Day 7: Quintessential Vienna – Royalty and Chocolate

We slept in a bit this morning, and, feeling a little crisp from the night before, slowly got moving around 10:00 am, our first stop being breakfast at Aida’s.  Not falling for the lure of the topfenstreusel again, I went for the schoko-croissant and was quite pleased to see it ranked up there with all the chocolate croissants I’ve had in my lifetime (the inside was a pudding-like chocolate).  It more than made up for the dreadful pastry from the day before.

After breakfast concluded, we walked down another block (about 2 blocks total from our hotel) to the ÖBB ticket office to see about tickets to Brno for the following day.  While we were able to get tickets for the 12:33 pm direct train, we didn’t realize we were paying a premium by booking them in the ticket office.  The tickets were €19 each, then there was a €7 booking fee, plus we opted to get a seat reservation that cost another €7.  Total bill was €52, and it seems we may have been able to get to the train station on our own the following day and just purchased tickets on the go for €19 each.  Oh, well, live and learn.

Not a bad second home…

As it was a sunny (albeit windy, as per usual) day, we wanted to go to the Schönbrunn Palace, which happens to be the second largest palace in the world, right behind Versailles.  It was also the summer residence of Austria’s emperors and empresses, and after taking the U-Bahn to the Schönbrunn stop, walking a couple hundred yards, and seeing the place, we saw just how awesome a summer pad this really was.  The grounds were expansive, with gardens, a zoo, tons of marble statues, and the biggest yellow house you’ve ever seen.  Super cool.

We had already decided not to pay to go into the palace, as once you’ve seen one of the country’s first loos with running water, you’ve seen them all.  But we DID roam the grounds (for free, thankyouverymuch) for quite some time, taking it all in.  Although it was a little chilly and there was still some snow on the ground, we enjoyed viewing the Glorietta (a giant fancy structure), strolling past the zoo (Europe’s oldest), and chasing the red squirrels with giant ears, trying to get a photo op.  We did, by the way.

Fruit and vegetables at their finest

After the palace, we took the U-Bahn back into the city center, stopped for a coffee to warm up (I had a mélange, which turned out to basically be a latte but it supposed to be some sort of Viennese specialty), then walked around Vienna for a while.  We found a giant Russian statue that we had seen from the tram the day before (still don’t know what it was, but we photographed it well), saw a giant cathedral, and made our way to the Naschmarkt, a pretty cool outdoor market filled with all sorts of pickled foods, nuts, spices, fish, meats, breads, flowers, fruit, vegetables, expensive soap, etc.  One guy at his booth was pretty tenacious and offered us a sample of his red sweet peppers filled with cheese, which were so delicious that Jim purchased more.  He ended up with 7 pieces of cheese-filled peppers (a variety of kinds) and a hunka bread, total cost was €6.  Ok, so we got a little hosed.

Filled up on stuffed peppers, we moved on to see the Monument Against War and Fascism, then doubled back to see the Galerie Otto, an art gallery we had stumbled across the night before and that Jim remembered Harold saying these were the people he did business with when he had traveled to Vienna many, many years earlier.  Wanting to get a photograph during the day, we started snapping away, despite the fact the woman inside kept one good hairy eyeball on us the entire time.  I suppose she had every right to be suspicious, we were Hungarian fugitives, after all.

Since it was our last afternoon in Vienna, we reviewed our sightseeing list and “cleaned up” the bits that we had missed thus far.  This entailed a handful of statues and such, with the promise of Demel’s (the world-famous Viennese cake shop) at the end.  Before we reached Demel’s, however, we came across something almost as sacred:  the Manner store, the very same people who make those amazing hazelnut wafer cookies.  I felt at home.  I also spent quite a bit of time inside the store, examining each and every product before settling on getting some cookies (hazelnut and chocolate) to bring home.

After priming the pump with the Manner store, we bee-lined for Demel’s and were lucky enough to score a great table in the madness.  Our waitress was super nice, and Jim had a cappuccino, I had a chamomile tea.  From our vantage point, we were able to see directly into the kitchen and watch some candy magic happen.  On our way out of Demel’s (and after passing a display filled with the most amazing cakes in the world), we popped into the gift shop but, naturally, buying world class chocolate with such a fancy name comes at a price.  I think the least expensive item in the store was €5, and that didn’t get you much.

CUT! Movie being filmed outside Demel’s, with, naturally, an ornately adorned building in the background. Aaah, Vienna.

A little dejected, we went back outside to find a movie scene was being set up on the street so we hung around to watch.  After the harried production assistant managed to get all the riff-raff (including ourselves) out of the shot, we watched as the camera rolled to capture a boy coming out of a doorway, walk down the street, and pause at a garbage can.  It took all of 8 seconds.  If a movie is 2 hours long, it must take forever to piece it all together.  Good thing that’s not our problem.

Feeling a bit tired after our whirlwind-but-more-relaxing-than-usual day, we started heading back to the room to shower and relax.  But along the way we decided we needed to get our magnet souvenir since we were leaving the next day.  One store we went into had an elderly Austrian woman who seemed tickled pink we were in her store, and as such, started going on and on in rapid German about the magnets we were looking at.  I just smiled and nodded, and at the end of her speech, she said something a little louder for emphases and nodded her head defiantly.  Clearly, she was pleased with herself but unfortunately, we have not a clue what she said.  I said danke, and we started to head out the door where we all exchanged a rousing round of auf Widersehens.  Everyone was happy.

Not finding much luck in the magnet department (or the socks department, as Jim needed new non-white socks in the worst way, but we fell short of being able to find any), we wound up at the hotel and took a load off.

Around 8:00 pm we headed out again, half expecting to dine in the vicinity of Judenplatz (my new favorite square, but I kicked myself we never got to see it in daylight hours), where we found some restaurants but none were all that appealing.  Instead, we came across Gösser Bierklinik, a charming restaurant that had a beer hall feel to it.  Our meal was once again delicious (and great VFM, at about €30), we started with giant beers in a dimpled glass, then Jim had the meat platter and I had French onion soup with a side of a big, warm pretzel and mustard (senf).  The best part of the meal was being able to impress the waiter with our knowledge of the German word for mustard.  And although he didn’t outwardly show it too much, we know deep down he was as impressed with us about that as we had been with the TI guy in Eger for knowing the word colleague.

A short time later a group of people sat down at the table next to us (8 people at a table set for 4), and when they busted out the cameras, I offered to take a group shot.  I think they were mighty pleased with my production.

Full and just a little tipsy off the beers, we left the restaurant and Jim decided he wanted “just one more.”  We walked around for a while trying to find a bar with Sambuca (not an easy feat in this town) before going into a place called Il Tempo, where they didn’t have Sambuca but they did have Pernod, which was supposed to be similar.  Jim had that, I stuck with Baileys.  We had a good time, because the waitress was from Croatia, the bartender from Turkey, and the chef from Tunisia (the chef was also sweet on the waitress).  Between us, we had lots of language skills but not many in common.  It was fun.

We truly did stick to the “just one more” policy, and around 12:00 am we headed back to our room.

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