For our five-year anniversary, my husband whisked me away to Vienna. We were actually there for two weekends and one work week, but it was such a whirlwind that it ended up feeling like a week after all was said and done.
I am a huge fan of cities, as you may have already come to know about me, and the Austrian capital has been on my bucket list since I was a kid. I know The Sound of Music isn’t a good reason to go visit Austria, but it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. The music and the vistas brought me so much happiness when I was growing up, it almost felt like the film imprinted on me. My husband’s mother is German and his oldest friend is Austrian, so he jumped at the chance at making this dream come true for me. To me, this was exotic, something unique to what I was accustomed to. To him, this was familiar; something he knew like the back of his hand.
Whenever hubby and I arrive in a new city, we always visit their local market. I’ve found that the small, local grocery stores give some of the best glimpses of the culture directly surrounding you. In London, the Tesco in the section of Paddington where we were staying sold their own version of Pret-e-Manger. French for “ready to eat”, it’s an incredibly popular business concept throughout London, which proves to be especially helpful when you have a long lay-over in Heathrow and stumble upon one of their kiosks. The sandwiches are crust-less, simple, and fresh, but for me, the Tesco rip-off version was even better. A basic ham and cheese, as well as the egg salad proved to be a daily staple during our visit to the posh capital of England, and it proved to us once again that local grocers are a must-visit when it comes to getting to know a new city.
In Vienna, this grocer was Julius Meinel. The store reminded me of a Viennese Fresh Market. It was high end, aesthetically pleasing, and the quality of all the products was exceptional. The one big difference; however, is that Julius Meinel also designs the most beautiful coffee and espresso cups, which are not only sold at the store, but are also sold at the Hofburg Palace’s café. Hubby and I were sipping on Hofburg coffees and eating Bavarian nut cake when I gushed over the red and black coffee cups to our waiter. I loved them so much that I asked to buy them, but he was gracious enough to give me one espresso cup as a gift. I have assembled a tiny collection of travel souvenirs, but my Julius Meinel espresso cup is one of the best, most valuable items I have ever acquired.
My husband introduced me to Leberkase when we started dating. It’s most easily described as a deli meat, similar to bologna, but with way more flavor. From the moment we landed in Vienna, I made it my life’s mission to taste leberkase at every butcher and café I possibly could. Every morning we would walk to Julius Meinel and ask the butcher for a pound of it. Every day I would either eat it by itself or on a slice of dense, grainy brown bread and butter. I even managed to get my hands on some fried leberkase from one of the reinthalers. I wasn’t a big fan of the fried version. It was too salty for my taste, but I wouldn’t be a North Carolinian if I didn’t try something fried, regardless of where I am in the world!
Because hubby’s best and oldest friend lives in Vienna, we were fortunate enough to get more of an inside track on the nightlife. It just so happens that our visit coincided with Vienna Fashion Week, and because of hubby’s friend F, we were able to get into some of the after parties. The entertainment scene in Vienna is vastly different from Charlotte. It resembles NYC a lot more, even though the city is significantly smaller. Dinner reservations are made for 10:00, and you don’t go out to the next event until around midnight. Because of the elevated schedule, I never really knew what time it was, but jetlag is a small price to pay for such an epic experience.
Although we tried several different places for dinner, my unwavering favorite was Glassis, which also happens to be a local favorite as well. Located in the first district, it’s a bit of a haul to get to Glassis, but once you arrive you are welcomed by a wall of twinkling lights, and a restaurant full of warm and inviting staff who are eager to make you feel like you’ve been going there for years. In my opinion, a bottle of Vienan and a plate of Krautflecker as your main dish is the only way to truly enjoy your dinner at Glassis, but my husband stands by the mushroom goulash; both happen to be vegetarian dishes. The krautflecker is essentially chopped up pasta with caramelized cabbage and onions, and the mushroom replaces the beef in the goulash, although you can get the traditional beef option, but it is shockingly not as insanely delicious as the vegetarian option. Needless to say, you have plenty of choices to enjoy a fantastic meal.
The Fashion Week after-party was at Volksgarden and Bar, an area that resembles my home state’s fair grounds, but with a little more swag. While dancing the night away, I got a glimpse of what’s hot in Bavarian fashion, and I was left completely infatuated. The Vienesse have elevated Bavarian fashion to reach an ultra-modern space, where they have found a effortlessly found a way to blend the Old World with the new one of today, and with one of the future.
Florals are quite popular, even in the fall and winter. They love to play with bold colors, and they especially love plaids. Anything from scarves to dresses, the plaid print is white hot in Vienna, and is almost reminiscent of the swinging 60’s London fashion. Fashion forward prints, iconic coats, and go-go inspired boots were all the rage on the streets of Vienna, but there was a slight air of 70s sprinkled throughout in terms of the colors, particularly with the shades of mustard and baby blues that I saw.
The Bavarian influence truly showed in the subtleties of the outfits. A pair of capris paired with a thick, wooly cardigan; a skate dress with an edelweiss print; a plaid scarf in Christmas red…the blend of styles was all in the pairings, and I found everything to be absolutely breathtaking. Of all the places I’ve been, and all the famous streets I’ve shopped, I have yet to be as blown away as I was by Michaelerplatz.
Vienna is a song, and it resounds in your head long after you’ve left. You’ll hear a violinist playing Mozart as you pass a café, but the local clubs love their EDM and 90s pop and hip hop. You’ll find the breakfasts to be rather light, but the dinners are rather hearty. Spritzers seem to dominate the spirits scene, but the beer gardens are overflowing with local brews and juicy pork butts. And while you may not think of Vienna as a seafood destination, I had one of the best salmon dishes at Motto am Fluss, a lovely restaurant overlooking the Danube.
When in Europe, you will do your fair share of walking, and a trip to the continent is incomplete without a trek through old cobblestone roads, hilly mountains, or an old church steeple. If you’re looking for this kind of seemingly light adventure, make sure you climb the Stephansdom. It’s 343 steps up and 343 steps down, totaling to 686 steps. You’ll feel a bit winded by the time you reach the top, but if you’re a fan of rooftops like I am, the clean, unobstructed views of the city are well worth it, and I had no problem justifying the massive amounts of GMO-free bread I consumed!