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Austria

Two days is not a lot of time in the confection capitol of the world.  I took one in the diabetes gut and tried to make up for my short stay by making it as delicious as possible in a short amount of time.  There may have been a three dessert day.  Vienna is not a cheap city, but much like my stops in Hawaii and Singapore, my stomach wins out over tightening my wallet too much.  Even on the internet, the cheap restaurants seemed to be around 10 euros, which is about 13 dollars.  Not very cheap at all!   A street sausage would set one back enough for me to stay a night in a private room guesthouse in Asia.  This all took a little getting used to and some extra research to see where I could eat.  Returning to Budapest after this will look a lot cheaper.

Seen at Mozart’s mass grave cemetery: “Those who eat pigeons, eats rat!” I guess squab hunting must be a problem here, but it wasn’t what I was eating.

I ate rather well on this short trip and had to be rolled back onto the train. The first order of business after arriving in the evening was to find some eats.  I found a decent and relatively cheap (under/around 10 euros with drinks) gastropub that served me a delicious cold fish with warm boiled potatoes in a sour cream based sauce.  I enjoyed a Gruner Veitliner, the common white wine of Vienna.

Eating on the street means meat in tubes. In this case, currywurst! A sausage with lots of ketchup that has been doused with curry. I could definitely eat more of this.

Peekaboo! The Bitzinger stand has delicious dogs with a snappy casing. Unfortunately I found their service brusque and this bun that was toasted on the inside not much different from a normal bun at all. Maybe the cranky guy could put all his energy he spent scowling into lovingly handling the food instead.

The rest of the food was relegated to hamburgers, hot dogs, and kebabs for the most part.  While I love all those foods, I’ve seen them in every country so I’d prefer to try some Vienna specialities.  A mish mash of Asian food also appeared to be popular with restaurants serving a mix of fast food sushi, chow mein in round boxes, and teriyaki.

My second dinner took me to Cafe Phonixhof which is a delightfully bright little cafe that sometimes has live music.  I’ve come post fall grape harvest so this is the time to try a drink known as sturm, a mix of all the different phases of wine making.  I tried must, just the grape juice before fermentation, in Hungary and now onto the next phase.  The portions here were huge as good a deal as one gets in Vienna.

Quite different from their Hungarian counterpart, Austrian goulash is the variation I am used to seeing. This is a thick stew full of meaty chunks and little vegetables. The giant ball is a bread dumpling that is reminiscent of a matzo ball.

One of the best deals is that on weekdays most restaurants in Austria and Hungary have a set menu of multiple courses for a fixed price.  Sometimes, particularly at tourist  places, this involves a drink as well.  In Hungary, you can just say “menu” to order it and the word for a menu is something else entirely.

Lunch on my last day involved me walking into pig heaven and seeing a soft yellow light bearing down angelically on a hearty looking woman slicing into a huge ham leg. Or maybe she needed the lamp to see better, either way it was off by the time I snapped a shot.

The lunch special that day translated into something like lumberjack mess. There were pork chunks, pork skin, and smoked ham all mixed with vegetables, overcooked noodles and accompanied by a cold sauerkraut to cut all that grease.

After lunch I looked about as happy this a pig in… well, cut out of wood. As I sat munching on lunch at Porcus I saw many office workers come in for a sandwich of artisan ham and bread to go. Seems like a good deal to me for 3,5 euros compared to the wurst you’d get otherwise.

At the train station I caught up to one of the many canapés stands dotting the city. Though adorable looking I find the pre made sandwiches dry and the spreads to not be all that delightful after being exposed to too much air. They were also recommended on budget eating boards but enough to fill one for a normal sized meal was more expensive than many meals at sit down restaurants. I’ll pass thanks.

Those were my savory adventures but let’s be honest about what Vienna is known for.

Look, a bakery zoo! I wonder if I can pet them! No, this is the workshop of the famous Cafe Demel full of delicious looking chocolate cakes.

Instead of Vienna’s famed sachertorte I tried the annatorte, a lovely chocolate cake with folds of chocolate fondant everywhere. The cake was a smidge dry but the rest made up for it, fixing all the chocolate longings I’ve had the last few months.

Seen on what feels like every other corner in Vienna is the Aida chain. The place is decorated in bright pink with friendly looking diner looking ladies serving up pastries and cakes half the price of the fancier, older cafes. The cheese strudel was ok since I’d been walking in the rain for hours and being inside was enough to cheer me up. Otherwise I found the cheese itself quite dry. I hear the cakes are good though.

In a city full of ancient cake shops I could hardly try just one. This is Heiner and it may be my winner for best dessert I had in the city with this moist chocolate cake.

In both Hungary and Austria it is common to see crepes that they just call pancakes filled with jams or chocolate. This one is full of apricot jam and was delicious.

Hungary has Marka soda and Austria has Almdudler. It tastes kind of herbal-y and looks like a ginger ale. I think I prefer sour cherry Marka. Really, I’m pretty sure both of them are ghetto and the general populace prefers the international Cokes and Pepsis.

The desserts and sweets of Vienna really were pretty great.  However at three to four times the price of neighboring Hungary, I’m not sure if I felt like the cakes were three to four times better.  As a whole though, this is a pretty delicious if not so budget eating town.  I’m glad I only stayed two days or my wallet would be crying as I continued inhaling age tested confections all over town.

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I imagine this is what standard backpacking looks like.  Landing in a city and hitting the ground running to squeeze everything into as few days as possible.  It’s certainly a change for me, and it was fun but it sure was tiring!  Still, I do the same things I do in every city, I ate, I checked out markets, and I went to a cemetery.  Ok the last one only happens in some cities.  I’m not sure I could keep up learning so much about a city that quickly and remembering it all if I did this for every place I went.  Luckily Vienna kept it packed with interesting tidbits to make it easy on me.

One of my most glad sights coming from overly obsessed with outward luxury appearances Asia was graffiti. Even though parts of Asia is covered in grime and trash, there didn’t seem to be any action to take the art and their lack of very loud protests to the streets. After some time in Hungary I realized their spray can skills seem to be confined to mostly kids scrawling their names out in lines with what might as well have been marker. Vienna has more elaborate and interesting looking pieces all along their canal and buildings.

As soon as I got into town at the train station, I saw a bunch of young, hip adults wandering around in lederhosen and dirndls.  Finally as I sat down on the subway I decided to find out what was going on and asked the couple across from me.  First I asked if they spoke English, and they said they did a little.  This is, of course, where we have a completely fluent conversation in English.  When I say I speak a little Spanish, this is not what I mean at all.  Anyways, so they told me that Vienna recently started their own version of Oktoberfest in a giant park and told me I should go, encouraging me to buy my own dirndl.  Alas I have no room in my bag for that nor 40 euros to spend on beer gardens.  Perhaps another year.

Instead I decided to wander around the old town.  What a beautiful sight at night!  You can’t walk one block without seeing some beautiful building or age weathered statue.  Austria must have the world’s longest list of heroes to supply so many.

Everywhere you looked was a grand building or a palace.  This one is adorned in statues.

I marveled at the well populated streets late into the night with whole families strolling.  Everyone looked so cultured in button down shirts, sweaters and blazers.   The busker at the subway stop was playing a harp.  Only midway through my own walk did I realize it was “Late Night at the Museum”, which meant all the I assume hundreds of museums were open til 1 AM.  What a wonderful annual event! to bring people out onto the streets.  I found out too late to really make it worth it but it was a great opportunity to people watch.  The sidewalks and squares were still quite full as I walked back at midnight.

The first day was a wonderful 70 degrees, tricking me into a false sense of security.  My second day, the only real full day, ended up being a cold, gray and rainy affair.  Fitting, as I was going to go wander around the giant cemetery.  Vienna is not a big place so I could walk from my hotel all the way through the old town in less than an hour.

Every corner in town reveals some royal fun. These were the royal horse stables. These horses have more pedigree than I and I think they’re taken care of better too!

The cemetery is out in the suburbs though, past where the subway runs even.  So I hopped on tram 71 to head out there.  This is a pretty old tram line and I heard that people used to use the tram to transport the dead to the cemetery.  So there was an euphemism for dying where one was “taking tram 71”.

Well, you can see where a coffin would fit in here. Now that space is for strollers.

The cemetery is a sprawling complex and contains the various famous composers of Austria.  These graves were kept immaculately with beautiful fresh flowers.  Their tombstones often had elaborate statues that really made the place look more like a park than a cemetery from afar.  All cemeteries are giant green spaces though, so I wish we had less of a morbid fear of them so we could utilize all that green space n every city.

You can see the tombstones on either side.

I tired of looking at all the Strauss tombstones and set out wandering the back parts of the cemetery.  I found the other less famous graves more entertaining.

You know you’re important in life when you get to be buried in one of the fancy arcades. You also get surrounded by beautiful half dressed women, but I suspect they’re just there for his awesome mutton chops.

Does this guy know he got buried in carbonite?!  He certainly looks calmer than Han Solo did about it.

I really liked this sharp modern looking tombstone for a man who died in the 40’s.

The front of the cemetery was full of well taken care of graves to show tourists. I rather liked the opposite end here, with its simple wooden cross and grass growing rampant, swallowing the grave back into nature.

Among the living residents of the area are red squirrels. I found quite a few playing tag in the area.

After checking out the biggest cemetery in the city, I headed to a small mass grave.  Mozart has a memorial in the big cemetery but in his times, everyone was buried in mass graves.

Putting easy open handles on graves seems like a bad idea.

My last day, or morning really, I spent visiting two markets.  The first was the touristy naschmarkt.  It was full of overpriced international restaurants and people aggressively selling clothing and knick knacks.  I took it as a bad sign that I went in the latemorning and it wasn’t really all open yet, they were still setting up for a lunch rush.

The fruit variety was quite amazing, with many things I saw in Asia making surprise appearances here. I really liked the dusty, velvety midnight blue of the plums.

After lunch I took a quick stop at the karmelitamarkt.  In much better impressions, it was open in the mornings and in the evenings when people get off work.  Now that’s a working market!  Unfortunately that meant when I got there in the afternoon few things were open.

Vienna is a delightful and regal city that I wish Ic ould’ve spent more time in.  The honest truth is though, that I don’t think I could’ve afforded much more.  I was just taking a trip to let the guys back in Budapest fix my laptop and I’ll be happy when I can head south to the coast like I originally planned to.