On the hunt for good food in Vienna

Today I’ll be setting off from Vienna and heading to the other capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – Budapest. I’ve been before and enjoyed it, but this time I’m going to do the full ‘young traveller’ experience and stay in a hostel. I’m not completely sold on the idea, but hopefully I’ll be able to meet some new people, make some traveller friends, insert stereotype here etc.

But first, I must debrief you on Vienna. I’ll pick up where I left off, which is at the Pakistani restaurant. Terri and I headed out into the evening breeze to fill our stomachs with food – it’s all you can eat, you see, and as a Brit with a passion for good grub I take this very seriously.

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Der Wiener Deewan is run by Pakistanis, but not for Pakistanis. Most of the clientele were white students/hipsters, which is in some sense explained by its unique pricing policy – you just ‘pay what you feel like’ (so long as it’s a minimum of 5 euros, which is a bit of a contradiction in terms but hey). So if you’re a student and you want to fill up on the cheap then this is a good way to do it.

I also noticed there was a white British woman in a salwar kameez. No, it wasn’t me. This seriously angered me because there’s cultural appropriation (which is bad enough), then there’s actually pretending to be Pakistani, which is on a whole other level. I wonder if she’d ever been? Probably not.

Blood-boiling other customers aside, we went up to the buffet to get our food. Perhaps I was just hangry, but it’s quite a serious issue, so maybe not. The buffet had three vegetarian dishes available, two meat, plus some rice. BUT NO NAAN. Or roti or chapattis available. As everyone who knows me knows, I bloody love bread, especially naan. I’ll eat that stuff by itself all day, every day. To find that there was none at a Pakistani restaurant was akin to losing a limb. However, there were some nice chickpeas:

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Chana daal. Slightly cold, but still delicious. The potato and pea curry was nice, too.

I mean, it wasn’t a patch on Anaab’s food, but I still went up for seconds. None of it was very spicy, so sadly I didn’t get to show off my vastly improved spice tolerance (which is mainly down to Anaab and Mohammed for laughing at me).

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Can’t talk right now, got a face full of food.

While the food was quite tasty, there was a lot of room for improvement. For 7 Euros a pop, though, I’d gladly go again. Apparently they rotate the menu and do other things, but they NEED TO ADD NAAN.

We strolled along the Danube to get rid of the bloated feeling before heading to bed. Nightclubs and bars line the river, but I didn’t once feel like there was a dangerous or dodgy vibe – though I was terrified the tipsy punters sitting on the edge of the canal would fall in. That’s what I like about continental Europe – people actually understand how to have a good time without getting totally wasted.

It was easy like a Sunday morning the next day, so we didn’t leave the flat until about midday. First stop was Karlsplatz, which has a nice baroque church for a centrepiece.

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Much church, very Jesus, wow.

Of greater interest to me was the Wien museum, which currently has an exhibition on about Otto Wagner, the architect largely responsible for modernist Vienna. Plus, as it was the first Sunday of the month, it was free to enter – yay! Terri and I admired detailed drawings and lovingly made up models of his buildings, many of which were sadly never built. This may have been a good thing – the man had an inclination to knock down stuff (including parks and apartment buildings) to make space for his own creations.

Naturally, after all this learning, I was getting hungry again. I wanted to sample Vienna’s famous cafe culture, but couldn’t be bothered with the queue at Cafe Central. My kind hosts pointed out Cafe Pruckel, a traditional coffee house on the southern end of the Ringstrasse. I headed over there in search of sachertorte.

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After successfully asking for a table in German, the waiter wanted to take my order about 3 seconds after I arrived. Having noted that there was no sachertorte on the menu (it’ll have to wait until next time now), I panicked. The menu was also a German one, so I had to hazard a guess at what I wanted. I knew I needed some vitamin C, so I went for an ‘orangensaft’ – thanks Lidl for teaching me the word – and what I thought was a type of sundae. It said ‘vanilla eis und kaffe mit waffel’, so I thought cool, I love vanilla and coffee ice cream and if it’s got a waffle in it it must be a type of dessert, right?

Wrong. I’d just ordered myself two drinks. Just two drinks, and no food.

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It’s actually three, if you count the tap water.

Oops. Oh well, never mind. It was a nice coffee, and the juice was freshly squeezed.

The pace of life in Vienna is quite slow and relaxed – a stark contrast to most touristy European cities. I sat there for an hour enjoying my own company, trying to pretend that I blended in.

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Compulsory selfie. Sadly my right arm was sunburned after sitting directly in the sun for an hour.

So far, my terrible German had got me (almost) everything I wanted. But when it was time to leave, I had no idea how to ask for the bill. But thanks to this marvellous free EU data thing – again, why is Britain leaving – I managed to Google Translate my way out of the restaurant, having gone a whole hour interacting only in German. I’m really quite pleased with myself.

With only mild sunstroke, I moseyed on over to the Danube to complete my tour of the old city. It was here I happened upon possibly the most genius idea for a nightclub ever.

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Want to swim in the Danube but don’t want to drink pollution? No worries – here’s a swimming pool on a boat ON the Danube.

This is just brilliant. I wanted to go in, but weirdly it was closed. I’m not sure they understand how to make money – closing a swimming pool on a hot day? What the hell? Luckily for them, there were plenty of customers on the sun deck and at the bar, and above the pool there was even a tennis court. I don’t even like sports but I could still see myself spending all night there, if the pool was open.

Walking back into the old city and weaving between herds of tourists, I headed for the Hofburg. The National Library of Austria was having an open day, and I’m a sucker for a freebie, so I eagerly took the opportunity to have a nose inside.

Under the central dome of the new Hofburg palace, the National Library was once property of the Hapsburg monarchs. The books were stacked ceiling-high, and paintings on the walls and inside the dome elevated the sense of grandeur and devotion to learning.

But you can definitely tell it was once the property of the Emperor. The British Library is big, but ugly as hell. This was beauty that could only have come from money.

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This grandiose statue might even be an allegory for the Emperor, who knows.

Sufficiently wowed, I went home for a siesta.

Having done all the touristy stuff – and some more besides – I figured it was time to do something a bit different. As the sun set, Terri and I headed out to the Prater. It’s where I arrived into the city from the airport, and the gigantic Prater park includes an entire theme park. The time of day was just right to see it in full swing, the colourful fairground lights glittering, music playing, and people out to enjoy themselves. One guy even went on the water flume in a business suit, so hats off to him.

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Suit guy is sadly missing from this image.

Scroll down to see some attempted arty shots of the park. *Art Attack music plays*

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That’s enough fun and games for now. We were getting hungry, which meant it was time to eat. Sadly we got a bit lost in Vienna’s second district – across the Danube from the centre – on the way. But it’s not a very touristy spot, so I got to see a side of the real city for a change. People always find the most inventive ways to make urban life bearable, and I saw what can only be described as a ‘tower-allotment’ for residents to grow their own fresh produce:

IMG_20180506_20240744510/10 for creativity.

At last, we reached our destination – a vegan cafe in the Jewish district called Cafe Harvest. Terri saw someone she knew from uni there, which was a bit of a coincidence. She ordered a vegan burger, but I went for the daal on the premise it came with poppadoms. Well, they weren’t really poppadoms, more like dosa shards. The daal was a bit strange too – probably because it wasn’t made by south Asians – but it was still nice and very wholesome indeed. For the first time this trip, I’d eaten something proper healthy, so that was a nice feeling.

Until I ruined it by drinking a very strong vegan White Russian, of course.

I’ll miss Vienna and my friends here, but I’m excited to go onto my next city and experience something new. Besides, knowing me, I’ll probably be back within a year.

 


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