This means nothing to me……….Oh, Vienna
Not true but I am sure that song will now be stuck in your head for some time. Regardless of that- Vienna is an excellent city for a weekend break
Apparently Jordan had been giving me hints about my birthday trip by playing Ultravox on a regular basis, I however had failed to notice this and assumed he was just having an 80’s music phase. Despite his best efforts, the country was revealed to me and then I quickly worked out the city we would be visiting after being told that it housed the oldest zoo in Europe and this is one of those strange facts I seem to remember.
Flying from Birmingham meant our travel time was relatively short and after rapidly dispatching our bags at the hotel we took a small wander into the city for a much-needed drink. Despite being past 10pm by the time we headed out it was unbelievably hot and we found ourselves seeking air conditioning having the first (of many) glass of Grüner Veltliner to cool down and chill out.
We stayed at the Saint Shermin hotel which was full of unusual features and had a suitably central location. We covered quite a lot of ground during our trip so I’m going to go through the highlights:
I took a ridiculous amount of photos which is no great surprise, the zoo is the oldest in europe and set in the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace (which means you also get to look around there) Along with a pair of twin giant pandas whom which I shared my birthday, there were a vast range of animals from penguins to polar bears (very exciting) To see animals such as this is a privilege but also something I am often wary of, pleasingly- whilst many of the original features and structures of the compound still stand, the practices have moved on and animal welfare is the number 1 priority and its efforts in species conservation are well-regarded. In particular, the polar bears had a vast section of their enclosure which is not viewable to the public and signs that simply say, they are entitled to privacy too. The zoo feels spacious, not just in terms of enclosures but also room for people to move around and wander at their own pace without feeling crowded. The grounds of the palace are also worth visiting. I’ve been to a lot of zoo’s but this is probably my favourite one yet, not only because the collection of animals was a bit different, but that the environment was peaceful, respectful and also educational.
Michelin 2 Started dining in a beautiful park setting. You can read the review here
Coffee culture is huge in Vienna, apart from the wine this is as close to a national drink as you will get. Cafe Central is suitably famous not just because of its vaulted ceilings, beautiful architecture and incredible sweet treats but also because of its famous former visitors- Sigmund Freud, Peter Altenberg and Leo Trotzky. Opened in 1867 many of the original features remain and the expansive room still feels a little lost in time. Yes you can order a proper meal, but almost every tourist is here for cake and coffee – I dont blame them at all. I picked two items from the vast pattisserie counter, one which resembled a very large, much improved Fererro Rocher and another which was a dark chocolate case concealing a vibrant raspberry mousse. Jordan opted for a Wiener Apfelstrudel from the Viennesse specialties part of the menu and I had a sublime Verlängerter (Espresso infused with hot water, with cream). As lunches go, this is somewhat indulgent but it was incredible. You might have to queue out the door, and dodge selfie taking tourists but once you get a seat, it really is worth the wait.
One of the greatest things I discovered was the (improved) Hugo Spritz (Wine, Elderflower cordial/liqueur, soda water, fresh mint,lime) and Aperol Spritz. It may have been the baking heat or holiday mindset but these were by far the most refreshing drinks we have had in a long time. The difference being that instead of Prosecco, they used the more locally favourable option of Grüner Veltliner which happens to be our white wine of choice. The result being a crisper, sweeter finish than it’s traditional Italian version. Needless to say we have been making this ourselves since coming home.
Champagne Breakfast at Saint Shermin
Admittedly, a residual hangover meant I probably didnt take advantage of this as much as I could have done but the optional hotel breakfast was completely worthwhile. All of the typical continental options were available with eggs cooked to order, unlimited champagne and plenty of fresh fruit.
Late night skaters
If only I had known…. We were a little bemused to find several road closures or police escorts in place on a busy friday night, only to then see hundreds of people on roller skates gliding through the city accompanied by a handful of cyclists. As it turns out this is a regular occurence and looked like incredibly good fun
There are two parts to this, one is an incredible wine tour and the other is an equally incredible dinner at Silvio Nickol Both of these will get their own review.
The Big Wheel- Wiener Riesenrad
Built in 1897 (and rebuilt after being destroyed in a fire) the Vienna Ferris wheel is still going and can be found in the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt The park is full of fairground rides and souvenir shops, feeling a little out of place but its easy to see how its expanded out from the wheel. Having appeared in numerous films (mainly ‘The Third Man’ the wheel is well known and a ride offers an incredible view out across the city- even if, like me you have to hold on to the bench due to a fear of height. Ther are even pods where you can have afternoon tea or a candlelit dinner for those looking for a something a bit different.
We loved the little streets of Vienna, odd little shops and a really cool market with food stalls and cafe’s. It may have been the roaring heat, the amount of things we managed to do or that we did go a little nuts in terms of our celebrations but we fell in love with the city and surprisingly uncrowded open spaces.
Vienna, we will be back.