A Saturday Sampler

Vienna, Austria You could just feel it in the air. Today is Saturday and the whole world is out shopping — or at least window-shopping — lingering at a café, or just taking in the sights.

Our first intended stop was the church of St. Charles. During the last outbreak of the plague Emperor Charles VI vowed in 1713 to have a church built in return for the city’s survival. It was to be dedicated to his patron saint, Charles Borromeo, who is also considered a plague saint. (Every saint has to have a specialty.) The imperial promise was intended to put an end to the plague, which was extinguished in 1714.

It’s lovely from the outside, but we are a bit churched-out, so declined to pay the steep entrance fee to see it from the inside. But its plaza was a nice place to sit and relax.

Next, we found our way to the Nasch Market. In German, Nasch sounds just like Nosh, which must be how that word found its way from Yiddish to us. The “Nibbles” market was a wonderful display of so many things I wished we could take with us. But people don’t seem to respond well to you lugging smelly cheese around all day, so we just admired the glorious produce and other offerings from many different parts of the world, and just moved with the crowd, taking it all in.

The food market became a flea market, and all around the area were the most wonderful buildings. Even the metro — which is only just a bit below ground on this line — has a beautiful station. We then returned to the Opera House area for our lunch.

Don’s Food Corner and more

We worked up an appetite strolling through the marketplace, looking at foodstuffs we really couldn’t take back and cook with and admiring the variety of offerings at the snack bars and cafes.

We ended up at a café recommended by a clerk in a store we visited. It was a good recommendation.

Jo had a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. The chicken was tender and moist. The salad was a welcome change of pace. The only complaint was that there was too much dressing. She overcame that problem, however, and cleaned her plate.

I had veal goulash. Served with spaetzle, it had a decided Hungarian look with the veal pieces swimming in a creamy paprika sauce. Sour cream was drizzled on top. The veal was tender and lean. A most satisfying version of this dish.

We opted for desert today — a very fine vanilla crème éclair and a raspberry torte. The raspberry concoction was more like a summer berry pudding – layers of cake soaked through with lots and lots of juicy berries. It was a raspberry lover’s delight. I liked it; Jo thought it was too intense.

After that lunch, I took a walking tour focused on Hitler’s life in Vienna. (Jo opted against this tour. She’s had enough of Hitler.)

I guess it’s sometimes forgotten that Hitler was actually Austrian and that he spent several years of his youth trying to get his foot in the door of Viennese society. He failed.

The tour included a visit to the Art Academy that had rejected Hitler’s application — twice. He seemed to have had some talent drawing and painting buildings, but had no ability depicting people. Ironically, across the street from the academy was the family home of Adele Bloch-Bauer. This was the family that owned the five Klimt paintings, including the Woman in Gold, that Bloch-Bauer’s niece Maria Altmann sued the Austrian government for, while demanding an apology from the Austrians. She won the case in 2005 and the paintings were returned. (See yesterday’s post.)

The bulk of this tour focused on the complicity of the Austrians in general, and the Viennese population in particular, in enabling the Nazis and later taking no responsibility for what happened during the Nazi era.

It took many years for the Austrians to face up to their role in Nazi actions. It was really not until the 1990s that they started to acknowledge it officially. (In the case of the Bloch-Bauer paintings, as an example, it took decades of struggle for Austria to part with those stolen works of art. Many more such works remain on view in Austrian museums or in private hands as Nazi loot.)

Now, however, there are at least acknowledgements of that Nazi past. For example, there is now a monument memorializing the victims of war and Fascism, made from granite from the quarry at the Nazi work camp Mauthausen located near Vienna.

Other sites explored were the balcony in the Hapsburg palace in central Vienna, where Hitler, returning in triumph to the city that rejected him, spoke to hundreds of thousands of cheering followers in 1938, and the city hall where he spoke again in 1939. The Vienna city hall had no balcony from which Hitler could speak, so they erected one. That balcony remains today.

Later we were shown the site of the Gestapo headquarters. Vienna’s Gestapo was larger than the one in Berlin, as the Viennese were particularly active in carrying out atrocities against on one another. The building was destroyed with bombs late in the war. In the 1960s, it was replaced with an apartment building. It was in this building that Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter, took up residence. He wanted to make a point about having the most feared address in Vienna during the Nazi era.

Tragically, however, the terrorism against Jews continues in Vienna, with recent episodes so violent that Jewish synagogues and social centers have round-the-clock military protection.

Our guide painted a rather distressing picture of the dark side of the Austrian character.

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