Vienna, Austria Yes, the time has come. We are winding up our nice long journey and are packing to leave tomorrow. Have we seen enough of this beautiful city? Don says no, and I say we’ve done quite well.
As far as Austria goes, we’ve had a solid look at the surface beauty, and have also had some insights into what lies beneath. Things seem more subtle here than in Poland, Slovakia or Hungary, but all these countries share a complicated, contentious and often overlapping history.
We’ve seen some beautiful things, and today’s last museum had quite the treasure trove. The Kunsthistorisches Museum was opened by Franz Josef I in 1891 to house the considerable Habsburg art collection and to make it available to the public. The building itself is a work of art.
The Italians were well-represented, along with the Spanish and the Dutch. The Spanish Habsburgs were really unfortunate looking — too much intermarriage.
The Dutch/Flemish collection was quite outstanding. There is an amazing collection of Brueghel paintings, some Rembrandts, and two lovely Vermeers, along with a few Memlings. Not too shabby.
The museum is vast, so one could really only scratch the surface. But what a surface. There is one whole floor filled with the imperial “knick-knacks” that prove they shopped at only the best souvenir stands.
Yes, those Habsburgs knew how to live. And how lucky we were to have shared some of that life with them in this amazing city.
Don’s Food Corner
We took a mid-morning break at the breathtaking café at the museum. Green tea (with a timer to make sure you seep the tea for exactly three minutes!) and a plum cake for me, pear juice and a banana/chocolate cake for Jo. It was a calming experience in a beautiful space. It was hard to lift ourselves up to look at more Hapsburg goodies — all too much to absorb. After the visual assault of all that art and objects d’art, all we could do was stare into our beverages and gnaw on pastries before we gathered the strength to tour the final floor.
We were going to move on to another art museum afterwards, but decided enough was enough. So we went directly to lunch after finishing with the amazing Kunsthistorisches Museum.
We stopped at a recommended restaurant across from the Opera and were seated. I noticed that the special of the day was roast wild boar. You don’t see that often offered in a restaurant, so I thought I’d give it a go. But we were seated outside and there was some construction going on with some noxious fumes enveloping our table, so we left.
Nearby was the restaurant where we had lunch on Sunday. It was one of our better experiences, so we returned.
They offered white asparagus soup as a special starter. Jo ordered that and loved it. She’s had this spring-time specialty several times now. Each version has been slightly different, but all very, very good. I started with goose liver pate with toasted brioche. Again, a fantastic treat.
Jo went with wiener schnitzel, trying to get that disappointment with the much-anticipated return trip to Demel erased from memory. Happily, today’s wiener schnitzel was top notch. She graded it A, but is still holding out an A+ grade for some hoped-for future schnitzel experience.
Looking around at the crowd, I would say about half of the diners ordered wiener schnitzel. This restaurant had very few tourists. It was a little outside the well-trodden tourist path. The clientele was largely smartly-dressed Viennese.
A word about the Viennese menu: There are actually very few choices and they remain fairly consistent at every restaurant — no matter how modest or expensive they may be. In fact, cost does not necessarily mean a difference in quality. Soups, when not a seasonal specialty like white asparagus, are usually limited to beef broth with liver dumplings, beef broth with one large plain dumpling or beef broth, clear.
For a main course, the standard choices are wiener schnitzel, fried veal patties, roast pork, roast beef, goulash, a sausage platter, usually of plain, boiled sausage, or boiled beef. A few places feature trout, which is usually the most expensive thing on the menu. I didn’t try the trout and wish I had. Apparently, it comes from some special lake in Austria. You rarely see chicken, unless it’s done as a chicken schnitzel. (In non-traditional restaurants, of which there are many, representing every cuisine in the world, there usually is a traditional section of the menu featuring all the standards found everywhere else.)
I joined some of the other diners and had roast pork, which came with a pile of sliced “mashed potatoes” from some type of previously made formed concoction and some excellent sauerkraut. This is the same excellent dish I had when we visited this restaurant before.
Those Austrians. They know what they like and they stick to it. We’ve come to understand why.