If I said Vienna, you might say Classical Music, Schnitzel, Coffee, or Palaces. Any one of these answers would be perfect. These are the major characteristics that combine to form the cultural reputation of Vienna; past or present. On a recent holiday I discovered, to my surprise and delight, that Vienna embodies this reputation, and has gone far beyond.
I think coffee is magical. It tastes just as wonderful as it smells. There’s only one word to describe Viennese coffee…rich. It would have been perfectly acceptable to go to Vienna just for the coffee…and the cafés. They are legendary, atmospheric, and have the ability to transform time and space. I made it a point to seek the infamous Café Sacher, home to the classiest chocolate cake in the world. The cake is still made today with the original recipe from 1832. Double layered chocolate cake, with fresh apricot jam in the center, topped with a chocolate medallion of authenticity, from a 182 year old recipe, enjoyed with a coffee, sitting at an iron table, on a street corner in Vienna, with a view of the Opera house and the sounds of carriages being drawn along cobblestone by horses, is the absolute epitome of The Good Life.
As wonderful as Viennese cuisine is, and as inviting as many of their restuarants are, street food and markets are also quite popular. Our favorite afternoon was when we got lunch the hard way. And by hard way I don’t mean to imply that it was in any way difficult; it simply required more effort than sitting down at an empty table and reading a menu. It required walking, interaction, slicing our own cheese, and ripping our own bread. We rode the subway down to the Naschmarkt, bought some olive bread, figs, salami, truffle gouda, 3-yr aged parmesan, apples, olives, and a bottle of wine, and walked it to the Hofburg Palace gardens for a picnic lunch.
In 1898 the government decided to fill-in its Vienna river and the Naschmarkt (Munchies Market) was opened on the spot. It has been open everyday (except Sunday) ever since. It is full of exotic eateries, produce, and gourmet goodies. I think it would be impossible to tour the market and not be inspired to eat, or drink, something along the way.
Where there is history, there is also art history. In Vienna you can get your Gustav Klimt-fix by touring the Belvedere Palace and The Seccession, you can satisfy your craving for Art Nouveau at the MAK, and you can feast on the royal Habsburg family collection (spanning 2 centuries, containing paintings from masters like Carravagio and Velasquez) in the Kunsthistorisches Museum; but if you’re anything like my husband you’re going to have the most fun exploring the art of Friedensrich Hundertwasser.
Unlike the majority of Viennese institutions, the Kunsthaus Wien dates only to 1991. Its unconventional architecture creates an energetic and inspirational home for works of art of a similar nature. The Kunsthaus Wien is also known as the Hundertwasser Museum, as the building was created by the artist and contains the largest single collection of his life’s work and history. Friedensrich was an artist-intellectual-environmentalist that traveled the globe learning from its cultures. He took his experiences and transformed them into incredible works of art; whether they be flags, stamps, drawings, weavings, mosaics, or buildings. He had many an idiosyncracy (many of which strike me as being extremely charming) and left behind a legacy of unconvention. Below are a few of my favorite quotes from the man whose name in English translates to Freedom Empire Hundred Water.
The straightline leads to the downfall of humanity.
When we dream alone it is only a dream, but when many dream together it is the beginning of a new reality.
A person should be buried only half a meter, or two feet, below the surface. Then a tree should be planted there. He should be buried in a coffin that decays so that when you plant a tree on top the tree will take something out of his substance and change it into tree-substance. When you visit the grave you don’t visit a dead man, you visit a living being who was just transformed into a tree. You say, “This is my grandfather, the tree is growing well, fantastic.” You can develop a beautiful forest that will be more beautiful than a normal forest because the trees will have their roots in graves. It will be a park, a place for pleasure, a place to live, even a place to hunt.
When you’re in Vienna and you’ve had your fill of churches, palaces, museums, and other historical architecture, they’ve got another historical attraction that is sure to get your heart beating a bit faster. It’s called the Prater, and it’s an amusement park that dates back to 1766! It features a still-functioning Ferris Wheel from 1897!! We took the trip to the Prater just to see this Ferris Wheel, but we couldn’t help being lured in by all of the sights and sounds. We got the itch, and were forced to ride the scarriest ride we could find…The Black Mamba, a five minute trip that consisted of small loops inside of big loops, at least three stories high, pulling 6 G’s, overlooking Vienna and beyond. (the view really was spectacular when I wasn’t screaming and could actually focus and appreciate it)
When you’re in Vienna and you’ve had your fill of churches, palaces, museums, historical architecture, modern art, and amusements; there is still the Vienna woods and wineries. We spent an enchanting evening combining the two. It’s possible to take the subway, to a bus, to the top of a hill. At the top of the hill, and for the fourth time this trip, you inhale an impressive view of your magnificent surroundings. Then you begin your trek down. As our evening unfolded we wandered the path through the woods, down the mountain, and past the grape fields; stopping at wineries and wine pubs along the way.
When you are on vacation it is important, not only take yourself to new places, but to really transform your location mentally and physically. We were technically still in Vienna, but our trip from the woods to the wineries feels like the farthest away I’ve been in a while.