Saturday, 1 April 2017

Vienna, The Charmer

Chocolates from Demel

Two hours of sleep, dry sandwiches in the morning, and then we were flying over Swiss mountains. The plane cruised over a sea of clouds lapping at the bottom of the bluish peaks. We changed planes in Zurich and landed in Vienna.

A few hours later, after devouring hot wiener schnitzels with lemon basil sauce at an excellent vegan diner, we stepped into The Purple Cave. It was a small, slightly expensive vintage shop packed to the rafters with 60’s hotpants, 70’s dresses, patterned shirts and collectables including a white mini trench-coat and a leatherette catsuit with cutouts down both sides. I tried on an Ossie Clark-style navy wool dress. My company (El Lobo and Viri the pretty Hungarian) lounged in the tiny bar in the back of the store, surrounded by art books and torn sexy cinema posters. They sipped cold beers and listened to records. I bought the dress.
The Purple Cave

That afternoon we wandered around Vienna’s elegant streets past dapper old couples and horse-drawn carriages. A white-haired gentleman in a plaid three-piece suit put his camel-colored coat around his sweetheart’s shoulders. An Austrian Aphrodite with wavy red hair scurried to the metro in a long coat and stiletto heels. A young man with an angular face and sad eyes clutched a bunch of flowers on the tram. He looked just like an Egon Schiele painting. A car discreetly nearly ran us over…but everything was so calm and quiet we forgot about it moments later.

After investigating the whereabouts of the best Sacher Torte in Vienna, we visited Oberlaa Café. No queues, no obscene prices, just a café filled with locals and a glass case of sweet concoctions. We ate omelettes dusted with chives and oozing with melted cheese. And dessert? Behold the famous chocolate Sacher Torte and a Himbeer-Schaum Schnitte. The second treat was made of a layer of moist sponge cake, cream, tart juicy raspberries, and a thick layer of gooey meringue on top.  I also recommend the Austrian version of a Monte Bianco, a moist chestnut torte. It’s the perfect fuel for a museum marathon.

Industrial Vienna, very different from the rest of the city

 Another day, another thrill for the sartorially inclined: the dirndl outlet, right in the center of town. Imagine a forest of old-fashioned cotton dresses in every color. Viri and I parked the fellas at 1516, the nearby pub, while we tried on pale blue dirndls with cherry red aprons and crisp white blouses. I felt like Liesl in The Sound of Music, running to the gazebo.

We drifted in the frosty sunshine to a crowded restaurant, where El Lobo and I had a dramatic quarrel, the kind where you unearth shards of past arguments and present them with minor disappointments of the day. Tears on eyelashes.  Silence. He smoked a cigarette. I nibbled on a lemon wafer. Apologies. We walked in the fading sun looking forward to ice cream cones and the peace of sleep.

(with help from the beautiful Martina)
-Visit the museums. There’s a great Egon Schiele exhibit on at the Albertina (until June 18, 2017) but if you miss it the Leopold has a collection of Schiele and Klimt paintings. The upper Belvedere has a surprisingly boring collection, with the exception of Klimt’s ‘The Kiss.’ Skip it if you’re short on time. Vienna’s natural history museum is excellent.
-Take an Art Nouveau tour.
-Hunt for vintage clothes and stop for a beer at The Purple Cave. (Neubaugasse 78.)
-Buy spices, little gifts, and Middle Eastern snacks at the Naschmarkt (market) on Saturday.
-Visit old-fashioned, smoky coffeehouses like Café Bendl (Landesgerichstrasse 6, open late some days.)
-If it’s sunny and warm hang out in the bars by the canal.
-If you like traditional dress buy a dirndl. They’re pretty and usually very expensive…unless you go to an outlet like Original Salzburger Trachen, on Weinburggasse 8, near the metro Stephensplatz. Try on a size smaller than you usually wear. They also have new but vintage style suede shoes, blouses, and bras.

-Try the wiener schnitzel (a flat, breaded cutlet of veal, pork or chicken, often served with potato salad and a slice of lemon.)
-If you’re vegetarian/vegan Vienna has lots of options. I love Swing Kitchen, a cheap, casual vegan diner with fantastic schnitzel, “chicken” nuggets, homemade cola, apple soda and beer. Schottenfeldgasse 3, close to Zieglergasse metro station and The Purple Cave.
-Drink spicy chili beer and sample the apple strudel (a delicious combination) at 7 Stern Braeu, a microbrewery in the 7th district. Seibensterngasse 19. Open 11 am-midnight.
-Snack on dreamy pastries at Kurkonditorei Oberlaa. Neuer Markt 16. Metro: Stephansplatz.
-If you like fancy chocolates in beautiful boxes buy presents at Demel. Kohlmarkt 14.
-Have a drink at Das Moped. They make a tasty curry mango cocktail and it’s open on Sunday. Avoid the cake though. Salmgasse 23, Metro: Rochugasse.

CITY NOTES: Most shops and many cafes and bars are closed on Sunday, though most museums are open. If you’ll be zipping around town a lot get a 2 or 3-day metro pass. Many cafes and bars allow smoking inside (Das Moped has an awesome though fragrant 60s smoking room in the back.) Dogs are welcome in many restaurants, shops, and on the metro.
The metro in Vienna, March 2017

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