Just before our extended weekend in Vienna, my friend Alex asked me why we had chosen to go there. She immediately blushed professing that she didn’t mean for her question to be derogatory in any way (which it certainly wasn’t!)- but I kind of laughed and said “just because it’s supposed to be pretty and romantic.” Vienna seemed like a wonderful place to spend the weekend with my BFF for a belated three-year wedding anniversary celebration. Speaking of which, how was this three years ago!? The best day ever seems like a lifetime ago and just yesterday at the same time.
Hotel Beethoven was a welcome sight and our beautiful room (#507 – really recommend it!) even more so after our afternoon flight. We had just enough time to toast with the sparkling wine left with a sweet note wishing us a happy anniversary and pleasant stay before dinner at a contemporary looking Hungarian place, Mini Restaurant. Again, we were greeted with a celebratory glass of sparkling wine followed by one of the most memorable meals we’ve had. Delicious food coupled with unsurpassed service- this place was delightful. When choosing a bottle of wine, the waiter promptly brought over a few to try so that we could be sure to taste what we were ordering- what a novel concept! The Hungarian wine was amazing and I’m kicking myself for not stocking up on a few bottles. They don’t export much wine, so I’m most certainly adding Budapest and some sort of Hungarian wine tour to our never ending, always growing European destination bucket list. While we could have stayed all night chatting with the owner and enjoying the endless array of fabulous food and drinks, the hubs was responsible enough to get us back to the hotel in time for a decent night of sleep before our early start the next day.
Waking up to rain after too much fun the night before and a full day touring around and boat riding ahead was not ideal, but after a couple cappuccinos and muesli, we taxied over to the Wein Westbahnhof for our 9:00 train to Melk. Clear skies came into view just before we arrived an hour later giving us a perfect view of the Melk Abbey and its dominating presence over the town.A short hike up the hill brought us to the entrance of one of the most famous monastic sites founded in 1089. Beautiful was the baroque architecture, breathtaking was the church and impressive was the voluminous library filled with an endless collection of medieval manuscripts. Not to miss are the Abbey Gardens, which the hubs and I thoroughly enjoyed walking through, especially the parts where classical music bellowed from the gazebo (only in Vienna!). Hungry for lunch, we spotted Kalmuck just ahead in the town center as the rain started to fall which was perfect because goulash soup is better enjoyed with the weather feeling a bit dreary. The hubs and I snuggled into a high top booth and enjoyed our soup, tomato mozzerella salad,
some a lot of warm, fresh bread and local wine. With just enough time to shop around before catching our boat, we found a cute topferei pottery owl to add to our collection of European goods. The hubs affectionately named him Ollie, and so far, he loves his new home in our garden. Be sure to visit Topferei Brandl if you find yourself in Melk, with an extra bag for carrying home your new-found treasures. Someone was owed a favor because just in time for the DDSG Blue Danube river cruise, blue skies once again appeared. The hubs and I arrived 20 minutes before our 13:50 departure time and found a perfect spot on the top deck. For the next two and a half hours, unbeatable scenery and astonishingly old structures surrounded us as we made our way towards Krems. Once docked in Krems, we set out to explore the town for an hour before catching our 17:02 train back to Vienna. Krems was characteristically charming and we felt like comfortable locals enjoying a glass of wine in the town center.
Later in the evening back in Vienna, we arrived at Glacis Beisl in the Museumsquartier for dinner. The restaurant was recommended on countless blogs and sites- the ambiance was majestic with white lights strung above the garden situated on one of the last parts of the city wall and the food was hit-the-spot, traditional fare. One thing to note- if you order the smoked bacon, the shredded topping is VERY HOT horseradish, not cheese, as the hubs quickly discovered after an enormous mouthful- woops (it was really funny though…)! Soaking up every minute in the city, we ventured over to trendy bar that sounded really cool with it’s cigar menu and late night dancing, but it turned out to be pretty weird, so we quickly laughed it off at Wein + Co Naschmarkt, a wine store/bar/place for cigars which was more of our style.
Saturday was our day for city venturing. Watching the horses at the Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) was top on my list, but of course we were quickly distracted by the beautiful buildings en route.
No practice was planned for the day, which I had read was a less expensive/less of a commitment way to see the horses, so we splurged and bought last minute tickets for the show. You can’t see the breathtaking interior without a ticket, so even though some claimed that the show was nothing special, the building seemed reason enough to buy a way in. The hour and a half show turned out to be well worth it- the relaxing classical music and stunning horses were so enjoyable. Although I don’t have any sort of real horse riding knowledge, it was easy to appreciate the perfectly trained and performing animals inside the Hofburg, a palace that housed some of the most powerful people in European and Austrian history. Taking photos during the show is not allowed and they boot you out quickly afterwards, but the dare devil hubs snuck a few anyways.St. Stephen’s Cathedral is an unmissable sight in Vienna and rightfully so with its Romanesque and Gothic architecture. We didn’t spend much time walking around the city, but given a few more hours, relaxing in the Museumsquartier lounging with a coffee and playing with the remote control boats would have been a treat- why not? But we had things to do, like finding lunch in the Naschmarkt and getting an Eiskaffee and Sachertorte at Cafe Sperl. One more adventure was in store for our Viennaversary- Heuriger hopping. Heurigers are traditional wine taverns where wine growers serve the most recent year’s wine. They serve only their own wine and offer a selection of small dishes- perfect for dinner after eating traditional Austrian food a couple of nights in a row. Interestingly, Vienna is the only capital city to produce its own wine and it is REALLY GOOD (even the hubs with his impossibly high-standards agreed!). In hindsight, I wish I had done a little more research because there are countless heurigers, but regardless, we enjoyed the experience. It was an easy trip to the 19th district on the U4 line from Karlspltaz near our hotel to Heiligenstadt where we caught the 38A bus right outside the station to Grinzing which was full of festive-looking spots. We hopped off and walked to Zawodsky. The hubs was skeptical as we strolled up what appeared to be someone’s private driveway only to arrive at great picnic area perched above the city with spectacular views. We sipped on some wine and the hubs picked out a plate of small bites that were all delicious. The next spot, Zum Berger, had some sort of a party going on, providing ample entertainment as we sampled more wine. Before going back to the city, we had a light dinner in the garden at Figls where the service and ambiance were, once again, wonderful. Still up for a little more fun, we found ourselves back at Wein + Co where we watched a world cup match and chatted with the sweet waiters about their allegiances and rivals. A few hours and one last indulgence in Austrian wine later, we said goodnight to the city of dreams.