Our last day in Vienna! Today we began by taking a quick peek at Naschmarket, a pleasant food market that happens to be just two blocks from our hotel. It’s located in one long strip of pavement between rows of houses, so you can enter from one end of the street and just make your way to the other end. It looks small on first impression, because it’s so narrow, but in fact there are a lot of stalls selling spices of all kinds, olives, cheese, meat, Greek and Turkish products, fruits and vegetables… It was packed with people, including lots of locals hanging out in the pub terraces merrily enjoying their half-litre jugs of beer at 10:30 in the morning. Was that breakfast or the apéro? I dread to think what they drink at 9PM if that’s how they start their day…
Food markets are nice to look at, but there’s not a lot there for the passing traveller, so we left when we got to the next tube station and went to Schönbrunn, the Habsburgs’ summer palace.
When we got there, I could see that it was a Viennese Versailles: an immense palace surrounded by even more immense gardens. Unfortunately, it was also like Versailles in that it had attracted a bajillion tourists all at the same time and the queue for the tickets alone seemed out of control. So we did our trademark Versailles Manoeuvre, which is to steer clear of the palace itself (regrettably, because it seemed very lavish and spectacular on the inside) and enjoy the gardens instead. When people visit me in Versailles, I always tell them: if you want to ever get inside the palace, come in low season, on a weekday, when the weather’s bad!
Again like in Versailles, the centrepiece of the gardens is a huge fountain with statues, which like Versailles’ is called the Fountain of Neptune. It sits at the bottom of a hill, while at the top stands an arch with a big eagle watching over the grounds. Inside the gardens there’s the Palmhaus, one of those beautiful Victorian-style greenhouses made of cast iron and glass. Despite the name, there weren’t just palm trees inside. There were even cocoa and coffee plants there!
Satisfied with the gardens, we left the rest for those tourists more resilient than ourselves and we went to Spittelberg, a tiny neighbourhood near the centre that was suspiciously empty at lunchtime. The only place with some activity was the restaurant we were looking for, Amerling Beisl. It’s a very pleasant and simple place with a nice courtyard for when it’s nice outside (which it wasn’t particularly, but that didn’t stop everybody else). It made up for the emptiness of the area.
We spent the rest of the afternoon reacquainting ourselves with the centre, walking around the cathedral, poking our noses inside lots of stores then walking out again when they turned out to be really expensive… We spent ages inside Meinl am Graben, an Austrian Harrod’s of sorts with two big floors filled to the brim with everything edible. Of course, it’s all priced accordingly, but it’s a good place for omiyage. I almost bought a set of American spices that looked perfect for a Cajun recipe, but all the ingredients were in German and I could only recognise salt and pepper…
And that’s it for today! We’ve really made the most of our stay; on the first day we made a list with all the things we wanted to see and do in Vienna, a list that we thought was impossibly long, and in the end we’ve crossed off most of the items on it, like we did in Budapest too. The things we haven’t done are the things we were okay leaving for another time, so all in all I think we can leave with a clear conscience. So long, Budapest and Vienna, and thanks for all the architectural wonders!