Who Stole My Schnitzel?!

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The Austrians we encountered in Vienna were all incredibly nice; from the young woman with the bicycle who approached us in the Uban station asking us if we needed help to our lovely new local friends Michaela and her boyfriend who took us to a wonderful Viennese restaurant and gave us an impromptu tour at midnight when they should have been heading home to get some rest before work the following day.  That’s not to say that other cities were not equally friendly and maybe it’s just that we’re from New York City where the only time someone approaches you is to take your money (either by force or by guilting you out of it), but the Viennese seemed particularly warm & friendly.

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We had less than 24 hours in Vienna which arguably is not enough time in any city, but acknowledging this trip as our “sampler tour” has freed us from the guilt of having to see absolutely everything there is to see and do absolutely everything there is to do in any particular city.  In fact, having less time actually helps you economize and be selective of how you spend your time.  If you have a week to see a city you’ll see all the essentials, but you’ll also likely see a bunch of sites that, in retrospect, you really didn’t care to (“the largest ball of twine syndrome”).

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Since much of Vienna’s tourist attractions are museums and Francesca and I are decidedly not museum people that cut away the majority of the sites recommended in Rick Steve’s self guided Vienna tour that Francesca so cleverly downloaded onto her Kindle.  Then there are a couple of must see palaces (the most famous being Schloss Shonenbrun), but while I enjoy these symbols of Monarchic opulence as much as the next tourist I find it easy to become all “palaced out” and the rain in Vienna made it less appealing to wander the supposedly gorgeous palace gardens.  After checking off the “must see” sites that we concurred with (The Vienna Opera House, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Nachtmarkt) we did what we really enjoy most when traveling abroad; we strolled leisurely around the city, observing the people, admiring architecture, stopping to sample local culinary treats or sip wines in cafes and wine bars.  In short just soaking up the local flavors and vibe of the city.

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It helps if you have a local to assist you in interpreting this feast of the senses and we were fortunate enough to have Michaela and her boyfriend to guide us.  Michaela is a quiet, but very knowledgeable woman from Krems, a town about 80km south of Vienna who works for an environmental energy consulting firm in Vienna.  Our NYC based friend Juan Luis had met her via a mutual friend in the mid 1990s when he visited Vienna and they had kept in touch over the years.  Juan is well traveled and very friendly and thus has friends or at least acquaintances in pretty much every major city.  He is also very generous with sharing his travel buddies and has made several introductions for us in cities along our way.  Michaela took us to an excellent Viennese restaurant called Skopik & Lohn in District II, the Jewish Ghetto area of Vienna, where Francesca and I both had delicious Weiner Schnitzel and a very unique and tasty potato salad while discussing a variety of mostly culturally relevant topics including the uber aggressive Viennese cyclists who seemingly try to intentionally run down pedestrians who unwittingly wander into the ubiquitous, but often disguised, bike lanes.

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We met in front of the impressive looking St. Stephen’s Cathedral (which is unfortunately currently undergoing restoration – it seems to be the year of Cathedral restoration across Europe!) and were joined by Ruthanne and her roommate Meghan, two college students living in Vienna for the fall semester.  Ruthanne is the younger sister of a good friend of ours from NYC, but whom we had never met previously.  She is studying German and political history, culture, etc. in Vienna, but her passion is vocal performance and she dreams of a career in musical theatre on Broadway.  I did not hear her voice, but she has eyes that sparkle and the classic features of a Broadway ingénue.  I’m sure she’ll meet with success.

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After our long dinner that ended around 11:30pm Michaela took us on a mini tour through the Jewish Quarter the highlight being The Vienna Synagogue which owns the distinction of being the oldest Synagogue in Vienna.  That is because, unlike the others, it was not burned by the Nazis in WWII.  Due to its close proximity to other buildings the Germans feared that torching it would set the entire neighborhood ablaze.

After saying our goodbyes we all went our separate ways and Francesca and I walked back to our hotel through the quiet streets of Vienna.

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In Retrospect (December 20, 2011):

When Francesca and I are asked what our least favorite place is we both quickly reply “Vienna”.  We were only there for a day and it was cold and rainy and we barely made it out of our hotel and probably wouldn’t have if we did not have a dinner date that night with Michaela and her boyfriend.

But rereading my blog post now I realized I have some fond memories of Vienna.  First, I recall the solitude of walking hand in hand with Francesca through the quiet city, stopping in for a pastry at Demel’s and buying some Christmas gifts at Villeroy & Boch.

Then there is the memory of our wonderful dinner with Michaela where we met our now good friend Ruthanne for the first time with whom we would continue to have adventures later on in Prague.  We’re still not huge fans of museums, but I wouldn’t mind visiting Vienna once more…..but perhaps in the spring or summer this time.

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6 Responses to “Who Stole My Schnitzel?!”

  1. Lisa Barden Says:

    I have been to Vienna twice (once in 1990 and once in 2006). Both times there were lots of things that were “closed for restoration”. In 1990, we were there on the 4th of July, so we just gave up and celebrated American style. In 2006, I was a little more grown up, so we wandered the city aimlessly, just taking in the scenes.

  2. Kandy Magnotti Says:

    Dan! I stummbled upon your blog via FB… WOW! You guys are living a dream! Just amazing… I’m totally hooked! Your writing draws me in and your photos make me long for the days of my European travel pre-Euro… Kudos to you for living life to the fullest… I can’t wait to read about your next adventure… 😉
    ps. Say hi to Francesca for me and happy belated!

    • aroljahns Says:

      Hey Kandy, great to hear from you! Glad you are enjoying the blog postings. We’re now in Istanbul for my 40th Bday (which is tomorrow so you haven’t missed it yet!). I am a few cities behind in my blogging but hopefully will get caught up in the next few days. Definitely loving the Euro – well, the exchange rate sucks, but its great to go from country to country with a single currency.

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