September 28 & 29 - Vienna, Austria
If you have taken a writing course, you know about the inverted pyramid. Start your article with the most important information because that's what people will stick around to read. Well, here it is...If you visit Vienna indulge in pastries at a coffee house! Here is a menu board - you can't go wrong with any of them. If you choose to read on about Vienna, I'll write more about coffee houses, Sachertorte and our experience at the historic Demel
Our excursion today was a combination of a coach and walking tour. Vienna (or Wien) is the capital of Austria with a population of 1.8 million (Austria's population is 8.5 million).
In 1918, the empire lost its hold and Austria became a republic. It had been dominated by the Habsburgs from 1273 - 1918. The Habsburgs were horrible fighters so they amassed power and land through marriage. This ended up contributing to their demise...too much inter-marriage among royal families. More on that when we visit the palace tomorrow. The area had been made up of many nationalities and each of these broke away and became their own country - Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Transylvania, Czechoslovakia - the remainder became Austria.
Anyhow back to present day. Vienna is 50% green space. It is home to the world's oldest ferris wheel, Wiener Riesenrad, built in 1897. We visited it later in the day but didn't go for a ride. It looked VERY slow. It was supposed to be demolished in the early 1900's but they ran out money so it stayed. It was damaged in WWII and it was rebuilt with 15 gondolas instead of the original 30.
We drove on the ring round that circles the city centre. The Imperial buildings are beautiful. Historically they were royalty and the wealthy lived. Today many of them are museums and 5 star hotels. Vienna is known for music and the opera house is very impressive! We toured by the coffee house that Freud frequented, the Rathaus, parks and the big statue of Maria Theresa -affectionately known as the mother of Austria. The only female ruling Habsburg. She had 16 children during her reign. Busy.
We left the bus and started our walking tour. We visited the Hofburg Palace (outside) - the winter palace for the Hapsburgs and home of the Spanish Riding School with Lipizzaner horses.
We walked through the high end/designer shopping area. Our guide explained that Austrians do not shop here. Austrians are generally not interested in designer names. These stores are for the tourists specifically from Russia, Japan and China.
We stopped at the Plague Column. During the plague, cities would bargain with "the higher powers"...if you spare us and end the plague, then we will do "X". Usually X is build a statue. That's what this column is for and it is very beautiful. I feel condfident we won't get the plague in Vienna. Although there are a lot of people on our ship sneezing and coughing!
Our tour ended at St. Stephens' cathedral. We took a peek inside.
Vienna's coffee house culture is strong. Coffee houses are exquisite places to sit, relax, read the paper (if you read German) and have quiet time. When you go to a coffee house you will receive your order with a glass of water. The only thing that will be re-filled is the water. The coffee and pastries are expensive because you are also paying for using the space, reading the paper, etc. Non-Austrians may think the servers are rude because they ignore you but this is what they are supposed to do. Austrians would think it was rude if the server kept talking to you. When you are ready to leave, you let the server know. There are many fabulous coffee houses in Vienna we decided to try the historic Demel...with roots back to 1786.
Sachertorte was invented in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich. He had sensitivities to cream so he wanted a cake without cream. Later there was a huge legal battle between Hotel Sacher and Demel over "The Original Sachertorte". The problem was the son of the original baker worked at both places. They settled out of court and Hotel Sacher is called the "original". That means they now out sell Demel by 5 to 1 in Sachertortes. I’ve read that both taste very similar. There is a line up to get in to Hotel Sacher because they have the official title.
If you go to Vienna, try Sachertorte because it's a "thing" but you must try other cakes...they are much better! The recommended way to order Sachertorte is with cream.
We had to walk off our cake so we went to the Rathaus. There was a travelling show set up. Then we took the subway (which is very easy to use) over to the ferris wheel area (The Vienna Prater) because there were Oktoberfest celebrations. This area is close to the Danube and was originally swampy area used for hunting grounds. Eventually Vienna decided to make it in to a permanent amusement park. It's massive and it was fun to walk around.
We went back to the ship for an early dinner because this evening we went to a Mozart & Strauss concert. It included music, singing and dancing and was very good.
We took the bus back to the ship - Vienna looks pretty at night. We are docked in Vienna overnight. Tomorrow morning we visit Schonbrunn Palace.