My next stop on the river cruise is to Vienna, Austria. This place is very special to me since my mother and grandmother were born there. I had visited once before many years ago with my mother, so I’m looking forward to seeing what sights I recall, and also to find out what’s new.
As usual on a cruise excursion, I don’t have that much time to explore so I’ve made arrangements to meet the ship’s Executive chef at Vienna’s favorite food market, Naschmarkt to find fresh ingredients and spices for the Viennese goulash he’s planning to cook on board. I’m glad it’s such a beautiful day since it makes wandering outdoors so pleasant.
After we are done with his shopping, I meet my guide for the day, Karin. She runs a walking food tour company in Vienna called Vienna Culinary Tours, and is the perfect partner to show me the town’s food delights. We first have a tasting at the Gegenbauer shop that makes and sells over 50 types of fruit/vegetable vinegars and a huge variety of oils. We then move on to Urbanek, a tiny yet fully stocked gourmet market where I get a taste of different meats and cheeses as well as a glass of Austrian white wine.
That was the precursor to our next stop at a sparkling wine bar, Sekt Comptoir. Filled with all types of bubbly including Austria’s own Szigeti Sekt, it’s a fun and relaxed place where you can bring in your own food and sip on glass after glass of different sparklers. I wish I could stay here all day.
Karin takes me to one of Vienna’s hottest new restaurants, Lugeck, located in one of the most picturesque old buildings in town. The restaurant serves many of Austria’s classic dishes but with a modern flare including the famous Wiener Schnitzel. I not only get to make some with the Chef in his kitchen, but also get to devour some with my husband and crew afterwards. This was some of the best schnitzel I have ever eaten anywhere! Real veal, freshly cut and pounded, then delicately dipped in flour, a special breadcrumb mixture with egg. Then fried until it puffs (about 2 minutes on each side).
From here it’s off to a real old world style place called Haas Baisl. A baisl is an inn, a cosy place that’s much like hanging out in your living room, Karin tells me. Well, not quite my living room since the place was filled with old guys playing cards and smoking, but it definitely looked cosy. We were served some fantastic crispy goose and a local drink called Sturm that’s basically wine before it’s wine (it’s fermented freshly pressed grape juice.) The goose was great but the Sturm, not something I’d try more than once.
Fortunately, our next was to drink some very good wine at a swanky local wine bar, Weinfach Vinotheck. The enthusiastic owner, Peter, greets us and tells me that they carry 100 or so wines from all over Austria. Their goal is to give people a comfortable place to sample a variety of wines from the country whether it’s a well known one or a funky new label. I get to try a very refreshing and crisp Gruner Veltliner (Austria’s most popular white) and a fruity, easy drinking Zweigelt (Austria’s most popular red.) There couldn’t be more of an ideal way to finish this short trip.
Now back to my luxurious floating hotel, Uniworld’s River Princess. One more night and then we reach Budapest.