After our lovely weekend together, Nicola had to go to work on Monday, but I’d decided to fly back early evening and spend another ‘day’ in Vienna, exploring a little more on my own. First of all I headed down to the heart of the city, near the St Stephan’s cathedral. I wanted to go the Cafe Central where, I’d read, Trotsky liked to play chess. Vienna is full of wonderful cafes – coffee houses – where the famous, be they artists, composers, politicians, writers, philosophers or psychotherapists like Freud, would frequently go.
For a Marxist revolutionary, Trotsky certainly liked opulent places.
The cafe opened in 1876 and was a major venue for the intellectuals of the day. Freud, Lenin and even Hitler came there too. Until 1938 it was known as The Chess School as many people came to play chess. It closed at the end of World War II but was reopened in 1975 and completely renovated in 1986. I chose a melange again (the ‘standard’ Viennese white coffee) and a brioche.
The cafe was wonderfully impressive with its marble interior and amazing display of cakes.
However, it was the least friendly of what had turned out to be a remarkably friendly city. Even in that hotspot of tourist attractions, the Sacher Hotel, we’d found very friendly staff who made us feel welcome. In the Cafe Central I felt a little more like a tourist. The waiter wasn’t particularly friendly and didn’t even bother to bring a napkin to the table; he was rather perfunctory in his manner. The brioche was nice but not the best melange I’d had – too weak and milky. A melange is very much like the kind of cappuccino you get in Italy; none of that heavy-duty strong Antipodean coffee we’ve become used to in London. But sometimes – especially in Italy – it’s just right; and in Vienna the melange is just right.
I wandered on afterwards, wanting to make my way to the Danube, which I hadn’t yet seen. I passed the famous Vienna Riding School.
I thought if I’d been with my friend Annie she would have definitely wanted to do a tour. But as it happened, it was closed to visitors on Monday. On I went towards the cathedral again. What an impressive sight.
A line of horse-drawn carriages waited alongside. They are everywhere. It would be nice to take a ride sometime (most likely at an astronomical cost, much like hiring a gondola in Venice) but a weekend is limited time in a city like Vienna, so there are lots of things we didn’t have time for.
Finally, with the help of my iPhone to find my way through the winding streets, I arrived at the Danube. Unfortunately it clearly wasn’t the most romantic part!
Neither was it blue! But never mind. And it was very very hot. My phone told me 35 degrees. It was time to head back to the cool apartment.
Nicola was coming back to have lunch with me and also so that I could give her the keys to the studio. Neither of us fancied more Austrian food at lunchtime and so we went to a nearby cafe we’d passed the evening before that sold French crêpes! Cafe der Provinz turned out to be a very welcoming place and the crêpes were fabulous – just like being in Normandy.
We even had our first salad that wasn’t over-dressed and very fresh.
It was all organic. Vienna is a surprisingly ‘alternative’ city full of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, cafes and shops. There are lots of Ayuvedic shops, plenty of alternative therapies on offer. It’s a city of extremes – the heavy, meat-based food and the very healthy side.
Well, there’s only so much ‘healthy’ I want … especially on holiday in somewhere like Vienna! So we headed back to Cafe Landtmann, where we’d had the wonderful apple strudel, for coffee and cake. Their apple strudel had been so gorgeous, I wanted to try their Sachertorte. Cafe Landtmann was also happily for us the nearest ‘major’ coffee house near our apartment and convenient for us to return to in time for my cab to the airport. This time we decided to sit outside because it was so hot and they had small sprays of water adding some cool over the awnings.
I chose the Sachertorte and a melange coffee; Nicola had a cold drink and small Gugelhopf.
Wow! It really was wonderful. Nicola tasted the Sachertorte too and we decided – if one dare! – that we perhaps preferred it to the more famous one at the Sacher Hotel. It was a bit moister and had less apricot jam so the apricot flavour didn’t dominate so much. If I could have brought one home, I would have done. But it wasn’t going to fit in my hand luggage.
We got back to the apartment just before the hot weather and blue skies turned to dark clouds and a terrific storm. What a dramatic change in weather. But soon I was in the cab for the journey to the airport. It had been a wonderful weekend and I’m so glad I’ve visited Vienna at last!