Vienna may be variously termed the City of Music, the City of Dreams or the City of Waltz, but it most definitely merits the title of City of Fabulous Food and coffees. In a short visit one can only touch the surface of the restaurant, cafe and coffeehouse scene but I certainly got a taste, so to speak, of the overall food scene, and I did not have a single bad dining experience.
The IAEA Ball at the Hofburg Palace was a larger and seemingly more formal affair than the Johann Strauss Ball of the previous Saturday. Because of the International nature of the sponsoring committee there was an amazing array of different national dress to be seen, as well as exquisite gowns worn by so many of the guests.The men all looked so elegant and handsome in their dark suits and tuxedoes. This time there were no ticket mishaps or funny stories so this post will mainly feature pictures from the ball.
Vienna is known as the city of grand balls, with more than 450 balls taking place annually, providing more than 2000 hours of dancing. The Carnival season in Vienna is filled with more than 150 large formal balls and hundreds of smaller dances that are held from before New Year till Lent. The 2013/14 ball season opened with the Vienna Red Cross Ball held at the City Hall in November. On New Year’s Eve, Le Grand Bal at the Hofburg Palace brought in the New Year.
During the week that I was in Vienna, I could have gone to four balls including the Coffee-House Owners Ball and the Russian Ball. I opted for two on the first and last Saturday nights of my stay - the Johann Strauss Ball at the Vienna Kursalon and the IAEA Ball at the Hofburg Palace.
After classes at the Tanzschule, four of us took a walk to find a nearby place for lunch. We found a table at the Gustl-Bauer Wirsthaus. In my quest to understand the many terms used here for restaurant, I found that Wirsthaus like Wirstschaft means inn.
Anyway I was interested to see that they offered gravlax - home made pickled salmon served with mustard sauce and pickled onions so I could not resist trying it. Delicious though a bit too salty for me.
Situated where the Vienna Ring Boulevard touches the City Park, the Kursalon Wien was built in Italian Renaissance style between 1865 and 1867 and is quite beautiful. The first concert featuring Johann Strauss compositions took place in 1868. The Kursalon has four ballrooms located on two floors and a terrace with views out over the greenery of the City Park. The Strauss, Lehar and Schubert Halls are on the first floor while the Lanner Hall, upstairs on the second floor, is the in-house concert hall.
For the Johann Strauss Ball the three first floor ballrooms were interconnected, with tables for the pre-ball dinner set up in both the side halls and the periphery of the centre hall. In the main centre ballroom the orchestra playing mainly Viennese waltzes, waltzes and the occasional polka, alternated with the band playing more Latin and swing music.
Restaurant Koenig von Ungarn, im Mozarthaus, Schulerstrasse 10
For our last evening in Vienna we chose to have supper just up the road from our hotel, at the Restaurant Koenig von Ungarn. It was located right near the building where Mozart lived for three years from 1784 to 1787 during which time he wrote Le Nozze di Figaro.
For starters we respectively chose the Erdapfelsuppen (creamof potato soup) and the Pflücksalate (green salad with fried sheep's cheese).
As I was going through my photographs of chocolates, pastries and street food from my Vienna visit, it struck me how I am always more drawn to savory delicacies than sweet. To the bemusement of my friends and family, I always choose charcuterie over chocolate or appetizers over dessert. Easily distracted from the task at hand, uploading photos to my posts, I wondered how contemporary knowledge about taste and taste preferences has advanced from the basic information I learned in first year physiology eons ago. We were taught that there were four primary taste senses - sweet, sour, salt and bitter, and that the distribution of taste reception in the tongue was bitter at the back, salt and sour along the sides and sweet at the tip. My first idle foray via Google into the matter of taste introduced me to the fifth taste sense, umami - and got me sidetracked into reading about the genetics of taste. Hmmm.. maybe I can finally understand my gustatory peculiarities. It's not me that hates cilantro and olives, and loves prosciutto and salamis - it's my genes.
Here follows some of my non-restaurant focused food experiences in Vienna.
Axel and Sandra, our Viennese host dance teachers for the Waltz Week in Vienna group, arranged for a group dinner at one of the Plachutta restaurants. Plachutta Hietzing, near the Schonbrun Palace, was the original Plachutta restaurant in Vienna. The Plachutta restaurants are synonymous with boiled beef and this was my first opportunity to try boiled beef or Tafelspitz.
Der Besuch der Alten Damen (The Visit of the Old Lady): Das Musical
Based on the play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Book by Christian Struppeck
Music by Moritz Schneider and Michael Read
Lyrics by Wolfgang Hofer
Director Andreas Gergen
Choreography by Simon Eichenberger
Wanting to experience local theatre, I was concerned that the language barrier might be a problem but thought it would be less so for a musical. As it turned out at the Ronacher the production had English surtitles but even without these translations, this production woud have blown me away. I had seen a production of Swiss playwright Friederich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 play Der Besuch der Alten Damen years ago and been struck by the power of the story. Add a new powerful music score, sharp choreography danced with impeccable precision by the ensemble, some lyrical songs with powerful acting, and the impact of the story is magnified many times over.