Category: Vienna

Summers Day in Schönbrunn

If you happen to find yourself in Vienna during a summer heat wave, let me share a little insiders secret trail to heavenly relaxation.

First, take yourself to the famous Schönbrunn Palace and marvel at the resilience of tourists who insist on sightseeing in 36°C and beating desert heat.

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Its basically a desert wasteland – with a palace in the middle

Take a left away from the palace, away from the famous rose gardens and meander past the Marionette theatre until you reach these picturesque gates on the right hand side:

Schonbrunn Gates

Habsburg gardens don’t do understatement 

Pass through the gates and don’t be disheartened by the long, dry and dusty path ahead of you. The trees to the left and right will offer some slight relief from the heat.

Schonbrunn Walk

The snazzy Austrian man in green pants will definitely outpace you

If you stroll at a relaxed and steady pace for ten minutes, you’ll soon reach the following staircase, which may look insurmountable to your heat addled brain, but quite ordinary afterwards…

Stairs to Schonbrunner Bad

Your trek up the stairs will be rewarded with this magnificent view over the Egyptian Obelisk monument, the back of the palace and the simmering city skyline.

Monument View

Take your breather here and admire the view

At this point you will start to see children skipping and locals carrying what looks suspiciously like beach and bathing gear.

Strolling to the Bad

 Ignore the overly dedicated runner on the right, and follow the family with the swimming bag!

Suddenly, like a mirage (because who could imagine a swimming pool inside the palace grounds??) the Schönbrunner Bad will appear on your right hand side, and it will be a revelation.

A rolling hillside of green, a bright, clean and cooling pool, big enough for lap swimming, the occassional divebomb and lots of poolside lounging. Most importantly, it is cold and wet and so so soothing after your trek to get here.

Heavenly Pool

Simply pick your spot, splay your towel, and kick back for an afternoon of sunshine and relaxation. Of course because this is Austria, there’s options for activity available…

Beach Volleyball Court

 This particular round got very intense – volleyball is not for the faint of heart

 …but more exciting is the fact that you can order a drink from the on-site cafe and enjoy it while kicking back on the grass.

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A secret royal pool including drinks and summery vibes? I’ll take that option any day of the week!

A glimpse of our getaway….

We’ve been on a getaway. A blissful, island runaway trip – probably the longest holiday I’ve had in about 6 years. (No, tour guiding through Europe is not the holiday it appears to be from the outside!). I was on a self imposed internet ban for the majority of the trip, but now i’m back with a vengeance and just had to share a few photos to give you an idea of what a paradise Bali can be.

Sunset at Secret Beach

Fact: you cannot take a bad photo with sunsets like this.

There’s a good few posts to come for you, in particular a mention of how differently an Austrian approaches a holiday compared to an Australian (hint: VERY DIFFERENTLY!). To tide things over though here’s a brief photo collection for the start of the week – enjoy!

 

Paddleboarding

That’s moi, successfully Paddleboarding, whoo! S decided he ‘doesn’t like one board sports’ after a morning of failed attempts to stay standing

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Rice paddy fields gear in action

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Mt Batur from the lookout restaurant

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Not quite nailing the self-timed photo…but you get the idea!

DSC04276Getting up close to the wildlife….pretty sure he wanted us to back off

DSC04339Overall holiday success, despite many, many awkward photos

 

Autumn Arrives

It may be fleeting, but Autumn is here and it is spectacular. We spent the last two weekends wandering around the city centre, re-acquainting ourselves with Viennese life and enjoying the slightly less crowded tourist hot spots. This is just a short photo post for you, to get a feel of Vienna right now, we’ll get on to the juicy stuff later this week!

Autumn at Hofburg

Behind Hofburg Palace

Families relaxing in Burggarten

Am Hof

Apartments that look like castles in Am Hof square

Austro-Hungarian Eagle

The Austro-Hungarian two headed Eagle – seen above entrance gates at Palmenhaus

Autumn means one delicious thing – Pumpkin time! Americans may hangout for their Pumpkin Spice lattes from Starbucks, but here in Austria its a little more traditional. Kürbis festivals (pumpkin festivals) are everywhere, celebrating that mighty vegetable the pumpkin. Most importantly, the festivals provide an excuse to sit, talk with friends and drink good wine while enjoying local products.

Kürbis Festival

Herbsfest at Freyung Platz

Kürbis Festival stand

It’s not a festival unless wine is involved!

Of course it wouldn’t be a Viennese weekend without coffee and cake. We went to the historic Cafe Leopold Hawelka to indulge my coffee addiction. Apparently it used to be a hot spot for artists and intellectuals, with big names of post-war Austria like Hundertwasser, Enest Fuchs & Oskar Werner. visting often. The place even lured English speaking legends like Arthur Miller and Andy Warhol into its smoke-filled writers corners. Once the famous song about the Cafe was released in 1975, it became a known tourist spot and the appeal for ‘real’ artists diminished.  They still serve damn fine coffee though, just beware the very Viennese waiters who will ignore you for a while!

Cafe Hawelka
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Modern day visitors soaking up the atmosphere

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The main attraction -Kaffee & Kuchen

All round, I have to say Autumn is close to becoming my favourite season in Vienna, if only for the amazing colours everywhere in the city. I hope you’re enjoying your Autumn just as much!!

Autumn Leaves

Weekend in Wien…pt 2

So, you’ve had a taste of Schönbrunn Palace, a swim on top of the city and enjoyed the heights of Prater Park. If you missed it, check here.

Now for the seriously cultured side of Vienna.

Head first to the Museums Quartier, or MQ as it’s known to the locals. A hub of Museums surround an enclave of cafes and comfy hang out spots within a gorgeous courtyard. This place is always energetic and inspiring.

Official photography from MQ site http://www.mqw.at/de/presse/pressefotos/das-mq/

To fuel the next few hours of looking at art, its imperative to indulge in good coffee. I’m sure that’s why MQ has so many funky cafes, the better to fortify yourself for artistic discoveries!

Graceful Art Excitement

Artistic Prep time in the Leopold Cafe…good to go!!

The Leopold Museum is currently housing a magnificent exhibition of Schiele & Klimt, two big names of the Vienna Secession art movement. An artist friend of mine (http://sarahmasson.com.au/) was in town recently so it was the perfect excuse to finally check out the famous works.

Klimts art is pretty unavoidable in Vienna – he’s a hometown sensation, born and raised in the 14th District of Vienna. Consequently, all souvenir shops are plastered with cheap reproductions of his most famous paintings. 

Pretty sure he never envisioned his work on Tins of Tea

The exhibition in the Leopold is a fascinating exploration of Klimt & Schiele’s lives, well worth spending a few hours exploring. Personally,  the Schiele piece ‘Couple Embracing’ was my favourite, with Klimts  ‘Life and Death’ a close second.  If paintings aren’t your thing , MQ also has museums dedicated to Dance, Architecture, Musical Theatre, Modern Art and even a KinderMuseum for children.

After such a stretch of time inside, you’ll be in need of some sunshine & fresh air – head to the skies my friends. There is a wonderful rooftop cafe about 5 minutes walk from MQ where you can see across the entire Ringstrasse of Vienna. Dachboden comes with views over some of Vienna’s most famous monuments: the Natural & Art History Museums, the Rathaus, the spire of St Stephans, Hundertwassers’ Heating Tower, the WWII era Flak Towers

Dachboden

Stunning blue skies not guaranteed daily!

Rathaus ViewViews over the civilised intersections also included.

The bar itself is very comfy, lots of cosy couches, big communal benches, the terrace is glorious (if you can get a seat) and they serve excellent local cocktails – try the Kaiser Spritz or a Hugo!

Dachboden Terrace

The first of many family rooftop reunions – even Dad is stoked!

From here you can round out the cultural day with a wander into the city centre, known as the 1st District. Stop by the historical Hofburg Palace en route for the must-have photo opportunity. The Hofburg was the winter palace and seat of power for the Habsburg dynasty, and the modern day President of Austria still has his residence here. Its grand, imposing and still as stunning today as when the Kaiser was in power

Hofburg

Spot the symbol of Imperial Austria up top – the double headed Eagle holding a crown 

Maria Theresa

Maria Theresa – mother of modern Austria & Marie Antoinette – will give you her benediction on the way by

Then get up close with some statues, fountains and spectacular architecture in the 1st District

Chilled TritonTriton is looking a bit weary…

Hofburg Palace

...looking at this view all day must be exhausting for him… 

The 1st district is full of historical buildings, cobbled streets and ‘Fiaker’, the traditional horse & carriages of Vienna . Wandering up little alleys is the best way to find hidden treasure bookshops, cafe’s and artisan stores.  More about my favourite stops to come in a future post! Wrapping up your short weekend in Vienna with a leisurely stroll through the historical centre is the best way to soak up the spirit of a city hundreds of years in the making.

Staying longer in Wien? Then check out these suggested activities: Wachau Day Trip or Schloss Belvedere

Wiener Weekender

Some friends of mine were asking me about the best way to see Vienna as a tourist. How to find something ‘other than classical music and Schnitzel’.  Slightly outraged on my adopted city’s behalf, I replied that there is a huge variety to Vienna, you just need to know where to look! So, to prove the many wonders of this incredible city, I devised a plan for a  Weekend in Wien….

Right, it’s summer, you’ve had a long overnight journey and the last remaining days of sunshine are calling you to the water – but you’re traveling, you need see the city too! The perfect solution to this dilemma? Krapfenwaldbad:

Krapfenwaldbad

Beautiful people guaranteed to be in attendance

Krapfenwaldbad has incredible views over the city of Vienna, being perfectly placed near the top of the Kahlenberg Mountain. There are multiple swimming pools, the main one being nicely deep & cold for swimming . Don’t expect anyone to be doing laps though, this is serious ‘see and be seen’ territory for the young trendy locals. It’s also relaxed enough that you can while away the day in relative peace. There’s an on-site cafe & bar too, so any and all your chill out needs are attended to. Plus, did I mention the crazy awesome views?

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Pool Views

That’s all of Vienna at your feet!

Ok, now that you’re relaxed after a day spent poolside, let the tourist activities begin! First, there’s some really excellent gardens to spend a morning roaming around….

Gloriette & Gardens

That little building up top is a Gloriette, where Emperor’s have breakfast – ‘cos being an Emperor is kickarse!

…which are conveniently attached to the glorious Schönbrunn Palace. Schönbrunn was the Habsburg’s Summer Palace, which, when you see the size of it, tells you just how awesome it was to be Royalty in the Golden Age. The best Apple Strudel & Iced coffee in Vienna can be had in the cafe to the left of the entrance – trust me I have done thorough research on this.

Once Schönbrunn has been conquered, you may find yourself in need of a drink, or just  a change of location for further drinks- based activities. The über cool Donaukanal is the perfect location. Wander down the canal steps from the city centre and you’ll find brilliant street art, a huge choice of bars, pop-up shacks selling different food & drink, all nestled beside the gorgeous Danube Canal.

Donaukanal

‘Beach’ Bars – bit different to beaches back home!!

Pineapple Street Art

Danube Street Art

Wicked street art along the Kanal paths

Once you’ve satisfied your inner hipster with a few riverside drinks, I’d round out the day at the the historic Prater Park. Prater is a huge nature reserve and set amongst this leafy gloriousness  is Vienna’s famous amusement park,  home to the worlds oldest Ferris Wheel, built in 1897:

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With some slightly younger specimens in front of it.

The park itself has been set up with adults in mind as much as children.  Along with loads of awesome rides, there’s gigantic Beer Gardens to meet all your Beer & Pork Knuckle desires.  There’s also adult games like  Bowling, Mini-Golf, Clubs if you’re very keen  and terrifying rides for thrill seekers:

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Fear. Pure and simple. 

That up there is the Prater Turm, which I absolutely refused to go on, right up until I was strapped in. It was at once terrifying and beautiful – at 117m, this is the world’s highest flying swing. The pay-off you get for braving it is stunning views over all of Vienna. It only gets nauseating on the way down, when, near the bottom, they speed up the pace of the chairs swinging in circles. But if you can stand that for 2 minutes, the view is well worth it!

Prater Turm

Super cute old fashioned token to ride!

After all that adrenelin, rounding out the day with a sugar hit is highly reccommended.

sugarrr

Fairy floss and chocolate fruit on a stick = heaven.

Exhausted yet?? Well stay tuned…part two of your awesome Weekend in Wien will be posted next!

28 ways to be Austrian

In honour of the fact that this is my 28th post, on the week of my 28th birthday I feel its appropriate to celebrate that number with a short guide to the hilarious/awesome/crazy things i’ve noticed from my first year living in Austria. These are the little things you need to embrace to truly uncover your inner Austrian!

1.Be on time. They really, really like being on time. The Germans and the Swiss have the more famous reputation but God help you if you’re not on time to meet an Austrian. For an Austrian, to be 5 minutes early  is to be on time. You have been warned!

2. Speak Austrian Deutsch. The language spoken here is technically German, but an Austrian variety. So a Potato is an Kartoffeln in Deutsch, but Erdäpfel in Austrian. German apricots are Aprikose, Austrian ones are Marillen, German tomatoes are Tomaten, and the Austrian (specifically Viennese) tomatoes are Paradeiser….you get the idea.  These tricksy little differences seperate the Deutsch from the Österreicher!

3. Get used to Smoking. Austria is one of the few countries that has been sloooowww to take up any kind of smoking laws, because Austrians adore smoking. For a country that’s so modern in so many ways the smoking habits  here make me feel like its still 1960. Bars, restaurants and streetside you can buy super cheap packs of smokes. Its legal at 16 meaning half the population is addicted by 17. Its gross.

Even their healthiest export is into it!

4. Get nude! This is so normal here as to barely* rate a mention. Topless sunbaking is the norm at all public swimming spots, be it beside the Danube, at a public pool or with your kids at the local swim spot. Nuding up is par for the course, particularly beside lakes, and while some areas are specifically reserved for this, people don’t tend to look twice at folk of all ages nuding up. Stay tuned for a later post about this and how it positively affects body confidence throughout the country – I reckon us English speaking folk have a lot to learn!

*sorry (not sorry) for this terrible pun!

5. Eat Dairy. There is dairy everywhere. Austrians love any kind of Dairy product – cheese, milk, butter, buttermilk, cream, creamy spreads, creamy sauces on meals, mayonaise in every salad….  it’s endless. I reckon its  from their rural tradition of farming and loving their cows so much. So versatile is their love of Dairy that they literally invented a drink made from  ‘cheese juice’ – as in leftover juice from the cheese making process. Its called Latella. S loves it. The thought of it makes me wanna vomit in my mouth

Milk & Fruit and CHEESE JUICE!! Belurgh!

6. Embrace Pork ‘n Potatoes. The diet of Austria is built on the back of a Pig – always served with generous helpings of Potatoes. More often than not, the potatoes are in salad, the famous Kartöffel Salad . Natürlich, the best Kartoffel salad is always made by Austrian Grannies. Pork cannot be avoided – they sneak it in Schnitzel, in Salad, in Cordon Bleu,  even in breakfast as a spread ( the fat of the pig is made spreadable). Basically for Austrians, Pork = life.

7. Be Neat & Tidy. The enitre country is an OCD dream of cleanliness. Crossing the border into Austria I swear the fields get more organised, the streets are neater and everything is more orderly. There’s a woman on our street who has been spotted sweeping leaves from the footpath at midnight. No joke – cleanliness is imperative. If cleaning your house isn’t enough, they have city wide initiatives in Spring to help clean the city for incomiung tourists…very serious business!

8. Holiday Often. Most Austrian work contracts have 5 weeks annual leave built in. Add to that the many many public holidays throughout the year (at least 14) and the ‘swing days’ ( if a public holiday falls on a Thursday you get the Friday off too) and you have one very relaxed country. Being smack in the centre of Europe means you can holiday in Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic or just enjoy some of the stunning lakes of Austria. Tough life!

Danube Relaxation

Viennese Day off – very tough!

9. Be Polite. Normally, in any English speaking country when I get in an elevator,  I avoid eye contact, clutch my phone and pretend i’m not surrounded by 20 other people in an enclosed space. Entering and exiting buildings I look busy, stride quickly and leave everyone the hell alone to do the same. Standard human interaction, no? Not so here. Every office I walk into someone greets you with a cheery ‘Gruß Gott’, you step out of a lift and a hail of ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ sends you merrily on your way. I think this  is  part of Austrias very strong  formal culture. In the villages of Tirol, if you walk past someone on the street its extremely rude to not say ‘Servus’ or ‘Gruß Gott’ in greeting.  I personally love this – it gives your day to day interactions a little more cheer!

10. Get a Dirndl/Lederhosen, This is not mandatory, but super fun! I got my first Dirndl last weekend for a local ‘mini-Oktoberfest’ in Tirol and I loooovve it. Dirndl’s & Lederhosen are the traditional clothes of Austria, known as Trachten. They’ll lend you the air of authenticity while holding a beer and speaking broken Deutsch in a beer hall. Apparently Trachten are making a comeback in the fashion stakes so you can get yourself ahead of the game, like so….

Dirndl!

Advising others on the benefits of a Dirndl…

11. ‘Where are you from?’ is a mandatory conversational topic. I don’t just mean asking which continent, or country. The first 15 minutes upon meeting anyone new is generally spent dissecting which particular reigon a person hails from. Points are gained if this can be picked from a speakers accent, double points if a specific village can be named. Maybe this is a European habit, but for Austrians its seems to be a particularly rewarding game – where if you guess correctly, friendly jibes and stereotypes are exchanged about each respective persons village.

12. Get Fit. Austrians love a good walk, or hike, or mountain bike, or rock climbing or going for a ‘Wandern’ – which is a hike that can go for hours. All this incredible countryside encourages outdoor fitness freaks. Then in winter there’s skiing, snow boarding, ice skating, or ‘touring’ which is hiking (again), but this time in snow, up a mountain. Yep. They’re bonkers about getting up those mountains.

Eisreisenwelt

No idea why they’d want to get all the way up here!

13. Love Winter Sports. They are waaayy more important here than any other sporting codes. It may seem obvious when you think of the climate, but still surprises me. I’m slowly getting used to the idea of watching ski races on a Saturday afternoon instead of the footy. Because Austria kind of sucks (on a national level) in popular European sports like soccer, they tend to embrace the stuff they’re good at, like skiing. Just don’t tell them they suck, you may be kicked out 🙂

David Alaba: Alle lieben unseren SuperstarSuperflous shot of Austria’s best soccer player, Alaba, looking dreamy.

14. Daily Kaffe & Kuche. The greatest Austrian habit of all – mid afternoon coffee and cake. Any & every day around 3pm is Kaffe & Kuche time. You need no justification to stop your day, get yourself a coffee and slice of Cake – Sacher Torte, Apfel, Marillen, Shokolade, whichever – then sit and enjoy 20 minutes of pure bliss.

15. Coffee must always come with a glass of water on the side. This is genius to the perpetually thirsty, like myself. I adore it so much and notice the lack in other countries now. The Austrians literally invented the idea of modern coffee in the 1500’s – when the fleeing Turkish Army left behind bags of coffee beans, the Viennese added milk, sugar and deliciousness – and have been perfecting coffee ever since.

Note  all the Dairy heaped on top!!

 

 16. Dance Like no one is Watching. Dancing here is less of an art, and more of a group activity in clapping, hopping, jumping, flapping your hands and cheering along to lyrics. They may be famous for the Vienna Waltz season, but thorough research in many bars has revealed Austrians are much more partial to Macarena-like sing alongs to folksy music, with corresponding dance moves that an entire dancefloor will bust out. Its a thing of beauty to witness!

 17. Grow a Moustache. The moustache ratio here is definitely above average, the most magnificent ones are  tended to like 1940’s masterpieces. Its inspiring & hilarious to see them in the wild. My favourite moustache of note was spotted in the gym, on a be-muscled man who was sporting the very traditonal ‘handlebar with a twirl’ look. I wasn’t stalky enough to take a picture, but trust me when I say it was definitely a descendant of this guy:

Sadly, he was not wearing a leopard print onesie that Tuesday.

 18. Hide your Office. Most offices are hidden in converted grand homes. Any Doctor, Dentist, or everyday appointment can occur in a gorgeous old apartment building, rather than purpose built, soulless concrete block. The buildings here are incredible, and finding the re-appropriated Optician’s office hidden in an apartment building from the 1890’s is an everyday architectural adventure!

 19. Avoid the Viennese Attitude. Ah the Viennese reputation for gloom. Renowed for being grumpy, unhelpful and all round sad sacks, I can say this is only half-true. The true Viennese outlook on life tends to be more ‘its not so bad’ rather than ‘life is great!’ but you can find friendly people, and if you attempt a bit of Deutsch, they  open up more.

20. Get used to Churches & Catholicism. Though changing with the new multicultural population, Austria is still very much a traditionally Catholic country. Most of the public holidays are on Catholic religious holidays, festivities are built around Catholic traditions and every second village in the countryside has a Catholic Kirche as its architectural focal point. Not such a bad thing when the Churches are as pretty as this:

KircheThat’s me, being overwhelmed by all the  goooooold in a small Kirche in Tirol

21. Classify Water. Water is more than just wet stuff from a tap. Here, it has a number of classifications – prickelnd, mild & ohne. And there’s allegedly a difference in taste between tap water depending on what side of the Danube you live. This, more than anything tells you how much Austrians love a good classification process! Water is very sacred here as they treasure the good, clear product fresh from the mountains.

22. Love The Hoff. Yes, they are as mad for him as the Germans. No one is entirely sure why he’s so successful here. He came through Vienna in March and was still given VIP treatment at Volkgarten club and the Austrians (including S) went mad for seeing the original Knight Rider vehicle. They even nominated him to be a Governor for Styria! Check the article here http://www.artofeurope.com/news/hasselhoff.htm  allegedly the photo to go along with his nomination was something like this…

There are no words for this….

23. Enjoy Explicit Radio. Like anywhere, commercial radio in Austria is pretty repeptitive. Unlike anywere else, there isn’t a lot of censorship going on. You will hear full, explicit versions of everything. In the middle of the workday there’s Old school, full length Eminiem alongside tracks like ‘What’s my Motherf**in Name’. I’m no prude so it doesn’t really bother me but for those sensitive to swearing, beware!

24. Sunday Funday!! There’s no shops open on a Sunday here. So adapt your grocery habits accordingly, or you end up starving on a Sunday evening. Sunday is traditionally a ‘family day’ used to socialise doing non-capitalist activities, like long lunches at Grannies and playing in a park. Its a delightful way to force you to find something outdoorsy to do on a weekend. Number one choice of activitiy is to…

25. Wash your Car on a Sunday. The neat and tidy thing extends to vehicle maintenance, specifically spending your Sunday’s vigorously cleaning your car. This is regardless of weather or if the car actually needs cleaning.  The gigantic queues at Carwash outlets can attest to the popularity of this pastime. The secondary church on a Sunday is the carwash.

26. Sit Down Boys. I’m talking about boys bathroom etiquette. They pee sitting down. Legitimately, taught from a young age to pee sitting down. I only realised this when I never had to put the seat down in our apartment, and upon some delicate quizzing established that its a non-issue here. Boys pee sitting down. Hallelujah!

27. Fashion Rules. Fashion here is…..classic? I’m still a bit bemused by Vienna’s fashion choices. I say ‘classic’ when what I mostly mean is a teensy bit boring. Classic cuts, nothing too zany, nothing too colourful (unless its fluro which, ick) and not a lot of risky choices. Wearing my Black Milk tights feel positively rebellious! (see my heaven here http://blackmilkclothing.com/) However, Vienna fashion week is in September so I’ll withhold complete judgement until then. There’s also an adorable blog at http://www.sissisecrets.com/ that’s helping uncover the inner fashionista’s of Wien!

28. Learn to drink Beer.  Austria is hovering up in the top 3 for biggest beer drinkers in the world. They knocked Germany off the perch recently and have some delicious varities of beer to back up the claim. My personal favourite is Weißbier, but the variety and cheap prices mean you can discover your personal favourite. Proßt!!

Weißbeer

Some extremely Austrian things here – Weißbeer, cigarettes, mountains & a lake. Oh and the human too.

So how Austrian are you??? I think I’ve still got a long way to go, so any other Austrian traits you can think of, let me know!!

Wachau Wine Weekend

It was mini-adventure time this weekend, so despite the weather being less than summery, we set out on a daytrip to explore the Wachau. What is Wachau I hear you cry? Well for starters, its this….

Only a big glorious beautiful area about an hour’s drive out of busy Vienna, completely hidden a little further down the Danube from the more famous Melk Abbey & Krems. I was gobsmacked. I know Austria is beautiful, but the countryside keeps hitting me in the face with just how stunning it is, right when I start taking it for granted…

Countryside in background, badly done selfie in foreground

We had a pretty little drive to get out there, through lots of cute little villages, even saw a few weddings en route – but the effects of recent flooding were still evident along the sides of the road.  The spot where we took the photo above would have been completely unerwater a few weeks ago. So to revive local tourism, S had a surprise in store for me, in the form of a Giant Castle!! I love castles! On top of A Mountain! Beside the Danube! Glorious!

Aggstein panorama

Lost the pointy bit on top, but you get the idea, no? CASTLE!!

Aggstein Castle is a big, reconstructed Fortress that was first built in 1350. Most of the roof has gone but a whole heap of the original rooms and castle walls remain. Its been really well restored and you can roam about freely to get a good feel of the place as it would have been in its heyday. Battlements, wells, cellar’s and original kitchen elements are all still there.

Huge stretch of castle to frolic in!

And if geeking out over historic details isn’t your thing, then the views alone are worth it!

Note adventuring Austrian’s paragliding in background

Peeking through a lookout point

We spent a good two hours here, wandering about, enjoying the views, pretending to be from Medieval times and, of course, snacking. Austrian style snacking which is…large:

yowze

Blurred photo and half demolished plate due to marauding hungry Austrian & Australian

The cafe restaurant is very traditional style Austrian, super homely and lots of wood. Because the weather was a bit scheisse we headed for a table indoors, where they had dellightful bay window seats and kitschy posters.

retro ad

cafe Aggstein

The manager/waitress revealed the upstairs area had been a hostel in the ’70’s. Can you imagine staying here as a backpacker for about ten bucks a night??!! Luxury!! I was tempted to request an overnight but S is yet to stay in a hostel (travel princess much??) so I thought this was maybe not the best induction one could ask for.

After conquering the castle our next mission was to cross to the other side of the Danube to the adorable village of Spitz. This proved harder than expected as the regular ferry was non operational after flooding. We had to loop around a bit but this took us past a few different kinds of street vendors selling fresh peaches, cherries and natürlich, schnapps.  I got to taste my first Steckerlfish, which was, hand on heart as a seafood lover, one of the freshest, tastiest best spiced fish I’ve had:

Taste’s better than it looks, I swear!!

We rounded out the day at a local Heuringer, which is like a winery but on a smaller scale, where you sit in someone’s home. Basically, for different periods of the wine season, local winemaker’s open up their backyards or courtyards as a place to drink and eat while tasting their produce. They only have a licence to selll their wine, no beer, spirits etc, and only cold food. Which, as you may have gathered by now is more than sufficient when Austrian Granny’s are making the snack plates!! We went to one owned by a friend’s family, and it felt like we were in Italian Wine country – stunning views, sunset, delicious cheap wine, and good chats with the locals

good cheap wine

                            I can never go back to Australian prices for wine….

spitz kiche

Spitz Kirche from Heuringer terrace

After whiling away 3 hours ‘tasting’ the beautiful wine the weather came in on us, but it had definitely been well worth braving it all day!

For those who want a visual on where we were, try this handy dandy map:

map wachau

If that doesn’t help you, stay tuned, because I think we’ll be headed back here soon, hopefully with friends in tow!!

Medieval Madness!

Confession time guys – I am a MASSIVE  history nerd. You may have noticed from the posts on all things traditional, plus the fawning over Austrian architecture, but recently I got to indulge my über geek to a whole other level.

MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL IN A REAL LIVE CASTLE FROM THE 1300’S!!! YESSSS!!!!

Here’s the thing, Australia didn’t have Medieval times – white folks didn’t make it over to the island until the 1700’s by which time Knights, Chivalry and y’know, the Plague were long gone from Europe. So, when I get an opportunity  to get amongst something so historically geeky but cool I got a leeetle bit excited.

Kufstein is the closest big town to my misters home village in Tirol, and we were lucky enough to be visiting relatives when they were hosting this wonderful festival. I hadn’t actually been inside Kufstein Castle either so it was a good geek-out opportunity all round.

What I hadn’t expected to find, was an entire community of ‘medieval’ performance folks who legitimately live their lives like its the 1600’s. These festival folk setup their tents on the grounds of the castle or location where they’re performing and all live on ground in ye olde fashioned way. Shared tents, benches to eat at, sleeping on truckle beds, it was cool to see but an interesting lifestyle choice to say the least!

Two kids swordfighting, living the Knight life!!

The festival itself was really well organised (naturlich in Österreich!) and had roving performers, a big mainstage, food stands with ye olde style sausage, mead and ale!! I got to drink mead surrounded by Knights!! Life success!! Entrance was free if you came in costume, so it felt pretty authentic all day. There was storytelling for kids and they even staged one of the famous battles that took place in Kufstein castle, setting off the old cannons on the drawbridge, plus some super realistic fighting…..

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Pretty much exactly how the battle looked originally…..

It was really cute and loads of fun. Even though I couldn’t always understand what a lot of the performers were saying, medieval style comedy is mostly visual jokes and lots of prop gags with ‘dimwitted dudes’ being confounded by their sidekicks


Half naked men dressed as bunnies is funny in any era!!

The museum itself inside Kufstein castle had the worlds oldest organ inside (resisting all urges to make inappropriate pun there…) and loads if info on life in the castle. I’m calling it a castle, though technically (as I was told multiple times by the ever-precise Austrians!) its a fortress, and a pretty impentrable one. It was never infiltrated and was the focalpoint of all Tirolian defences throughout history. When you see the incredible views across the countryside from the windows, you can see why enemies never really had a chance to ‘surprise’ the locals.

Pretty sure I can see straight across to Germany through that Valley

Also in the museums, we got to see loads of fancypants outfits of soldiers, and big ‘ole impressive flags of their former armies:

In short, it was the perfect, most nerdilicious way to enjoy a castle I could’ve imagined!! This is what living in an incredibly old country is all about – and why my mother is sure I won’t be home anytime soon when I can enjoy this on a weekend. Sorry Mum!!

So what I’m wondering is, has anyone else come across these festival medieval types? I know they happen in England but the Bavarian ones I don’t know much about.  I’m trying to find out more info, but I’m guessing all details are probably in German, and though my Deutsch course is good, I’m not quite up to that level of research!! Let me know if you’ve seen stuff like this, or feel free to just share your nerd-out indulgences, especially if they’re as geeky/awesome as mine!!

Schloss Belvedere

This is one of my favourite little spots to drop by on a weekend. A princely little Palace smack in the middle of all the new construction underway for Vienna’s new – and surely gigantic – Bahnhof. They reckon it is currently one of the largest construction sites in Europe, but in pure Austrian style, its extremely efficiently run, as every time we come back there seems to be a new building. But enough of Bahnhof construction sites, lets see the Palace!!!

I am a sucker for a Palace and as far as they go, I think I like this a liiittle bit more than Schonbrunn. That may be sacriliege to say to a Viennese as Schonbrunn Palace is their number 1 tourist site, UNESCO World Heritage listed etc etc, but for me, something about the Belvedere feels more simple. Well, in terms of Baroque architecture ‘simple’:

The very ‘simple’ main gates!!!

Its a gorgeous little spot just for a stroll or picnic in the sunshine. The Palace itself also holds art exhibitions and has a long long association with artists and the Vienna Secessionist movement (modern art radicals in the early 1900’s).

This was also the Palace where Franz Ferdinand (yes, THE Franz Ferdinand, not the 4 british lads who write catchy tunes) lived before he was assasinated and got the ball rolling for WWI. If its good enough for a Prince and heir to the Habsburg Empire….

Not a bad place to drop by of an afternoon. But if I’m honest with you guys, I maaayy use the palace as an excuse to visit my absolute favourite cafe and brunch spot in Vienna – Hotel Daniel

Its basically a hipster kids paradise – funky design, Instagram worthy seating and magazines, indie but not overwhelming soundtrack and cute-but-cool menu’s. I love it sooo much, feels like a little slice of Melbourne in the middle of Vienna!! Right down to the fixie bikes attached to the wall, functional use of wooden pallet’s and inappropriate seating hanging from the roof

They do the best brunch I’ve had in Vienna – which as a brunch aficiando is saying something. I cannot reccommend this highly enough and find any excuse when visitor’s are in town to go and visit it!! They use local ingredients where possible and get their cakes and cookie related treats from a local lady who bakes. Adorable.

I have to give entire credit and many many thanks to the amazing  Sushi and Strudel blog for leading me here – http://sushiandstrudel.com/2012/05/10/hotel-daniel/

My advice? Go to see the Palace, but stay to enjoy this little gem of a Bakery!

Spring Awakening!

Its been a glorious few days here in Wien and I am loving the sense that the city is awakening, stretching its limbs for summer and preparing to thrive and hum in the coming months. I wanted to quickly share with you all the last few days’ exciting and inspiring moments. Defintely falling in love with the city right now….

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 1. This mini palace (Schloss? Palais?) I found en route to a lovely little wine and cheese bar  after Deutsch class on Tuesday. I loved it because even though I see the grand architecture of the city every day, little corners of the city like this can still take me by surprise with how stunning they are, completely out of nowehere, and still useful in the modern city. Absoloutely gorgeous.

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2. Walking towards the Hofburg last night down the back of the Ringstrasse…you can’t see it in this photo but I was looking at the sunset behind the Rathaus (pictured), to my right was the Burgtheatre and to my left was the Volksgarten. I was literally surrounded by history, gardens and managed to be there at the perfect time of day. A little moment but its these moments that still make me pinch myself for being here!

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 3. This was sitting on Heldenplatz, out the front of the Hofburg waiting for the free Symphonic Orchestra concert to start. They were holding it in celebrative memorial of 68 years freedom from the Nazi’s. It’s actually the first time the Austrian’s have ‘claimed back’ the day. It used to be an excuse for modern day Neo-Nazi’s to gather here and ‘celebrate’ but to combat that kind of negativity the city of Vienna in association with the Mathausen Trust organised a free concert in the park, and as you can see it was glorious. Happiness, beers, frankfurter stands, smiles and celebration of a ‘new’ Austria, one that is no longer a victim of Nazism, but a survivor. We lounged on the grass, a beautiful collection of Austrian, Swedish, German, Australian and Dutch expats and locals all enjoying the sunshine and stunning surrounds. Couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate freedom. The weather really turned it on as well!!

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 Just look at that picturesque sunset!! Unreal!!

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4. Lastly our own little corner of heaven. We had a bit of an Ikea splurge recently but the results have been well worth it. This is our new setup on the back porch – cushioned corner seat, little bench for food/games/glasses of wine and a new plant setup. It gets the sun in the morning and is cosy and protected from the wind in the evening. This was our Sunday brunch, and I can’t think of a better brunch spot in all Austria!! Am I getting a bit domestic in my old age?? Surely not! But I sure as hell love a sunny Sunday brunch….

In short, this week I am absoloutely loving my Viennese life!!