When you venture into a travel destination for the very first time, one of the most important aspects of it that you'll have to be slightly experimental about is the food. And it has to be the national food. Mr Tattler and I had two helpings of Vienna's Wiener schnitzel; the natural course was to finish off the meal with Austria's national dessert: sacher torte.
|Sachertorte from Cafe Sacher at Hotel Sacher Wien. The cake is made up of two layers of dense chocolate sponge cake with apricot jam in the middle, wholly coated with dark chocolate icing, and served with whipped cream.|
Sachertorte was invented by Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich. Franz Sacher was a 16-year-old apprentice to Prince von Metternich's personal chef, who fell ill on the day he was meant to whip up a special dessert for some very important guests. Only on his second year of training in Metternich's kitchen, Sacher was charged the serendipitous task.
Eduard Sacher, Franz Sacher's son, perfected the recipe and the cake was first served at Demel bakery then at Hotel Sacher which was established by Eduard in 1876.
Our first sachertorte experience had to be at Café Sacher which is part of Hotel Sacher Wien. The queue at the entrance was long but we quickly realised it was for tourists who wanted to buy the legendary cake to take home. We managed to get seats outside the cafe located just opposite the Vienna Opera House.
I must admit when I have a portion of chocolate cake, my taste buds prefer either plain chocolate or a double dose of it. Apricot jam on toast is an alternative or accompaniment to a savoury breakfast, but I'm not very keen to find it on my chocolate cake. So, don't get me wrong, the sachertorte was beautifully presented and the chocolate topping was heavenly, but Mr T and I agreed that his favourite apfel strudel still holds the scepter. Yes, the scepter and not the crown, because sachertorte is up there with Austria's finest.
The closest I had to a Wiener sausage was a German frankfurter at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. So while in Vienna, we made a date with one of the hotdog kiosks.
Wiener sausage is distinctly served not between sliced-up bread, but tucked in a hollowed-out white bread, with the top end not completely cut, to cover the hotdog if it's not longer than the bread.
I thought it was ingenious because the hotdog and all the toppings are intact. No more sloppy lunch!
|Breakfast in a cafe at Naschmarkt|
24 years is a long time. So I met up with an old grade school classmate whom I haven't seen since 1989, who now lives in Vienna with her husband and son. The last time we saw each other was on our graduation day and have not heard from each other since--not until facebook came along. It was very thoughtful of her to give me some Austrian chocolate pistachio and a bottle of dry red wine. Zweigelt is a dark-blue type of grape first developed in 1922 and the most widely planted red wine variety in Austria.
I don't normally post photos of anything gifted to me but this one's extra special because it's from a friend that I haven't seen for more than two decades, plus they're locally made.
|I kept this box as a memento.|
Now, you're most likely wondering why I suddenly have photos of graves. Mr T, a muso (but a horrible singer), found out while checking online what could be off the beaten Vienna, that Falco or Johann Hölzel was buried in the Zentralfriedhof or Vienna's central cemetery--the most famous and biggest among its 50.
Falco probably doesn't ring a bell to some, but I'm sure you've heard of his worldwide hit Rock Me Amadeus.
We had plenty of time before our flight back to London so we hopped on the u-bahn for Simmering, in search of the below photo.
But because I was the one reading the map, we ended up instead in a friedhof rather than the Zentralfriedhof.
If you haven't come across my very first posts, let me tell you that scanning epitaphs and tombstones is my strange habit. The brief words about the departed give me a glimpse of who they were. Cemeteries also evoke the same peace and tranquility I get when I enter and leave an empty church.
|I was instantly drawn to this grave. It belonged to a bygone era.|
|It had to be the name.|
I love the clickety-clack of horses' hoofs on cobblestoned streets (click on the below video). It was raining the day we decided to tour Vienna on a carriage. It would have been lovely on a warm-ish day, towards the night traveling around town in style before automobiles became the norm.
On a leisurely walk around the city centre, we chanced upon this harpist who was just about to begin strumming a cover of Gotye and Kimbra's pop hit 'Somebody That I Used To Know'. I recognised the first notes immediately and we made a stop. I used to sing professionally and one of the joys of performing was having random audience pausing to listen and giving you their undivided attention. That's more than enough compliment.
When you have time to watch the video (best with head/ear phones so you can hear the crispness of the harp strings), you'll find out that he's more of an instrumentalist rather than a vocalist. Perhaps he improvised that the vocal quality was shaky and not hitting the right notes at times. He turned the pop song into a classical number with the help of the harp, with a jazzy injection via a vocal syncopation that I almost felt like catching the lyrics for him and arranging them in the correct note placement. His rendition was nonetheless moving as I felt the sincere regret in his voice. It's very rare that I hear someone play the harp live (the last time was in a wedding in 2007) so that, combined with being in such a historical and beautiful city, made me emotional. I wept. The harp, as some of you may know, is a political emblem for Ireland. To quash the resurgence of nationalism during the 1600s, the English ordered that harps be burned and harpers executed. Because harp music-playing techniques were always handed down orally, the absence of experts to pass on the tradition impelled its extinction. Catching a side glimpse of Mr T, I saw tears welling up.The harp stirred his love-hate connections with his Irish lineage.
He segued to the next song so I wasn't able to get his name to credit him. I went back after a further walk but there was a protest march I couldn't get near the fountain area where he played. So fingers crossed, he or his mates will get the chance to see this post or the video on you tube.
Vienna is consistently in the top 5 of the most liveable cities in the world. Comparing the lists of the two reputable annual liveability rankings namely Mercer and Economist Intelligence Unit (Monocle lifestyle magazine now conducts an annual survey as well), Vienna is the only major city in the world that's included in the top 5 of all surveys.
Language barrier aside and the prospect of starting all over again, I was very much impressed to move on from tourist to local. Who knows?
Missed out on the first 3 posts about Vienna? Click on the links for more.
Part I Vienna
Part II Vienna
Part III Vienna
And to my lovely readers who always kindly go through my posts but missed the trip to the Museum of Bags and Purses, click for Part I and Part II.