Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eurotrip 2011, Day 9: Vienna Highlights

We began our single full day in Vienna with a sort of guided tour, led by Kiwi Katie herself. Unfortunately it dawned gray and rainy, but thankfully it cleared up later in the day. Still, even with the crappy morning weather it was hard not to be awed by Vienna's beauty.

She took us on a walk through the Hofburg Palace, showing us where the Vienna Boys' Choir practices and stopping on the way out at Albertinplatz to see the Holocaust Memorial and the Hotel Sacher, original home of the infamous Sacher Torte (we'll get into that more, later). Though not quite so knowledgeable and thorough as some of our other guides were on this trip, she did a decent job on this Vienna walk.
Hofburg Palace
Views from the grounds of the Hofburg
The Burgkapelle, home of the Vienna Boys Choir
Updated picture of our Contiki group, outside the Albertina Museum
Victims of the War/Holocaust Memorial
Hotel Sacher/Cafe Mozart
Kiwi Katie then led us up Karntner Strasse to the Stephansdom. We had a stop at a Swarovski store, but thankfully this was by choice. Still, most of us girls of course wanted to shop for jewelry :) And I know that Kiwi Katie got some kickbacks for leading us to this particular store ;) Once we were done with our Swarovski shopping, we had a few hours of free time before we had to meet back at Maria-Theresien Platz to board the bus and head to our Schnapps tour & tasting. Steve, the Natalies and I took this free time to visit the cathedral, shop some more, eat a whole lot and tour the Spanish Riding School! (Well, Steve and I and Natalie C toured the riding school while Natalie M went to the Albertina Museum.)
Steve at the Stephansdom! Too bad it was under so much construction :-/
Inside the Stephansdom
After picking up some Mozart chocolates near the Stephansdom, we headed back up Karntner Strasse to a little sausage stand that Kiwi Katie had recommended. I have to be honest and say that most of her recommendations on this tour were, well, sadly lacking. But these sausages were perfect and amazing and one of the best things we ate on the entire trip! They are called "Kasekrainer" and are sausages with cheese in them. They are huge, and are served inside a loaf of bread with a sort of sweet mustard sauce. And if you ever go to Vienna and don't eat one - you're missing out. Anthony Bourdain agrees.
You can get these sausages at sausage stands all over the city. I regret to inform you that I didn't write down or note the exact location of the one we went to, but I can tell you that it's on a little side street off Karntner Strasse between the Hotel Sacher and the Stephansdom, situated behind a little glass-walled "cart" selling cheap Vienna souvenirs :)

With our bellies full of sausage (and Steve full of sausage and beer), we decided that we were ready for the Viennese afternoon pick me up - coffee and cake! Kiwi Katie had talked up the Cafe Sacher, but we decided on the Mozart Cafe - also part of the Hotel Sacher. Personally the Sacher Torte - a sort of dark chocolate, heavy cake with apricot jam/preserves in it - didn't appeal to me at all. Instead, I ordered the Esterhazy Torte. I'm glad I did, because Natalie C ordered the Sacher Torte and it was as gross as it sounded. However, my Esterhazy Torte was delicious! We kicked back and enjoyed our coffee and cakes for a good hour before our Spanish Riding School tour, and it was blissful.
Esterhazy Torte - chocolate buttercream and spongecake
Enjoying our Viennese coffees at the Mozart Cafe
Now, I'm glad I thought ahead and made reservations for our Spanish Riding School tour because all of the tours were sold out that day, and it really was an amazing experience. Of course I'm a horse person, and that was part of it. If you're not big into horses and you only have a short time in Vienna, this may be something you'd want to skip; but even if you're not a horse person, if you have a few days in Vienna this really was an enjoyable tour. Unfortunately they wouldn't let us take pictures in many areas, but it was amazing to learn about the horses, the riders, the history of the school and the part it plays in the Vienna of today.
We finished our tour just in time to get back to the bus (thankfully! we cut it a bit close), and from there it was on to our Contiki optional Schnapps distillery tour!
Maria-Theresien Platz
Fischer Family Schnapps Distillery & Museum
This was another great Contiki optional. I want to say it cost 6 euro per person, and not only was the owner (who gave the tour) amusing, he gave a lot of history and great information about Schapps. Not to mention the free samples at the end! They were plentiful to say the least...I think I had four but there were definitely a few braver souls on our tour who had a few more than that. Unfortunately we had to consider the fact that we still had over a week of travel ahead of us and shouldn't purchase bottles of liqueur to lug around, but between the souvenir shot glasses and funny t-shirts there were plenty of other neat souvenirs in the "museum" shop.

Most of our Contiki group was heading to a classical music concert that evening, but because we were "Ditchers" (on this tour) we'd decided to do our own thing. This at least gave us more time to freshen up for dinner and choose our own place to eat, so stay tuned for more info on another great meal and our attempt to party it up, Viennese style!

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