Tag Archives: wine

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.

Mendoza, Argentina wine tour

One of the best travel days we’ve had thus far was a day of biking and wine tasting outside of Mendoza, Argentina (you might find this similar to the time we went to Austria and our best travel day was one of biking and wine tasting along the Danube). A bike tour of wineries is a common activity in the Mendoza area, since it’s the “Napa Valley of Argentina,” (we saw that phrase a lot – a LOT – when reading about Mendoza), and there are a huge variety of options how to do it. We obviously haven’t tried them all, but would definitely recommend the way we did it.

Pulmary4

AltaVista6

We took advantage of the tour method suggested by the owners of Hostel Lao, the absolutely excellent hostel where we stayed in Mendoza (in all honesty, it was probably the best hostel experience and best value we’ll see on this trip). They organized our bike rental with Baccus Bike Tours and helped us design the entire tour in the cheapest way possible – take a public bus out to the site instead of arranging for a pickup, and have the bike rental agency give us a map of places we could go based on our timing (many places close in the early afternoon during the siesta time, and others only give tours at specific times). Like most bike rental agencies, Baccus can organize an entire tour, including lunch and other amenities, but this was a much cheaper way of doing things and perfect for young travelers on a budget. We ended up going at the same time as a group of other travelers, some of whom were staying at our hostel as well, and hung out with them for the whole day.

Taking the bus out to the site ended up being a little more adventurous than we predicted – a bit of a complicated story involving a bus driver with an apparent tourist-aimed bone to pick – but we’d still definitely recommend the way we did it. A public bus from the center of Mendoza to the bike rental spot should take about 40 minutes (note I say “should,” but hopefully you’d get a better driver), and at Baccus Bikes the owner, Inez, will create a custom map of wineries and other places depending on your interests and timing. For our group, Inez marked on our map four stops, including a winery with a restaurant and a final stop at a liqueur/jams/olives/chocolate maker that specializes in absinthe.

We spent the rest of the day – about 1 p.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. – tasting wines, taking tours, eating an incredible lunch, and testing our stomachs (lots of wine + bumpy roads + hot sun + jams/olives/chocolate + absinthe). We only made it to two wineries before our final stop, but had more than our fill of amazing Argentinian wines.

Our first stop was family-run Pulmary Vineyards, a certified organic operation including an incredible garden restaurant. Most of our group ordered steaks and pork chops cooked over a fire out in the yard, but I couldn’t resist a plate of perfectly grilled vegetables and a fried egg (besides, I was a little beefed-out by this point of the trip, and I knew I’d have plenty more to go).

Pulmary7

Pulmary9

Pulmary3

Pulmary8

Our group shared two bottles of wine with lunch, plus about 6 or 8 tastings during the tour of the facility. We didn’t see the vineyards at this place, but got a full tour of the processing and cellars. Tastings included a variety of reds, most notably Argentina’s famous Malbec, both bottled and new (uncellared). Our favorites included the new Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2008 and 2010 Reserve Malbecs.

Pulmary5

Pulmary6

Pulmary1

Our second stop was Alta Vista Winery, a much larger (and much more expensive) operation owned by a family that also runs wineries in France. While we waited for our tour and tasting to start we lounged around in their garden and vineyards, with spectacular views of the Andes. We only tasted three wines at this spot, but that included Torrontés, Argentina’s most prominent white wine.

AltaVista3

AltaVista5

AltaVista1

AltaVista4

Our third and final stop was A La Antigua, a family-run gourmet foods and liqueurs producer. We tasted about a dozen savory items – tapenades and pickled peppers and their unique sweet green olives – another dozen jams and dulce de leches, then could each pick two of their dozen or so liqueurs to taste. As a group we shared and were able to taste all of the liqueurs, including flavors like orange, rose, spiced wine, dulce de leche, chocolate hazelnut, and sweet and spicy green chile. The main event, though, was the absinthe. Four of our group chose absinthe as one of their tastings, and the owner of the shop served them for us in the authentic style, with a teaspoon of flaming sugar soaked in alcohol.

ALaAntigua1

ALaAntigua3

The biking itself was a little out of the ordinary – heavily rutted dirt streets and, as always, crazy Argentinian drivers. But we easily made it where we needed to go, even in the heat of the mid-day sun, and had no problem getting our way back to the bike rental and then back to our hostel in Mendoza.

Costs, per person: bus ticket ($5.40ARS – $1.10 USD) round trip, bike rental ($35ARS – $7USD), tastings ($15ARS – $3USD / $30USD – $6USD / $15ARS – $3USD), plus lunch (somewhere around $125-175ARS, including wine – $25-30USD).