evening by seeing that market at night. I’m really glad we did. It was really beautiful at night, with all the lights and the tree.

But the best part was that they had a live choir, singing Christmas songs! I need to educate Jelena on Christmas songs but I guess she didn’t grow up with them and can’t have the same appreciation. Still, we could both appreciate the ambient sound of a live choir singing as we browsed the market. It was a great way to cap off our trip, Vienna being known for its music.

You can view my Schloss Schönbrunn Christmas market live choir video on the Travel to Live Google Plus account! I couldn’t upload it on WordPress because you need a premium account. Sorry about the shaking.

Well, we’re just eating a late night snack and then packing up to head home. What a delicious and wonderful trip. Only one last gorging remains – my birthday is on Sunday! Then it’s time to bring the diet under control.

(just kidding – then it’s Christmas cookie baking season)

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Cafes and Christmas Markets

Day 6 was a mix of the old and the new. It was a day of Cafes and Christmas markets – and, of course, FOOD! Another lazy morning faced a serious crisis due to my mismanagement of our bread supplies. Luckily, we bought eggs yesterday and supplemented our sorry stash with some hard-boiled eggs. The successful traveler always needs to be ready with a backup plan and that starts at breakfast!

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Winter in Vienna

Winter is not when Vienna is at its most beautiful. Every park we’ve been too has been a desolate wasteland. The structures are ornate and grand but, as one might expect from a snow-less city, all plant life is dead and laid bare for all to see. So we were underwhelmed by the Stadtpark (city park) and quickly made our way to the other end. Our pace was hurried by an unexpectedly cold day; today was supposed to be much warmer! Sadly, the sun betrayed us and never showed its face.

But winter in Vienna can still be great because of the strong cafe culture. What better way to pass a cold and depressing day than inside, sipping your tea? We made our way to Cafe Central to have lunch and warm up. We weren’t completely sure that it’d be open, since Austrians celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception today. Well, everybody needs a reason to celebrate in the winter, so I won’t rob them of that.

Cafe Central was packed but we only had to wait 5 minutes for a table. We braced for an awful spot but ended up with quite a good location. As soon as I opened the menu, I knew what I wanted and seized the chance to get a proper Wiener Schnitzel. After all, I’ve got to compare pork and veal, right? To complete the suffering of the baby cows, Jelena took the Kalbsleber (liver from the baby cow). That poor baby cow did not die in vain.

The meals were excellent and I can happily say this was a truly great Schnitzel, even better than Figlmüller’s from yesterday. I’d recommend Cafe Central any day, especially because the price difference was small and potatoes came with it. I was disappointed you couldn’t order tap water but the Apfelschorle was tasty, so I’m not complaining. Of course, I knew it’d be good, since I scouted this location out with my mom back in 2010 – another great Vienna trip!

The cafe crawl continues

Although Cafe Central looks and feels incredible, it was too hectic at lunch time to relax and hang out, so we decided to move on to greener pastures. We thought we’d swing by Cafe Landtmann to peek in the window but they were similarly overrun by customers. We’re considering giving it another shot tomorrow. I had a nice breakfast at Landtmann with my mom last time I was in Vienna. Next time, I’d like to try their desserts!

Well Jelena really enjoyed Cafe Sperl, so we retraced our steps to an old favourite and claimed the last table in the joint. After a light but good breakfast and a mouthwatering and exceptional lunch, it was time to reward ourselves with a little bit of cake. Jelena took the Sachertorte this time, while I took the Gugelhupf. Despite the funny name, this was a solid choice for a plain cake eater like me. This is my idea of a cake – no jam or nuts or other radical ingredients to get in the way of the enjoyment of sugar.

As we sipped our tea, Jelena read 2 different newspapers, while I organized some Travel to Live administrative work and did some social networking. The Viennese cafe culture is truly a great one. I’m glad we have Cafe Maldaner back home, but, somehow, I doubt they have wireless Internet access. Few locations in Germany do. I’m going to miss Austria!

Topping it all off

With our tea and cake long gone, we decided to move on home, so we could drop off our things and head to the Christmas market. We wanted to wait until the evening, so we could enjoy the lights and nighttime atmosphere of the market. Karlskirche is truly a sight to behold; it’s my personal favourite church in Vienna and was where my mom and I attended a classical music concert back in 2010.

The Christmas market was busy but not too crazy. We first enjoyed a freshly baked pastry covered in sugar, before descending upon the sausage stand. We took lamb sausages with freshly baked flatbread to finish off the night. Delicious! Jelena also found herself a new mug while we perused the items on offer at this market. Having accomplished our goals, we headed home for some rest and a little work.

Of course, you didn’t think we were done eating yet, did you? No, when we arrived home, we put on the kettle and ate some more of the tasty cookies we bought back on day 3. Another great day at an end. Food success record still undefeated (knock on wood). Tomorrow‘s our last full day in Vienna. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store!

Zu den 3 Buchteln

Today’s the day – we finally made it to Zu den 3 Buchteln and got a table. But much like one of those TV shows that annoyingly shows the ending first, before going back to 1 day earlier, you’re first going to have to read about our adventures on day 4.

After eating some bread from a local bakery and that strange salami from yesterday, we set out for Schloss Belvedere. We quickly discovered today was a lot colder than days past but it was about to get much, much worse. Belvedere also has a Christmas market but it’s definitely not comparable to Schönbrunn’s. However, I spotted some chili salami for 2,30€ and couldn’t resist. I’m excited about trying it tomorrow!

belvedere_me_jelena

We set about exploring the grounds and taking photos. That’s when we noticed it was even colder than we thought. There was one of those cold, terrible winds and the grounds of Belvedere are all open and exposed. It’s a wonder we managed to take any pictures at all because our fingers were ready to freeze and snap right off. What a coward I’ve become in the face of cold. I am a Canadian in name only. After circling the grounds, we made a discrete exit and b-lined it for the restaurant.

belvedere-garden

False start

We crossed town as quickly as possible, trying to hide from the wind, fearing every corner would bring another cold gust of torture. You can see from the 3km mark that I did a half-decent job of getting us there as quickly as possible. I’m actually getting the hang of our little area of Vienna and quite like the area we chose to “live” in.

day4runkeeper

Fingers freezing, noses running, we finally made it to the restaurant, ready for our much deserved lunch. There was just one little problem, which I had morbidly joked about along the way: Zu den 3 Buchteln opens at 6pm. It was just past 1! My God, why have you forsaken me? Luckily, we had been in this situation before and had earlier considered the Thai place across the street. Jelena had low expectations but with empty stomachs and broken spirits, our options were limited: we cautiously entered Thai Kitchen.

Happy surprises

We each took a lunch menu. Jelena thought about eating a soup but since we had decided to go to Zu den 3 Buchteln for dinner, honouring our original reservation, I recommended we eat light. As it turned out, the lunch menu came with soup! And a salad! And an apple! Later eating was immediately forgotten. We were living in the now -and what a delicious now. The food was great. We both had duck, rice and various whatevers that you get with Thai food. I left a 5 star review on Google. Another Vienna food success story.

jelenathai
Jelena’s meal at Thai Kitchen

Today was not a day to be spent outside. We had learned that lesson the hard way. We dropped by home shortly to pick up some things before setting out to Cafe Tirolerhof. As is typical of a Viennese cafe, we hung around there for a few hours, without any pressure or inclination to move on. Jelena had read they had good Kaiserschmarrn and I did not need to be convinced to eat a sugary pastry. Yum! I also typed out a post on the developer blog about eating your own dog food. It’s not what you think: it has nothing to do with actual dog food or any food at all. It’s a term that refers to your company using its own products.

jelenakaiserschmarrn

I can definitely recommend this cafe. It’s cozy. It has good food. There’s free WiFi to steal from some neighbouring place. What more could you want?

Zu den 3 Buchteln

With another successful eating experience behind us, it was time to pay the bill and move on to the next gorging opportunity. At long last, we could go to the long awaited Zu den 3 Buchteln, having failed already twice to eat there. We took the metro to avoid the cold and walked quickly to our destination. Stepping through the door and into the completely empty restaurant, we instantly knew we had made a good choice.

You know those restaurants that feel homely and not commercial? This was the kind of place making the kind of food you imagine a little Austrian grandmother makes. Actually, there was just one (older) woman there, cooking, taking the orders, and giving you the bill. When we tried to eat there on Saturday, there was that same woman and one other. Definitely a small time place.

I ordered some kind of breaded pierogies with smoked duck and cabbage, over beluga lentils. Jelena had “Fleischtascherl”, which were some sort of pierogi or Maultaschen sort of thing. It was all excellent; though, I liked mine better. We also tried the much awaited Buchteln, which I didn’t really care for in the end. Jelena quite enjoyed them. All in all, another really great food experience. Let’s keep it up!

zuden3buchteln

Tomorrow, we plan to try the supposed best Schnitzel in town. It’s not a Wiener Schnitzel (from veal) but it’s supposed to be very large and very tasty. Worst case scenario: I’ll eat two Schnitzels this week.

Vienna: Day 3

I thought I’d write a little bit about Vienna: Day 3. The day started off lazy (remember, we’d been up late at Mozart the night before!), so I went out to fetch some breakfast. I saw a denn’s Biomarkt (a German organic store) and decided to have a look inside as I passed.

We’ve started a little tradition in Wiesbaden where we check denn’s in the morning for expiring discount organic food, so we get some (supposedly) healthier stuff at the same price as normal food. It was eerie. The store’s layout was a little different but, hundreds of kilometres away in another country, everything else was identical. The cash registers were unmanned. The employees were checking over the shelves for expired goods. 20% and 50% off labels were on the food, including milk (we often buy for homemade yogurt) and almost the identical cheese we buy. I went to the cash register and rang the bell for service, forgetting if I was in Wiesbaden or Wien. Franchises and capitalism. Awesome but scary.

Get to the part about the food!

Anyhow, I picked up some apparently local variety of salami for our rye bread. It tastes a little weird, maybe with paprika and some other spices. Still, it’s nice to try a different salami. With our stomachs temporarily filled, we set out for Schloß Schönbrunn.

vienna

It was a lot different than when I visited with my mom in the summer back in 2010. Everything was dead and it was quite cold. Still, the palace itself was nice and there was a great Christmas market out in front. We bought our first ornament together for our future Christmas tree.

After the cold walk, we sat inside the Café Residenz for some Apfelstrudel. As you can imagine, I did not have Apfelstrudel, since I hate baked apples, but I did have some Topfenstrudel, which was alright. Jelena enjoyed the strudel a lot and plans to eat more before we leave.

strudel

Vienna: Day 3 is about the food

backerei_wenningerTo be honest, every day is about the food, isn’t it? But after the Apfelstrudel, we set out for a cute bakery we found the other day on a side street in the centre, Wenninger Bäckerei. The door handle is a pretzel and there were lots of breads and cookies within. We picked up some Vanillekipferl and Linzer Augen. Jelena has her own Vanillekipferl recipe and, to be honest, I think hers is a lot better! But they were tasty all the same. We also picked up some yet to be eaten rye Brötchen (bread rolls – or, as they call them here, Semmel), which I hope are also great.

tafelspitzDirectly after our bread acquisition, we set out for Restaurant D’Landsknecht, in search of Tafelspitz, another specialty of Austria. While we both thought it was quite tasty, personally, I think boiled meat is probably on the bottom of the possible ways to cook meat. I associate it with cafeteria food and it reminds me somewhat of corned beef. I guess I’m not crazy because, apparently, boiled beef was a working class dish in England. Working class or not, it was delicious, so I’m not too snooty to enjoy chowing down on meat and potatoes. On the contrary, meat and potatoes are what make life worth living.

Time to head home

A day of eating behind us, we made our way to the tea shop to pick up some sencha, our go-to green tea, so we could warm up, eat our cookies, and sip our tea. Another great day in Vienna. Tomorrow, we plan to set out for Schloss Belvedere. Of course, we’ll only be killing time until the next eating adventure at Zu den 3 Buchteln!

Vienna Honeymoon

It’s been a long time since my last update but I wanted to get back into recording my travels! What better time than on my Vienna Honeymoon?

Jelena and I have been having a great time so far. We arrived on Saturday, taking the train all the way from Wiesbaden. I had a free ticket with my train points, so the whole thing was rather cheap. Can’t complain! I also played Crusader Kings II most of the way.

The food

Our food adventures have so far been excellent. Once we were settled, it was getting late but we needed to eat. We’d read about Zu den 3 Buchteln but they were booked out that night. We walked around and ended up settling on Sixta, which I highly recommend! Apparently, it’s popular with the gay scene but as long as you’re not a Republican from the US, it’s probably not a problem for you. We had something called Fiakergulyas, which the menu translates as traditional Austrian goulash with a bread dumpling, fried egg and pickle. It was delicious!

This morning, we had a reservation at Salzberg, a place Jelena found when we were looking for Sunday brunch opportunities. It was another perfect choice, with great food and service. I took the opportunity to eat criminal amounts of bacon, as expected. What wasn’t expected was to find eggs in a glass. I don’t know that I’ve seen it before but it’s a tasty idea. Everyone kept taking them, so I thought, well, why not? I wasn’t disappointed.

salzberg_brunch

Then, for (late) lunch, we went to a recommended noodle place, called Ra’mien. It was also quite delicious but apparently it’s very hyped up: I would not go out of my way to go there. Still, 3/3 places with no disappointment yet. For dinner, we had some yummy rye bread.

What’s next for the Vienna Honeymoon?

While walking around town today, we scored some tickets for a performance of Mozart Requiem, at St. Stephan’s Cathedral. It’s starting at 23:58 and presumably goes for an hour. Very excited!

On Tuesday, we have a reservation for the earlier mentioned Zu den 3 Buchteln, where we’ll have dinner and try Buchteln. So lots of eating still ahead. Other than that, we have no plans other than enjoying all Vienna has to offer. It’s a great city, so expect some great updates! You can also use Travel to Live to see what we’ve got planned so far.