Christmas in Vienna

Welcome to Bitcoin Bites-join us as we traverse the world in style on our search for sights, sounds, smells and great food.

We travel a lot and have had many requests to share our photos of the different places we visit, and the food we enjoy. This is for our friends and family.

Christmas in Vienna

We landed in Vienna the day before Christmas. Vienna is a beautiful city, but be prepared for the city to shut down on Christmas Eve. Most people in Europe have their family celebrations on Christmas Eve, so you’d be lucky to find the odd restaurant open at dinner time!

We loved the bustle, the aroma and everybody moving through a throng of aromas. In a way it turned out we were very lucky. Our arrival was on Christmas Eve. Unbeknownst to us, it is the custom to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve in Vienna and most restaurants and even Christmas markets had closed so that people could go home to celebrate. We were lucky in that we managed to make it to the last one in the last hours that was open.

There are numerous stalls selling cooked meats but nowhere near as many as when we were in Germany the year prior. We found that Vienna hosts many sweet delights. I am not personally as much of the sweet tooth as many and my reason for seeking food here was more of the carnivorous persuasion.

One thing that is done remarkably well in both Germany and Austria is the sausages. You can smell these before you even get to the stand. We shared one and for something so simple it leaves a remarkable memory of flavor.

We ended up having a schnitzel roll and bratwurst from the Christmas market, then polishing off the lebuken and fruit in our room before ordering room service in our hotel later!

As you can see, there is no shortage of availability of food here. The sausage is immense and they do not split the roll as with the American-style hotdogs. The dog is effectively shoved into the bun with the sauce.

But, even with the restaurants closed for the evening it was back to the hotel room to enjoy a meal in the dining room of our suite .

The imperial hotel does an impressive Wiener schnitzel — thin, golden and crispy, served with their signature green salad with potato salad hidden underneath.

This is of course one of the major reasons that one must visit Vienna. There is something in the locality of the food that exceeds anything you can obtain in the finest restaurants for the same food elsewhere. There is simply no way to exceed a Wiener schnitzel obtained and served directly from a chef in Vienna.

We had to try the infamous apfel strudel of course, light buttery pastry with a warm gooey centre of sweet yet tart apple pieces with fresh cream and strawberries. Not exactly Christmas eve fare, but delicious nonetheless!

And to conclude, apfel strudel. Where better than the source of this creation itself.

There are concerts everywhere in Vienna. Men dressed as Mozart tout tickets on every street corner. They talk well and can be very persuasive but we’ve been told that they don’t necessarily represent what they claim to. You could find yourself in an old musty school hall instead of a historic church that they claimed, and you have no recourse for complaints or refunds. Best to plan ahead and book tickets through legitimate sites or go to the venues booking office directly.

Vienna is a city where you can step back in time. There is a concert on every corner it would seem. In the one thing that the city will never lose is culture.

The performance was splendid and beyond my ability to capture and words. Different centers of the world develop and specialize along the lines of particular outcomes and this is evidently clear in a city such as Vienna. There is a remarkable classical culture that allows one to step back and experience history and savor the past.

We managed to obtain front row seats in the Orangarie. It was a magical evening.

And the music of Strauss enabled you to close your eyes and imagine decades and centuries before the people who had listened and enjoyed and how this is moved something, had stirred something and had led to these people thinking deep thoughts of a world that could be. For it is not just music that came from Vienna. The coffee houses and colleges of universities were hothouses in political and economic thought.

Whilst in Austria I drink quite a number of local wines. The sparkling wine that I was drinking in the opera house before the ballet was remarkably sharp yet tantalizing.

Not everyone seeks the formality I present here in the opera yet when in Austria, when in Vienna how could it be other than seeking to fully indulge oneself in the culture.

And of course, being Christmas how could one go past the Nutcracker at the opera house. Having seen a concert since Stephen’s church, a concert and walk around the Shonanberg palace what could be better than to leave for a coffee house.

Coffee houses are on every street corner in Vienna and have a special place in Viennese culture. notable figures, musicians, artists and politicians mingled with the local cafe society late into the night, and the beginnings of many novels and symphonies were birthed in a warm, cosy, dimly lit Viennese cafe.

The cakes in Cafe Demel, located in the heart of the city centre, were scrumptious. The chocolate soufflé cake was rich yet delicate, melting indulgently in your mouth, with the velvety chocolate sauce coating every luscious spoonful.

The coffee tasted a bit burnt, but then we are spoilt with good coffee as my other half only drinks Civit coffee at home.

Chocolate drips off nearly everything and the richness of desserts overwhelms the tastebuds.

No visit to Vienna is complete if you haven’t tried the original Sacher torte at hotel Sacher.

Although be prepared for queues for most of the more famous coffee shops.

I would hate to imagine what it would be like in peak season, for it was immensely difficult to get a seat at a café when we went and it was not the peak tourist season. It is an experience to try but not one that I will seek to do again. The coffee was not bad but then we have sipped espresso in Naples and Rome and it becomes difficult when one is able to sample anything you want.

One way to see the city is with a horse and carriage ride. Our driver took us down some quiet windy streets steeped in history, and with the clip clapping of the horse’s hooves, you are almost brought back in time.

One chief advantage of sharing a carriage ride in Vienna with one’s significant other is the cold and the chill adds to the romantic atmosphere and you get to hold one another close to ward off the cold.

It brings you back to a slower pace of life. It’s nice to step outside of the daily bustle and throw off the hustle and pandemonium in everyday living and imagine a modern fairytale version of what once was.

Vienna is a city best shared with one you care most for, the one you love.

Day trip to Wachau Valley

The Wachau valley is a UNESCO heritage listed site along the Danube river Just over an hours drive from by Vienna. It is a full day trip in the winter, but you may want to spend more time in the valley in the summer when all the shops, cafes, and vineyards are open.

The drive itself is stunning, passing breathtaking countryside with forests and castle ruins on one side and vineyards on the other.

At this time of year, you see the rows of pruned branches that will be in months to come a new harvest of grapes being pressed into fresh Austrian wine.

Row upon row of grapes to come form up pattern across the hillsides.

We stopped for coffee in in Kremz, one of several historic medieval villages on the east end of the wachau valley. Beautiful cobble stoned streets line boutique shops and historic houses, and as it is the winter, there is an air of sleepy old world serenity. many of the shops are closed this time of year and the locals go about their own business instead of catering to the hoards of tourists who inundate the area in the spring and summer.

It’s a remarkably brute beautiful town, and I enjoyed the espresso far more than I did in Vienna. The friendly people here live a far slower life but it is a happy one it would seem.

Dürnstein is one of Austria’s top-rated wine and apricot growing regions, and 
has a long history, stretching back to at least 1019. The beautiful old buildings attest to that, embodying the very essence of Austria.

And once you’ve left Vienna, you step back into an earlier time with many medieval villages juxtaposed with modern technology.

And if you thought the roads were narrow in London, wait to you visit these towns. We were here to explore the countryside and at the same time sample some of the very fine Austrian wines.

They sell wines by the glass as well as the bottle and many of the stores and we had to walk down some narrow roads to get to them and it is well worth the trip and it is more than worth the walk.

I didn’t buy much while there as there are always limits with travel and it is far simpler to order remotely. We took the details and because of the remarkable interconnectivity of the modern Internet connected world, we can simply send an email and ordered the wines I tried having them delivered right to my cellar.

Landhaus Bacher in Mautern

We stopped at Landhaus Bacher in Mutern for lunch. The Ox rib with a red wine jus reduction and winter vegetables was delightfully succulent and tender. And the crisp potato rusti soaked up any left over savoury juices.

This remarkable restaurant is a place that people must make sure they stop in and visit if they go to Austria. I cannot praise it any higher. The atmosphere is elegant and yet simple with very little pretense and the service is excellent.

It is deftly not a place for vegetarians or at least for that matter there is nothing there that I tried that would’ve been vegetarian.

Our hunger assuaged, we headed toward Melk abbey, an imposing Baroque style Benedictine abbey from the 12th century overlooking the Danube. The residences continue to house monks who live in the abbey, and many work in the local villages and teach in the schools. The library is extraordinarily beautiful- the earthiness of cherished old manuscripts and leather bindings is an olfactory sensation; redolent of antiquity, imposing a sense of reverence when you enter the guilded halls. The library houses a vast collection of treasured books and manuscripts, including some very precious pieces from the 15th century.

We have a nice library, but this is remarkable.

Melk is a working Abby. We had a private tour which always enables one to see what you wish without being pushed on to the next display. It was a serene experience.

Coming to an understanding as to why some of these buildings were created is essential. Throughout history people would raid the villagers coming up the Danube. So many of the Abby structures and churches were in fact built not only to house the collected works and books that were studied but also local people and as a result these were actually fortified structures.

No matter how busy one’s life becomes it is necessary to stop and reflect from time to time and our day visiting Melk allow that to occur as we sat and watched countryside and looked to the life that others had led.

Dinner at opus imperial palace hotel

And what better way to finish than with an opus. Having stayed in the Royal suite it was time to try a royal course. This was certainly a holiday that we needed to take time away from to recover by not eating so much, but not quite yet.

The chef provided a meal worth remembering and one that we will tell and the images we capture and yet that file to capture the experience. The aroma, the flavor and the sheer delight pale in comparison to the meal when just displayed in images.

Course after course was matched and paired with well selected wines.

Delivering, not only a culinary, but also a visual feast.

The food was elegant and sublime. The Turbot, divine.

And, as course after course came, one could not imagine how they could better the last.

As you will note, I am not a vegetarian… and Vienna is a place for those seeking a carnivorous delight.

We started with the Winter vegetables and bitter salads. But, course after course, wild hare, Sirloin of Wagyu beef and the Duck beast sated our foodie desires.

Even the deserts came, one after the next… flowing until you would think there is nothing more, but to burst.