Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Rediscovering Vienna

My memories of Vienna were pretty vague. It was drizzling when we arrived on a coach from Switzerland one summer night 14 years ago. We walked through the city carrying our umbrellas. From beneath the brolly, we couldn't see much but I was so exhilarated to be there with my mom that I was literally singing in the rain.

I returned to Vienna the following winter with my young kids in tow. Even though we spent several days there, most of my memories have escaped me simply because I kept my eyes peeled on two active boys instead of the monuments and sights. Austria was covered in a thick layer of snow and it would be unimaginable losing them there. It was an exhausting trip for me, to say the least.

My latest visit to Vienna made up for all that I had missed before. Traveling with good friends was the icing on the cake.

It was cool and sunny when we arrived at Hotel Pension Suzanne which is located steps away from the Viennese State Opera, the principal opera house in the city of Vienna. It is one of the busiest opera houses in the world. Every night, we could hear the beautiful sounds of opera from our room.

 Right across the road from the hotel is Plachutta Gasthaus zur Oper which serves authentic Austrian food. On the first day, we found the perfect place for a good lunch!

The culinary focus is on Wiener schnitzel, prepared using the choicest cut of veal, and other Viennese specialties. So, schnitzel was the first thing I ate after landing in Vienna and it was a good start. We had many more schnitzels after that but this one is highly recommended. The meat inside the light batter remained soft and succulent despite the frying.

In Austria, the meat servings are big, so it is best to share if you're not a big eater. The mains are normally served with a generous side dish of potatoes or salad too.
The famous Plachutta veal Schnitzel.

Potato side dish.

Diners are given the illustrated recipe for their schnitzel.

We also ordered the boiled beef with dumpling which, despite its plain appearance, was delicious.

White asparagus was prominently featured in many restaurants due to the harvesting season. We like its mild and earthy taste in this salad.

Having filled our tummies, we ventured out for a walk in the city. The weather was chillier than expected even though summer is just weeks away.  The sun did not set until about 9pm, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the sights at our own pace.

Art and culture had a long tradition in Vienna, including theatre, opera, classical music and fine arts.
A great many musicians such as Johann Strauss (father and son), Schubert, Beethoven or Mozart and also artists such as Gustav Klimt or Egon Schiele lived in Vienna. Apart from being regarded as the City of Music because of its musical legacy, Vienna is also said to be "The City of Dreams" because it was home to the world's first psycho-analyst, Sigmund Freud.

The city attracts 5 million visitors a year and I could feel the squeeze this time. I didn't remember seeing that many Asian faces in Vienna before. But that is mainly in the city centre. If you take a walk along the Danube River nearby, you will find the local residents out relaxing with a glass of beer.    

I remember this florist from 10 years ago!

People relaxing by the Danube River.

A community farm by the river.

Lavender growing by the river.

Most residents commute by bike in the city.

Tulips in the park.


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