Cafe Sacher – Vienna

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When in Vienna, you’re told to visit Cafe Sacher at the Hotel Sacher. Hotel Sacher is a 5 star hotel and is next to the Vienna State Opera. Luckily, it’s also open on Christmas Day, so a perfect place to visit since basically nothing is open that day. The hotel was founded in 1876 and is known to be one of the best hotels in the world, especially known to be the place where the upper class stayed.

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The inside of the cafe makes you feel like royalty, with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, comfy couches, and paintings hung all around. Red velvet is everywhere in the room. Your servers are also dressed in maid outfits, so you can really believe that you’re a royalty at that moment.

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So what’s so special about Cafe Sacher, other than the royal decor? The Sachertorte! It’s a type of chocolate cake that was invented by Franz Sacher for the Prince. Cafe Sacher is famous because this Sachertorte was first served here. It’s known to be the Original Sacher Torte. This cake has basically become a significant icon in culinary for Vienna. You’ll find various variations of this sacher torte at many other places in Vienna. The menu also has other items, including actual entrees, but obviously people come here for the cake! I thought it was funny how the menu came on this little handle too.

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We were here basically for breakfast, so we got some hot drinks to begin. Yes, we eat dessert for breakfast! K had the Cappuccino, while I chose the Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream. K said her Cappuccino was very good, but not amazing or the best she’s had. For myself, I found the Hot Chocolate to be too milky. It wasn’t strong in chocolate, and instead had an almond milk flavour to it. It was okay, but I probably wouldn’t pay that price for it. What’s interesting is that your drinks will also come with a small glass of water. I guess you’re supposed to cleanse your mouth and such? I have no idea…

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And then came the famous Original Sacher Torte. You will see the chocolate seal stating it’s from Hotel Sacher on your cake. I should have gotten a side view of the cake, but it’s essentially a chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam. The top is coated with dark chocolate icing and is served with a portion of unsweetened whipped cream. To be brutally honest, I think this cake is way overrated. It was good, but I don’t think it was amazing and it wouldn’t be something I would crave to eat. I agree it was pretty moist, but I’ve had chocolate cakes that are much more moist. I found it rather dense, and there was a strange chocolate taste to it. Perhaps it was the apricot filling, but I didn’t really enjoy that taste. The icing is also sort of hard, which I didn’t like. I honestly think that it’s just too expensive for what is is. I can now say I’ve tried the original recipe for the Sacher Torte, but I doubt I would visit again.

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We also tried the Viennese Apple Strudel, because Vienna is also famous for their apple strudels! Man… I really wanted to take that apple strudel class for kids at the Schonnbrun Palace… Anyways, this was again just average. It wasn’t bad, but for what I paid for, I could be having some really good strudel. It had an abundant of apples, but the whip cream cost extra. Seriously… it’s just whip cream.

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And here was my breakfast. Definitely an expensive breakfast. To add on, you have to pay I believe 1 euro for your coat check, and they sort of FORCE you to coat check. They set the temperature really high in the room, and advise you it’ll be warm inside. And obviously, when you dine at these fancy places, you’re pretty much obligated to pay a decent tip. But seriously, the maids here who serve give the worst attitude ever. If you don’t want to serve people, why do you even work here? Perhaps we didn’t dress like aristocrats, hence the poor service, but I don’t believe there should ever be a reason like that. People here need to be trained about what good customer service is.

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Pizzeria Venezia – Venice

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Vienna for me again! It’s sort of weird going back to these places within the same month, but at the same time, it’s almost like you know the place so well now. Anyways, we took a train to Vienna this time, which obviously cost more than a bus, but was much more comfortable and time-saving. Flying in and out of Vienna is just way too expensive! Anyways, you take a train from the Keleti station in Budapest, and you arrive at Westbahnhof in Vienna in less than 3 hours. I would suggest to pay a bit more to get assigned seats, since many tourists seemed confused when they bought cheaper tickets without seats. You basically have to look around for empty seats, although their train system is super high tech, and you can tell where people are getting off for each seat! Anyways, we didn’t even bother dropping off our bags and headed to the Schonbrunn Palace. It was Christmas Eve and the last day for the market! I got the Baked Potato with Ham and Cheese, and it was so delicious! Tons of sour cream, and the potatoes were so soft! We then took our bags and arrived at Meininger Hotel, which is really a hostel. It was super clean though, and we found many families staying here. It’s bunk bed style, but we had our own private washroom. Our location was the one in Downtown Franz, so I did find that it was not as convenient as the previous hostel I stayed at, but definitely much cleaner. I believe they also have another location that is more central.

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Our Vienna trip was pretty much similar to my previous one, as I just took my family around to see those must-see tourist spots. You can read about it here: Traveling in Vienna. The only exception was visiting the Mozarthaus, which K was pretty excited about since she’s a piano player. I, on the other hand didn’t really know what was going on, but we got a pretty good family deal somehow. Be sure to ask about it if you’re in a group! I don’t have a picture of the house, but it’s where Mozart stayed from 1784 to 1787 and is the only Viennese residence left today. You basically get an audio guide and just click on the numbers as you walk through the rooms. You’ll hear tons of music and understand a bit more about Mozart’s life. Worth it if you’re a Mozart fan. In the afternoon, we walked around the Christmas markets, before they closed for the holidays. You need to be careful when coming around Christmas time, as everything basically begins to shut down. We ended up strolling around the streets near Stephenplatz and ended up at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. They had lights shining against the building and they were having some sort of mass for Christmas Eve.

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On Christmas Eve, basically everything is closed, including restaurants. We had Tripadvisored some restaurants, and in the end, found them to be closed. We wandered the streets of Stephenplatz and finally came across Pizzeria Venezia. We were starving and it was going to be Italian food or McDonalds. McDonalds for Christmas Eve dinner? Nope. Pizzeria Venezia it was. The restaurant was actually packed since it was probably the only few restaurants open and tourists were just piling in. The lower level is for smoking, and the upper level is smoke free. A got the Seafood Linguine which she said was really good. A light olive oil sauce and tons of seafood.

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K and I shared two dishes. First, we had the Black and White Seafood Risotto. This was actually really good! The black risotto was squid ink  based, while the white risotto was a creamy Parmesan. Both sides had an abundant of cuttlefish, so definitely lots of chewiness and texture going on.

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Our second dish was the Schnitzel. Probably not something they’re famous for here since it’s Italian food, but I wanted to try some Viennese Schnitzels! It wasn’t too bad actually, with a thin layer of coating and the pork being tender. A huge portion, but I did find myself feeling like I was eating fast food, since it was a lot of deep fried food on my dish.

Overall, I wouldn’t suggest going to Pizzeria Venezia if the other restaurants are open and you have other choices. It’s average Italian food, but nothing too special. Service was also a bit slow for us.

Traveling in Vienna – Christmas Markets and Palaces

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From Prague to Vienna, we took a bus called Student Agency that took around 5 hours. Flying in and out of  Vienna is extremely pricey, so it seems that most travelers on a budget commute by bus. Student Agency was the cheapest bus out there and it was also one of the best bus I’ve been on! They had tons of movies to watch, free wi-fi, and even a cup of complimentary hot chocolate or coffee. Our bus did require us to switch to a different bus when we got to Brno, a city in Czech. The next bus wasn’t as fancy, but it was only another 1-2 hours, so we just slept it off. After dinner with K’s friends that night, they took us to the Vienna Christmas Market. Once again, there are multiple markets all around the city, but the most significant one is at Rathausplatz. It’s also where Vienna’s Town Hall is located. A gorgeous building both in the day and night. Here, the parks are decorated with lights and I feel like it was the nicest market I visited during my trip in Europe.

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You’ll find that Mulled Wine or “Gluwein” stalls all over the market. It’s super popular in Vienna and they have a huge variety of flavours for their punches too.

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I went for the original Gluwein, but I didn’t like it as much as my friends’ flavoured punches. The fruitier ones tasted much better. You pay a deposit and get it in a nice mug which you can keep if you don’t want your deposit back. Otherwise, just return your mug and you can get your deposit back. Other than drinks, there were a variety of food and arts and crafts.

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The next day, we went to tackle all the major tourist sites. However, one of our friends were a huge Sigmund Freud fan since she took a few psychology classes, so we ended up going to the Sigmund Freud Museum first. He’s basically the founder of psychoanalysis, and although I didn’t know much about him, the museum was pretty interesting. You get an audio player to listen to while walking around the museum. Freud had lived there, but there really isn’t much of his furniture left now and it really looks more like a museum. I would advise people who are into psychology and such to visit if they have time. It takes around 2 hours. Then we began to hit up the typical tourist spots. Here is the Austrian Parliament Building, which is huge and spectacular! basically around this area, you’ll find a bunch of other important buildings. We had a look at the Museumsquartier, where there’s a bunch of modern art museums.

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Then we came to Hofburg Palace, which used to house the Hasburg dynasty and rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, it’s where President of Austria lives. The only problem was that by the time we got here, it started to snow! And quite heavily too! It was our first snowfall in Europe, but seriously, we just wanted to hide indoors. We weren’t dressed for this weather!

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It took us forever to find food! Most places were packed with people since everyone wanted to wait for the snow to stop. We finally found this tiny mall on Mariahilfer Strasse called Gerngross. Inside, we found this restaurant called Brandauer with reasonably priced food. We found a seat and warmed up. I got the Ribs with Fries and they were so good! I felt like I was back in America eating that greasy food. It wasn’t even that greasy. Each rib had tons of meat on it too and it was roasted to perfection. It came with two dips too, which were perfect for the wedge-cut fries. After lunch, the snow stopped and we went to Karlsplatz, which is a square where the Karlskirche (St. Charles’ Church) is located. Also a must see!

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After that, we met up with K’s friends again, and they took us to see the  Belvedere Palace. Again, it’s a Baroque style palace  and was built for Prince Eugene of Savoy. Today, it’s a museum with art from the Middle Ages to today. K went in to see the collection, but the rest of us weren’t too into art, so we ended up taking a look at the Christmas Market which was just outside the building. It was a much smaller scale market, and I wouldn’t come here just for the market. The palace was really pretty at night though! The girls and I also ended up heading to the Schonbrunn Palace since it was our last night. It’s the former imperial summer residence and is known as one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria. However, we didn’t find that the Schonbrunn Palace looked as nice as the Belvedere! It was a bit more simple compared to the Belvedere. We didn’t pay to go inside, but there was again another Christmas Market! This one was much larger than Belvedere and had quite a lot of food. Not bad!

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We then met back up with the rest of the group, and they took us to Vapiano. It’s actually a German restaurant chain, but the largest restaurant is in Vienna! It’s a self-serve restaurant with Italian food like pasta and pizza. They make the food when you order which is really cool. I wish I took a picture of it. So what happens is when you walk in, they give you a little card. You find your own seat, then you go ahead and walk up to to kitchen to line up. There’s a pizza line and a pasta line. When it’s your turn, you scan your card on this machine and tell the chef what type of pasta you want, what sauce, and whether you want other toppings. Then the chef literally starts to cook it in front of you! Pasta doesn’t take long to cook, so you have your food ready in less than 5 minutes! You can add on drinks or other sides. Here, I got the Pesto Penne, which was quite delicious! Affordable pricing, and the quality wasn’t bad. They claim to have fresh pasta and such. I don’t think it’s the best pasta I’ve had, but definitely pretty good for what you pay. When you leave, you just give the cashier your card, and it’ll show how much you need to pay! Definitely a cool concept and the interior doesn’t even feel like a cafeteria! It looks pretty upscale!

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At night, K went out to party with his friends. The girls and I wanted to have an easy night and we headed back to our hostel. We stayed at Hostel Ruthensteiner. It wasn’t our first choice and wasn’t exactly the cheapest, but everything else was booked up during that time! Always book early! Anyways, the hostel was fine and service was friendly. Definitely wasn’t the nicest one we’ve stayed at and it was also our first time where we had to share a bathroom with the rest of the floor. It’s fine when you’re the first one up in the morning, but once it’s the evening, the bathroom is a mess… Well we survived, and honestly I can say, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. Also at our hostel had a mini bar where many students and travelers hung out. The girls and I went to the bar and got some Punch! It was much cheaper than the market, and we actually thought it tasted better! And that ended our night. The next day, we would begin our adventure to Budapest!

Freiraum – Vienna

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Next stop was Vienna! K had friends on exchange here, so they took us to Freiraum. It’s a very casual bar/ restaurant on a busy street called Mariahilfer Straße. Pretty noisy too but the atmosphere is fun. For non-smokers, it’s good to keep in mind that in Vienna, you’re allowed to smoke inside restaurants, although they have designated areas. Even though there’s a non-smoking area, the smoke really just travels over. The restaurant was packed, so we ended up sitting in the smoking area. Not ideal, but being in Europe for so long, I’ve sort of gotten used to the smell.

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Zwettler Beer

We ordered the Zwettler Beer since apparently it’s the most common Austrian beer. For some reason, I think the server heard us wrong, and he brought us a variation of the typical Zwettler beer. It had a taste of lemon and wasn’t very fizzy. It didn’t even taste like beer…

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Freiraum Schmarren

I was way too hungry to wait for dinner, so I had ate some kebabs before arriving at dinner. So instead of having an entree, I ended up going for an Austrian dessert. On the menu, it’s called a kipferlschmarren. I think it’s more often known as the Kaiserschmarren or just the Schmarrn. Schmarrn means shredded pancake and Kaiser is named after one of the Austrian emperors who enjoyed this pancake. Basically they were pieces of fluffy pancake mixed with caramelized walnuts and apples. It was topped with a bit of icing sugar and came with a side of homemade applesauce. I actually really enjoyed this! No need to fuss with cutting up the pancake into smaller pieces and the toppings worked really well together. It didn’t taste too sweet, which can happen with maple syrup. It’s a very common dessert in Austria, so I recommend trying this!