The Day We Ate Cake

Trip Start Jul 17, 2010
Trip End Aug 07, 2010

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Flag of Austria  , Vienna,
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

From Cari: We hitched a train around 1030AM for Vienna. Even though the train station was so close, we still elected to take a taxi because every street in Prague was "paved" with cobblestones and I was sure that if either of us was going to break a wheel, it would be me. Also, the taxi man took us to a door that we had not walked by, but it turned out to be the correct one. We didn't have a compartment on this train but the seating arrangements were still very spacious for a train. The meal we had on this train was slightly better, although still train food. I slept most of the way, again. Cars and trains put me to sleep the minute they start moving.

From Greg: Yeah.

From Cari: When we arrived in Vienna, we bought tickets for the underground. We bought a 24 hour Vienna card because it was not that much more expensive and we figured we may need the transportation at some point during our quick visit.

We had to change two lines to get from Haptbahnhof to Stephansdom Platz, but we made it. From there, we walked by, with our suitcases, every horsedrawn carriage in the city. Horses smell so bad, but they are really pretty. We finally found our hotel just down the street a block from Stephansdom (a huge cathedral where the Hapsburgs had their intestines buried…gross, yes).

Our hotel was quaint. It was a little vintage and had a village type feel. The front desk man was crazy looking. He had longer, greased back, gray hair and spoke decent English, although he had a crazy tone and look about him. He ended up being very helpful for us, and we liked him.

From Greg: Of all the natives we’ve met, the Vienna-ers are the most like golems. While they are very friendly, they also look like they are going to lead you down a back alley and eat you. This goes for our concierge and, later, our tour guide. (The tour guide hissed at people. *See tomorrow’s blog.)

From Cari: He suggested we take a walk to get ourselves acquainted with the area because we were very near a lot of the historical buildings. In addition to Stephansdom, we were within easy walking distance with the Hofburg Palace, the Spanish Riding School, and the main pedestrian area (including the street Kohlmarkt.)

Our walk took us down a major shopping area and to Café Demel off Kohlmarkt. Café Demel is one of the cafes in Vienna that claim to have the original recipe for Sachertort (a claim that the two cafes actually fought a legal battle over). We, naturally, ordered the chocolate cake with apricot jelly and chocolate frosting (topped with whipped cream) and two espressos. It was delicious; although I am sure I enjoyed it more than Greg.

From Greg: So far, Vienna is the most affluent city we’ve visited. There are two tells. First, by the time we had made it to our hotel, I’d seen at least 30 tower cranes. Maybe I’m just inclined to notice such things, but Vienna (as well as some of the other cities we’ve seen) seems to be in a growth faze. Second, the more Arabs that you see, the more money there is flowing into the town. We’ve heard from a very reliable source that most of the European super-high end stores would go out of business without the Arab tourists. I’m inclined to believe that a high level of Arab shoppers also implies a higher level of economic stability. The economy does well – people have more spending power – new business pop up based on solving the growing demand for products relating to culture, art, food, textiles, etc. – and in Europe, the Arab families come and buy it. (I only mention the Arab communities because, to me, they sick out like a sore thumb. I’m sure that there are other signs if you’re familiar with the places.)

From Cari: We continued our walking, stopping to look at the Spanish Riding School horses that were out in the courtyard. Apparently, the breeding of the horses makes it so that the babies are a black color and the mothers (or adults) are white. Currently, only the mothers and the babies are in the city. Some of the colts were playing with each other…it was really cute.

We continued our walk passed Hofburg Palace and back to our hotel, where we headed for dinner at a café recommended by my guide book and also the front desk man. Right next to the cathedral, we saw a girl passed out on the ground and a Human Statute trying to help her and her friends. Our theory was that he scared the girl and that she passed out. At Café Diglas we had a “fine array of sausages” (according to our waiter). Greg had a brat with sauerkraut and I had the sausages (which came wrapped in bacon).

From dinner, we hitched the underground to Prater Park where we wandered into the amusement park and paid for a ride on Vienna’s famous Ferris wheel. The museum was interesting, telling the story of the wheel through models. In line, we were eaten alive by bugs while the workers on the wheel cleaned out the dining cars. (Yes, there is a restaurant. You can even have your wedding reception on the wheel). There was an English speaking family on the wheel, and the teenage girl was cracking me up. She had an attitude, in a very “I’m 15” sort of way.

From Greg: On this Ferris wheel, I bonded with the guy over how much we hated bugs. It was special. It was simultaneously a horrible and interesting time (which reminds me, all over Europe there are giant concrete cylinders that extend dramatically into the sky, and each one has a rotating restaurant and a thousand satellite dishes). There was one quite visible from the Ferris wheel. I’ve since come to learn that in the 70s, before cable TV was popular, they didn’t have very good satellite connections in the city. So, house would send signals to these towers and the towers would, in turn, bounce the signal to the outside of town where it would be dealt with as necessary.

From Cari: After the wheel, which was a 10 minute ride around, we hitched the tube back to our stop and headed back to the hotel for the night.
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