The Food, Fun, and Foibles of a First-Time Europe Traveler

Vienna

Vienna Day 2: Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt

 

 

What a city.

 

As if Vienna couldn’t get any better, the hotel provided us with probably our best breakfast selection yet…included in the price, of course. After that we headed to the Leopold Museum, which contained many works from Klimt, who Hanna likes, and Egon Schiele, who had become my new favorite artist the night before. I’m pretty sure part of the appeal is that his name reminds me of Ghostbusters, but his art’s pretty good too.

We took lots of pictures and read about the two artists. Schiele was a prodigy, completing some of his best work from age 20-22, but he came to an untimely end when he died of influenza at the age of 28. He died of the flu. What a way to go. During his life he was very tormented, clearly, but there’s something I like about his weird, creepy characters.

The museum also had an exhibition containing the works of Picasso, Warhol, Pollack, Lichtenstein, and Alberto Giacometti (who I had heard of from the book, Provenance, an account of two forgers who faked many of Giacometti’s works). I could see how they could be forged, since the ones they had were basically pencil drawings that were fairly simple.

I was happy to see that they also housed some modern art, so I got to see provocative works like this giant t-shirt covered in red paint (at least I hope it’s red paint) and a giant red box. There was, however, one work that struck a chord with us. It was called “Don’t Trust Anybody,” our motto of the trip.

 

 

Modern Art...gotta love it.

 

After the museum we got some lunch, another solid meal. I got the white sausages with mustard and a pretzel. The pretzel, Hanna and I agreed, was probably the best we’ve ever had. Hanna got the goulash with spicy beef, which was also very good. I also got the pork belly dumplings with sauerkraut, so we got a pretty good sense of Austrian cuisine.

 

Hanna's new, trendy hat from Vienna.

 

After lunch we walked around for a while, looking at old buildings and cathedrals. We finally ended up at St. Stephan’s Cathedral, which was pretty unimpressive, but the square around it was awesome. It was like a clean version of Times Square, with tons of people, stores, and restaurants. Hanna picked up some sort of apple pastry from a tiny patisserie, and she also got a new, trendy hat from one of the three H + M stores in a three-block radius.

We went to an awesome market (kind of like whole foods, but nicer) which had all sorts of international ingredients. We picked up some ham and salami for dinner/lunch the next day, along with some cheese, chips, bread, salad, fruit, and a couple of cheap Austrian beers. Oh yeah, Hanna also got a 6 euro mango! I guess they’re hard to get out there.

On our way home we picked up the CD that we made the night before at Haus Der Musik, which was no problem at all. We returned to the hotel happy and ate our spread of picnic food.

We came to a consensus that we love Vienna and we can’t wait to come back!


Vienna Day 1: Down with OBB

Eh, I've had better.

We decided to get out of Croatia as early as possible, so we planned to take the 7:25 train to Vienna. If we missed it, we would have to wait until 17:20, so we woke up at about 5:45. There’s no way we were spending another day in Croatia.

On the tram a lady wanted to exit and, rather than saying something or tapping Hanna on the shoulder, she grabbed Hanna’s arm and threw it out of the way. This was the last straw. A combination of four days of dirty looks, horrible weather, and unfriendly people finally caused Hanna, the most polite person in the world, to snap.

Fed up!

We got off the tram and a lady walked by staring at us. Hanna, not to be messed with at this point, looked back at her and gnashed her teeth to scare her off. “I hate this place!” she screamed, and we couldn’t have been happier to board the train.

The train, it turns out, was the nicest one yet. We had our own car with six seats (three on one side, three on the other) that folded down to connect into beds. This came in handy for the first 3 hours of the trip (6 total), where we both slept in relative comfort. They were Austrian trains, not Croatian, called OBB, which brought to mind the famous Naughty By Nature Song. We were definitely down with OBB.

Hanna said that they make the train so nice to reward you for living through any period of time in Croatia. I couldn’t disagree.

We finally got to Vienna, bought our 48 hour pass, good for all transport (trains, subway, tram, bus) in the city…not bad for 10 euro. We are getting pretty good at public transportation, so we got on the right metro (called U-Bahn) and found the Hotel Deutchmeister (greatest hotel name yet) pretty easily.

We checked in, and at this point it was only around 14:30, so we relaxed for about an hour before heading into the city.

Hanna saw an advertisement for a museum that featured a painting that she owned, and had long admired, but never knew who made it. Turns out it was Gustav Klimt, an Austrian who had his work on display at the Belvedere Museum, so we headed there.

The museum was very cool, and it was nice to see some art different from the tons of Medieval and Renaissance paintings of Paris and Rome. We saw Hanna’s Klimt painting, “The Kiss”, and I found some weird paintings that I liked by a guy named Egon Scheile.

A beautiful introduction to Vienna.

After that we took the tram to the Opera House, which was beautiful, but more importantly it was right next to the Sacher hotel, which is known for it pastries. It is the origin of the Sacher Torte, which Hanna tells me is quite famous. When we arrived at our destination, the tram stopped but the door didn’t open. As we stood there befuddled, a kind Austrian leaned over and pressed the “open door” button for us and smiled. This is so much better than Croatia!

The torte was disappointing, but I likened it to watching Monty Python. When you watch it now, it seems somewhat stupid or outdated, but that’s only because you’ve seen so many movies since that have copied it and built upon it. The Sacher torte was probably a revelation back in its day, but by now desserts have progressed so far that it seems ordinary. We also got an apple strudel and Hanna got some famous Viennese coffee. I got a hot chocolate with rum, that turned out to contain about 6 shots of rum. We stumbled out of the café and headed towards the Haus Der Musik.

As we quickly found out, Vienna is a very musical city. Beethoven and Mozart did most of their work there, along with countless other composers. The Haus Der Musik was a museum, but along with all the information about old composers, they had three different floors full of interactive games intended to teach you about the way that sound and music actually work.

It was actually pretty fascinating, especially the “prenatal listening room,” which simulated the exact sounds that you hear as a baby in the womb. It was pretty cool and creepy, and we took some video. We also found out that Hanna has much better hearing than I do through a game which kept playing a higher and higher frequency into headphones, and you were supposed to hit the button when you could no longer hear anything. I thought she was cheating because she kept hearing things well after I only heard silence. I tried to trick her by raising the frequency when I told her I was lowering it, but she passed with flying colors. Yet another thing Hanna’s better than me at. Fantastic J

We made a CD of several sounds with our voices over it (it was impossible to speak because there was a delay between when we spoke and when we heard it in our headphones, so the result is what sounds like two old drunks bantering back and forth…very amusing), and went to the gift shop to get it, but it was closed. We told the lady downstairs and she said that we could come back the next day to pick it up. Friendly Austrians.

Earlier we had walked by a restaurant and looked at the menu. While looking, an old man walked by and said, “This one is very nice!” So we decided to give it a shot after we left the museum. Much to our surprise, when we walked inside we were greeted by the very same old man who had given the restaurant his endorsement earlier. Tricky bastard!

The restaurant turned out to be great. It was very small and we were the only diners. The old man was the owner, and he took pride in everything that was brought out. We ordered the traditional Austrian dishes, Weiner Schnitzel and boiled prime rib with horseradish and mustard. They were both delicious, and the old man came over to make sure I was using the horseradish sauce (which was kind of a mix between horseradish and apple sauce) on my meat. He also offered us a salt grinder which contained (according to him) 2 ½ million year old salt from the Austrian mountains. It was very good, but the food was so well seasoned that we had little use for it.

We returned to the hotel exhausted and satisfied. Vienna is definitely one of my favorite cities of the trip, and a place I could see myself living one day. I’m sure the fact that it was our next stop after Croatia didn’t hurt either.