I usually don’t write about things I don’t feel confident to make an expert recommendation on. Thus, even though I travel extensively outside of Asia, I don’t feel qualified to make recommendations in London, Buenos Aires, Paris, etc…. But it occurred to me today as I was wandering the streets of Vienna, that’s not really what this blog was supposed to be about, is it? As my blog got more popular, I started to assume the posture of “expert.” But why I started the blog was to share all the finer things I stumbled upon when traveling and in life. And while now, here in Vienna, I cannot give you a local’s point-of-view on best of the best. But, I can share my experience. And this is what I will start doing when I travel. Enjoy my first photo diary
I arrived in Vienna in this week to full-on winter. I packed my long puffer coat and a cashmere hat and gloves in anticipation, being forewarned by some Austrian friends in Shanghai. (although I do also tend to check the weather myself!). Having sprained my ankle in London earlier in the week, I am trudging around in my bulky snow boots which thankfully I had packed and which make room for the swollen, wrapped ankle. I was a bit worried about exploring the city on it, but turns out the support of the boot plus the combination of arctic temperatures keeps the swelling down. I do, however, feel a bit schlumpy next to the well dressed Austrian women with their heeled boots, but c’est la vie (there must be some German version of that expression???).
As it turns out Vienna is one of the European cities least physically impacted in WWII, thus there are plenty of historic buildings and architecture to see. It is even a bit ‘too perfect’ in that it is a truly spotlessly clean city – I even saw a worker hurriedly sweeping the half dozen leaves off the sidewalk lest it be….gasp…..untidy! With all the characteristic grandeur and formality of a classic European city, it is still quite charming with horse and buggies roaming the city.
It is especially gorgeous in the evening at this time of year in December, when it is dressed for Christmas. And if you didn’t already know, Vienna, or Wein as the locals call it, is the home of Swarovski. There seems to be one on every block, like Starbucks in New York City.
Having arrived mid-morning and checked into my hotel, the first item on the agenda was lunch. An Austrian co-worker recommended a “very traditional” Austrian restaurant (I didn’t come here to eat French or Italian!) and so I found my way to Plutzer Brau.
I ordered, what else, Weiner Schnitzel. What arrived what shocking – a piece of meat larger than my head. Holy weiner schnitzel! And if that wasn’t enough, it was accompanied by french fries and a salad with (yes) more potatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and cabbage in a mouth-puckering vinegary sauce. I would like to say it was too much food for my delicate constitution, but I wolfed it down. (See the comparison below with my iPhone.)
People ask me, why Vienna? Well, I miss classical music and culture and arts. Vienna is famous for Mozart. And Sigmund Freud. I have tickets to the opera to see La Boheme on Friday night at the most famous opera house in the world. (will report on that in a later diary).
I wander the streets of Vienna and see some signs that I find amusing…. Italian restaurant or shoe store? Shoe store…would be better if it were a shoe store that served pizza.
Do the people of Vienna have a sense of humour in spite of their stereotypical reputation for dour Germanic-ness? I see a sign for a wine association that is a play on the English word “wino”, if you pronounce it with the German pronunciation.
Word plays aside, THE thing to do is Vienna this time of year is visit the Christmas markets. I go after lunch and soon realize this is completely ill advised as the Christmas markets are primarily about food and drink. Food being…sausage, ham, meat of all sorts. Ohh, and cheese of course.
A typical Christmas market meat stall selling all things pork.
And the back of the above stall was also quite charming – “think pig!”
And pretzels, of course!
Drinks are winter warmers taking one of two forms – gluhwein or punsch. Gluhwein is German mulled red wine with spices, whereas punsch is an orangey flavoured tea drink enhanced with the addition of copious amounts of rum. The Austrians are kicking these drinks back like shots by the way. I sample and learn that I better go easy on this stuff lest I not find my way home!
And there is even Punsch for fundraising – served by the Lions club and the Kiwanis. I thought these were only American social clubs….in the Southern part of the US. Small world indeed.
My favourite market so far is the one below because they have lots of vintage, antique-y things. I use my hard-earned Chinese negotiating skills and end up with a pair of mother-of-pearl cuff links for half the marked price. I am tempted to buy my mother the vintage handblown Christmas ornaments that remind me of the ornaments my Grandparents had on their Christmas tree, but I know from experience those are as sturdy as eggshells and will never survive the Vienna -> London -> Shanghai -> New York -> North Carolina journey.
At the same market it has started to snow, hard! And a young girl builds a snowman on the sled-shaped table. She unfortunately is camera-shy, but Mr. Snowman is not.
Somehow everything in Vienna is charming. Even the Starbucks is cuter here.
More to report in Part 2 on Vienna food and opera and suchPin It