Thursday, September 13, 2007
Vienna, then our Czech-ered visit to Prague
We've not had really consistent internet access since we left Vienna, so thus the two-city summary post.
We departed Venice one evening, and arrived in Vienna the next morning - just like magic! OK, not that glamorous, but it was pretty easy to catch the night train between the cities. It was even more comfortable than I'd thought. Hank is standing here in front of the beds, and the other side of the compartment is literally inches from his back. It had a small area with some storage cubbies and our own private sink - natch. Sadly the weather had worsened by the time we arrived in Vienna, so we wound up having to purchase umbrellas, coats, and extra long sleeved shirts & pants just to avoid freezing to death. (OK, maybe it wasn't that cold, but it was pretty nasty when we'd packed expecting a continued European heat wave!!)
We started out the tour by visiting the palace & royal apartments, the museum of Empress "Sisi", and a few other areas. I have to say that I was MOST impressed with their display of baking dishes & accessories as soon as you walked into the royal china & silver museum -- that's a serious dedication to a love of baking!! (Molly, we thought of you all throughout the china displays... you'd have gone nuts.) We even managed to have a small patch of good weather during our walking tour of downtown Vienna, which was a nice treat.
However, the highlight of Vienna has to be visiting the cafes. I've heard of Viennoiserie and Viennese-style cakes before, and I even have an Austrian baking cookbook, but I've rarely had the opportunity to taste traditional Viennese pasteries. We first found a really lovely cafe called Demel where they had a viewing area to watch the pastry chefs rolling out strudel dough and pulling fresh cakes out of the ovens. The cakes themselves were just delights to see, not to mention utterly delicious to taste! There's a hotel called the Sacher Hotel where the Sacher Torte was invented. I'd had versions of Sacher Tortes before (chocolate cake with apricot jam, covered in thick chocolate ganache), but I never really liked them. Annie convinced me via IM that I really needed to try it once again, just to try it in its original form... I am so glad she did! It was awesome - really a moist and chocolatey cake (ones in the past had been pretty dry). Hank wasn't much of a fan, but he didn't leave any left for me to steal, so I can't think he disliked it that much.
Sadly the way things worked out was that our 3rd day in Vienna was a Sunday, and in Europe nothing is open on Sundays, really. So we chose that as a day to travel to Prague, having heard such great things about the city. On looking back on our visit, Prague I think had the most mixed feelings - it was an incredibly stunning city, but we had a bunch of crappy things happen.
When we arrived at the Prague train station, the cabbie who took our baggage into his questionably-driven car was immediately flagged down by a guy screaming at him and a police officer in tow. Wanting to avoid that situation entirely, we caught a different ride. The hotel we finally made it to was alright, a few hitches there (incompetent IT people who never fixed the wifi, bad desk service giving misleading information). Funny enough there was a really killer mexican restaurant 2 minutes away - something both Hank and I have been craving while living in the UK. (Apparently there are like 6 mexican restaurants in Prague, and I could only think of 2 in all of London, neither of which were all that great.)
We mostly just walked around beautiful old town Prague to look at different buildings, as well as did a tour of Prague Castle, but we also had a really fab walking tour giving the highlights of the city, and a fabulously bad driving tour out to a couple of smaller sites in C.R. The sites at which we stopped, a castle I can't recall the name of (at least until I pull the photos off my camera) and a city called Ceský Krumlov were themselves great stops. The castle had amazing carved walnut walls & ceilings, beautiful pictures and original furniture from the late 18th and 19th centuries. The city, Ceský Krumlov (photos to be posted soon, I swear) was stunningly beautiful - huge arches and a castle carved into the massive granite faces of the surrounding hills. However, we were only allowed to get out of the cramped van to spend about 45 minutes in each of these places. I've decided that a tour guide that points out advertisements on the side of the road, and tells you which the "agricultural minstry" building is is really worse than having no tour guide at all. But we've taken a collective deep breath from the mishaps, loved the non-crappy times we did have, and are now in Berlin.
Phew, ok, I think that's it. I've messed up my knee a bit, so am currently taking advantage of being forced to sit in one spot for a few minutes to be able to write this. Hopefully it'll get better tomorrow so we can check out some Berlin spots, and I can practice my newly learned skill of being able to count to 10 in German. Woo!!
Posted by Danielle at 9:52 AM