Sunday 27 April 2014

A Viennese Whirl!

I recently learnt that a Viennese Whirl biscuit has nothing to do with Vienna (a fact which I actually only discovered whilst there, much to my disappointment!)  However, my 'whirl'wind visit (see what I did there!) of Austria's capital was far from disappointing.

I caught the train from Munich to Vienna ("Wein" in German) via Salzburg and lots of gorgeous Alpen views to meet my equally foodie-obsessed sister.

We headed out immediately for some food...making a brief culture stop to admire the Vienna State Opera House, one of the most famous Opera Houses in the world, built in 1860.

We went straight to Hotel Sacher, home of the world famous "Sachertorte" which is a specific Viennese chocolate sponge cake with apricot jam and dark chocolate icing invented by Franz Sacher for Prince Wenzel von Metternich in 1832.  

Grabbing a seat outside in the sunshine we eyed up the menu, spotting an enticing "Susser Sacher Turm".  

Essentially this was a heavenly selection of three Sacher classic patisseries and petit fours: 



...Liwanzen ('bohemian pancakes with plum butter and sorbet)...

...and finally the petit fours.  All accompanied by a sparkling raspberry drink. 

We demolished it all!

Fully fueled (& hyped up on sugar) we headed out for our touristy time.  The old city of Vienna is fairly compact and we walked around admiring the gorgeous buildings (apparently  lots of 'Baroque' architecture).

St. Stephan's Cathedral is a distinctive central icon in Stephansplatz in the heart of Vienna and its 450 feet tower stands out over the city skyline, making navigating easy!

It's very imposing both inside and out.

Next up was Hofburg Palace...

Followed by Naschmarkt - Vienna's largest and most famous market.  It's a mile long and has a huge variety of local and international foods.

Continuing to walk off our decadent lunch, we headed for the Belvedere Palace - apparently one of the best examples of baroque architecture in Europe...not exactly sure what that means but it was an impressive building with beautiful gardens and a city skyline view.

Our final 'cultural' stop was Stadtpark - a 65,000m2 park on the edge of Vienna's old city.  The park is well looked after, with colourful flowers and sculptures around ever corner.  The most famous site is a gilded bronze sculpture of Johann Strauss II, a composer.

Feeling satisfied with our cultural afternoon we headed into the old town for a drink.  Grabbing a street-seat in the evening sunshine we followed the local tradition of a "G'spritzer" (local white wine with sparkling water) whilst doing some people-watching.

Then the heavens opened and we ran in the rain to our dinner restaurant - a Lonely Planet recommendation called "Brezl Gwölb".  It was a great recommendation...hidden on an alley corner you would never know it was there if you weren't looking for it.  It is atmospheric, with candlers, wrought-iron candles, Roman history, gothic alcoves and heaps of traditional Austrian home-cooking.

We ordered a bottle of local white wine - Grüner Veltliner - and munched on fluffy pretzels as we pursued the handwritten menu.

Of course, we selected Viennese specialities - "Tafelspitz" (lean boiled beef) and "Wiener Schnitzel" (breaded veal cutlet) which were both delicious.

To round off our meal we ordered "Apfelstrudel" (hot apple strudel) from our friendly and chatty Albanian waitress.

Fortunately the rain had eased up and we walked home, admiring the dramatic Viennese buildings lit up at night.

Day 2 and the morning brought another feeding opportunity!  Viennese's Kaffeehauser (coffee houses) are lively and an important part of the local culture.  We walked past St. Charles' Church (one of Vienna's most beautiful buildings) to our brunch / breakfast at Cafe Schwarzenberg.  

We opted for the Viennese breakfast: handmade roll; croissant; butter; apricot jam; and a soft boiled egg.

To accompany our feast we had a Viennese coffee "Wiener Melange" which is a speciality drink, similar to a cappuccino.  A local coffee house custom is that coffee is always accompanied by a glass of cold still water.

After breakfast we walked, via St. Stephan's Cathedral, to Mozart's only remaining house in the city where he lived 1784-1787 in Vienna's old town.

In honour of the theme, there we ate a Mirabell "Mozartkugel" a chocolate invented in 1890 and named after Mozart.  It's pistachio marzipan and nougat covered in dark chocolate.

Next we headed to Ankeruhr Vienna Clock in Hoher Markt in time for the noon 'performance'.  It's a 10m wide and 7m high 'clock' which portrays popular Viennese personalities and at noon all twelve are displayed.

From there we headed to Schoenbrunn Palace - one of Vienna's most popular tourist attractions.  It's a 1,441-room palace and the former imperial summer residence with very impressive gardens.  

Enjoying the sunshine, we wandered around the huge grounds seeing the Neptune Fountain, the Gloriette structure and the Roman ruins as well as feeling like 19th century ball guests when an orchestra started playing in the front of the building.

After a final Viennese treat, my sister then headed back to England, so I did a little solo shopping...spotting a real beauty!

Then the rain started and so I checked in at my hotel by the Belvedere Palace with (just about!) a view of the gardens.

For dinner I headed to Salm Bräu - a 450 year old brewery around the corner from the palace with home-style food and on-premise brewed beer according to old recipes.

Being in a brewery I chose a beer...selecting the "Salm Wiener Maerzen" - an amber coloured, twice-mashed brew. 

Reviewing my Vienna "To Eat" list, I ordered the beef goulash with potato dumpling.  It was a comforting, hearty and generous dish.

To walk off my dinner, I took a wander past the palace parks (unfortunately locked up at night, so hindered any good views) but admired the War Memorial (commonly called "the Russian Monument") behind the Hochstahlbrunner fountain at Schwarzenbergplatz.

I also saw St. Charles' Church, dramatically lit up before turning in for the night.

Saturday morning brought heavy rain so I headed out for some shopping before taking shelter over a long lunch break at Cafe Landtmann.  I selected this cafe because of it's highly recommended "Kaiserschmarnn". 
Rings I spotted in a boutique in Vienna

However, first of all, I warmed myself with a Mozart hot chocolate - a hot chocolate covered in cream with a pistachio and chocolate sauce, plus a Mozartkugel.

Then I had the Viennese chicken...

And then, finally, the Kaiserschmarnn!

It was absolutely delicious...a heap of fluffy shredded pancakes with fruit sauces, but even I couldn't finish the generous portion:
Fortunately the rain had eased off by now so I headed back out to see the last few sites, including the Rathaus...

...the Volksgarten...Maria-Theresien-Platz...and finally Museumsquartier.

Then unfortunately it was time for my fab mini-break to be over and for my train back to Munich, but I took some edible reminders of Vienna home with me:

Though couldn't resist sampling the waffle biscuit on the journey back...

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