Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A taste of Vienna

All packed and ready to go!

We just returned from a two week trip to France, encompassing Paris and the little town my inlaws live, as well as four days in a city the Frenchman and I (sans baby) have come to love: Vienna, Austria.

at Cafe Schwarzenberg
Breakfast Viennese style

Vienna for us is the ultimate indulgence. Cake and hot chocolate every afternoon, lovely Wiener sausages and goulash mopped up with bread for lunch and/or dinner (or both, in many cases), a traditional breakfast of soft boiled eggs, kaiser bread rolls, butter crescents and fruity Staud's jam made right there in Vienna. I must admit that most of my love of Vienna comes from the incredible food. Not only is it freshly made, tasty, but also very reasonably priced. You can eat like a king in Vienna much less than it would in many other cities. Nobody bugs you in Vienna. People give you respect and leave you be. I really like that. Women-of-a-certain-age still parade around in their furs, gentlemen in respectable suits and hats. The old imperial air still hangs in Vienna. That's my kind of style.

Graben (main shopping street)

On the first evening of our arrival, we saw a concert of the Vienna Philharmonic playing Strauss in the Musikverein, the same venue of the famous New Year's Concert. With the exception of tourists, people dressed to impress, something I do miss seeing elsewhere. I grew up thinking that when attending special occasions (nice dinners, concerts, travelling, etc) you dressed nicely. It is an old fashioned mentality that my mother instilled in me and I'm so glad to see it still exists so obviously in Vienna. Although Austria has such a rich history and royal family that ruled a huge chunk of Europe which only ended about a hundred years ago, it now is almost ignored. They keep to themselves and never cause any trouble. A bit like Switzerland. I just find it incredible that they went from a super power to a quite almost forgotten country in only a century. 

One of our favourite haunts in Vienna is Aïda - the konditorei (pâtisserie) chain. They serve so many different types of cakes (they do light lunches and breakfast too) and the most amazing hot chocolate. It's both rich and subtle at the same time and goes perfectly with your cake but not your waistline!

Fish eye view of the cake cabinet at Aïda, taken with the Frenchman's new Christmas toy

Pictured below is a slice the Mozart torte, our favourite and the one we'd been looking most forward to. It's inspired by the Mozart Kugel chocolates from Salzburg. In this case it's chocolate cake with a layer of chocolate truffle cream and marzipan in the middle, covered in ganache. So good! We also went to other cafés/konditorei but I will talk about those later.

Who could be in Vienna without eating Schnitzel? We went to Figlmüller, arguably the most famous Schnitzel purveyors in Vienna. Some say it's a tourist trap, but I saw plenty of locals enjoying their meals there too. It may be a tourist favourite, but the food is actually good, fresh, and worth every cent. Again, very reasonably priced. The service was fast and friendly too. Just make sure you specify smoking or non-smoking when asking for a table. We were automatically put in the smoking section (we didn't realise they were still allowed to smoke indoors in Austria) but it wasn't terribly bad so we stayed put. We  overheard another group asking for a table in the non-smoking section and they were told in that case there was a bit of a wait as the section was full. 

They have two locations, one in a quaint cobbled stone arcade, and another larger restaurant around the corner. On our last visit, we went to the one in the arcade but this time it looked too full so we went to the other. I would prefer the atmosphere of the arcade restaurant but this one wasn't too bad either.

Last time we had the traditional veal schnitzel, however it was the size of Texas and I wasn't keen on the taste or chewiness of the veal. This time we both had the chicken schnitzel (hühner-schnitzel). It was the perfect size for my huge appetite and I was full to bursting after the last bite (but pleasantly so). Make sure you order a salad on the side. You have a choice of just potato salad, or a mixed plate of different salads. We both chose the mixed plate but I enjoyed the small spoonful of potato salad within that I will probably take a whole plate of only potato salad next time.

So, to end the first bombardment of photos, I leave you with the view from our hotel room. It had been cold but not snowy during our trip until I specifically asked it to snow overnight in time for the day of our anniversary. It worked!

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