Tag Archives: Vienna

Vienna, part two

The remainder of our time in Vienna has been a bit slower, mainly due to the fact that the weather has been so terrible, though a couple of days ago the sun finally (FINALLY) returned and we’ve been able to spend more time outside (and divert from the steady rotation of 2-3 outfits we’ve been wearing for weeks … we packed mainly summer clothes, which have barely left the closet). We have only a couple of days left before we head to Budapest on Thursday, where we’ll be for a week before heading back to the United States. Our international travel for the year is almost done, which is really hard to believe.

There’s no way I’ll remember everything else we’ve done in order (Brett’s much better with that chronological stuff), but here are some highlights:

We’ve done quite a bit more hiking, bringing our total of the Stadtwangerwegs to five (hikes 1, 2, 3, 4a, and 5, and we’re planning to do 1a as an activity on our last day – and we didn’t intend to those first five numbers, by any means; they just ended up being the ones we chose). This system of trails is quite amazing and we’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting Vienna. You can get to each trailhead by public transit and the website lists places along each trail to stop for eating and drinking. Most go through vineyards and parks and have beautiful views of the city, though some have had some disappointingly urban sections that weren’t very exciting (we’d recommend they shorten the route and start in the natural areas instead). If you’re traveling there and want a hiking recommendation, leave a comment below and we’d be happy to help! I decided that if we ever live here I will put together a more detailed English-language guide to the trails, since there are definitely some interesting places to note along the way and sometimes the signage on-site is a little confusing.

We’ve also taken two trips outside of Vienna – one overnight trip to the Krems area along the Danube (which has since experienced some pretty heavy flooding – our timing was fortuitous) and a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia. We did the same trip to Krems when we were here two years ago, although then we drove there from Vienna and afterward continued heading west across the country. This time we took the one-hour train ride out in the morning, stayed there overnight and took the train back. We spent the two days biking around on the bike paths along the river (which run along the river across the entire country), stopping at heurigens and other little shops in the villages along the way. We had a few favorite places from our last trip that we wanted to revisit, which we were able to do for the most part (notable because most of the heurigens and other places are only open for a few random weeks of the year; we were lucky to be there when a few of our favorite places were open). Buying wine was one of our main priorities of the trip, and we brought 9 bottles back with us, most of which were far cheaper for the level of quality than what we’d be able to get in Vienna. We also enjoyed a repeat visit to Wieser, an Austrian distillery, where we picked up a collection of high-quality fruit schnapps (totally different than American schnapps; get that idea of root beer and peach and whatever else out of your mind) to have a taste of summer in the middle of what is sure to be a shocking Midwestern winter.

Train to Krems

Train to Krems

Heuriger garden

Heuriger garden

Wine and Quargelaufstrichtsbrot at a heuriger

Wine and Quargelaufstrichtsbrot at a heuriger

We stayed at the same homestay in Stein (next to Krems) where we stayed last time, one of the many “Zimmer Frei”s (open room) places in the towns where people open up a few rooms of their house to visitors, which was wonderful. We rented bikes from the new city bike stands, which didn’t exist last time we were there, and despite some language-barrier difficulty in renting and returning the bikes (all of which happens over the phone), everything worked out pretty well. This was in the middle of a particularly bad rainy spell, but we picked our days perfectly – the only two non-rainy days in those few weeks.

Biking through the vineyards

Biking through the vineyards

Biking Brett

Biking Brett

Biking through Durnstein

Biking through Durnstein

Half a case of wine in basket in backpack!

Half a case of wine in basket in backpack!

If anyone wants more details about doing a biking trip to this area, definitely ask. We’d be happy to share details of where we stayed, where we drank, where we ate, etc. It’s one of our favorite travel experiences that we’ve ever, ever had, and we’re really hoping to do the longer cross-country cycling trip some day. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you can see the album of photos from the trip that I posted when we got back.

Last week we took a day trip to Bratislava, only a 45-minute train ride from Vienna. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit another new country and to see somewhere so different. It was amazing to be somewhere so close but with an entirely different language, culture, and history. We mainly wandered around the picturesque little town, hiking up the hill to the castle to get great views and eating a pretty traditional Slovakian lunch, which was about the heaviest meal we’d ever eaten. (Seriously – I ordered the gnocchi, which was covered in sheep cheese, lard, and bacon. Brett ordered the porkchop, which was heavily coated in potato batter and deep fried, topped with a mountain of shredded cheese, and accompanied by a salad that was more creamy dressing than lettuce. It took a lot of walking to work those pits out of our stomachs …) We also wandered over to the river, where great crowds of people were gathered to see the height of the water. Temporary walls guarded by police officers were put up along most of the way, holding back the water that I would guess was almost five feet above the level of the sidewalks/streets. It was pretty crazy to be walking along knowing that on the other side of the metal wall next to us was a rushing river at about shoulder height.

Bratislava doorway

Bratislava doorway

Statue downtown

Statue downtown

Historic downtown

Historic downtown

View over the flooded river

View over the flooded river

A view over the historic area

A view over the historic area

Brett's porkchop and salad

Brett’s porkchop and salad

Flooded boat dock

Flooded boat dock

There's a raging river behind that temporary wall ...

There’s a raging river behind that temporary wall …

Flooded park (view over the temporary wall)

Flooded park (view over the temporary wall)

Closed railway bridge over the river (not flood-related)

Closed railway bridge over the river (not flood-related)

The central, historic area of Bratislava is pretty cute, although touristy, but it was definitely worth a day trip. We didn’t really want to pay to get into any museums or do a tour or anything, though, and we were a little afraid of eating another heavy meal, so we ended up heading back before dinner.

Back in town, we’ve checked off a number of things on our Vienna To-Do List. We’ve visited the Kunsthistorisches Museum (classic/historical art), Museum für angewandte Kunst (applied arts), and the Secession Museum, a museum/contemporary art space founded by artists in the so-called “secession” movement of the early 20th Century. Each was awesome and totally different, and now I’m obsessed with, among other things, Klimt friezes and Viennese coffeehouse furniture.

We’ve also spent more time wandering around the center, partially because of our quests to eat more döner and to buy some nice ceramics, the first of which has been fulfilled many times and the second of which has utterly failed. But we did discover and return to Café Hawelka, a totally old-school and popular café downtown, and finally made it back to Figlmüller for their incredible schnitzel and potato salad with pumpkin seed oil.

Pre-lunch snack at Freyung Biobauernmarkt

Pre-lunch snack at Freyung Biobauernmarkt

Central Vienna

Central Vienna

Huge and amazing schnitzel

Huge and amazing schnitzel

We also finally made it to the Flohmarkt (flea market), which attaches itself to the end of the Naschmarkt on Saturdays. We thought we’d come away like bandits with ceramics and steins and maybe even some leiderhosen for Brett, but our shopping mojo is way off these days and we ended up spending our money on desserts, cherries, and vinegar mothers in the Naschmarkt instead. (Vinegar mothers! I can’t wait to make vinegar once we get to Madison. That’s me!)

Schuhe for sale at the Flohmarkt

Schuhe for sale at the Flohmarkt

Flohmarkt stalls

Flohmarkt stalls

And it was our wedding anniversary! This means we’ve officially spent half of our wedding anniversaries in Vienna. We spent the day kind of lazing around in the morning eating a delicious breakfast at home (leftover Turkish braised veggies and meat with poached eggs), then went on Stadtwanderweg 1 through the woods and vineyards above Nussdorf, where we enjoyed some delicious white wine and a Jausenbrettl (snack board) for lunch. We came home, cleaned up and dressed, and went into the center for a fancy cocktail at the Palmenhaus, which we fully enjoyed outside in the sunshine on the first sunny evening since we arrived in Vienna on May 9 (seriously). We went to dinner back in our neighborhood at the same restaurant where we went two years ago, which was lovely, and headed home to enjoy dessert and some fancy apricot schnapps from the distillery we visited on our biking trip. It was a lovely day!

Jausenbrettl

Jausenbrettl

Poppies and vineyards, Stadtwanderweg 1

Poppies and vineyards, Stadtwanderweg 1

Stadtwanderweg 1 view

Stadtwanderweg 1 view

We also did plenty at home in our apartment, mainly because of the rain. We made our way through Arrested Development from pilot to the end of the new season, and I’m this close to finishing the first three seasons of Friday Night Lights, which I bought for about 3 dollars on DVD while we were in Asia. (Wait, I’m probably not supposed to admit that.) Brett’s been working hard on his consulting projects and doing some math studying to prep for school in the fall, and I’ve been putting in long hours looking for jobs and reaching out to folks in Madison and working quite a bit on my website, which I painstakingly transferred to self-hosted back at the beginning of our time in Austria. Our time in Vienna has been perfect for doing those sorts of projects, and we both are so, so glad we decided to schedule this part of the year this way.

In our remaining few days here we’re hoping to do one last hike, like I mentioned earlier, which will take us by our favorite local heuriger and should give us some great farewell views of the city. We have a few last “to eat” tasks that will probably include quite a bit of dessert (I’m having my last apfelstrudel at Cafe Prückel as I write this), and some shopping to do (like coffee and a big bag of poppy seeds to bring back). Tonight we’re going to try to get into the famous Loos American Bar for a cocktail before dinner, and we’re hoping tomorrow is sunny enough for some park time and general wandering.

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Vienna – The first half

We’re just over half way through out time in Vienna.  And it has been magnificent.  We’ve been able to see and do some of the wonderful tourist activities such as museums, but for us, that is not the main draw of Vienna.  Those things are all great, but what makes us love Vienna so much is simply the way life feels here.  The city is set up for Gemütlichkeit.  You may recognize that word from the title of our blog, A World and Gemütlichkeit, and it was being here two years ago that (re)introduced us to the term and reminded us of the importance of the concept.  Gemütlichkeit doesn’t have a direct translation but means, roughly, comfortableness or friendlyness or unhurriedness.  To me, it means enjoyment of life, taking time to enjoy the good things that we always have available to us but that we often neglect.  So while we’ve been here we’ve been going often to cafes, taking lovely hikes through the forested hills that surround the city, drinking incredible and cheap wine, and generally enjoying life.

Most days we spend the morning in our apartment, working, reading, or studying, and then head out after lunch for some adventure.  Sometime just a lovely cafe, sometime the opera, sometimes a museum or a hike.

Our time here started with a wander from our apartment into the center to enjoy one of our favorite Austrian treats, prosecco mit Aperol, at the Kunsthallencafe.  (For more on Aperol, see Bowen’s blog here and here.)  I had set a goal for us not to use any public transportation until after our first weekend so that we would have to get out and walk the streets.  So our second day we walked the nearly three miles up to the Brunnenmarkt market in the 16th district, which was lovely. And we bought a lot of cheap and delicious produce, cheese, dry goods and chicken and walked it back.  Which was … uncomfortable.  I didn’t get sensation back on the tip of one of my fingers for about two days after carrying heavy plastic bags.

Prosecco aperol at Kunsthallencafe

Prosecco aperol at Kunsthallencafe

Chicken for sale in the Brunnenmarkt

Chicken for sale in the Brunnenmarkt

The first weekend we spent wandering and sampling some classics, including our first of many visits to Aida Cafe for Sachertorte and a visit to Zwölfapostelkeller for wine and liptauerbrot.  On the first Monday we explored the city a bit on the free (for the first hour) City Bikes that are stationed all over the city.

Zwölfapostelkeller

Zwölfapostelkeller

The next day we went on our first hike, Stadtwanderweg 3.  The city has a set of 15 hikes in and around the city, 11 of which are short hikes in scenic areas, two of which traverse the city and two of which are 5-6 days trips around the city (seriously).  Each of course is well maintained and has lovely cafes along it to refuel weary walkers.  And each is served by public transit.  Gemütlichkeit!!  This hike took us through the western hills through a couple of vineyards, but mostly through forests and meadows.

A broad boulevard near the beginning of Stadtwanderweg 3

A broad boulevard near the beginning of Stadtwanderweg 3

One of the many signs pointing the way

One of the many signs pointing the way

Another lovely scene in the Wienerwald

Another lovely scene in the Wienerwald

The next day I went to the Opera.  Opera is a big deal in Vienna.  In fact, my understanding is that there is a general belief that every Wiener (person from Vienna, or Wien in German) has a certain right to access opera and other elements of culture.  Thus, while there are fancy seats that cost 185 euro, there are are seats for about 11 euro, and perhaps most impressively, standing tickets (stehplatz) for 3-4 euro.  That’s right, anyone with 3 euro and some extra time to wait in line at the Stehplatzkasse can see the some of the world’s best opera.  By comparison, the New York Met has standing tickets as well, but they cost $17-40.  So to finish out our first week in Vienna, I waited in line for an hour and a half, paid 3 euro and then stood through four and a half hours of Wagner’s Die Walküre.  And it was awesome.  I don’t generally like opera all that much, but this was fantastic.

On the one weekaversary of being in Vienna we headed to see the Klimt and other great art at the Belvedere.  The Belvedere not only has great art, it has lovely gardens and is only about a half mile from our apartment, and recently we’ve been joining the locals on morning jogs through the gardens.  I can guarantee the scenery is much nicer than looking at a TV screen or out the window at the gym.  We started the weekend with dinner at Esterhazy Keller, a local institution with great wine, and then found a lovely little festival at the foot of Stephansdom (St. Stephens Cathedral) where we drank fresh raspberry wine and admired beautiful local crafts.  The next day we wander through the Prater, the very large park in the city and home to the Reisenrad (a giant Ferris wheel) and the Liliputbahn (a tiny train about which my sister and I made up many songs when we were children) in the Wurstelprater amusement park.  The day was intermittently quite rainy, so we escaped into Cafe Prückel, which has become our favorite cafe in the city.

The gardens at the Belvedere

The gardens at the Belvedere

Würst in the Wurstelprater

Würst in the Wurstelprater

A bit of class at Cafe Prückel

A bit of class at Cafe Prückel

On our second Monday in town Bowen came with me to the Opera, and we saw Carmen stehplatz.  This was fun, and the stage direction by Franco Zefirrelli (seriously) was great, but it was much more of a standard opera experience in which the characters sing five times about what they are going to tell you, then sing what they are telling you, and then remind you five times what they just told you, when all they are telling you is that the sun is out today.  The next day we headed in the afternoon out to Nußdorf, an area at the edge of town that has many vineyards and heurigen, small and often informal places to drink new wine and eat simple food.

A whole roast pig at a heuriger

A whole roast pig at a heuriger

In the remainder of the first half of our time here, we went for a walk at Schloss Schunbrunn, I went back to the Opera for more Wagner (Götterdamerung, even longer than Die Walküre), we headed back to Prückel, we wandered through the second district of the city and we took two more great hikes, one up near the northern vineyards and one across the Danube (and also near vineyards; there are lots of vineyards here).

Vineyards along Stadtwanderweg 2

Vineyards along Stadtwanderweg 2

The view from Häuserl am Stoan, on of the Gasthäuser along the hiking paths around Vienna

The view from Häuserl am Stoan, on of the Gasthäuser along the hiking paths around Vienna

Another lovely spot to refuel

Another lovely spot to refuel

Vineyards along Stadtwanderweg 5

Vineyards along Stadtwanderweg 5

So in a word… gemütlichkeit.  Life is good.  The weather has taken a turn for the worse (as I learned yesterday from Rosetta Stone, “Dieses Wetter ist am schlechtesten.”), but we’re still finding ways to enjoy life every day.  Stay tuned for more.

Goats on Stadtwanderweg 5!

Goats on Stadtwanderweg 5!

Tweeting Wien

Hallo aus Wien! We’re on day 3 of 35 and so far everything is wonderful. The rain today kind of ruined our plans to walk Anywhere and Everywhere, but we’re making do.

Here’s a picture of Brett enjoying our first Döner yesterday. We’ve been waiting only, oh, two years for it.

IMG_3711

 

Also, we realized that since we’re having a significantly different experience here than in the rest of our travels that we have a lot of sort of random little observations that we didn’t really know how to share with y’all. That’s when we came to the exciting/horrifying realization that that’s what Twitter is for.  I (Bowen) have had a Twitter account for a couple of years but use it fairly sparingly, mostly to keep up with other friends who use it and professionally to connect with other food folks and keep up with local organizations (previously those in LA, now the ones in Madison that I’m getting excited about). Not that I need any excuses to use Twitter, but there they are.

In any case – we’re going to try to start posting there (aka tweeting) some of our little day-to-day observations about life here in Vienna. You can see my Twitter profile at https://twitter.com/bowenappetit. If you’re on Twitter too you can respond, retweet, and some other functions I don’t really understand how to use. You can also subscribe to my Twitter feed using an RSS reader (just subscribe to the profile url), but I’m warning you that it will send you a feed for every single tweet. There are probably other ways to follow a Twitter feed, but I don’t know about them.

Hallo aus Wien!

Just a quick note to say that after 10 months (to the day!) of moving quite quickly (see the sidebar for evidence), we have arrived in Vienna, Austria.  This will be our home for the next five weeks, minus a possible overnight excursion or two.  We’re staying in the same excellent apartment where we stayed two years ago.  More to come…

Photo on 5-9-13 at 3.40 PM #2

It feels good to be home!