I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Austria (18)


mit Schlag?

The eternal Viennese question.  With or without cream?  Not a dribble of pouring cream or half and half, but a great dollop of whipped goodness on top of anything and everything you care to choose.




Oh, and the default is definitely “with”.




Of course, the Austrians are well known for the sweetest of things.  Shop windows are full of chocolate (Mozart Kugeln, truffles and krapfen) and the coffee shops vie with one another over the claim of the original Sachertorte.  (We bought ours in Demel, shown in the picture above, though of course, the Hotel Sacher has a louder call).  We enjoyed our Apfelstrudel on a couple of occasions and searched in vain for another favourite: Kaiserschmarrn, settling for the Salzburger nockerl instead.  Lesser known perhaps are the Manner wafers, which have a knicker-pink shop of their own in the city centre too.




But man cannot live on only sweetness, and on our first evening, feeling tired and looking for the simplest answer to the question of our hunger, we sought advice from the concierge for somewhere to eat; somewhere gemütlich and with traditional fare to offer.  He proposed the Weissen Rauchfangkehrer, about which I wrote in an earlier post.  Whilst the food here was certainly based on traditional dishes and tasted remarkably good, it was rather too refined, too delicate and a little grander than we would prefer.  So, rather than a hearty bowl of gulaschsuppe, a somewhat elegant arrangement appeared, to the slight disappointment of those who were hoping to tuck in.




We tried an old favourite, Witwe Bolte’s, on the opposite side of the Ringstrasse.  Here, we’d enjoyed the hearty fare we were hoping for on our last visit, and the website promised good things.  Sure enough, once again the food was good but somehow just that bit too cheffy.




Perhaps the old days of plain and simple, traditional cooking were over?  Maybe the Viennese no longer tuck into platefuls of dumplings and noodles?




One member of the family (I’ll leave you to guess who) was determined to find somewhere to enjoy his favourite tafelspitz  and identified Plachutta.  Not only was it on a street not too far from our hotel, they could squeeze us in if we were prepared to come early.

Guess which restaurant saw us again the following night?  Not only was the menu full of the best, traditional Austrian dishes, the service was super and those copper pans contained exactly what they promised.  For those of us who choose slightly lighter fare (ahem) the Wiener Schnitzel is first class too!

This morning, as I pottered about, catching up on this and that, an email arrived with this link.  I think someone’s going to be trying it out for himself before too long!


Monday, Monday

(can you read those words without humming ?)




Looking outside this morning, we feared there might be snow, but fortunately, it was still raining.  




My focus was a little closer, though; the last hotel breakfast for a while.  We sat planning our day over boiled eggs and Birchermuesli watching as the rain turned to a drizzly kind of sleet.  Fortunately, by the time we’d packed our bags, negotiated a late checkout (“What time would you like, Mr Thomas?”, “Well, we don’t need to leave until four”.  “Then four o’clock will be fine”), the rain/drizzle/sleet had stopped enough for me to take an umbrella out with me but not to put it up.




A rather different city greeted us this morning though.  The Christmas decorations in the Kärntner Straße were being taken down and there were several of these elevator platforms here and there making a pretty swift job of it, too.







It was delivery day, clean up day…back to work day. 




We were heading for the Haus Der Musik, in one of the side streets, where we planned to spend a couple of hours before doing a little light shopping and so on before our flight home.




It was an excellent choice!  As well as the usual museum-type collections of memorabilia (those are Brahms’ spectacles!), there was lots of interaction.




We composed waltzes which were played back to us and for which we could have ordered a partiture (but we didn’t).  We learned a great deal about the science of music and hearing and enjoyed fiddling with touchscreens and twiddling knobs (no children here on a weekday morning to get in the way!)







We even got to conduct the Wiener Philharmonic!  Not that they were taking a blind bit of notice of me…




I admired a display of little dance cards from one of the grand balls and enjoyed the morning very much indeed.  We left humming and with a spring in our step. It had been a good choice!




So, back into the city, past these gorgeous caryatids (there appear to be so many in Vienna!) in Josefplatz, where we meandered around, eyes gazing upwards at the lovely buildings and the rooftop figures too.




So this sight came as a little surprise!




The stables of the Spanish Riding School were just there to our right but we’d been so busy looking to our left, we failed to notice.  (A pantomime audience would have been screaming “behind you!” by now)   A handful of the grey Lipizzaner horses were taking the morning air and looking very graceful indeed.




We were more in need of some refreshment however, so “drei heisse Schokolade, zwei mit schlag und einmal ohne” in Julius Meinl was an excellent idea.




Making our way back to the hotel via Kärntner Straße again, instead of peering into shop windows, I glanced the other way and noticed a beautiful decoration on the wall opposite – how had we missed it before?




The young man and his camel were particularly cute!

(so was the warm coat I spotted in the Gerry Weber shop sale, too ;-)




With no  room for any more krapfen, apfelstrudel with or without schlag,  it was time for home.




The weather had dried, the sky was white and it was cold.  It threatened snow and we were happy to be moving right along before it came in and created any havoc.  The taxi whisked us to the airport in no time at all and after a very full flight home, our little jaunt was done.

Good to be home, as always!


Brolly weather again




Undeterred by the horrible weather, we set out this morning for Schönbrunn.  It was the Birthday Boy’s choice and we were happy to go along with it, even though we’d all been here before.




Every time we’ve stepped inside this station, I’ve been amused by the “Hausordnung”, a sign normally seen in the foyer of an apartment building or multiple family house.  Whilst my hero bought our tickets for today, I was able to get a little closer to read the rules.




I especially liked the “it goes without saying that:” bit.  Because clearly, it did need to be said…




Oh, don’t you just love that font?!




But, ugh…




Never mind.  In we go.  Thank goodness for cloakrooms!  Though this is the most visited tourist attraction in the country, there didn’t appear to be vast numbers of people arriving and thankfully, we were able to enjoy a relatively peaceful look around.




I loved the hexagonal wooden setts which were perfect for an entrance hall in this kind of weather.

Sadly, no photos from this point on.  But actually, the website gives a good impression and plenty of background information.  Still, there’s nothing like seeing things first hand!




(Though I did take one photograph from the ballroom, of the Gloriette, way up there, from where one can enjoy superb views of the city.  Apparently.)

We enjoyed our morning and didn’t hurry around, but took our time to absorb the stories and learn a little more about Maria Theresia and her family of daughters.  Of course, Sisi features largely too: “a name that has come to encapsulate the enduring myth of this tragic empress”.  But the story stretches further, to Marie Antoinette, Marie Louise (who married Napoleon) and Marie Christine whose impressive drawings are there with those of her siblings on the wall of the Porcelain Room.  Marie Christine was the lucky one, for being the favourite daughter meant that she could marry for love – even if favoured status in the family resulted in rocky relationships with her sisters!




I paid my own respect to Maria Theresia, choosing the eponymous coffee to go with my Apfelstrudel (mit Schlag!) when we stopped by the cafe to decide on our next move.




Shortly after sitting down, we heard voices singing – the Three Kings had arrived!  Of course, this being Epiphany, Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior were on tour, collecting alms and, presumably, marking the doors – an example of which can be seen when we were in Frankfurt recently.

Edward was relieved that they didn’t burst into a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday”!!




As we left Schönbrunn, we spotted a very soggy figure through the gates.  Painted gold, the “performance artist” (for want of a better word) was doing his best to hold an umbrella aloft whilst trying to attract attention.  There has to be a better way of making a living, don’t you think?




We walked back to the U bahn, this time to the stop at the other side of the park, passing the “Kaiser Pavilion” which the architect Wagner designed and built  in Jugendstil to impress Franz Josef.  




Standing on the commoners’ platform gave us a good view of the pavilion, too.




Our next stop was Radetsky Platz, where the Christmas tree chippers were, ermm…chipping Christmas trees.  But of course, we hadn’t come to see that.




We had come to see this.

Well, perhaps we hadn’t come to see the building but more of what is inside it.  Nevertheless, I don’t think any of us knew quite what to expect.




Hardly a straight line in the place (straight lines are the devil’s work, Hundertwasser thought), there was a notice on the wall in both German and English with the justification.




Of course, I heard hollow laughter and deep sighs from my family…




Again, no photographs of the work, but a web search will produce countless resources and the details of his (rather interesting) life and work!  I was delighted to have seen his paintings and drawings first hand and like the work of Klimt, the originals are not served well by reproduction.




We had hoped to go from here to the Hundertwasser Haus but we were wet, the rain simply wasn’t giving up at all and we were all ready for a break.  One of us mentioned the thought of a hot bath and that seemed to put the tin lid on the afternoon.  By the time we got back to the hotel, it was late afternoon and we were happy to spend an hour or two reading, blogging, relaxing.





Our room was exactly as we’d left it this morning.


So much for my hot bath and plan to slouch.  I suppose I could have sung loudly and kept my fingers crossed that no-one would come to service the room whilst I was déshabillée .  My hero could have stood guard and turned away any visitors, of course. But towels still wet from this morning’s showers?

Maybe I’ll blog instead.

(The Birthday Boy’s room had been given the full service, thankfully, so he was not similarly inconvenienced!)




I just realised, I haven’t explained the relevance of not accepting callers whilst in the bath.  Here is our room.  (It’s ok, at least the loo is behind a solid door!)


Rainy Saturday




Looking out of the window this morning, it was clear that whatever we decided to do, it would be better if it were indoors.  It might also be a good day to make use of public transport, being the public transport profis that we are (well, two of us at any rate)




There’s a large tram stop/U Bahn station right opposite our hotel, so we crossed the bridge and went into Schwedenplatz station.




A daily pass is called a “shopping ticket”, so armed with one of those each, we were all set.  Validated them and then went in search of a map!




We were headed for Belvedere, so first on the U Bahn to Hauptbahnhof using a clean and fairly quiet train.




Arriving at this modern and rather empty station, a member of the railway staff noticed us looking around for the correct exit and helpfully walked with us to the staircase, advising us auf Deutsch (of course) that it might be a good idea to catch the tram #18 for one stop, to save us getting wet!




Because, actually, the #18 tram stop was right at the top of those stairs!  How convenient.




Another clean, modern vehicle with hardly anyone on it this morning.  Very easy, very quick and certainly a great deal more comfortable than walking through the rain.




At the entrance to the Belvedere park there was a dire warning.  But we three intrepid souls ventured in regardless.




Beautiful gates stand at the entrance to the inner park, which lead to the former home of Prince Eugen – given to him by a grateful nation.




The main Belvedere Schloss is a fine sight across this large but rather grey pond.  We like to travel off season but on occasions, we admit that places do look better in the sunshine!




Standing in the ticket queue gives us chance to weigh up the options.  Do we want to go to all five places in the park, to just the “Oberes Belvedere”, or to include the “Unteres Belvedere”?  Aaagh!  We ought to have researched this first!




We settle for the 2 out of 3 combi ticket, which means we get to see the Klimt exhibition as well.




On the reverse side, there’s the added bonus of seeing what the place looks like in better weather, too!

We begin with the Oberes Belvedere and of course, there are no photos allowed.  We leave our cloaks in the cloakroom and enjoy a couple of hours in a fine collection of rooms, admiring the work of Schiele, a fine collection of portraits including a self portrait by the artist Lilly Steiner and the huge painting of Napoleon by David.  Through the Marble Hall then and on to the Klimt show.  Well, I said yesterday that we are not the greatest of fans.  That view is tempered rather by our visit and the first hand viewing of some of his masterpieces.  It’s also clarified somewhat by the contents of the souvenir shop!

Undoubtedly, Gustav wasn’t the only talented Klimt artist and it was interesting to see the beautiful work done by his two brothers and indeed, his father.  I especially liked Georg Klimt’s embossed panels of dancers and thought the landscapes painted by Gustav were far more interesting than the familiar works featuring women.  But of course, it was impossible not to be enchanted by the faces, familiar or not and seeing them displayed on a black background, heavily lit, they appeared to glow, as if projected.  The remarkable thing for me was the lack of gold and glitter – in real life, these are rather more subdued than in reproduction and though there is still that depth of colour and a richness of tone, the brassy effect often associated with these images is missing.

All three of us were disappointed to see these classic masterpieces and others debased in the gallery souvenir shop – The Kiss was reproduced with cats faces replacing the originals, glitter was added to many of them and we soon realised why we have come to dislike these images so.  Even the beautiful Shiele landscape Vier Baume was offered with added gold printing as a postcard.  It sounds a little po faced to have a go about such things but, if the gallery which holds these paintings doesn’t respect the artists’ work, then who will?




Oooh, time for some fresh air!  Here’s the view of the Unteres Belvedere from the Oberes.




…and here’s the Oberes from the Unteres.

Now, in the Unteres, there was a special exhibition: Awakening the Night.  A couple of exhibits in the Oberes had a motif by them, symbolising their relevance to this theme, so as we sat with an Almdudler discussing what next, we read the rationale of the exhibition.  This appeared to be some way between someone’s PhD thesis and the results of a curators’ brainstorming meeting:

“The exhibition Awakening the Night … is devoted to the omnipresent and yet seemingly waning power of the night… It will…focus on three paradigm shifts.”

Sadly, however clever the concept, ultimately the success of such a show depends on the quality of the art within, and we didn’t find ourselves feeling overwhelmed by this one.  I lost all hope when I came across a tree with “dead birds” hanging from it, but I think both my heroes had already given up by then.  Never mind.  The building itself shone beyond the contents, the ceilings and the marble room enough to warrant a visit alone and we were happy.

One exhibit alone informed a later visit of mine: a photograph of two nude women standing in what looked like an art gallery, one of whom looked remarkably like Charlotte Rampling.  It seemed out of place in this exhibition and none of us could explain or justify its relevance.

Anyway, at this point, we decided to go our separate ways; the boys were headed for the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, where they had been previously and wanted to revisit the display on the Austrian Navy and the exhibit about Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination triggered WW1.  I preferred to make my way to the Leopold Museum, to see the Vienna 1900 exhibit.  You can stick with me…far more interesting!




Walking down towards the Ringstrasse, the first sight of note was the huge Soviet War Memorial.  Across the platz was another striking installation – the Morning Line




I knew nothing of this but was intrigued by the fact it was fenced off.  I thought it was still under construction but now wonder if it was merely a result of New Year Celebrations?




Passing the memorial to Johannes Brahms (and humming a little of my favourite 1st symphony) it began to rain a little more, so I put my umbrella up and my head down!




I couldn’t resist taking a photograph of one of the two Karlsplatz pavilions, in spite of the rain




and the bell of Karlskirche struck two o’clock as I passed, as if to say “don’t forget me!”




From there it was a mere step across the road in front of the Technical University with the magnificent architectural details.




Down the side of the Secession House where a coach had not so helpfully parked right in front of the facade




To the Museum Quartier where we’d been yesterday, too. 




But just as yesterday, the Quartier seemed empty and soulless and it was hard to decide quite where to go.  Fortunately I spotted the Egon Schiele panel on the wall and followed the arrow.




arriving at the entrance to the Leopold Musuem to find the evidence that the critics have used about the accessibility (or lack of it) of these modern buildings.

I handed my coat and umbrella to the cloakroom attendant and went to buy my ticket, realising as I entered my PIN that I’d left my glasses in my coat pocket.  Never mind…though the clerk on the desk pointed out that I might need them for the “Naked Men” exhibition!




I began with Egon Schiele though.  Photographs were allowed here and there was plenty of room.  The chap looking at that painting had been at the Belvedere too, then we’d spotted one another at the Soviet War Memorial.  I wonder if he thought I was stalking him…?




At the Belvedere I particularly liked Schiele’s landscapes and here was another in similar vein.  It was good to have time and space to appreciate these pieces and I must say, I found them more accessible than some of his “wilder” works.




From here I went up to the fourth floor, where the Wien 1900 exhibit was to be found, and my eyes went straight to this beautiful poster with the most lovely lettering




There were a series of rooms, each with fascinating and typical exhibits of the era




and from time to time, the main exhibit itself was visible through a large picture window




There was more of Schiele’s work and a few Klimts too, which had escaped being gathered up for the larger, commemorative show.




I had a lovely time meandering about, taking photos and scribbling a few thoughts.




Fortunately I still had a little time left to visit the special exhibition too. 

(without my glasses!)

It was interesting, for all kinds of reasons.  Firstly, we’d spent the morning gazing at artworks with no end of naked women and thought nothing of it, yet somehow, this one seemed rather more provocative.  There was a series of rooms, each focused on a single theme – the woman’s viewpoint, the swimming party, classical statues, twentieth century art and so on.  None of it was particularly tittilating and the octagonal installation of a bath house with videos of men doing what men do when there are no women about was, to be honest, rather boring.  Yet there was a different atmosphere here – no-one was taking photos, sketching or doing the things people normally do in art galleries!  Most visitors were young, there were no large tour groups and the picture creating the most interest when I was there was the one on the poster of three French footballers.  Real life as it is – the simplest of art there could be?  I did rather feel for the (male) gallery attendant standing by the huge image of such athletic physique, though…




And that was that.  I caught the U bahn back to the hotel and arrived 30 mins ahead of the boys who had enjoyed an equally successful afternoon.

Just over an hour before dinner.  Hmmm……getting hungry!


Last lap

for Friday, anyway.  We’re flagging a bit, for sure.  How about you?  Were you as impressed by those Klimt wall panels as we were?




Anyway, we’re now in the Bruegel room of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, where a gentleman is expounding to his two “students” and the artist working on a piece inspired by one of the large collection of works on show here is taking a break.




There are many works here by Bruegel the Elder and most are familiar.  Did you ever have an Athena print of these pictures?  Or own an LP with one on the sleeve cover?




By the time we’ve looked around, the gentleman has moved to the next painting.




Feeling footsore, we’ll just scoot through the Dutch masters, then, stopping to admire Durer’s Madonna of the Pear.  So beautiful and what an interesting commentary there is to read – is your German good enough to interpret it?

Sadly, it would take me some time to do that – there’s a little hint of it all here




OK, moving right along then, walking anticlockwise along the Ring, through the Naschmarkt and past the Secession House where these three owls on the side of the building catch my eye.  We’re tired and though the spirit would love to stop and look a little more closely, the body says “one foot in front of the other”.




Perhaps we’ll come back here over the weekend?  We’ll see.




For now, we’ll admire the shop windows – just look at those little cookies!  They’re rather similar to some I’ve pinned to my Pinterest page and interestingly they are in the window of an art gallery and not a konditorei.




Unlike Dorothy, we aren’t lucky (or organised) enough to have tickets for the Opera, which is sold out for the duration of our stay and which would, in any case, have cost us an arm and a leg.  Instead, we’ll lean on a lamppost whilst my hero goes into the bank in search of a cash machine and watch the world go by.  Is that you humming “Lili Marlene”?




Suddenly, we have a spring in our step and renewed vigour as we spot the speciality “Krapfen” in the konditorei window – these doughnuts are traditional New Year treats in this part of Europe and there are several seasonal flavours to choose from.  I’ll do the honours and brave the assorted Russians, Grande Viennese Dames and suchlike to work my way to the front of the queue and acquire two Mozart flavoured ones and one Baileys.  Hmmm….




More sweetness next door in the Manner shop and we’re done.  Time to return to the hotel and spend an hour recovering and rediscovering our sore feet before dinner.

Do you think we used our day well?  Packed enough in?

See you later!