My article on our Vienna visit appeared in the Femina in November and was spotted by a reader who sent me a pic grab.
Here's the original, unedited article in case you have missed it.
“Vienna deserves a trip of its own” said my wife as we returned to Prague late at night, worn out after our day trip to Vienna from Prague.
The trip which the site we booked it from had said would take 3 hours by road each way turned out be close to 6 hours on the way back with a pointless shopping stop at a mall in the middle of nowhere with factory seconds outlets. What was worse was that we were packed into a tiny mini bus for the entire journey and there were quite a few plus sized folks in the group. The tour was scheduled for a Sunday which was bad planning as Vienna is shut on Sunday and one didn’t get a sense of the city’s vibe. We had a guide who was pretty robotic and focussed just on pointing out the sights ‘ladies and gentlemen, if you please, to your right is...” was her refrain through the trip. The stories which could have transported us to the heart of this historic city were missing in her impersonal ticking off of attractions.
Yes, perhaps doing a day trip to Vienna from Prague doesn’t make that much sense. Unless you are a crazy food lover and feel that travelling over ten hours to go to another city to try two of its landmark dishes is up your street.
The satcher torte and the schnitzel is what I will remember Vienna the most for though it did have some amazingly beautiful palaces that we whizzed past and Sigmund Freud’s hunting grounds which were pointed out to us from the coach through the rain much to the disquiet of my wife who is apparently a Freud fan.
Did I say that our guide was robotic and perfunctory in her discourse? Well, when it came to food, she did come alive and that did in a funny way work for us.
We first got an inkling of her love for food at a pit stop mid route when she kept insisting that we buy some sandwiches as we would not have a food stop once we reached Vienna for quite a while. “We will reach Vienna and become hunters of historical monuments” she said.
True enough, we were pretty hungry by the time we reached the centre of the town and were welcomed by closed shops and an anti Israel demonstration that we going on in the city square.
Our guide desultorily ran us through the things we should tick in the next hour. Then something changed. I raised my hand and asked her for a good place for schnitzels, Vienna’s most famous dish. She suddenly sprung to life and said “I will take you to the best schnitzel place. When you come to Vienna and ask people where to have a schnitzel, this is where they will take you” and pointed to a billboard on the walk of a restaurant called ‘Figlmuller’. “It is hundred years old and they serve only schnitzels and it comes with a lovely potato salad. They will offer you veal schnitzel but go for the pork. That is my favourite,” she said.
With a Mary Poppins like wave she pushed us towards Figlmuller. What she hadn’t counted on was the huge queue with more than an hour’s waiting. Which was typical of the bad planning we had seen in the trip. Our halt was for less than an hour and it didn’t make sense sending us to a place with such a long waiting period. We were all hungry and disheartened and didn’t know what to do.
Which is when I spotted the sign board of another place called Huth which advertised itself as the ‘best schnitzel in Vienna’ and we headed there. This place was not as crowded as Figlmuller and had seating on the streets too apart from inside. We chose to sit outside to take in the beauty of the city. Remembering our guide’s advice to choose pork I went for a pork schnitzel. My wife and I shared the schnitzel and were both wooe’d by the juiciness of the meat under the crisp breadcrumb coating. The potato salad served with it was quite delectable.
I then asked our guide for a sacher torte place. This apricot jam based chocolate cake invented in the early 1800s by Franz Sacher is another Viennese speciality.
Our guide pointed us to a cafe called Aida. “Is this old” I asked. “Very old” she replied and then with a wave, “Mozart came here”.
Well Aida was established in the early 1900s and a quick Google search showed that Mozart had passed away in 1791 well before the sacher torte was even invented!
The sacher torte pastry was memorable and went well with the Viennese coffee while my wife loved the sacher torte ice cream.
While her sense of history and love for it left much to be answered, before dropping us at Prague our guide’s last recommendation... “ladies and gentlemen, to your right if you please, is the Cafe la Louvre, which Einstein used to visit”... did lead us to a lovely lunch in Prague the next afternoon.
I guess some good did come out of our trip to Vienna.