Saturday, May 15, 2010

Queuing for Wienerschnitzel

The day starts early as I venture out before 7 to photograph the streets before the city awakens. The quietness of the parks and alleys is wonderful at this time of day and it is only after taking the photography workshops at Yosemite that I have learned the best part of the day for taking photos is before 8am. Ray and I walk for miles toward the museum quarter and I spend a lot of time gazing at wrought iron balconies as they are so picturesque. On the way back, we happen to find ourselves in the middle of the Nascharkt along Wienzeile Street, the old open air market filled with food stalls, bakeries, and fruit and vegetable stands - just starting to open for a busy Saturday. The fresh fruit and vegetables are so brightly colored and so fresh, rolls at the bakery are soft and crusty. I see sauerkraut in wooden barrels and so many kinds of pickles. This is my favorite part of exploring a city and we buy fresh rolls to eat with our hotel breakfast. Later in the morning, we go back to gather a picnic lunch of bread, meat and cheese for our Shonbrunne Palace outing.

Our day is spent at Schonbrunn, the summer palace of the Habsburg family, a smaller scale Versailles and said to be one of the finest palaces in Europe with 1,441 rooms. Riding the subway out, we had a chance to see where local residents live. This is always one of my favorite part of traveling-venturing out to the nontourist neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the hotel receptionist was incorrect in telling us we did not need a reservation to visit and our tickets indicate a 3 hour wait until we can enter. After wandering through the gardens and having our picnic lunch on one of the park benches, we hike up to the Gloriette, a monument celebrating an Austrian military victory, high on the hill that overlooks Vienna, the palace and gardens. With more time to kill, we sit in the great hall and watch groups pass, trying to guess their nationality. Finally, at 3pm, we are permitted to enter. The palace, as expected was opulent and the audioguides provide a nice quick lesson in Austrian history. We learn that the interior was decorated by Maria Theresa, who had 11 children, and only one daughter, the her favorite was permitted to marry for love, the others all were married off to insure greater power for the Habsburg family.

Good Wienerschnitzel(breaded veal cutlet) is worth the wait and standing in line develops comaraderie among fellow travelers. For the second night in a row, we stand in line outside Figlmuller on Wollzeile St., a highly rated and very reasonably priced restaurant specializing in Wienerschnitzel. Last night, we stood in line for over an hour only to find that the line had hardly moved at all and even people with reservations were waiting for tables. "Come back before 6", the waiter had advised and so we did, only to find another long line. Jen decides to go to their second location around the corner and her strategy is for us to be in line in both places. We meet 2 girls from Toronto in line and they tell us the wienerschnitzel is so good it is addictive-this was their 4th time there! A phone call from Jen makes us all realize that it is much faster getting a table over there. Our success in getting a table set off a chain of activity. Others join forces and begin working in groups to stand at both locations, pairing up with other strangers to maximize their chances of getting in. How funny is that! As we are seated at our table, we watch the remaining people in line come in and see their joy in being seated. Oh, was it worth the wait! The waiter brings out wafer thin pieces of lightly browned veal, larger than the plates they sit on, a full kilo per person, and hammered thin to be so tender. It is a dinner to remember! Our advice to others - go to the second location on Backerstrasse, you will get in less than half the amount of time.

In our quest for Wienerschnitzel, we missed getting standing room tickets for the opera Carmen but spend some time viewing it on an outdoor screen through a live feed. A group of die hard fans stand under umbrellas watching the opera on this cold, windy and wet night. Jen decides to join them later in the evening and meets a Korean student hitchhiking across Europe. Funny how the music that floats out of the halls at night creates the ambience that in our minds we imagine is Vienna!


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