Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mozart, Schnitzel and some lovely cakes in Vienna

Bank Holidays here in England and nice little bonus days off. May has two of them and they are a great excuse for a long weekend of traveling. We took advantage of the first Bank Holiday in May and extended the weekend into a short holiday for ourselves in eastern Europe. Our first stop was Vienna. And after going through our photos and posting these, it almost appears as if I were not there! I guess the fact that I tend to be the photographer, means I am not really in as many photos as Scott....
The buildings are all very grand but not very high throughout the city. Lots of statues too. 
This scene seemed like a quintessential Vienna shot to me - horses riding through the beautifully ornate domed buildings in the centre of town. 
We wandered through Graben which is a broad pedestrianized shopping street that was once the town moat. (hence the name - Graben = ditch). It later became a marketplace and now is one of the city's finest boulevards. It seemed to be a popular area for the locals to congregate. 
Stephansdom - the glorious gothic nave, choir and side-chapels from the 14th and 15th centuries. Probably the most famous church in Vienna.
Inside Stephansdom - a beautiful sight. Inside St. Stephen's church there is an elevator attraction to take tourists to the top of the church for an unbelievable view of the city.
The ONLY stairs we had to climb to get to the top! The elevator ride to the top of this bell tower was worth every Euro (a mere 9 for both of us) was probably the only place we've been able to take an elevator to the top. Now, these few stairs did make me a bit nervous as we felt like we were walking up a staircase suspended in the air...
A view of the buildings below from the bell tower observation deck. The buildings in Vienna were largely white in color and very picturesque. 
Scott at the top of St. Stephen's church. The top is caged in so no one can fall out...
A beautiful view of the city....
The intricately tiled roof of St. Stephen's church. 
And the other side of the roof...
The large bell a top the church.
At a lovely little cafe called Cafe Oberlaa, we sat outside to enjoy the beautiful day. At many cafes throughout the city, I kept seeing beautiful milkshake-type drinks that people were enjoying. I was very excited about the prospect of a good milkshake (unlike the English versions which are basically flavored milk), so I ordered a chocolate one.
Looks can be was beautiful upon arrival. And while it was a tad thicker than the English milkshakes, it really still pales in comparison to any mediocre American milkshake. I guess I have now resigned myself to waiting until we are back in the US before enjoying any more....
Scott planning our next route at another lovely fountain sculpture in the city. 
Our next stop was Vienna's best food market: Naschmarkt. This market was a series of stalls that were a few blocks long, many featuring fresh produce, meats, cheeses, etc. along with a series of restaurants and cafes dotted throughout them. 
One of many produce stands in the market area. 
And so we stopped for a pint at a great little outdoor cafe within the Naschmarkt. 
While we were in Vienna, we took the tram, the subway and a few buses to see the sights of the city. Normally Scott navigates for us and he is excellent at it (if I do say so). However, something was off in Vienna. We ended up on the wrong tram lines, walked in the opposite direction of where we wanted to go when leaving the subway, and on and on. Our sense of direction was a bit off in Vienna and it took us a few extra attempts to get it right and get where we needed to go in the end. 

Riding the tram around the city. It was a neat way to see the city, provided we got on the correct line! 
Riding the bus en route to Grinzing, outside the city centre, in hopes of finding the wine villages for a quaint dinner choice
One evening we ventured to a northwestern village on the outskirts of Vienna, called Grinzing, which is an old wine village surrounded by vineyard striped hills. It is where many wines are produced and is is known for its quaint old houses and cosy wine taverns, or Heuriger, as they are called locally. Our hope was to find a Heuriger so we could eat at one of these wine restaurants where families promote their new wines and we could sample them with small dishes. Unfortunately, again, our sense of direction was really off and we somehow wandered down the wrong street as we left the bus stop. Only upon our return back to the bus stop, did we take another road (by chance) which of course was dotted with MANY of these cosy wine taverns with lovely wine courtyards! 
The restaurant, Figls, at which we ended up eating turned out to be a good find but not a traditional Heurigen. They have a huge beer garden out back which is where we ate and enjoyed the cuisine.
 I had this HUGE delicious pretzel as part of one of my starters. This pretzel, along with the white asparagus soup Scott had at this dinner, were two of our most delicious things we ate in Vienna. 

The route back to the bus stop was where we found the street of cosy wine taverns....clearly marked with the big bunch of grapes - signaling the wine route! If only we had taken the other road....
The next day we ventured out to the grand location of Schonbrunn. As our guide book said "What Versailles  is to France, Schonbrunn is to Austria." This grandiose baroque palace was once the summer residence of the imperial family and now it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is Vienna's most visited attraction. It was quite large and the grounds were stunning. 
Scott with the crowds at the entrance to the palace grounds. 
I really was there too! 
A view of the palace from the back of the palace grounds. 
Neptune's Fountain inside the palace garden. 
More climbing...we walked all the way up the palace hill to the Gloriette, which is situated on a high hill overlooking the palace and gardens, with the city as a distant backdrop. 
Gloriette - the large aracde up at the top of the hill that was built to commemorate the Austro-Hungarian victory over the Prussians in 1775. Inside there is even a little cafe. 
Walking through and touring Schlosspark, the palace park. The immaculately clipped hedges fill the park. 
The Schoner Brunnen fountain (translation - beautiful fountain) after which the palace is named. 
We stayed very close to this building which is Vienna's city hall. 
Such a pretty building....
A fancy little street side contraption. Purified water on the street so one can refill a water bottle or take a drink of a water. I guess it is really just an upscale drinking fountain but it looked fancy
There were two food items on my planned agenda for our Vienna trip. The first one was the famous Sacher torte. The Sacher Torte website claims it is has been the most famous cake in the world for more than 175 years! Its recipe has been a secret since 1832. 

The staff is constantly plating up pieces of the famous dessert and they sit for only a few minutes before they are served to customers. During our short time at the cafe, we saw two full tortes plated and served to the crowd. No wonder over 360,000 tortes are produced EVERY year! 
I had the original Sacher Torte (a chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam in the middle) and Scott had another slice of apple strudel. 
The second food item we were after while in Vienna was schnitzel. Our guide book and a family friend both suggested a restaurant called Figlmuller as the best place for schnitzel in the city. It was also listed as one of the top 10 things to see or do in Vienna by our guidebook, so given that ranking, we knew it was a place to visit. 
Sure enough, we were not the only ones who wanted to eat this place. Per a recommendation, we went to dine on the earlier side as we ate our dinner, the long queue started to form outside the restaurant for others wanting to dine there too. 
We ordered their most famous dish - Winer schnitzel. Our guidebook said "the schnitzels are so large they overlap the plates" which clearly was true! The schnitzels were paper thin and were tender and buttery in taste. Each was served with a simple wedge of lemon to squeeze on top of it. Schnitzel heaven.
The recommended side dish for the schnitzel was a german style potato salad and some mixed greens. Clearly we didn't like ours at all...
We ate, ate, and ate some more but seemingly could not finish the full plates of schnitzel. They were just too large! 
After our bellies were stuffed full of schnitzel, we thought a walk was in order. We wandered across the river towards Prater park.  
The Danube River in Vienna at dusk. 
At Prater Park, there is a huge amusement park, including a large Ferris Wheel. 
We decided to give it a whirl....and up we went over the city at dusk. 
Scott took this photo - as soon as we got up high in the ferris wheel, I wasn't too keen on looking out the window. I was glad to have a little seat inside the ferris wheel cabin, which is where I remained for the duration of the ride. 
Back on the ground and through the amusement park we went....


Almost American said...

Great photos!

I remember my student union used to sell 'triple-thick' milk shakes - the closest thing I found in the UK to an American milk shake.

Lauren Walsh said...

great pictures, cassie.