THANKFULLY, budget carriers don’t do long haul and Emirati economy is nothing like that. The rather comfortable twenty-four hour flight brought me into Flughafen Wien to the sights of Klimt, Klimt and Klimt all over Arrivals from where we were quickly shuttled off to the Hilton Vienna Waterfront Danube. It was like watching a sausage being made when the piano piece of many a childhood recital was revealed nowhere near shades of blue. I acted the insulted liver sausage and joined the pre-arranged bus roundabout of the city ever so slightly miffed.
The city otherwise proved itself reason for inspiration of the Classical greats and the Vienna Secession. Nothing excited me more than the sight of Café Sacher.
“One Sach…how is that pronounced?”
“Sach(pleghmatics)er Torte, please.”
“Close enough. Coming up!”
The Original Sacher Torte has two layers of chocolate cake made distinct from any other I’ve had only by the apricot jam it sandwiches in between and the incredibly smooth chocolate icing several density notches below a standalone soft chocolate piece. Kaffee Weiner Melange, much like a cappuccino with an espresso shot served topped with steamed milk and milk foam, provides a creamy liquid contrast along with the Schlag, unsweetened whipped cream, that the cake is served with.
I took that to be a rather sweet appetizer to dinner across the street at the Augustiner Keller, one of Vienna’s oldest and last Hueringers or wine tavern restaurants. We started with a Styrian Salad topped with Bacon-wrapped Feta Cheese. After all, what is a salad without meat and dairy?
The main was a Braised Pork Hock, the solo size of our usual Crispy Pata serving. Tender skin and meat fell off the bone and onto the mountain of sauerkraut it rested on. I love sauerkraut but the heaping plateful was a case of way too much of a good thing. That set the mood for the rest of our sauerkraut encounters for the rest of the trip which was practically every single meal. Dessert was Apple Strudels very much unlike the schiesse that I know as strudel back here. Of course, I had a beer to wash all that down — the house beer, an Amber Ale by my best approximation.
The deluge of the next day opened with the hotel’s breakfast buffet. Confronted with an assortment of cheeses, among local Viennese breakfast favorites, it was not a hard decision to assemble a plateful – with all available variants. There’s the Full English and there’s the Full Austrian: Grilled Tomatoes with Parmesan, Scrambled Eggs, Baked Beans, Bacon and real, non-Libby’s Vienna Sausages. These were firmer by comparison given the casings but had a similar yielding texture to the chew.
The rest of the day was spent hopping from one highlight of the previous days bus tour to another. There was Belvedere Palace followed by a guided walking tour through the old quarter which culminated with lunch. The Greichenbiesl, one of their more storied and historic inns, served Veal Schintzels twice the size of my face to spill out of the plates. Perhaps it was seasoned enough to allow for the enjoyment of the tender and very young meat but not quite enough for the majority of the all-Pinoy group.
Pressed for hot sauce, the waiter served a thin gravy and black pepper.
“This is sauce. This is pepper. Put pepper in sauce then it’s hot sauce,” we were schooled. The collective cultural embarrassment was somehow numbed by the Pilsner Urquell, smoothed over by the Apricot Ice Cream Dumplings and finally washed down with some Kaffe Wiener before we were whisked to our last stop.
Schloss Schonbrunn, the Viennese equivalent the Versailles, proved an interesting guided walk through but none more than its end at the Café Restaurant Residenz . It was where I began to understand that I was to be on a steady diet of Apple Strudel and Kaffe Melange for the rest of that segment. That and sauerkraut.
We were dropped off for dinner at the Marina Restaurant, literally on the marina of the Danube. Fried Pike Perch, Spring Vegetables, Potatoes with Rosemary, Fresh Asparagus Ricotta Ravioli with Asparagus Tips from the buffet made it to my plate. Stuffed, I managed to squeeze in some Figs with Feta for dessert. The circulatory shunt from brain to digestive system knocked me out just as soon as I settled back into the hotel.
(To be continued…)