It had long been on my list of places I wanted to visit but this summer it finally happened: I went to Vienna.
What had captured my imagination was mostly history: images of people in cafes, the Hapsburg empire mixed in with this idea of Kultur with Freud,Klimt and Egon Schiele. Those things are not the same,not even necessarily the same era but still. Vivid,alluring and arty images has formed my impression of Vienna.
And it isn’t entirely wrong. People go to cafes, a lot. Schnitzel is the thing to eat and where as WW2 seems to be forgotten, the glory days of the old empire are not.
To be a bit sarcastic, but also serious, my advice is to stick to Austrian things when there. They do schnitzel and potato salad very well. And white wine. A hip and cool hamburger? not so much. You’ll have to look all over town for it(and what’s the point?). Asian food, with the exception of sushi, isn’t great. Just eat classical Austrian food; it’s good and as a tourist isn’t the point to try to local cuisine? In Austria a Beisln is a bistro of sorts: some are very old-fashioned,some are “neo beisln” with a hipster-element. I ate one of the best potato salads I have ever had and the schnitzel was also something to remember at Amerlingbeisl(Stiftgasse 8). In that area are several other nice places worth checking out.
Same with the art: Of all the museums we went to Leopoldmuseum was by far the best in my opinion; the Schiele-collection was amazing. A stone’s throw from there is Momuk: the museum of modern art and their collections wasn’t impressive. As I have a taste for the morbid I insisted on a visit to “the crypt” i.e. Kaisergruft that is under the Kapuzinerkirche and houses the remains of most of the members of the Habsburg royal family(and there is a lot of them). Well worth a visit if you are into history. About the Kunsthistorische museum I will say that it is big, has some nice things and has actually sofas you can sit in to admire the art. I was well impressed by that. We did go to the Freud museum and I guess it’s a bit anticlimactic since most of his furniture and belongings are at the Freud museum in London, several people have mentioned to me that it’s “better”. Still: it’s fun to have been and the temporary exhibit about the women who helped shape psycho-analysis was interesting.
To a certain degree all of Vienna is a museum. Just walking around, looking at the great architecture as well as contemporary street art is a thrill. And if you keep your eyes open you just might see something noteworthy.
And all the coffee and cake!! I ignored my health and indulged. Sachertorte turned out to be not my thing(and I still haven’t figured out why they are so happy to put whipped cream on coffee but look at you like at like you’re mad when you want some with a piece of chocolate cake). We went to many of the classical cafes: Hawelka,Demel,Sperl and Cafe Central. I really liked Demel and Hawelka although I should be said that you have to sit inside to get a feeling for the place, otherwise it’s just any cafe and the cake and coffee there isn’t spectacular, it’s all about the ambiance.
As someone who doesn’t speak german, looking for books wasn’t on my agenda but I still managed to come home with some. Close to the Leopold museum there was these book-dispensers and for two euro I got a little booklet that was actually in english. We found a little free library at the corner of Zieglergasse and Sibensterngasse and there turns out to be an english bookshop called “Shakespeare and co “ at Sterngasse 2.
As far as shopping goes I ended up coming home with loads of chocolate and assorted cakes. Some from the supermarket( I love going to just the regular foodshops when I travel to see what everyday stuff looks like) , some from “fancy shops” like Meinl. I bought neither Lodenrock nor Dirdln-dress and I regret that now. I did smell a lot of things at “Maison de Perfume” at Kärntner Strasse but couldn’t make up my mind (when there make sure to have a cocktail at Loos bar next door : great cocktails and classic interiors).
A thing that I wasn’t so impressed by was Naschtmarkt: it was in several travelguides and maybe the flea market on Saturdays is superb, a random visit on a Thursday wasn’t much fun. Actually the opposite.
That said I did have a great time in Vienna and I’m so glad I finally got to go. Now that it’s out of my system I can start planning for other trips on that list of places where I’ve always wanted to go.