A Taste of Vienna

 

 

 

 

I’m afraid I may disappoint; not because I didn’t love Vienna, but because I spent three days there doing next to nothing. I love to walk, so I walked a lot. I did some things while I walked and I’ll mention a few. I also ate; I ate well. I’ll tell you about a few of my meals.

 

A Travel Tale of Woe That Ends Well

Allow me to start with a travel story while it’s fresh and still has me a bit shaky. Sunday morning I had a 5:30 a.m. flight. Since I had to be at the airport by 4:15 a.m., I didn’t sleep much Saturday night; in fact, I don’t think I slept at all. When it was time to leave my Airbnb, I gathered up all of my belongings and I placed the key in the lock box. It was about 3:45 a.m. when I stepped outside and called an Uber. The car came quickly. Because I hadn’t slept much, it felt more like an out-of-body experience. I had a very talkative driver from Serbia. While he was chatting I reached into my backpack to check for my boarding pass and passport. I have a deep pocket where I usually keep important things. I pulled out the boarding pass and checked for a terminal number and there was none. I reached back in for my passport and it was not there; shit.

I did what one usually does when they think something is where it’s supposed to be; I checked again, and again, and again. My passport was nowhere to be found in my backpack. My mind started going to dark places:  it’s been stolen, it fell out of my backpack in my Airbnb, the owner of the Airbnb entered the apartment while I was out and took it. I came very close to asking the driver to pull over. I was telling myself to stay clam and tried to consider all of my options. I was inclined to ask the driver to take me back to the apartment, but the keys were in a lockbox behind a locked door — no way I could get back in.  I would have had to call Ben, the owner, and wake him in the middle of the night and ask him to meet me there. I was fully aware that if I did this, I’d miss my flight. On the other hand, I wasn’t going anywhere without my passport. The decision I made was an important one and I hope that I remember to do the same in the future. I decided to breathe. I figured the best thing to do was just stay calm for the rest of the ride and then sort it out at the airport. The driver was unaware of the situation.

He dropped me off at Terminal 3 and that turned out to be the wrong terminal; the least of my concerns.

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Vienna International Airport at 4:00 a.m.

 

We unloaded my carryon and I set it down on the curb. I was going to check every corner of my backpack and my carryon. I unzipped the top zipper of my carryon and to my very pleasant surprise, there was my passport. I must have sat on the curb feeling very satisfied for a good couple of minutes. I had to think hard to recall that I had transferred my passport to my suitcase so that I would not lose it while carrying my backpack around Vienna. I think the incident was a combination of lack of sleep and some “normal” memory loss. I was so relieved that I smiled for the remainder of the day. This was of course, a teachable moment for me:

  1. Always check that you have all of your documents before you leave for the airport.
  2. Keep your wits about you and more often than not, you will find what you’re looking for.
  3. Avoid flights before 6:00 a.m.

 

Vienna On My Mind

I have had to step back to consider what I would tell you about Vienna. I have very mixed feelings about this city. The architecture is amazing and the history is rich. But frankly, it was difficult to be there and not think about the atrocities of the Nazi’s and WWII. The grand buildings and the history of resistance and death, filled me with dread. As I walked through the city I felt all sorts of emotions — mostly anger.

Then I watched the students march to express their anger concerning climate change; this shifted my thoughts to hope. Apparently, the march was happening throughout Europe and has been a regular Friday event. Encouraging thoughts replaced the dread.

 

 

 

I don’t mean to be overly dramatic. It wasn’t that long ago when horrible things occurred in this part of the world. It became more and more obvious that the Viennese are well aware of their horrific history and that they are remorseful and have, along with other parts of the world, righted their wrongs. Still, we should never forget.

 

A Few Excellent Meals

I travel in order to find foods that will delight and satisfy. I’m constantly in search of the meal that will blow me away. Both of these restaurants made me very happy in my quest for creativity and perfection:

 

Otto e Mezzo

I have complained about this before, but it is unfortunately true:  there just aren’t that many good Italian restaurants in Faro. Portuguese people love their own dishes and I can’t say I blame them. Since Faro is not much of a tourist town compared with the rest of the Algarve, excellent Italian is scarce. Therefore, when I travel, I look for good Italian food.

I hit the jackpot with Otto e Mezzo. It’s the real deal. A classically trained chef, simple and elegant aesthetic, outdoor dining, and an uncomplicated and delightful menu. I was so pleased to have done my homework and found this gem. I had a simple garden salad that was perfectly dressed; incredible cherry tomatoes and mixed greens. For my entree, I had a pasta dish that has always been in my top three:  penne arrabbiata (click for recipe). It was so perfect, I sat with it for a long time and savored every bite. The homemade pasta was cooked al dente and the sauce was spicy and memorable (I’ve thought about this pasta a lot since returning home). The meal was accompanied by an Italian house red that was a good value and paired well with the pasta. I believe my server was the chef’s wife and I knew I could trust her right from the start. I was way too full for dessert, but I am certain they would have all been delicious. I thanked the chef on the way out; his obvious appreciation made the meal even more satisfying.

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Penne Arrabbiata

 

Yong Street Food Kitchen

A varied menu of Asian street food that was worth the wait. The chef had gone out for 30 minutes so I had to be patient; not one of my best assets. Bibembap is one of my favorite Korean dishes, therefore, it was a must and it did not disappoint. I also had a couple of delicious pork belly buns, filled with all sorts of savory additions and oozing hoisin sauce. It was one of those menus where I wanted every dish on it and I had to control myself. I spied a lemon soda I haven’t had before (didn’t write down the name); not too sweet and paired well on a warm Viennese afternoon.

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Bibembap (click for fun video)

 

Vienna is a progressive city filled with street food, art and 200,000 university students; the largest number in Austria. Wherever there are universities and young people, you will find contemporary design and creative dishes — this aspect of Vienna made me very happy.

I had some fresh oysters at the Naschmarkt and if I’m going to be honest, it was because of the display. It was a beautiful outdoor space, on a perfect day and that made it special. Pricey and poor service nearly ruined it for me.

 

 

 

Don’t eat a meal at the Naschmarkt unless someone directs you to a special place. It’s better to snack at some of the smaller stalls.

 

Coffee/Breakfast

 

 

Breakfast at Vollpension was perfect after extensive travel the night before. I was thirsty, hungry and tired. This relaxing spot (looked like a Bohemian living room) was exactly what I needed early the next morning. I got to watch them set up and put all the cakes out. I had a traditional Viennese breakfast:  soft boiled eggs and brown bread. This was my first Viennese coffee and it was strong and creamy.

 

Sites Worth Seeing

Most of what I saw while in Vienna was on my walkabouts. I wasn’t really in the mood for museums because the weather was exceptional. I did walk into a few buildings just to see part of the interior. Many of the buildings were blocks long and very garish.

I went on an Airbnb tour:  The Hidden Gems of Vienna, the guide was knowledgable and he spoke English well. The tour was three hours long and we were shown beautiful courtyards, passageways and permanent artwork.

Some of what I captured for my memory of Vienna:

 

 

Not to be missed:

Karmelitermarkt — outstanding outdoor farmers market, food stalls and artists

Stephansdom — a gorgeous catholic cathedral with art installations

Naschmarkt — flea market on Saturday and food stalls and restaurants seven days a week

Heeresgeschichtliches Museum — impressive architecture

Karlskirche — beautiful structure

Secession — gold globe art at the top of the building

Leopold Museum, MUMOK and Museums Quartier

Parlament — wow; very big

The Danube — beautiful river through the city

Augarten — Porcelain Manufactory

Staatsoper — Opera House

Akademie der bildenden Künste

Haus der Musik

 

It’s a long and certainly not all-inclusive, list. Honestly, the buildings are massive and go on forever. The city is clean, safe, and walkable. The metro system is easy to navigate and reasonably priced (2,40 Euros). There are outdoor cafés and bars everywhere. Innenstadt, City Center, can be easily located and trekked.

 

New Vienna: 

On the outside of the inner city is the new Vienna you’ll want to see (my guide pictured below). Modern architecture, new hi-rise buildings and an expansive university. I also walked through an amusement park that boasts the largest ferris wheel of its kind and a couple of a casinos (for a change, I stayed away). This park is over 100 years old and was filled with happy Viennese families. It was only six stops on the metro, outside the city centre.

 

My Airbnb host, Ben, wrote to tell me that it rained the day that I left. Apparently, it rained for three weeks before I arrived and then they had sun for three days. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I must have done something good.

Estelle flew home with me. I met the gentleman who painted her and I could not resist. She is now part of my collection:

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Published by

CP

I was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1959. I've lived in several different places, but this is the first time I have resided overseas. My career has gone in multiple directions; however, education is my passion. My Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from New York University has opened many doors and for that I am grateful. Writing has become a pastime I enjoy and hope to further pursue. The future holds no limitations and I am keeping all of my options open. I have landed in Portugal and there is a vast and beautiful world to explore.

11 thoughts on “A Taste of Vienna

  1. Wow! What a thoroughly entertaining piece Chris!
    I remember reading one of your short stories that sounded like this. The one where you had to get a passport from a shady character.
    I loved the recipe and YouTube links!
    Well done my friend!

    Like

  2. Wow! What a thoroughly entertaining piece Chris!
    I remember reading one of your short stories that sounded like this. The one where you had to get a passport from a shady character.
    I loved the recipe and YouTube links!
    Well done my friend!

    Like

    1. Thank you Angie. I had a couple from Great Britain over for cocktails and snacks and I introduced Estelle. Neither of them liked her and i loved that. Art appreciation is so subjective.

      Like

  3. Hi, Chris I love everything about your Vienna post but Estelle is the best. What a beautiful, arresting painting. I can’t describe the effect she had on me but I felt it immediately. Art appreciation is a mystery for sure. Your descriptions of the Vienna visit were colorful and interesting. Your description of the “lost” passport episode had me on edge. I swear I felt your panic but I, too, have learned through the years to just breathe, relax and trust it’ll all work out.

    Brief story of being locked out of my condo at 4am: Last February, I returned from visiting my dear friend in PA who was dying of cancer. I arrived home after a seven hour drive exhausted. I unloaded the car and took a nap. I awoke at midnight and started to unpack. I foolishly ate the last chocolate covered cashew. It got stuck in my esophagus. Several years ago, I had experienced the same and the heimlich maneuver saved me so I didn’t immediately panic. But now I was alone at midnight. I tried everything – drinking copious amounts of water, fingers down the throat and hitting my diaphragm by draping over a stuffed chair. After a futile 45 minutes, I decided to call the ambulance. At the hospital, I was given fluids and a muscle relaxant to open up the esophagus and, voila, by 4am I was set to go home. But how? It was too early to call family and friends. A nurse helped me with the Uber app and my first Uber ride was wonderfully efficient and swift. Unfortunately, once I got home I realized that while I had grabbed my purse and car key for the ambulance ride I didn’t have a house key. When I returned from PA, I used my stashed condo key to enter but hadn’t put it back. Luckily, Cheri had my extra key as she cared for my cat while I was away. So I waited outside Cheri’s house until 5:30am when she woke to get the key. Success! I drove home and slept most of the day.

    But I didn’t panic throughout. I breathed and just trusted all would work out. But I did get three more keys made.

    While walking around Vienna, I think you were feeling the anger and sadness from the souls who were killed during the war. I listen to the news daily, read The Week, local papers, Mother Jones, etc. I’m horrified that my country elected Drumpf and look for signs of hope. The rise of white extremists is scary here. And the current administration is spending more effort against immigrants fleeing violence and decreasing efforts to investigate american born white extremists. That’s how WWII started – white extremism. History repeating itself? Yesterday’s hope came from watching the protests in England. Today’s hope? Yet to come

    Take care, friend. And thanks for letting me share my story.

    Like

  4. Hi Anne. That story is insane. I’m so glad you didn’t choke to death. And that key issue! Sometimes it feels like we’re being tested and then re-tested. I’m relieved that it worked out.

    Yes Vienna was strange and you’re right, Estelle was the highlight for sure.

    I’m in Seville, Spain for an easy getaway. I’ll be in my own bed tomorrow night; although I have to say this particular hotel bed was pretty good.

    Be well and thank you for reading and for sharing.

    Chris

    Like

  5. I envy you. For almost two decades I lived a nomadic lifestyle and saw the world. Today, though, I’m stuck in America. (“Stuck” feels like exactly like the right word given the currently political situation.) I guess we live through all sorts of phases. I’m in my putting-down-roots phase, my rediscovering-my-home-country phase. If I’m being entirely honest, though, I look forward to the day when I can live the US again.

    Like

  6. Hi Troy. Nice to hear from you. It’s difficult to watch what’s happening in the U.S., but I know in my heart it change soon. I hope that in the long run today’s politics make the future better for Americans. In the meantime, Portugal is a great place to live.

    Like

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