Central/Eastern Europe Vacation: Vienna

Prague was amazing but we were even more excited to visit the grandiose Vienna. Our first impression was less than stellar. We took a cab waiting at the train station to our hotel which was a 7 minute ride according to Google Maps. The driver charged us 26 Euros! They say not to get into cabs unless you call them but since we didn’t have cell service we couldn’t. I imagined the line of taxi’s was official like in our airports, but it was not. Alas, we quickly found out that Vienna has Uber and used that for the remainder of our trip. We later learned UberX would have charged about 7 Euro for the same trip. I share this so that it does not happen to you! The rest of our trip was in fact lovely. 

We stayed at the Hotel Sacher right next to the Opera. It was our fancy hotel of the trip and felt like a honeymoon with daily chocolate being delivered to our room and a plush bathtub.

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The first day we rode the public bikes around the city and sorta bar hopped. We stumbled upon these outdoor beach like bars along the river that were packed Sunday afternoon. It was relaxing and entertaining at the same time. People brought their kids and we hung out in beach chairs. I don’t remember the name but it was cute. My glass of Gruner was crisp and delicious. It felt a little like European Spring Break.

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We had dinner at Gastaus Poschl the first night, a recommendation from a former Barry’s Bootcamp client of mine. It was just was Roomie wanted, authentic Austrian cuisine that was well done. Austian food can and mostly is heavy, but Poschl prepared the meals with just the necessary amount of greasiness. He ordered the goulash to start, which is an amazing beef stew like recipe, and the weiner schnitzel. I order a chicken dish with stuffing literally stuffed in-between the chicken and the skin. It reminded me a little of Thanksgiving dinner but was much more moist and flavorful. 

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I guess I had too many glasses of wine and my chicken came out blurry but I wanted to share it anyway, so I apologize. One of my favorite wines is Gruner and since it is an Austrian white wine, it was always on the menu and very affordably so. 

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The location was perfect in relation to our hotel and just a short walk down a pedestrian street full of places to go shopping. We did not shop in Vienna because most of the stores were ones that we have back in the US. Once we got home to our hotel, I ordered room service to try the signature Sacher chocolate torte, Sachertorte. 

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When researching Vienna, this dessert will be on every list. This is the original and it’s been around since 1832 originally made for the prince of Vienna. You will find variations of it at other cafes but to try to OG, you gotta come to the Hotel Sacher. There is a cafe downstairs but since our room was so fancy, we enjoyed it up stairs. I will admit it is a little dry and that dollop of whip cream really helps. However, after 2 or 3 bites, it becomes addicting and is really good. It’s basically a chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in between two slices of dense chocolate cake and topped with chocolate fudge topping. We got a few mini cakes by our beds the second night, and I must say the little guys are better in my opinion because of the greater frosting to cake ratio. The chocolate frosting was my favorite part. 

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I read The Accidental Empress before we left so I was very excited to see both palaces in Vienna. The first was the Hofburg’s summer residence, Schoenbrunn. It was really amazing how many rooms were kept in tact and we were able to view. Many palaces like Versaille only give you a small glimpse into daily royal life. We did the Grand tour per the recommendation of Rick Steves. It was a tour of 22 rooms and they really brought the royal family personalities to life. No pictures were allowed.

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The gardens are public and open to anyone. You do not need to purchase a ticket. I saw many people running through them and was very jealous. Since I ran the marathon two days before our departure, I made the decision not to workout while in Europe but by the end, I wanted to go for run so badly my legs were restless. 

We made our way to the Naschmarkt after the palace using the public bikes again. They were great but a pain in the ass. Make sure to enter all your information correctly when registering! We didn’t full include our address and were locked out for a portion of our stay from using them. Our hotel had to call and fix it for us. 

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We were told to visit Naschmarkt but many people. It was part Farmer’s Market, part restaurant courtyard. We ate at a Mediterranean place I discovered on Instagram called Neni. Since we ate a heavy dinner the night before, I thought a light lunch would be a welcome change. 

We ordered the best looking mezze plate to start. Instead of separating the three, they combined them all together. 

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For my meal, I got the shrimp with caramelized lentils. These were the best tasting lentils I’ve ever had. I am a sucker for anything caramelized and this dish was outstanding.

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Roomie got their signature dish which was hummus on bottom and roasted chicken and vegetables on top pita bread. 

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Later that night, we went to visit a few Heurigers on the outskirts of Vienna. This was something I really wanted to do! Rick Steves suggested it too. Heurigs are little wine gardens right on the outskirts of the city. It was a 30 minute/20 euro UberX ride but easy to get to by public transportation as well. Since it was Monday, the gardens felt very quiet and were quite sleepy. Not sure what we expected but the scenery was beautiful.

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You got up to the counter inside the main building and order food by pointing to what you want, kind of like a mix and match charcuterie plate with many more options. In the end, the experience felt a little old for us. I think perhaps we didn’t go to the right one. Rick Steve’s recommended three different streets that have quite a few options. We chose his favorite town which should have been a sign. We kinda “bar hopped” down the street and each one was more quiet than the next. One listed in the book as his favorite spot was’t even open. 

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The next day, we continued our sightseeing and eating through Vienna. We stopped at a typical Viennese Coffee shop for some espresso and dessert. Roomie ordered this apple strudel with ice cream at 11 am. I of course helped him finish but tried to save my appetite for lunch. 

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It began raining later in the day and our plan to take a bike tour was ruined. The bike guide never showed up which was probably a blessing because we would have gone! Instead, that night we bought standing room only tickets to the Opera to get a look at what the amazing building looked like inside. 

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The next morning, we headed off to Budapest but not before I grabbed a green smoothie/juice right at the train station. I wasn’t feeling too hot so this felt like an omen of things to come.

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I loved Vienna more than Prague, I think but was excepting Budapest to be my favorite… 

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