Sat June 4
Breakfast is served on the terrace and Saturday morning dawns bright and sunny. Casilda’s tiny dog Rosita is a glutton for attention and hops around with joy at our feet. The European breakfast – while it is not my beloved carbohydrate filled American menu – is a damn good idea. There are cheeses and meats, hearty breads and vegetables, hard boiled eggs, spreads and yogurt. This is a protein rich diet that I could get behind, without a doubt. Casilda and I reminisce about pancakes and how the Europeans have no idea what they’re missing when it comes to maple syrup (right?)
We drive into the city, this transportation a luxury in itself. Between Casilda and Blanka I have no need for a guide book as they are intimately familiar with streets, sights and sounds. We start at Karlschirch and make our way past the gallant opera house to the cathedral: Stephansdom. There are long pieces of brightly colored plastic covering the stained glass and I am disoriented by this technicolor display. Not the bold reds and blues of cathedrals of yore but outrageous pink and shocking orange. I blink in confusion and stumble out into the sunshine where things return to their original color.
Burggarten is full of roses upon roses upon roses. Not a bad picture can be taken, but I am partial the one I snapped for a couple that chose a corner a bit too close to the sprinkler. We return from the wonder that is Hofburg Palace complex and take the journey every tourist must take: to a cafe serving the famous Sacher Torte. We choose Cafe Demel, rival to Hotel Sacher, and the glass walled kitchen affords us a view into a stainless steel laboratory of chocolate. I will let you in on a secret – I’m not that crazy about the cake! Maybe it is a crime against humanity but I tell you the cake was dry. Give me a ramekin of homemade chocolate lava cake any day. Funny how different things gain their fame.
We breeze through Museumsquartier and I promise myself to return to Vienna one day for a weekend full of art and music. The most musical thing I will do in the city is in Casilda’s home when she shows us her newly acquired piano and I see her beloved cello – both her livelihood and her life. Second to this is the parade of bands that march through the center of the city toward the Rathaus, dressed in traditional clothing and showcasing their national pride. Casilda buys us a pretzel the size of my face and a famous donut while we watch the fesivities.
The university building is beautiful and lively with the presentation of senior theses and projects. We comment on the dozens of men in the streets dressed as Mozart advertising concerts and shows. I think they might be risking heat exhaustion in the velvet frock and powdered wig, but we blow them off none the less.
Dinner is a treat – the four of us travel by car to the nearby town of Hagenbrunn. We pass a field full of strawberry pickers and I think of them again later when a thunderstorm rolls in and drives us inside. We go to eat at a heuringer or a local winery. Walter tells us if there is a plant hanging outside the door the restaurant is open for business. In the style of Old Country Buffet, we fill plates with food and pay by weight. Pork and beef and chicken, potatoes, beets and another delicious vegetable I couldn’t identify. Dessert follows with decadent apple streudel and other sweets, and a second glass of Riesling – a taste that signals summer.
Sun June 5
Into the city again for the last few sights on our list. Belvedere Palace is beautiful, and I dip in with a student discount to see Gustav Klimt’s the Kiss. We walk on to Schadt park, only to discover that Johann Strauss is missing. An imposter stands a few feet away with signage indicating the real one has gone for a rest and won’t be back until September. Deserter!
We walk to the infamous Praterstraat to see the ancient ferris wheel Riesenrad. Quite frankly I don’t care how old it is, I’m not paying 8.50 for a ride. My lunch is some blissful combination of sausage, cheese and dough and we make for the metro station to meet Casilda at a nearby stop.
We drive to Klosterneuburg to see the monastery and the exclusive adjoining village. A late afternoon snack is a huge sundae with warm berries that tastes particularly fine under a bright blue sky and the soundtrack of church bells. A small ferry takes us, car and all, across the Danube and back home. In a simple and poetic ending, we enjoy homemade guacamole, Czech wine and Spanish tortas de aceite.
Tomorrow it’s adios Vienna and gutentag Salzburg.