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January 3rd 2014
Published: January 7th 2014
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St. Anne's ChurchSt. Anne's ChurchSt. Anne's Church

beautiful baroque church- amazing setting for music
Back in the States for almost eleven months, the call to travel was fairly strong within us. Now for reference, we’re living in California wine country, so sympathies may be hard to come by, but nonetheless we are who we are, explorers of this big blue marble.

Each December, we travel back to Ohio where we are both from, to visit family for the holidays. MJ in her infinite wisdom suggested that we extend our time off. Sheer brilliance! A few ideas were batted back and forth, but then Vienna was suggested. Dave will tell you he’s not sure who came up with the idea, but MJ says the idea was his…..and so the planning began.

In preparation for this voyage, we were contemplating the fact that we would be out of the country for New Year’s for the second year in a row. Last New Year’s found us enjoying music and the vibrant people of Cuba, while this week we are exploring the music, rich culture and lovely people of Vienna, Austria. There is always the chance that this could be the start of a grand tradition! Stay tuned….

For some Americans, it is certainly not out of the realm of possibilities that some would think of green rolling hills, classical music, the Sound of Music, or perhaps even Arnold Schwarzenegger when they think of Austria. This barely scrapes the surface of this nation’s contributions to the world.

“I assure you that this is a splendid place, and for my métier the best one in the world.” – Mozart

And so, after traveling for some 12 hours, we found ourselves deposited in front of our hotel for the week, somewhat weary after the flight and the holidays, but giddy to be back in Europe. After a brief nap, we headed down to the desk in search of a recommendation for dinner. This being Sunday night, the choices were most likely not great in our section of town, but we were pleasantly surprised as the front desk immediately gave us a business card and directions to an establishment that offered local cuisine less than a half mile away. When we arrived we discovered this was one of the finer brew houses in Vienna. Specializing in seven home crafted unfiltered beers. This was a perfect recommendation for us! The goulash and the schnitzel
Spanish Riding SchoolSpanish Riding SchoolSpanish Riding School

Beautiful setting and architecture
were wonderful as well. Things were off to a great start, courtesy of the 7 Stern Brau Brew Pub. Later in the week we stopped by the 1516 Brewing Company to sample a beer and a goulash. Comparison shopping, so to speak.

We were ready to get out and explore this grand city and all its glory. As is our custom when visiting large cities, we opted for the hop-on hop-off bus. This is always a great way to get a feel for the city and allows more creative planning, as you get the lay of the land. Given the fact that being in Vienna is comparable to a kid in a candy store, one needs all the practical information you can get your hands on. Our six days may seem like plenty of time, but we knew better. It would never be enough.

The only pre-arranged activity was a concert. After all, if you’re in Vienna and don’t spend at least one night listening to great classical music, why bother to show up in the first place?

An evening at the Imperial Theatre—Vienna’s Royal Orchestra

The more
A coffee that stands upA coffee that stands upA coffee that stands up

Good Vienna coffee
famous venues in Vienna sold out their tickets last February for this week. We were able to obtain tickets to a small intimate venue of 500. What a treat. We were not at all disappointed in the performance. We headed to Beethoven Platz and entered the venue, presented our tickets and were promptly escorted to the front row left. Hang on to your hats, this held some great promise for some great entertainment. We were not disappointed, as the Vienna Royal Orchestra treated us to an evening of Mozart and Strauss. Additionally, a pair of fine opera singers and ballet dancers enlivened the performance and made it a night to remember!

Another evening we purchased tickets at St. Anne’s Church to listen to a string quartet. An extraordinary ensemble delighted our musical world with the marvelous harmonies in classical chamber music. A bit of Hayden, Vivaldi, Mozart, Puccini and Rossini. We sat in the small baroque church on mahogany pews and soaked in the frescos and religious adornments. The acoustics here were amazing. This was one of our favorite evenings. We highly recommend this to those who prefer a more intimate and lovely setting to hear great chamber music.

Sigmund Freud House

New Year’s Eve day found us back out and on the hunt for the office where Sigmund Freud practiced for many years. Fascinating history lesson of the father of psycho-analysis. No, we don’t want to talk about it, or our dreams, thank you.

Incidentally, what would Freud have to say about our insatiable need for travel?

It is a private museum and well done. Evidently Freud was a very private man and allowed few photos to be taken of him over the years. He did allow his personal assistant David Dawson to take many photos the last couple of years he practiced in Vienna. The photos were arranged in a manner so that it gave you a glimpse of his daily life and practice. The audio tour was well done and supplemented by a guidebook if you required more detail. In 1939, Freud saw that he needed to leave his Vienna due to the increasing presence of facsim and the fact that the SS had recently questioned his wife. Sadly, few furnishings remained in the home and office because he took them with him to London, including
Sacher TorteSacher TorteSacher Torte

Demel Cafe - Brutus says "overrated"
the famous couch.

New Year's Eve Bash

Vienna is a town that knows how to throw a New Year's Eve party. They revel in bringing in the new year. The streets are tastefully illuminated with decorative holiday lights and the spirit of the season is easy to imagine while strolling up and down the aged promenades. Around the city there must have been nearly one dozen stages set for a variety of musical venues. The bands start playing around 2pm and continue past midnight. Multiple fireworks displays begin around 1130pm and continue until 1230am. The sky is ablaze with color. We walked from venue to venue listening to music, dancing and singing along with the crowds. Everything from rock, opera, Big Band, classical, 80's and more. More than 800,000 people delighted in the sights and sounds. If you are one of those people who truly enjoy New Year's Eve, book yourself a trip to Vienna.

The quest for the sacher torte

Before our decision to come to Vienna we had never heard of the sacher torte. If you read anything about Vienna in a travel guide or on the internet, you will be introduced to this world renowned slice of confection. It is considered one of Vienna’s most famous culinary specialties by some.

This taste treat was created in 1832 by a young chef apprentice named Franz Sacher at the age of 16 for important guests of Prince Metternich. The dessert was a success and became very famous. Franz’s eldest son Eduard carried on the family tradition and perfected the family recipe. Over the years legal issues arose as the Sacher Hotel and the Demel Bakery both claimed “the original” sacher torte.

The controversy dates back some one hundred years and wasn’t settled until after the Second World War. During a seven-year court battle they fought over the name of the torte, the second layer of jam in the middle of the cake and the use of butter versus margarine. Finally an out of court agreement was made where the Hotel Sacher the rights to the phrase "The Original Sacher Torte" and gave the Demel the rights to decorate its tortes with a triangular seal that reads Eduard-Sacher-Torte.

With all this controversy we decided we needed to sample both for ourselves.
Dave Does ViennaDave Does ViennaDave Does Vienna

Looking sharp

We read multiple reviews of these tortes on line and must say we were unsure we would like it. Many people said it was dry as a dust bowl.

It is a stunning lovely looking dessert and when it arrived at our table we took plenty of photos. It is indeed a dry cake, with an ultra thin layer of apricot glaze, topped with rich dark chocolate.

We sampled it and walked away with the impression that perhaps it is the most overrated dessert in Europe, unless of course you’re into dry cake topped with chocolate, then you have hit the mother lode. It wasn’t bad. Ok, this is not a glowing report. We prefer a moist cake and we would have added a much thicker layer of apricot glaze if we were making it. Sacher torte has a nice flavor but two was enough for us and then we switched to apple strudel in our remaining days.

Spanish Riding School –not so much riding, or otherwise

We were disappointed in the Lippizanner Stallions performance at the emperor’s Baroque riding hall. We recommend you save your money for something else. Dave has seen them on TV and MJ had seen them in person years ago when they were touring the U.S. The riding hall is an amazing piece of architecture and well worth taking it in but overpriced in our opinion. The horses pranced about a bit to classical music but did not put on the kind of performance we were expecting. Perhaps we expected too much, but when one pays 31euros to stand with some obstructed views, you really want to get your money’s worth. Alas, we did not.

Academy of Fine Arts

We had an amazing afternoon enjoying some of the world artistic masters and could have spent a week just taking in some of the most renowned works of the past few centuries. It is always a profound feeling wandering the halls of one of the world’s great art museums. The magnificence of the artwork gives one pause coupled with the grandeur of the building it is displayed in, as it was stunning. Fifty-foot ceilings, marble walls, marble floors, marble columns. One’s mind cannot but wander to another time and place, a different lifestyle.

Quartet at St. Anne'sQuartet at St. Anne'sQuartet at St. Anne's

Extremely talented musicians

Of note was the opportunity to take in the works of a more recent famous artist, Lucien Freud. Grandson of Sigmund, his work was thought provoking and made one wonder more about this intensely private, yet creative mind.

The Belvedere Palace was another venue where we enjoyed the artwork. We preferred the collection at the Academy of Fine Arts but the Palace is a stunning building and the grounds are breath taking.

Coffee House Culture

Vienna is well know for a laid back life among its residence. The Viennese know how to squeeze a bit of enjoyment out of each cup of coffee and are in no hurry to do so. Many sit and linger for hours over coffee, pastry, reading the paper and visiting with friends. Many locals treat these coffee houses as their living room. One would be remiss if visiting Vienna you did not envelope this way of life.

We found each coffee house had a different look and feel. Some are more modern and others are like stepping back in time to the 1900’s with dark stained wood and newspapers at the ready. Many offer music in the afternoons and evenings. We took advantage of that on at least two occasions.

We can provide you recommendations on which ones we liked best if you send us a private message. We went to Café Demel, Café Sacher, Café Landtmann, Café Braunerhof, Café Hawelka, Café Diglas and Café Pruckel. If you are thinking this is a lot of coffee drinking, not to worry. Beer, wine and other libations are available. There are also the desserts, you know.

A weather report – It is winter so we came prepared to wrap in layers plus hat, scarf, and gloves. We’ve had a couple of overcast days, one day of drizzle but the rest of the time we’ve been offered sunny dry days. Most days get up into the mid 40’s and down to the mid 30’s after the sunsets. A couple of days were a bit cooler and winds made it feel colder but all in all warmer that we thought it might be. We made use of public transportation and found it to be quite useful and timely, not to mention it kept us a bit warmer.

Sacher TorteSacher TorteSacher Torte

Sacher Hotel Cafe - Brutus still says "overrated"
cities vie for visitors and with what we have seen, Vienna will never have a problem luring people in. We found it to be easily accessible, charming and quite clean. In our time here we realize we have not scratched the surface and hope to return. It would be easy to spend weeks or months in this grand city and still not see it all. We walked about amazed at the artwork, the music, the people and wondered aloud, what is it about this place that stimulates so much creativity?

Additional photos below
Photos: 40, Displayed: 31


Bands a plentyBands a plenty
Bands a plenty

"Kickin' it" on New Year's Eve
Latte in ViennaLatte in Vienna
Latte in Vienna

they know how to make it an experience
Hot CustardHot Custard
Hot Custard

oh my yummy

7th January 2014

Lovely and sweet
Oh, so good to have you traveling again. I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes traveling places in the winter.;-) It is fun to not be inundated with tour groups and to be able to mingle with the residents. I have a friend who is a music teacher and she described her visit to Vienna as having died and gone to music heaven. Carolyn
7th January 2014

Vienna is indeed music heaven
Hello Carolyn, good to hear from you again. It is so nice traveling to a location off season. Although the city was busy New Years Eve night and didn't really feel off season. What a great time we had. The music was all we had hoped for and more. The music, the pastry, the history and more.
7th January 2014

I'd never heard of sacher torte either, until I read this.
But after your critique I am eager to try it. What would Freud say about that(?)
7th January 2014

Famous torte
People love chocolate no matter what you do to it or with it. It had a good flavor but was too dry for our taste. It is pretty-- they do an excellent job with presentation. I'll be eager to hear what you think when you try it. Marketing, media and reputation can do a great deal for sales.
7th January 2014

Really great blog glad to see you back out there!! Be safe and happy travels!!
7th January 2014

Thank you for taking the time to read & comment
Travel is our love and our passion so it was great to have a little time to explore a new place for us. Vienna is so lovely. A city with relaxed energy.
7th January 2014

Great to Read Your Blog
Ah, it is so good to have you on the road- traveling, writing, seeing, relaxing and living the traveler's life. Even back in culinary school we were told that sacher torte is dry and nothing special. I think you made a wise choice heading towards strudel. I'm sorry to hear that the Lippizanner riding show wasn't what you had hoped. They are amazing animals. Still, it sounds and looks like you had a bang up time. Now comes the fun part of planning your next trip.
7th January 2014

Vienna was a great town
Life is full of little disappointments and the Lippizanner stallions will end up in that category but we are generally very lucky in the events we select. The artwork and music more than made up for the horses. We did have a bang up time.
7th January 2014

I loved your blog! I will certainly be checking out where to get those delicious local beers if I make it back there!
7th January 2014

Returning to Vienna
You are working in a great location to get back to Vienna easily. Let us know if you have any questions. We had a lovely time sampling coffees, wine and those nice brews of the hops variety. Thank you for the tips you provided.
7th January 2014

Hi MJ and Dave So glad you have "done" Vienna now ...well a bit of it ...isn't it wonderful- so much to see and do. Yes I did a Mozart concert too- we stayed in the Museum Quarter so lots of art etc.. and in October we were blessed with amazing warm weather and wore T-shirts most of the time . I agree you can often find concerts in churches ( Florence is a good example of that). And yes the hype sachertorte is a bit OTT. You have given me an idea for what to do at New Year!! 2 weeks for me and I am off again ... will surprise you with my next blog.,,,a clue - I am heading for the sun. Bet you have got itchy feet again...where next for you? Auf wiedersehen, Lynne x
7th January 2014

Over the top torte
Lynne, we are not surprised to hear you'll be on the road again in two weeks. We eagerly await your blog from sunny climes. We hope to travel in the spring and maybe we can see you. We are "thinking" about Ireland, Wales and England. Maybe we can see you. Yes you should consider Vienna for next year. It was joyful. The holiday decorations were wonderful and the city was vibrant.
7th January 2014
Hofburg Palace

Style !!
Love the hat Dave.
7th January 2014
Hofburg Palace

I agree
I think Dave looks good in his hat.
7th January 2014

So glad you're on the move again. LOVE your musings!!!
7th January 2014

Vienna is amazing
It felt good to be on the road again even though it was for a short period of time.
7th January 2014
Quartet at St. Anne's

A Great Squeeze!
Wow, you two consummate travelers really squeezed so much culture and so many treats in that six days--bravo. Gorgeous music in heavenly churches/palaces is one of my fave things in the world, and your fireworks/music was the best I've ever New Year's Eve. Thanks for the culture hit!
7th January 2014
Quartet at St. Anne's

A culture hit
Vienna does make it easy to feel like you've taken a big sip of culture. The churches are amazing, the artwork, the music, the foods and the people are all worth a visit.
7th January 2014

Traveling over Christmas and New Years...
that's what Linda and I did for the 13 years before the kids came along. It looks like Vienna was an ideal choice for you...now the challenge is to maintain that high bar. Going for the strudel was a good choice...so was the beer!
7th January 2014

Beer and strudel
Always a good choice! Yes having children could change some of your travel habits but your kids grew up traveling so I'm not sure they held you back too much. You gave them some wonderful experiences.
7th January 2014

Thank You For Vienna
Loved your most recent post - love ALL of your posts - aside from the remarkable photos and text; I am so impressed with your bolded centered subtitles and "wraps!" I've got to work on my blog presentations. Thanks for the great review!
7th January 2014

Hey Joanne
Good to hear from you again. If you have not been to Vienna you should consider it. A lovely city and so easy to get around. Formatting makes it easier for someone to pick and choose what they want to read in a blog. I assume few people read the entire entry-- especially one that was this long. We love your blogs and look forward to reading more.
7th January 2014

Liked your latest blog again guys, good to see you back travelling again. I forget how important location plays in this travelling business, I was reading your Cuba blogs the other day and very jealous that for me to get there from the UK costs a proverbial arm and leg while you were relatively close, but forget that for me Vienna is 'down the road' whereas for you guys its a fair old trek! I also liked your take on Sigmund Freud and interesting to hear he didn't like his photo taken, it made me wonder what he would of made of a person who stated the same. Hope you get away again soon
7th January 2014

Time and Distance
You are right our flight to Cuba from Miami was less than two hours. The trek to Vienna was much longer than we wanted and our connections were not great because we planned the trip sort of last minute. I'm not sure how good Freud was good at looking in the mirror and evaluating his behavior. We hope to get away again soon. Keeping our fingers crossed.
7th January 2014

Another Vienna
I really like how we shared similar experiences in Vienna, but many were different. Since it is so close when I went, I get a feeling of experiencing what you did myself. Looks like you had a few sunny days; I didn't see the sun until I was leaving. I loved your experience with the orchestra - what a great idea and very "Vienna"! And the National Library looks amazing!!! I agree with the above: I need to work on my blog presentations from now on!
7th January 2014

We experienced your Vienna
Your blogs were the outline for us and we really found your information useful and valuable. Our trip would not have been what it was without you. We were lucky with the weather. We did have some sunshine. The music scene in Vienna is fantastic. We enjoyed it at the Imperial Theatre, in St. Anne's church and a couple of coffee houses. All different experiences but fantastic.
7th January 2014

Oh Vienna...
What a fabulous short break you have had! I had a day in Vienna about 16 years ago and recall eating the famous Sachertorte and like you was unimpressed. I seem to think that there was a lot of cream involved to counteract the dryness. The music sounds wonderful, what a treat!
7th January 2014

Sacher torte
Some places did serve it with whipped cream and that was nice. The music was great.
8th January 2014

Sacher Torte let down...
Sorry MJ and Dave, I think I might have been guilty of contributing to the 'hype' of the torte. I LOVED the torte the first time I had it - worked perfectly with a strong coffee. But haven't been able to find another one I liked. Now I know why :)
8th January 2014

No worries Ren
You mentioned it to me but I'm not sure you hyped it. It was flavorful but dry. In our reading there were many who went on and on about how wonderful it was and then there were critics who mentioned the dryness. I'm with them....my preference is a moist and gooey cake. I did like the whipped cream they served with it because it was not overly sweet. I liked that a lot. I think they could get me more interested if they added a bit of milk for moisture and put in a thick layer of apricot jam instead of the incredibly thin one. I'm just saying....
8th January 2014

Wein, Wein, nur du allein
Your letter was extraordinary!! Over the years Harry and I did almost everything you did and then some in this wonderful city. We did get tickets for Wagner at the Staatsoper with Herbert van Karajan, a high point of our opera lives. Your colorful descriptions are so much fun that I am saving your email to read again, and also think about how I can get over there again! Welcome to Santa Rosa. Gehts gut. Phyllis
8th January 2014

Vienna is amazing
We should have taken you with us. An amazing city. I'm sure we will go back some day. It is a city that makes you want to be more creative and accomplished.
8th January 2014
So many wines

You've shrunk!
Look at you, gorgeous! I'm jealous. Vienna is truly fascinating even if I agree the sacher torte is overrated. But I did like their liquored coffee there in Hotel Sacher. On your "lust" for travel, I too wonder what S. Freud would say. Take the sofa!
8th January 2014
So many wines

Taking the sofa
Certainly Freud would have diagnosed us with an obsessive or compulsive neurosis. I supposed we would proudly wear that diagnosis and then wander off to some other wonderful land to explore. Not remembering enough about my Freud I'm certain he saw obsessions as pleasure seeking behaviors.
8th January 2014
So many wines

Taking the sofa
Certainly Freud would have diagnosed us with an obsessive or compulsive neurosis. I supposed we would proudly wear that diagnosis and then wander off to some other wonderful land to explore. Not remembering enough about my Freud I'm certain he saw obsessions as pleasure seeking behaviors.
9th January 2014
Quartet at St. Anne's

Vienna - classical music heaven!
So glad you managed to see a musical performance or two whilst in the city - music seems to seep from almost every building. I attended a church service featuring the Vienna Boy's Choir and an opera during my time there 21 years ago. I'm very overdue for a return visit!
9th January 2014
Quartet at St. Anne's

Classical music abounds
We enjoyed ourselves immensely because of all the music available. Music tells so much about the local people and Vienna is a very special place. The Vienna Boys Choir was not performing while we were there so maybe next time. Twenty one years is a lifetime so it sounds like you are due to go back.
9th January 2014

Great trip!
Hello Dave and MJ. Just wanted to drop you a line to let you know how much my folks and I enjoyed meeting you. What a fun time. Hope you can make it back during the summer so we can have a good BBQ and sample a few home brews. Your trip looks fantastic from all the pictures and the vivid write up. Reading it makes it seem like you where there for weeks on end. Travel on!
9th January 2014

Great meeting you
We felt so comfortable with you and yes we look forward to the next time. Brews and BBQ sounds great. Wish we had been there for weeks on end. There is so much to see and to do.
10th January 2014

Truth in Traveling!
Great blog and good to hear you had an excellent trip! Thanks for the honest reviews on things that didn't quite live up to their hype. Too many times travelers don't always tell what they honestly think. Thanks for sharing a great way to end (and start) a year!
10th January 2014

Honest blogs
We are generally pretty lucky in our choices and most of our blogs are optimistic and positive. But an honest critique is appreciated by most people we think. I remember once we had a horrible train ride through Vietnam and a friend thanks us for the honesty as they thought we only wrote about the positive things in our travels. We generally write about both but have been lucky in that the good far out weighs the bad. We do find it is an art to describe something you found less than expected rather than trashing it. It was a great way to finish and start a new year.
13th January 2014

I think Vienna is definitely on my bucket list now after reading your blog!
13th January 2014

Vienna waits for you
It is an amazing city and you won't regret visiting there.
14th January 2014

Great post
Thanks guys, your comprehensive post brings back so many memories of one of the world's great cities. And you got to see some concerts too, I'm jealous! Thanks for sharing.
14th January 2014

An amazing city
We are music lovers and this city was just right for us. Love keeping up with your travels also.
22nd January 2014

Our daughter's middle name...evoking images of waltzes, hills alive with the sounds of music, fine things. Really neat destination for your New Years Eve bash...rock on!
23rd January 2014

Rocking on
We are always on a quest for music. Vienna was a lovely experience. We'd love to spend more time there. Hope to meet your daughter some day.
16th February 2014

Hello guys. So you didn't make it to Bratislava...? :-)
18th February 2014

Hello Elton
No, we didn't. We loved Vienna so much we could not pull ourselves away. We intend to go back! Looks like we will have a month in Ireland starting in early March. Can't wait to get back on the road again. Hopefully you will follow us and get our blogs. Take care and please keep in touch.

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