"There are no calories in Vienna."

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

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Flag of Austria  , Vienna,
Thursday, July 22, 2010

From Cari: We ate breakfast at the hotel early this morning because we had a scheduled city tour to catch. We were about finished with breakfast when the most sexist pig sat down with his wife next to us. It was time for me to leave when he blamed her spilling her coffee on her being an "f***ing woman." I really wanted to shank him in the neck with my butter knife, but instead I left. We stopped by Café Diglas to pick up a travel book that we had left and headed for the underground to take the subway to Sudtirolerplatz for the guided tour.

When we came off the tube, the first thing we discovered was that there was a lot of construction, which made it difficult to know which street was which. We found out later that the reason for the construction is that Vienna is building a central rail station. Greg found the bus diagonally from where we were standing, and we hurried over to board.

Once the tour began, the bus drove around the city and the tour guide pointed out buildings of historical interest. We saw the Opera House (which was closed because it does not have air conditioning); the Museums of Applied Arts, Fine Arts, and Natural History; the Hofburg Palace (outside) and one of the last original fortifications of the city; Belvedere Palace (former summer residence of Prince Eugene); Ring Street where a number of very famous people (including Mozart) enjoyed coffee in favorite cafes and the rich used to strut around; Parliament; City Hall; the stock exchange; and the University (where students learn for free). We also passed by the post WWII side of town where the United Nations is located. Our last stop on the tour was to Schonbrunn Palace, the summer residence of Maria Theresa, the mother of Marie Antoinette.

From Greg: I may or may not have taken a brief nap during our bus tour of old Vienna. But, more relevantly, according to the concierge, who we will refer to as Gollum 1, there is still one opera house active this time of the year (it's an outdoor opera) but for 85 Euros a seat, we decided to pass.

From Cari: Our tour included a guided visit to the palace with some free time at the end to explore the gardens. The tour took a while because the guide had to translate everything she said into both German and English. At the gate, we were able to go through Gate C because we had a group ticket. A couple (Americans) got mixed in which our group because Gate C and Gate B were both in the same queue. Our tour guide was standing in front of Gate B making sure we all got through, and nearly had an aneurism when the couple wanted through. She started yelling in German about how they were not part of the group so they could not be in this line (even though their tickets apparently said Gate B), and a security guard had to get involved. The guard took them over to the side and, once our tour guide was in the front of our group, let the couple go. The girl part of the couple looked like she was ready to kill herself some tour guide.

Further proof that our tour guide was crazy: In one room, there was a painting that was painted in such a way that apparently the front shoe of the man in the painting points at you no matter where you are standing. Our tour guide positioned herself in front of the painting to point it out to us, disregarding the fact that a woman was already standing there. The tour guide continued to push the woman out of the way slowly, until the woman finally yelled, “What are you doing?” and our guide responded, “I must show my group the shoe!!”

From Greg: I identified our tour guide, hereby referred to as Gollum 2, as crazy very briefly after our first encounter. On the tour of the summer palace (as Cari mentioned above), Gollum 2 began screaming, “Look at the shoe!” when she unceremoniously steam-rolled an American tourist unfortunate enough not to be part of our group. When the American tourist had the audacity to challenge Gollum 2’s authority to examine the shoe, Gollum 2 responded by hissing like a goose.

From Cari: It’s true. She was hissing.

From Greg: I cannot say for certain whether the shoe follows you across the room or not.

From Cari: One interesting tidbit that our guide gave us that was that parities at the palace lasted four hours each, because that was how long the party-goers had until the candles burned out. It was sufficiently hot by the time we finished. The gift shop was a welcome retreat from the heat (because it was air conditioned), Greg wanted to step on people because there were way too many people in the store. Nevertheless, I found a pin with Sisi, the Empress, on it and Greg found a history book about the Hapsburgs before we ventured out into the gardens.

From Greg: I have now concluded that once you have seen one “palace,” you have seen them all. However, I do find the subject of how one convinced the people to support their large expenses with what seems to me as a very limited ROI. So, I purchased a book on the Hapsburgs which I will likely not read, but at least it personifies my deep thoughts.

From Cari: In the gardens, we found a mother and daughter duo that ate breakfast at our hotel. I asked if they were interested in swapping picture takings: we take one of them if they take one of us. The mother responded, “You want my memory card?” The daughter was equally as stupid, throwing a fit because she didn’t want to be in the picture (she was at least twenty years old…old enough to know to suck it up when your mother wants a picture). Needless to say, I didn’t care for them.

We only had time to walk down the courtyard to the fountain and back before we had to head back to the bus. It was really a shame because I would like to have spent more time exploring. On the way back to the bus, we ended up walking with the mother. She had lost her daughter because the daughter was “miffed” that she didn’t get more time outdoors. We were all loaded and we actually pulling out onto the road when the mother stopped the tour guide because the daughter had not gotten on the bus yet. The daughter was lucky because she was approaching the bus thirty seconds after the mom stopped it. In what universe is it ok to hold up a bus of people because you are “miffed” that you didn’t get enough time (when none of us did)? I would have just kicked them off the bus; they were so rude.

From Greg: Cari’s right. These people sucked.

From Cari: A law in Vienna requires that all city tours start and stop from the same point, so we had to return to the bus station from which we originally started. However, from there, another bus transported us to the Opera House (because it was the most centrally located building). Behind the Opera House, there were several cafes (including Café Sacher) to eat at. We chose Café Sacher because it is the other café that claims to have the original recipe for Sachertorte (and gives its name to the cake). We ate sandwiches and sausages, and then we ate Sachretorte and espresso. It tasted very similar to the cake at Café Demel. I can’t decide which one was best.

From Greg: Apparently, Mozart used to frequently eat at Café Sacher Funny enough, we left the stupid mother/daughter at Café Mozart just around the corner. They are no doubt selling the same story about how they ate at Mozart’s café. However, their story is a lie.

From Cari: On our way back to our hotel, we stopped by to explore the Hofburg Palace, the home to Empress Elizabeth (or Sisi). Using our audio guides, we explored the silver collection (some of which is still used in state banquets today), the Sisi Museum (all about the life and death of the Empress, including her famous hair stars), and the imperial apartments. The most interesting fact, for me, was that Sisi had ankle length hair which took two to three hours every day to put up and a day to wash.

After the apartments, Greg and I were both hot and tired. We found water at one of the many souvenir stores and then headed back to the hotel to relax and clean up before dinner.

We went to dinner at Plachutta. It was a two star restaurant, so we dressed up a little. The front desk guy told us that we should, but we totally could have gone in our dress from the day. The restaurant seemed to have misplaced our reservation, but they sat us anyway like they hadn’t.

Plachutta is famous for its “biological beef.” Our waiter was nice. He warmed up to the idea that we wanted him to help us pick, and he ended up choosing our Austrian red wine, our beef cuts, and our noodle types for the soup. I had the Tafelspitlz (or boiled rump) with noodles and Greg had the shoulder (the waiter’s favorite) with pancakes.

All of the food comes out to the table in copper pots set on warmers. First, you eat the soup which was served by the waiter. Next, the waiter places a piece of bone from the pot on your bread plate. The idea is that you spread the bone marrow of the cow on a piece of rye bread with salt and pepper (used like butter). I tried it; Greg ate all of his plus my other slice of bone. The meat was very tender and was served with a chive sauce or apple horseradish and accompanied by roasted potatoes, yellow beans/dill, and spinach. Out of everything, I liked the pretzel rolls the best; but everything was delicious, honestly.

From Greg: Plachutta was great. I’m not exactly sure who gave the restaurant its two stars (Michelin, Zagot…) but it may be interesting to note that Indianapolis has a cumulative of zero stars. So any stars at all is a big deal. In my opinion, the place was very reasonably priced and approachable considering that it has any stars at all. More relevantly, though, the restaurant’s specialty, which was basically boiled beef, et al, was fantastic. This was my first experience eating bone marrow. It is fantastic on a piece of rye toast with a dash of salt, and pepper. If you ever get the chance to taste it, don’t pass it up.

From Cari: We went to find dessert elsewhere. We found a diner open on Stephansdom Platz, the main pedestrian area. I ordered Esterhazytorte, an almond sponge cake layered with cream and topped with marbled black and white icing. Greg got the truffle cake. We got forks from the hotel restaurant and ate the cake upstairs.

We packed and called it a night. We were to be up early the next day.
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