One of the first things we noticed about Vienna was that it seemed really big when we first drove into our hotel.?We started planning things thinking we could only do a couple of them a day.?Once we started walking around, however, we realized that stuff was really close and easy to walk to, so we were able to do lots and lots of things…
One of our first stops was the famous Hotel Sacher for their equally famous Sachertorte:
1010 Wien, Austria
It was pretty touristy with lots of shots featuring smiling couples with treats exchanged between tables.?The torte was really delicious though.?The torte consists of two layers of dense, not overly sweet chocolate cake (traditionally a sponge cake) with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle and dark chocolate icing with shreds of chocolate on the top and sides.?Its perfect with a cup of coffee.?BTW, Vienna has amazing coffee and they take coffee culture seriously.?I've never seen so many cafes.
One interesting thing about the sachertorte was they had these diagrams everywhere telling you exactly how to spot the 'official' torte.?Things like the way the box is stamped and what sort of hinges it has and what seals are on the torte.?We thought this was odd until we saw that 'fake' sacher tortes were EVERYWHERE.?Airports, shops, street corners, etc…?Guess all of Vienna has gotten in on the crazy.
The “real” torte!
Next we walked around and noticed a few things about the city:
1. No one walks fast
2. At 10am people love to eat huge things of ice cream and start drinking bottles of wine and/or beer.
3. All bars take wine seriously, no 1.5L bottles of dusty merlot w/ screw caps here. ?br/>4. Everyone orders spritzers, its like a national drink.?Makes you wonder why it hasn't caught on more in the US
When we were there the EU 2008 was just heating up.?Vienna was a host city and there were soccer fans everywhere.?The idea was to corral them all into 'fan-zones' where they could watch the games on a giant screen.?But, in Vienna you can walk around with alcohol in your hands so most of them took advantage of that!
This picture was taken on the walk down the Kartnerstrasse around 10am.?What you can't see behind them is an ice chest w/ cold Stoli! The Kartnerstrasse is the main shopping/cafe pedestrian area (read: tourist zone). It leads straight past the Stephansplatz and St. Stephen's Cathedral, which is massive.?Its also really impressive.
We then marched down to the Belvedere Palace, a baroque palace complex built by Prince Eugene of Savoy in the 3rd district of Vienna, south-east of the city centre.?It now comprises of a museum on each end with a really beautiful garden in the center. They take great pride in that garden.?There was one worker whose sole job it seemed to be driving up and down the side of it telling tourists not to lie in the grass.
As you walk by its just rows and rows of proprietors trying to make eye contact wit you to sell you something.?Astrid and I both agreed that if we lived there we'd be at that market all the time.
A fair amount of time the next day involved exploring the Prater which is a huge amusement park with beer garden after beer garden in between the rides.?Sort of like Central Park meets Six Flags meets a German beer fest.?One of the most numerous of the ride types seem to be haunted house themes.?Some were about zombies, some werewolves, some about creatures living in the dark forests. Come to think of it… its pretty macabre for a kids park. Of course the Prater is famous for its giant ferris wheel (remember Before Sunrise?).?It was mobbed with partying soccer fans so Astrid and I went on the new one.?It gave us a great view of the city.
The soccer fans were in full force that day, crawling around the Prater which was a designated fan zone location.?At first I thought it would be a pain to have all these revelers in the way but they added a really festive air to the place.?I've never seen such a huge group of people in a good mood and ready to party.?That day was Austria vs Poland.?Which was interesting since they both have the same colors (red and white) so it was like a huge crowd surge where you couldn't tell at first what team was being supported.?
Other interesting sites: Sigmund Freud's home and patient office:
(Berggasse 19, A-1090 Vienna). Sigmund had great taste in neighborhoods.?His was tucked away and quaint but near the city center.?Reminded me of the better spots in Brooklyn.
The Austrian Criminal Museum
This is a homage to some of the more gruesome crimes committed in Austria.?They don't hold back with murder/torture instruments, graphic photos, and reconstructed prosthetics to really drive the stories home.?It was really fascinating.?They even had a cafe!
Speaking of cafes…we went to plenty.?Most of the coffee is the Julius Meinl brand.?Its delicious and prompted us to seek it out as soon as we got back to the states.?The brand also has a great gourmet grocery and wine bar in the city center.
One of my favorite coffees in Vienna was from the Beletage Salon Heiligenkreuzerhof Courtyard, Vienna. It's an all organic restaurant/cafe that's owned by the same people that run the hotel we stayed in.?Its located in a Vienna's oldest courtyard near the 'Bermuda Triangle' bar area north of the city center.?That whole area is just beautiful…lots of tucked away restaurants and courtyards amongst the cobblestone streets.
On our last night we wanted a dinner that would really remind us that we were in fact in Vienna.?We settled on the semi-famous Figlmuller.?Its pretty popular in the guide books so is always busy but they didn't disappoint.?The specialty of the house is Weiner Schnitzel and its huge!?Much bigger then a plate.?Its perfect with a simple salad of cider vinegar and pumpkin seed oil and some skillet potatoes with fresh parsley.?The schnitzel was so tender you could cut it easily with a fork.
1010 Innere Stadt, Wien, Austria)
Vienna is such a great city.?We're already scheming to go back!