Friday, February 20, 2015

Hello, Vienna Calling

Once we arrived in Vienna we had to wait for about a 1.5 hours before leaving the airport until the rest of the group arrived on various flights. There were several cafes in the airport including a little market. We decided to eat at Caffe Ritazza. I ordered the Viennese breakfast that is pictured below.

Viennese breakfast at Caffe Ritazza in the Vienna Airport
Coffee in Vienna is a serious thing and it is wonderful. My cup of coffee at Caffe Ritazza was my first of amazing Viennese coffee.

My first cup of coffee in Vienna
After breakfast we were able to leave the airport for the hotel in the center of the city. Our hotel was the K+K Hotel Maria Theresia, which is across the street from the Museum Quarter. The location couldn't be better. It is down the road from a ton of shopping and across the street from a ton of museums that are all clustered together. If you don't know who Maria Theresia is, you must google her. She was the empress and part of the Habsburg family that ruled for something like 6 centuries. She had a ton of kids and one of them was Marie Antoinette. She had a fascinating life and it was very cool to learn about her and the Habsburgs throughout the weekend in Vienna.

After we took a nap, we decided to walk around the city. We found the Naschmarkt, which is what it sounds like. It is the nosh market, where you can get just about any kind of food you want. It is several blocks long with stalls and tiny restaurants all selling food. It was fantastic. Then we found a cool looking cafe and went in for afternoon coffee and cake. Cafe Sperl opened in 1880 and the inside feels like it hasn't changed since. 

Just like most places in the world besides in the U.S. the cafe had free wifi. I did a quick google search for Cafe Sperl because it had such a historic feel to it. As I typed in "Cafe Sperl" google suggested "Cafe Sperl Hitler". So of course that's what I went to. It turns out that this cafe was one of Hilter's favorite places to hang out. Yikes, but totally understandable. The cafe is really cute and has a ton of character. People brought in their little dogs and the coffee and studel were amazing.

Apple Strudel at Cafe Sperl

The first day went by quickly especially being so jet-lagged. Our dinner consisted of appetizers at the hotel. The next morning breakfast spread at the hotel was pretty good. The coffee was great, of course, and the pastries were great too. 

Breakfast spread at K+K Maria Theresia

Perfect way to start the day

The view from outside the room

The view looking the other way

After a tour of the summer palace called Schönbrunn Palace and learning more about the Habsburg family, we went back to the Naschmarkt for lunch. We found an Asian place and I ordered Thai tom yum soup and shu mai.
Lunch at the Naschemarkdt
Later on after a nap, we went to the Starbucks right near our hotel on the major shopping street a block away. They had the same coffee flavors as we do in the U.S. but they also had sweet waffles. I love that the coffee culture in Vienna includes afternoon cake or sweets. What could be better?

The best Starbucks experience ever
Dinner that night was at a restaurant in the basement of the Rathaus, or city hall. The building along with most in Vienna is just so grand and old. The restaurant, Rathauskeller, was like Hogwarts but underground. There were large dining halls and smaller rooms each decorated completely differently.

The Rathaus

Dinner was set up with long dining tables like at Hogwarts and the food was excellent. Austria has wineries and this was the wine I ordered.

Dessert consisted of this "mess" of chopped up pancakes and a fruit compote. The dessert is called kaiserschmarrn, which was a favorite of the king's, hence the name.

Famous dessert called kaiserschmarrn
After dinner we walked back toward the hotel in the rain and went up to the bar on top of the 25 Hours Hotel. It has a really nice view of the city because most of the buildings aren't more than about 4 or 5 stories high. This one was only about 10 or so stories.

View from 25 Hours Hotel
More of Vienna
The next morning was a fantastic breakfast again at the hotel. Seriously who doesn't love chocolate cake with breakfast? 

Croissant and chocolate cake for breakfast

We had a morning trip out of town due west of Vienna to the small town of Melk, where there is a really old and historic Benedictine abbey.
The Abbey in Melk
The building itself is gigantic and we took a tour of some of it including the cathedral that is decorated in the Baroque style, which is really over the top. It is quite incredible.

The town of Melk
A canal leading to the Danube

Melk Abbey
This is the very cold view of the hills from atop part of the abbey, just in front of the cathedral.

The hills are alive

After returning to Vienna around lunch time, we met up again with our group for a walking tour to the Hofburg Palace and the famous chocolate cake at the Cafe Hofburg. This building is quite famous for more than one reason. It was the winter palace for the royal family and then Hitler claimed the annexation of Austria from the balcony in the center. It was all quite amazing.

Hofburg, Winter Palace
Ever since I had heard about the famous sachertorte, chocolate cake, on some travel show, probably one of Anthony Bourdain's shows, I have wanted to try it. This is not the version from the famous hotel that started it, Sacher Hotel, but it's the next best thing. The cafe was quaint and cute with delicious coffee.

Cafe Hofburg
The cake itself is a little on the dry side and it is not so sweet. The side of whipped cream with every bite of the cake makes it very very good. It was a lovely (last) afternoon in Vienna.

Sachertorte, famous chocolate cake
Our final farewell dinner in Vienna was at Cafe Landtmann, which has been there since 1873. So cool. And it looks like it hasn't changed in about as long.

Final dinner in Vienna
This consomme soup was so good. It reminded me of matza ball soup, but the dumpling was made of a different flour. 

This was the definitive apple strudel. It was covered in powdered sugar and sat in a vanilla sauce. It was wonderful and it brought my short trip to Vienna full circle since it started with apple strudel at Cafe Sperl and ended with apple strudel at Cafe Landtmann

Ich liebe Wien

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