Good night Vienna

We’d had a great evening on Saturday, cold food notwithstanding, and all parted in good spirits. We arranged to meet Christophe and Edith for breakfast as they didn’t have a plane to catch – just a 600km drive back to Ansbach in Germany. Edith is composing a bid for a G1 project next year and wishes to include Eduvel Ltd as one of the partners. This is something we would enjoy very much and so, we therefore had quite a bit to discuss.

It was a beautiful morning, just like each of the previous two days. Once we’d been kicked out of the breakfast room, we agreed to continue our chat over another coffee at Café Dommayer http://dommayer.at/ which is just down the road from our hotel at Hietzing. This was a fine relaxing morning, spoiled only when the rain came and our friends had to set off back to Germany. I didn’t envy them their long journey in the rain.

The rain came and stayed.

Luckily, our Austrian host Andrea had very kindly given us two Sisi Tickets to use during our extended stay. This would allow us to visit the Sisi Apartments in the Hofburg as well as the Royal furniture exhibition in Vienna and the Imperial rooms at Schönbrunn. Although Sunday was the only day we could visit the furniture exhibition, we decided Schönbrunn would be best because it was closer and would not require too much walking in the rain. So we endured the Sunday crowds and toured the palace instead of going into the city. The palace is large and its heyday opulence was easy to imagine. The heating for example, was delivered by means of huge ceramic stoves, which were originally heated with wood via a heating duct running behind the rooms. This prevented the imperial family from being disturbed or becoming aware of the dirt such systems develop.

We stayed local for dinner and ate once more at the Wambacher Heuriger House. I had a Wiener Schnitzel – what else!

Monday, our last full day, was spent freezing in the city. I don’t know how I got so cold, but the brolly turned inside out and had to be dispatched; my coat leaked, and I had to buy a hat (a Dutch Cap). We decided that the best thing to do was buy some bits of food at the Nachtmarkt and some bread at a bakery before returning to the hotel to eat. We could then re-dress with warmer clothes. Just where the biting cold wind came from I don’t know, but it chilled me through to the bone.

We returned to the city later in the afternoon and visited the Sisi apartments and silver collection. Once again, in the wrong frame of mind I could have been depressed at the Imperial Dynasty’s sheer opulence, which must surely have flown in the face of their subject’s extreme poverty. However, I could only marvel at the size of this collection. Displayed over an entire floor area, we saw gold plate, silver plate, solid gold, solid silver and porcelain: plates, cups, knives, forks and every conceivable kitchen to table ware. The imperial family only ever ate off silver – even when porcelain became the norm, it was only used for soups. The golden centerpieces were so lavish; the cost of one could probably have supported a peasant family for a lifetime.

We then made our way to the Hundertwasserhaus, which I’d been advised to visit by Alison Iredale.  Although this is just outside the city centre, it took some finding as all of our maps finished just before the correct street.  Nevertheless, it was an interesting walk and another opportunity to work out the city’s excellent transport system. We’d had 24 hour passes which allowed travel on any of the systems available. All of the U-Bahn stops we used throughout our stay were conveniently close to tram stops, so if we knew where we wanted to be – we could get there. Hundertwasserhaus is a strange looking community building with (apparently; because you cannot go in) uneven floors inside too. I’m sure it would have looked even better in the sunshine.

So that’s it. I’m finishing this in the lounge at Heathrow, waiting for our flight to Manchester. The thing I miss the most – here in England (so far)?

The coffee!

http://europeforvisitors.com/switzaustria/articles/vienna_coffeehouses2.htm (types of coffee)

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Naschtmarkt

The Naschtmarkt in Vienna is just a market. You can find markets that are similar to this in big cities all over the world, but this one has something quite unique. I’m not sure what that is, but I’ve not had so much fun walking around a market for a long time. First of all there is produce from all over the world, which is normal, but the combinations and sheer blousiness of produce was impressive. The stallholders were happy to let us taste all sorts of things – sometimes time and time again. We saw truffles: real, live, black, white, whole truffles – expensive, but truffles nevertheless – something I’ve never seen on a market before.

Following dinner, which I can relate below, we chose to return to the market for dessert. This ended up being glasses of Italian sparkling rose wine (kindly supplied by Christophe) and a plate of Parma ham, meaty olives and Austrian cheeses. Sharing these made for a great atmosphere, but one that (looking at the weather today – Monday) might be hard to repeat.

Right at the end of Naschtmarkt, just down the road from the Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) Secession [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vienna_Secession] building, there are two other preserved Art Nouveau buildings; Majolikahaus and Otto Wagner-Haus. The former is a wonderfully painted example and the latter an ornate building with some kind of gargoyles sat on the roof screaming down at passers by. Our dinner was in a restaurant just a street behind these and a little way along. I can’t remember its name or the street but it’s worth giving a miss anyway.

Our ‘final’ dinner was already depleted by the absence of Czechs, but as there was no one else in the restaurant for the rest of the night, atmosphere was something we eight struggled to achieve. We did manage it, but it was personal – unlike the restaurant. The menu wasn’t extensive but it did look nice. I had duck and thoroughly enjoyed it.

However, one of our Austrian hosts (Michaela) suggested to the waiter that her food; a herb ravioli, was cold.  It was probably lukewarm, but not to her taste anyway (or mine actually, I like hot food hot and cold food cold).  Our waiter seemed unable to comprehend and called a more senior colleague to deal with ‘the problem’.

This more senior person took Michaela’s plate, stood behind her (but in full view of six of the eight of us) and prodded the food with the back of his hand before saying no – it’s hot!

I was stunned. This just should not happen. I couldn’t speak for trying to compose a stream of forceful but understandable pidgin German to rebuke him with. And then he prodded it again (chuntering all the time) as he obeyed Michaela’s command to take it away and bring her a hot dish. I’m sure that the returned dish was just microwaved – which was another appalling example of bad taste, poor hygiene and incompetence.

As I said earlier, my own food was fine, but this surly, superior and downright unhygienic attitude to food service should not be allowed. First of all – the customer is always right (even if they are wrong – which, in this case they were not) and secondly, you should not touch the food in any way – at all – ever – in front of the customer. If a dish is returned, you should start again not zap it in the microwave. Grrr.