Postcard from Vienna

With Love from The City of Music

The aroma the world's finest coffee wafts onto the streets from the grandiose building that once hosted the central location of Austria's national bank and stock exchange. The opulent interior décor of Vienna's world famous Café Central combined with its sumptuous pastries and beverages makes this traditional coffee house a staple for locals and tourists alike. Vienna is also home to some outstanding new generation of coffee shops, that have modernized the tradition of the Wiener Kaffeehaus. These new shops use top quality, locally roasted coffee beans, and prepare each cup with great care. My favorites are Caffècouture District 1, Cafe Balthasar, and POC (People on Caffeine).

The tree-lined Viennese district of Pötzleinsdorf is perhaps best known for its parks, historic villas, and its Heurige (wine taverns). However, savvy art connoisseurs know to visit the residence of Johann Jakob Geymüller, a 19th century banker, on Sunday mornings. Built during the Age of Enlightenment, Geymüller's home is an ornately designed treasure trove of furniture and art from the Biedermeier period, as well as a collection of antique clocks. Now a branch of the MAK, Geymüllerschlössel is a wonderful glimpse into the decadent Viennese lifestyles of another era.

As local summers get hotter, more Viennese are rediscovering the traditional 'Sommerfrische' ('summer freshness') in the form of a summer mountain retreat. Among the most popular spots is Altaussee in Salzkammergut, where families spend their summers plunging into the lake, paddling between mystical Toplitz and Kammersee, Alpine trekking, detoxing with salt treatments at Vivamayr wellness resort, and enjoying local culinary delights like grilled fish on a stick or a simple hilltop 'Brettljause' (cold platter).

A flaming Danube! Out of all summer solstice events in Austria, the Wachau celebrations are my favourite. To mark the start of summer, on June 22nd, locals light up the hilly vineyards on both sides of the valley with numerous bonfires and rows of torches. Historic ruins such as Duernstein and Hinterhaus are beautifully illuminated by fireworks, and thousands of lights float down the Danube.

My Austrian brother-in-law is an exceptional dad who loves to roam around Vienna's surroundings with his boys. It follows, then, that a Father's Day is spent with him and his family is always marvelous. Among their favourite Father's Day activities are an early morning kayaking tour, watching birds and otters at Danube National Park, and biking along the shores of Lake Neusiedl in Burgenland, which, to our delight is home to several amazing wineries. This year, we plan on spicing up Father's Day by attending the Viennese musical I Am from Austria and a jazz event at the famous club, Porgy & Bess. All that culture will likely be followed by hefty meals of crispy legs of pork at Prater's Schweizerhaus.

There is no shortage of wonderful ways to celebrate Mother’s Day in Vienna. My choice would be a brunch at Palais Coburg, a luxury hotel, which happens to be fairly close to the Genuss-Festival (Vienna Culinary Festival) in Stadtpark, which falls on the same weekend as Mother’s Day. Alternatively, I wouldn't say No to an informal hangout at the gourmet hideaway, Klee am Hanslteich. The restaurant is located on an idyllic pond and opens to a nice hiking path just where the Vienna Woods meet the city.

The first time I combined sightseeing with a unique mode of transport was when I impressed my teenage nephew with a Segway tour through Vienna. There are plenty of fun and unique ways of seeing the sights. The traditional horse-drawn carriage, the fiaker, is wonderful for romantics. And the circular Ringstrasse Boulevard is the perfect 'velodrome' for those who want to take in the city’s culture from the seat of a bicycle. The lovely old tramways between Ringstrasse and the central neighbourhoods are widely underestimated as excellent sightseeing vehicles, especially when there are so many splendid coffee houses to stop at along the way! Next on my list is Vienna by scooter or via a retrofitted electro-vintage car.

Traditionally, we Viennese may start thinking about Lent at this time of year. When it comes to Austrian dishes for the 40 days of fasting, forget cakes! Many local top restaurants are now serving snails again, which is a very traditional Lent dish. When I was small, I went with my family to collect snails in the Vienna Woods at this time of year so I have particularly fond memories of both the delicious food and the mid-winter adventure.

While heaps of snow pile dangerously high in the Austrian mountains, Vienna has stayed surprisingly green this winter. That doesn't mean you can't do seasonal sports in Wien, however. I have just returned from another visit where I practiced curling on a lane right next to the Danube canal, it was great fun! Meanwhile, the massive "Vienna Ice Dream," along Ringstrasse Boulevard has opened its 9.000 square metres of icy surface to skaters. Both of these outdoor activities are highly recommended and definitely part of the Viennese way of life.

For more information, click here.

Stay warm and have fun! ~Barbara

For two years I lived in Josefstadt in the city’s 8th district, which many refer to as “Vienna's bel-etage.” Located just behind the Austrian Parliament and Vienna City Hall, this quiet neighborhood is a beautiful mix of baroque town palaces and Biedermeier houses with contemporary, independent shops, cafés and bars. A perfect day there starts with a  Viennese breakfast at Café Florianihof, which is followed by a  visit to The Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art at Laudongasse, and then a plate of savoury and sweet dumplings at Knödel Manufaktur. After that, explore the high street, Josefstädter Strasse, have coffee in the charming square of the Piaristenkirche, also known as the Church of Maria Treu, and end your day at the delightfully secretive boutique bar, Tür 7 (Door 7).

Happy Exploring! ~Barbara

Image: DiePresse.com

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Created by Barbara Cacao

Barbara Cacao's website Vienna Unwrapped is a an exciting dash of Vienna as well as a set of useful travel tools for visitors to the city.

 

A local of 30 years and frequent traveller to her hometown, Barbara provides a trip planning service for independent travellers and founded the social dining event series Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations to connect travellers with locals in Vienna.

 

Barbara has also contributed various articles on Vienna for well known travel blogs and magazines including the British Telegraph's online Vienna Destination Guide.

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