Tag Archives: Vienna

Oh, Vienna (3)

€22 (plus tip) poorer, we started to wind our way back to the hotel. It was then that we came across, arguably, one of Vienna’s greatest “unsung” (heh heh) treasures – the Opera Toilet.

Very cultural city, Vienna...
Very cultural city, Vienna…

Yes, the toilet actually plays opera to you while you do your Sitzpinkel or plop onto the lovely poo shelf. (They have them in Austria too, as I’m sure you’ve been wondering since the start of this epic saga.)

To celebrate this wonderful find, we stopped off at Cafe Grav for a Spritzer (or three). We hadn’t been there long when an American couple sat at the table opposite. I figured these are the type of people “estimated walking times” in guide books are invented for. You know, when it says “walking time – 13 minutes” and, in reality, it actually takes three minutes, unless you’re an American tourist.

Anyway, they were adventurous enough to try the local cuisine so I gave them kudos for that. Their Schnitzel and potato salad arrived.

Homer: Um, where’s the sauce?

Waitress: It doesn’t come with sauce. 

Homer: But… where’s the sauce? 

Manfredas: It doesn’t come with sauce. That’s the traditional Schnitzel. You use the lemon to season it. 

Homer: Huh. Alright. Are the potatoes supposed to be cold? 

Waitress: Well, not cold but not hot. 

Manfredas: Yes, traditionally it’s lukewarm.

Homer: Huh (and probably wishing they’d gone to McDonalds).

Once they’d stopped questioning and started eating, they seemed to enjoy it though.

When we got back to the hotel, I asked Manfredas how much the bill had been.

Manfredas: Oh god, I didn’t pay.

Me: WHAT?!

Manfredas: Yeah, you were in the bathroom, I was messing around on my phone and when you came back, we just left.

Me: Oh god! 

As I was meeting my friend, Wyoming, we decided to pick him up along the way and go back to Grav to settle matters. The owner, who had waved us off as we left the first time, was relieved to see us again and laughed off the incident. Since he was so nice about it, we decided to put a bit more cash his way and stayed for a few more Spritzer.

My friend, Wyoming, had recently moved from Berlin to Vienna so it was interesting to see how he was getting on. I imagine both are a big change from the turkey farm he grew up on. Anyway, it was great to see him doing well and enjoying life there, and also to have a “local” to show us where the nightlife was at in Vienna. We headed to Schwedenplatz to party the night away, AFTER we’d paid the bill.

On Sunday, we woke to a gale-force wind whipping around the hotel, but not to worry, as we were off to cosy Cafe Sperl for a late breakfast.

Cafe Sperl
Cafe Sperl

As well as an illustrious history dating all the way back to 1880, Sperl is famous for having been used as a location in “Before Sunrise”. The ban on mobile phones they enforce probably also ensures most people remember to pay before they leave…

Mozart
Mozart

Fed and watered, it was time to go to one of Vienna’s most famous landmarks – Hundertwasser House. This was a commission for the architect to try to jazz up the existing block of council flats. With colourful facings, various protuberances, onion domes and a “war on the straight line”, I have to say Hundertwasser did a spectacular job.

After a pit stop at Gasthaus Wild, we decided to go and visit our new best buddy at Cafe Grav again. Naturally he remembered us and there were tears and jubilations at our return. We both ordered the Zwiebelrostbraten mit Bratkartoffeln and, of course, a couple of Spritzer. Unfortunately, our new friend was so happy to see us that he gave us a complimentary Spritzer just as we were about to leave, which meant that we wouldn’t have a lot of time at the Secession museum. We still drank them, though.

Model of Secession with its famous leafy dome
Model of Secession with its famous leafy dome

Secession is home to the monumental frieze by Gustav Klimt, and takes its theme from Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. At €9.50 to get in, it would want to be bloody impressive, and it is.

With our “culture between Spritzer” rule satisfied, we had time for one last drink before heading to the airport. In an effort to come full circle, we went back to the first place we had been to, fervently hoping that Helmut wouldn’t be there. He wasn’t but an even crazier version was. This guy thought that the Russian mob was after him, babbled on about how painful love is, and kept trying to tell us his life story despite our strong protestations.

After practically running out of there, we went back to the hotel, picked up our bags and got the amazingly efficient public transport back to the airport with its Arnold Schwarzenegger lift.

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Danke, Vienna (and Manfredas) for the perfect weekend.

 

Oh, Vienna! (2)

After a quick freshen-up at the hotel (and a chance for me to use one of the thoughtfully-packed teabags), we caught the bus to Kahlenberg, a hill which offers the best views of Vienna. The bus ride alone, up winding cobbled streets with views of forest, vineyards and glimpses of the city, is well worth it – just don’t eat too much before you get on.

Suitably shaken and stirred, we hopped off at the last stop, just in time to catch sunset over the valley. The views of the city, although a little misty that evening, were spectacular.

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With the sun gone, there was a decided nip in the air, so we got back on the bus to Grinzing, the most famous of Vienna’s wine villages – and so pretty it’s hard to imagine real people actually live there.

I’d chosen one place but, just as we were about to go in, a coachload of Spanish tourists showed up – NEIN! No way was I listening to that for the night. Luckily, you’re spoiled for choice in Grinzing so we just went across the road to the next ridiculously picturesque restaurant.

Crushed, no less. I like their no-nonsense approach.
Crushed, no less. I like their no-nonsense approach.

We found a table and ordered some much-needed food – and, of course, local wine. I had the goulash, which I ate too quickly to take a photo of but, I can assure you, it was delicious.

Grinzing - where men wear Lederhosen unironically
Grinzing – where men wear Lederhosen unironically

With some local musicians now in full swing in the bar area, we moved to another table to be closer to them – and ended up sitting beside the mayor, as you do. He took a shine to me immediately and every time Manfredas’ head was turned, he took the opportunity to give me a come-hither gaze I found rather amusing – and also declined.

Still, he and his party were friendly enough and we chatted away for a while; the only problem was his dog who had a tendency towards rather smelly ausfahrts. As soon as another table cleared, we hot-footed it over and, by now, were right beside the musicians.

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While they might have looked a bit Latvian on the outside, they were really nice people and, in no time at all, we were nattering away. It turned out that the musicians aren’t professionals; they’re just a group of locals who get together once a month to keep the old folk tunes alive. We just happened to get lucky by choosing that particular bar on that particular night. The lady on the right and I became pally as she loves Ireland, visits regularly, and sings Irish traditional songs with her local choir. For anyone interested in instruments, a piano accordian like this one will set you back up to €15,000.

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Pricey hobby

All in all, we had a fabulous night. We were the only tourists there and there was something really cool about being welcomed into a local tradition that we’d wandered into purely by accident.

Dinner: €8

Wine: Can’t remember

Listening to actual yodelling in a bar in Austria: Priceless

We got off to a slightly later start the next day (as you can imagine). After several cups of tea and a bite to eat, we took the train one station past Schloss Schönbrunn (Palace “Beautiful Spring”) so we could walk back through the palace gardens. The day turned out to be much nicer than we had expected and the gardens were beautiful.

This is probably down to the scary man cycling around, who shouts and blows his whistle at anyone who dares to go near the grass. Despite there being signs everywhere, people are stupid so I can’t blame him for being snarky.

If you think the gardens are impressive, wait until you emerge into the massive courtyard between the palace itself and the Obelisk Fountain. While it’s hard to take photos while your jaw is dragging along the ground, I did my best.

We felt like we’d definitely earned a Spritzer (or two) before heading back into the city so that’s exactly what we did. Feeling like I needed to work that off before indulging in the famous Viennese Sacher Torte, we had a wander around a park and took in the awe-inspiring buildings that surrounded it.

Me: Gawp.

Parliament Building
Parliament Building

Me: Gawp.

The Rathaus
The Rathaus

Me: Gawp.

KK Hofburg Theatre
KK Hofburg Theatre

Me: Gawp. Sneeze.

Yes folks, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – THE CAKES. When in Vienna, it doesn’t pay to do things by halves on the Kaffee and Kuchen front so it was off to the famous Café Landtmann. (Well, if it’s good enough for Sigmund Freud, it’s probably good enough for me.)

Caaaaaaaake...
Caaaaaaaake…
People eating caaaaaaaaaaaake
People eating caaaaaaaaaaaake

We found a nice outdoor table and waited for the menus. OH. MY. GOD.

Caaaaaaaaaaaake...
Caaaaaaaaaaaake…

They looked even better in person (or “in cake” – how does that work?).

Dear lord...
Dear lord…

DSC00635While I wanted to try everything, I felt that, this being Vienna, I should have the Sacher Torte. While we waited, I tried to figure out the pecking order of the waiters. (Manfredas probably missed awe-struck, silent Linda at this point.)

They have guys in black jackets and guys in white jackets. I think how it works is the “black” guys take your order, the “white” guys do all the carrying, and the “black” guys bring the bill and take the money at the end. I could be wrong though.

Who cares?! Caaaaaaaaaaake!
Who cares?! Caaaaaaaaaaake!

Feeling magnanimous and hopped up on chocolate, I offered to foot the bill for this one. Smugly loaded with a €20-note in my hand, I waved it at the snooty (but funnily so) waiter. He asked me for another €2. Erm, WHAT? €22 for a Sacher Torte, Apfelstrudel, a coffee and a tea bag in water… OK, it was worth it for the experience but I may have had a little weep.

This is turning into a Lord of the Rings-style epic – apologies! Part 3 coming soon! 

 

 

 

Oh, Vienna! (1)

I had been told before visiting Vienna that the Viennese were a tad rude and unfriendly. However, having lived in the Land of the Po-Faced for four years, I figured I could hold my own on that front. So, following a last-minute dash to buy sandwich bags, I was on my way to meet Manfredas to get the train to the airport.

After an easy 50-minute flight (or just enough time to drink one tiny, over-priced bottle of wine), we landed in Vienna. The great thing about travelling with a German is that they are, well, German. A guide book had been procured, maps acquired, travel itineraries to and from the hotel worked out, and 72-hour public transport tickets purchased. This meant that, once I’d recovered from a fit of hysterics at how much the voice in the lift sounded like Arnold Schwarzenegger, we were already on the most direct route to the hotel.

We checked into the Hotel Mercure, where Manfredas surprised me once again by producing some tea bags he’d brought with him – just in case they didn’t provide them at the hotel. Germans…

DSC00450
Where’s the food?

At this point, we were pretty hungry so we decided to head out into the night to see what Vienna had to offer. Luckily for us, the hotel was right opposite the Naschmarkt, a huge area with all kinds of international cuisine, but I only had one thing on my mind.

SCHNITZEL!
SCHNITZEL!

While listening to the “THUMP, THUMP, THUMP” from the kitchen of the chef beating more meat into submission, we savoured our Schnitzels, sampled the local wine and, by the time we were finished, the Naschmarkt was shutting down for the night. When plans fail, Linda’s “bar-dar” comes into play and beep, beep, beep, sure enough, within around three minutes, I’d located a likely spot for a nightcap.

Dreamy, right?
Dreamy, right?

The bartender was as overjoyed to see us as we were to find an open bar so it was a win-win from the off.

Happy Linda
Happy Linda

We were just sitting down to enjoy our (probably) last glass of the evening when we were joined by Helmut. At first, we were happy that a local wanted to speak to us, then we realised he was possibly on day release from the local asylum. To say he was hammered would be an understatement but there was something about his mother dying in a car accident, his grandfather being a famous race car driver, him being in an orphanage, umm, umm, maybe a daughter somewhere, the secret service were looking for him but couldn’t find him… And then he cried. And then he laughed. Then he held onto Manfredas for a very long time. And then we left.

Night one down.

Having checked the weather forecast (of course), we knew that Friday was going to be the best day weather-wise so we were up and about early(ish) to make the most of it. After a quick breakfast at the Naschmarkt, we started walking toward the Museum Quarter.

One of the first things you’ll notice in Vienna are the amazingly cute traffic lights. They were part of an initiative by the city’s PR team, after Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision, to put LGBT issues on the agenda. From some of the reading I’ve done, it sounds like the country still has a long way to go, but I guess every little helps.

Once I’d been dragged away from the traffic lights, it was on to see Vienna proper.

My new trick - spouting water out of my head
My new trick – spouting water out of my head

It is impossible to put into words just how beautiful this city is. I think I said “WOW” more in the space of a couple of hours than I ever have before in my life. A few photos don’t even begin to do it justice but hopefully you’ll get the general idea.

It is stunning.

After being wowed out by the Museumsquartier, it was forward to Stephansplatz, home to the imposing (and too big to take a decent photo of) Stephansdom.

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Dizzy from the majesty of it all, Manfredas suggested a time-out at Do&Co. You can buy the most expensive döner kebab in all of Vienna here but, as €26 would pretty much cover my weekly shop in Berlin, I decided to settle for just a drink. Knowing I’d be laughed out of my local in Berlin for ordering a Spritzer, I snorted a little when Manfredas said that was the Viennese drink of choice, but hey, when in Vienna.

To you, Vienna!
Wein in Wien!

Surprisingly refreshed by the girly drink Spritzer, I was ready for more. Having left the guide book in the German’s capable hands, because:

German + Guide Book = No-Brainer

I was rather surprised when we emerged from the U-Bahn here:

Argh!
Argh!

Seemingly, the Prater is a must because of the funfair and giant ferris wheel but, after the splendour of the morning, it felt more like a jarring eyesore.

A "must"
A “must”

It does run alongside quite a nice park, but all the shrieking in the background made it less than relaxing for a stroll.

Trying and failing to get into the carnival mood
Trying and failing to get into the carnival mood

We decided to meander back into the city along the canal, which was a much better idea.

And, of course, it’s when you walk a city that you find all of the unexpected things it has to offer. It turns out that, on a sunny day, half of Vienna heads to the beach or, to be more precise, the City Beach. Young and old alike (some disturbingly topless) were sprawled along the bank of the canal, in deckchairs, on the ground, or pretty much anywhere else they could find a space.

I wonder how many people fall in...
I wonder how many people fall in…

So naturally, we just had to join them for a Spritzer before deciding how to spend our second evening…

A very relaxed man
Napping, Austrian-style

Stay tuned. There may be yodelling…