The Libbyration of Vienna

Thankfully, budget carriers don’t do long haul and Emirati economy is nothing like that. The rather comfortable twenty-four hour flight brought me into Flughafen Wien to the sights of Klimt, Klimt and Klimt all over Arrivals from where we were quickly shuttled off to the Hilton Vienna Waterfront Danube. It was like watching a sausage being made when the piano piece of many a childhood recital was revealed nowhere near shades of blue.  I acted the insulted liver sausage and joined the pre-arranged bus roundabout of the city ever so slightly miffed.
The city otherwise proved itself reason for inspiration of the Classical greats and the Vienna Secession. Nothing excited me more than the sight of Café Sacher.
“One Sach…how is that pronounced?”
“[Zah-khuhr Tawrt]”
“Sach(pleghmatics)er  Torte, please.”
“Close enough. Coming up!”
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                                                                                 The Original Sacher Torte with Kaffe Wiener Melange
The Original Sacher Torte has two layers of chocolate cake made distinct from any other I’ve had only by the apricot jam it sandwiches in between  and the incredibly smooth chocolate icing several density notches below a  standalone  soft chocolate piece. Kaffee Weiner Melange, much like a cappuccino with an espresso shot served topped with steamed milk and milk foam, provided a creamy liquid contrast along with the Schlag, unsweetened whipped cream, that the cake is served with.
Pork Knuckle with Sauerkraut
                                                                                Pork Knuckle with Sauerkraut
I took that to be a rather sweet appetizer to dinner across the street at the Augustiner Keller, one of Vienna’s oldest and last Hueringers or wine tavern restaurants. We started with a Styrian Salad topped with Bacon-wrapped Feta Cheese. After all, what is a salad without meat and dairy? The main was a Braised Pork Hock, the solo size of our usual Crispy Pata serving. Tender skin and meat fell off the bone and onto the mountain of sauerkraut it rested on. I love sauerkraut but the heaping plateful was a case of way too much of a good thing. That set the mood for the rest of our sauerkraut encounters for the rest of the trip which was practically every single meal. Dessert was Apple Strudel very much unlike the schiesse that I know as strudel back here. Of course, I had a beer to wash all that down – the house beer, an Amber Ale by my best approximation.
Assorted Cheeses
                                                                                Assorted Cheeses
The Full Austrian
                                                                                The Full Austrian
The deluge of the next day opened with the hotel’s breakfast buffet. Confronted with an assortment of cheeses, among local Viennese breakfast favorites, it was not a hard decision to assemble a plateful – with all available variants. There’s the Full English and there’s the Full Austrian: Grilled Tomatoes with Parmesan, Scrambled Eggs, Baked Beans, Bacon and real, non-Libby’s Vienna Sausages. These were firmer by comparison given the casings but had a similar yielding texture if not just a bit more chew.
Belvedere Palace
                                                                                Belvedere Palace
St. Stephen's Cathedral
                                                                                St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Veal Schnitzel
                                                                                Veal Schnitzel
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                                                                                Apricot Ice Cream Dumplings
The rest of the day was spent hopping from one highlight of the previous days bus tour to another. There was Belvedere Palace followed by a guided walking tour through the old quarter which culminated with lunch. The Greichenbiesl, one of their more storied and historic inns, served Veal Schintzels twice the size of my face to spill out of the plates. Perhaps it was seasoned enough to allow for the enjoyment of the tender and very young meat but not quite enough for the majority of the all-Pinoy group. Pressed for hot sauce, the waiter served a thin gravy and black pepper. “This is sauce. This is pepper. Put pepper in sauce then it’s hot sauce,” we were schooled. The collective cultural embarrassment was somehow  numbed by the Pilsner Urquell, smoothed over by the Apricot Ice Cream Dumplings and finally washed down with some Kaffe Wiener before we were whisked to our last stop.
Schloss S chonbrunn
                                                                                Schloss Schonbrunn
Apple Strudel & Kaffe Melange
                                                                                Apple Strudel and Kaffe Wiener
Schloss Schonbrunn, the Viennese equivalent the Versailles, proved an interesting guided walk through but none more than its end at the Café Restaurant Residenz . It was where I began to understand that I was to be on a steady diet of Apple Strudel and Kaffe Melange for the rest of that segment. Those and sauerkraut.
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                                                                    Fried Pike Perch, Spring Vegetables, Potatoes with Rosemary, Fresh Asparagus Ricotta Ravioli with Asparagus Tips
We were dropped off for dinner at the Marina Restaurant, literally on the marina of the Danube. Fried Pike Perch, Spring Vegetables, Potatoes with Rosemary, Fresh Asparagus Ricotta Ravioli with Asparagus Tips from the buffet made it to my plate. Stuffed, I managed to squeeze in some Figs with Feta for dessert. The circulatory shunt from brain to digestive system knocked me out just as soon as I settled back into the hotel.
Klassische Pretzel
                                                                                Klassische Pretzel
We were off to an early start the next day for a three hour bus ride to the border between Vienna and Bratislava. As this is a package tour, a visit to some outlet store complex was requisite. Lunch at some local pizza chain was forgettable and the closest I got to truly local cuisine in the area was a classic pretzel off a mobile cart. Four more countries to breeze through before the PI, I wisely held back on shopping save for a pair of woven Italian leathers.
Johann Strauss Monument
                                                                                Johann Strauss Monument
The Kursalon
                                                                                The Kursalon
Verschiedene Brotsorten
                                                                                Verschiedene Brotsorten
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                                                          Roast Salmon on Potato Gratin with a side of Asparagus, Leeks and Onion Marmalade topped with a Dehydrated Sweet Potato
Viennese Chocolate Cake and Stewed Mixed Fruits
                                                                                Viennese Chocolate Cake and Stewed Mixed Fruits
Later that night, a gala dinner was held at the renowned Kursalon, an opera house and dining theater. Champagne and various other wines flowed freely as we were welcomed into the venue by a classical string quartet. Freshly-baked rolls, a soup course and a more traditional Styrian Salad got the ball rolling as opera singers performed several solos each ending with a few duets. Roast Salmon on Potato Gratin with a side of Asparagus, Leeks and Onion Marmalade topped with a Dehydrated Sweet Potato made for the surprisingly filling fish main as a ballet pair waltzed through the room to several themes. The finale came with a Viennese Chocolate Cake and Stewed Mixed Fruits.
Kaiserschmarren
                                                                               Kaiserschmarren
The Bosnian Crisis resulted from Franz Joseph’s annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The events that followed eventually resulted in World War I. The Kaiserschmarren – a scrambled pancake that reportedly was the emperor’s favorite seems reflective of his reign as it is translated to English as Emperor’s Mess. Breakfast was one with a cherry compote and fresh cream cheese before a long ride to a day trip in Salzburg.
Basilika Mondsee and Mercato Dolce Vita
                                                                                Basilika Mondsee and Mercato Dolce Vita
An Austrian family in their Sunday's Best
                                                                                An Austrian family in their Sunday’s Best
Holy Jager
                                                                                Holy Jager
Barely able to get our bearings, we were immediately launched into a breeze-through of the picturesque little town of Mondsee. We caught the Basilika Mondsee towards the end of a regular Sunday mass with the churchgoers streaming out a few minutes later. One thing that struck me about Austrians is their strong sense of identity and pride in it. Most of the parishioners were decked out in their Sunday’s best — traditional costumes — and that had me considering the Barong Tagalog to church back home. I scored a vial of Mondsee-branded Holy Water from the church gift shop noting the inescapability of commerce in any setting and the humor in the fact that it was an upcycled mini-bar bottle of Jagermeister
Mirabell Palace Gardens
                                                                               Mirabell Palace Gardens
We were hauled over to the actual Von Trapp family residence, the Mirabell Palace, where we were surprised with a performance by a Maria Von Trapp impersonator complete with a guitar and kids in tow. Members of my group gaily pranced around the fountain singing Do, Re, Mi convincing themselves to be huge fans of the movie by singing along with wrong lyrics. “Fa…a long a way to…GOOO!” The weather was rather uncooperative and left us unable to climb the iconic hill.
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                                                                                Tafelspitz
Schokolade Torte
                                                                                Schokolade Torte
Julius Meinl Coffee
                                                                                Julius Meinl Coffee
Another breeze-through of the Salzburg town proper was a long walk to lunch at the Sternbrau. There we were served another of the Emperor’s  favorites, the Tafelspitz – boiled beef with simmered vegetables served with horseradish, sour cream and potatoes. Beers are cheaper than plain water around these parts so when it comes to drinks, the wise choice is the fermented kind… a recurring theme for all the meals on this trip. Apple Strudel and Schnitzel made it to Maria’s list. Was it that difficult to squeeze in Schokolade Torte into the syllabications? And there’s Julius Meinl coffee. I don’t know why they even bother with capitalist brands here.
Salzburger Dom
                                                                               Salzburger Dom
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                                                                                The fall of Lucifer as shown on the base of the monument in front of the Salzburger Dom.
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                                                                                Echte Salzburger Mozartkugel
We were left to digest with a free walk through the rest of the town. I came across Echte Salzburger Mozartkugel, also known as Mozart’s balls, a marzipan center surrounded by layers of dark and light praline cream and a dark chocolate shell. These come in pairs, of course.
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                                                                               Landzeit Burger
Reeling from a solid two hours of Julie Andrews et al on loop, I had a hard time making my selection in a foodhall of choices on a dinner stop at the Landzeit-Autobahn restaurant. I took the default burger and did not regret the half-pound patty with thick-cut bacon strips and accouterments with a Gosser Zwickl to wash it down. The hills were definitely alive with the sound of music as we were still trapped with the Von Trapps on the last hour back to Vienna.
Stephansplatz Mercado
                                                                               Stephansplatz Mercado
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                                                                               Steltzen Burger
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                                                                                Wildschweingrilller
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                                                                                Schaumbecker
The next morning had us squeezing a visit to the food market outside St. Stephen’s Cathedral where we gorged ourselves on local delicacies for brunch. Hamburgers are definitely Germanic and Vienna’s Steltzen Burger  is a Roast Pork Belly sandwiched in a  wheaten bun with mustard and sauerkraut. The call of the exotic got me a Wildschweingrilller – wild boar sausage with mustard and horseradish. I capped of with a sweet Schaumbecker—a soft marshmallow cone and washed down with Mulled Wine.

As we piled into our rental van for next destination, some weird coincidence had the Von Trapps bidding us goodbye from the hotel lobby’s piped-in: “So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye…”

More photos on IG: @thehamburgero and FB: Michael Karlo

2 thoughts on “The Libbyration of Vienna

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