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Österreicher is a restaurant in the Museum of Applied Arts (Museum der Angewanten Kunst, MAK, see previous post). 

We arrived at the restaurant towards the end of lunchtime on a weekday – and the dining room is empty? It turned out every one was seated outside in the garden enjoying a bit of sunshine. There was a small glass-sided extension which contains a smaller and more intimate dining room (with a ceiling that rolls back – which we did not know at the time).
This restaurant is run by Helmut Österreicher, a star chef who reinvents traditional Austrian dishes. After we saw all those asparagus posted earlier in Nacshmarkt, we had to have some – with Hollandaise sauce. It went really well with the preserved meats.
We ordered the simplest dishes on the menu, and they are reliably excellent.
Garlic soup.
Shrimp pesto risotto
Since the schnitzel is a very common dish in Austria, we wanted to do a comparison between a decent street version (at Glacis Beisl) and this version by a renowned chef. I honestly cannot tell the difference. The least I can say is that they must have used a gigantic frying pan.
We entered the restaurant from the shop – the big dining room has a very elaborately decorated ceiling. An overhead structure marks the path across the room to a set of descending stairs which lead to the patio.

The long dinning room is simply stunning –  it must be a great place to see and be seen.

There is an area for drinks which is tiered so that even when one is seated, every one in the bar area is in view.

Judging by the spaces for standing drinkers, it is probably not a hushed dining room.
Love to visit the place in the evening when there are more patrons.

In Vienna, we went to see The Museum of Applied Arts (Museum der Angewandte Kunst, MAK) located in the Innere Stadt. This is the Austrian equivalent of the Victoria and Albert museum of London (V&A).’s description of MAK:

Design is one of the main features of MAK. The museum shows furniture, glass, china, silver, and textiles from the Middle Ages to the present day. Precious crafts from the Wiener Werkstätte, bentwood furniture by Thonet and art nouveau highlights such as the gilded design of Gustav Klimt for the frieze of the Stoclet Palais in Brussels.

Here are some of the exhibits that we saw. Biedermeier furniture of the early 1800’s.

This museum must be the best place in the world to look at chairs.

A clever way to show off the curves of Thonet bentwood chairs.

Down the middle of a big room, one can walk between two screens one on each side which shows the silhouettes of the chairs. Or one can walk around to the other side of the screen to see the chairs.

This year is Gustav Klimt’s 150th birthday – so there are lots of activities in Vienna about him and his work. MAK is mounting an exhibition about Klimt’s design of a frieze in the Stoclet Palais in Belgium. Of course we did not see the real thing (we had to borrow the photo below from the Klimt Museum online) but the frieze shares a similar design to his very famous painting – The Kiss – which we saw in the museum at the Belvedere. Klimt’s gilded paintings cannot be reproduced by photography – one has to see the real thing in full size with the metallic gold effect to truly enjoy the richness of the piece. I will not post here about Klimt even though we saw a few pieces on this trip.

The basement of the museum houses the Study Collection where one can view different types of articles organized by material (i.e., textile, glass, ceramics, … etc).

More chairs !

In one of the display cases, we came across the set of cutlery which we are using at home. We knew the set was named  “Dry” and designed by Achille Castiglioni as Alessi’s first cutlery line. But we did not know it has so many other pieces – a serving set, ladles, spears, etc (not shown in the photo below).

We also saw the Frankfurt Kitchen of 1926 which was considered the forerunner of modern fitted kitchens.  It was designed with the concept of efficiency and cheap to build and  installed in the municipal housing projects in Frankfurt.

We have seen similar permanent exhibits dedicated to design objects in other museums – Museum of Modern Art of New York (MoMA) and the Pinakoteck Der Moderne in Munich; but MAK is dedicated, much bigger and better organized.

Wiener Riesenrad – “Viennese giant wheel” is a very popular tourist attraction in Vienna.

This piece of working antique is located in Prater, an amusement park just across the river from the old city.

It is one of the oldest Ferris wheel in existence – the wheel was built in 1897 and survived World War II. The picture below is a picture of its construction on display in the ticketing area.

Unlike any amusement park ride that we have gone to, there was no line. To have a gondola to ourselves, we wanted to wait for the next one.  But the operator would not let us.  It turned out that some of the gondolas are reserved for private cocktail parties or a romantic candlelit dinner.  We saw a gondola with only a dining table and two chairs (No.28) and another with several small tables (No. 30).

Compared to the modern versions which are mostly constructed as a plastic bubble, the gondola certainly exudes a certain old world charm. The official statistics says it is 65m at the top and one revolution takes about 20 minutes (it felt shorter however).

Part of its attractiveness is that the wheel afforded the riders a panoramic view of Vienna.  The center of the city has very few high rises to provide or block such a view. Looking southeast across Prater, the old city center (Innere Stadt) is on the right – where Stephansdom (earlier post) is just visible.

I (Chris) liked the movie “Before Sunrise” and I read that the characters –  Jesse and Céline shared a kiss at the top of the Riesenrad at sunset. Now I need to view that DVD again and find the scene. The movie also shot some scenes in Cafe Sperl (earlier post) on our street.

Looking east at the cranes in Donaustadt.

Looking northeast – the modern-ish building to the left is the Praterstern train station.

This ride which rises and spins the tiny seats around until they are tilted looks like a lot of fun.

The white structure is the Ernst-Happel stadium (the biggest in Austria) where the final match of UEFA Euro 2008 was hosted.

The amusement park was not very busy since we were there at a weekday afternoon.

But it opens till midnight in the summer, and I suspect it could get a lot livelier later. But we had to leave and find a place for dinner.

Located about 10 minutes’ walk from the Hundertwasserhaus (see previous post) is the KunstHausWien museum. It was created through the renovation of the 1892 building which housed the Thonet bentwood furniture factory in a style commensurate with Hundertwasser’s art.

Opened in 1991, KunstHausWien houses a permanent exhibition of Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s work on two floors and two additional floors are devoted to changing exhibitions.

Irregular elements of glass, metal, bricks, wood and ceramic tiles in many colors give a unique character to the formerly inconspicuous building.

The shop floor was uneven – while interesting, it can be dangerous especially it is a slope located right at the entrance.

His architectural work is comparable to Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) in its use of organic forms and the use of tile. We read somewhere that most of Hundertwasser’s tiles are symmetrical while Gaudi’s tiles are all irregularly shaped.  Judging by the photo below, the tiles on KunstHausWien are mostly squares of different sizes arranged in patches and oriented at various angles.

Well, I just found in the photos we took in Barcelona last year, a picture of one of Gaudi’s buildings in Park Güell. All the tiles, background and foreground, are irregularly shaped.

Back to the KunstHausWien.

This must be one of the more artful sign for toilets we have seen. Look at what the boy is doing. There is a “puddle” of mirror tiles on the ground by the door.

By the time we got to KunsthHausWien, we were tired and hungry – so we skipped the exhibition, checked the shop and ate lunch at the cafeteria. Now you know our priorities. This is the indoor cafeteria.

We preferred to sit outside in the garden, where we can see how the vegetation merges with or emerges from the building.

As it was way past lunch time, the place was pretty empty.

And because it was after regular lunch time, they served a limited menu – but we were happy with a typical local dish.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an eccentric Austrian artist who designed posters, stamps and then started practising architecture in 1950.   He passed away in 2000 and left behind many buildings in his signature style. We visited two of his buildings in the Landstraße district of Vienna.

According to Wikipedia, having been prosecuted by the Nazis, he developed strong anti-totalitarian beliefs which influenced his work – notably. opposing the “geometrization” of people and architecture.

We do not know much about this artist until this trip. The common themes in his work are: bright colors, organic forms, a reconciliation of humans with nature, and rejecting straight lines.

The Hundertwasserhaus is a private residential building that is not open to the public, but it is surrounded by touristy shops.  But one can get the idea even standing outside.

The apartment block has undulating floors (“an uneven floor is a melody to the feet”), a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms, with limbs extending from windows.

Kids must love to live in this building. There is is a little plaza that separates the main street and the entrance to the building. Look at the bumpy area !

His architectural and graphic work include patches of metallic paint or tiles. Having seen quite a few Gustav Klimt’s paintings on this trip, I wonder if there is any reason why the Austrians like to use this device. I (Chris) once owned a poster with metallic paint and it was the work of by Rosina Wachtmeister, also an Austrian.

While it is the work of an artist, I do wonder about the practicality of living in a room where the floor is not even and the walls are not straight.

More about Hundertwasser’s work in the next post.

Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral) constructed in the 12th century but damaged in World War II – this Gothic church is in the center of Vienna’s Innere Stadt (inner city).

We have been to a few churches, like the Duomo in Milan and the Sagrada di familia in Barcelona, – but the Stephansdom is remarkable for its dazzling roof with that crazy zigzag tiling and on the inside, psychedelic lighting !

The light effects gave the entrance to the church a surreal fantastical atmosphere. I would believe it if someone says that the photo above is a screenshot from a video game.

When we visited, a mass had just started. So we did not go further to explore.

It appeared that certain images in primary colors were projected onto the interiors while transparent panes of solid colors were installed in some of the windows in place of traditional stained glass. The projections were static.

The installation reminded me of Limelight – a now-closed nightclub that resided in a disused church in New York, on 6th Av around 20th street.

We assumed that this set up is a temporary exhibition. The colors also reminded me of the 60-70’s tie-dye colors associated with hippies and The Grateful Dead.

In the end, we were so distracted by the colorful patterns that the real sights were forgotten. Well, we will visit Vienna again – while the statutes will always be there, the projections will not.

Just across the street from  Café Drechsler (previous post) is Der Naschmarkt – a half-mile long strip of stalls and shops on top of a river – Vienna’s food market since the 16th century.

On every Saturday, there is a flea market at the far end of Naschmarkt – with Vienna being at the center of 19th century European culture – it must be a great place to shop. I left Vienna early but IT and Sue stayed on till the weekend – and according to IT who frequents flea markets, it was not as good as the one in Paris (after she spent three hours surveying the stalls).

Spices galore – there is a strong oriental influence in the market.

Asparagus (Spargel) was in season – so it was on all the menus and in the market – Marchfeld spargel is a fancy local variety.

While we were in Munich, our friend B had them in the most typical way – steamed, served with Hollandaise sauce and a little schnitzel.

A shop in the market – Gegenbauer sells artisan vinegar – marketing it like wine or perfume. While they allow tasting, I was not sure if I wanted to. The brewed products are highly flavored and apparently well-known worldwide.

It was written up in Japanese guide books as several pages were posted on the entrance. You can also buy their products online.  We really did not have time to properly investigate the products.

Ham anyone ? I have never seen a standalone meat slicer before.

The market has many restaurants but I wondered if they are open at night – doubt it  – but if it does, it could be just like the night markets in Asia.

The first time we walked through the market, we spotted some fish restaurants.  IT and Sue returned later in the week and had some oysters and a grilled seafood lunch (there was enough to feed at least 3 people !)

If you are interested in markets, check out our post on Hong Kong’s New Year flower market and  Amsterdam’s floating flower market.

The neighborhood we stayed in Vienna really has a lot of remarkable cafes. After our earlier posts on Café Sperl and Café Phil, we went to Café Drechsler on Linke Wienzeile, which was a 5-minutes walk from our rental on Gumpendorferstrasse. This cafe is located across the street from Naschmarkt (see next post).

Café Drechsler was renovated in 2007 by Conran & partners and billed itself as a modern Viennese kaffehaus. It has two decorative themes, if you can say that, modern and traditional.

The modern side is cool but not cold – neutral grey wooden panels with a narrow strip of mirror and the logo “CD” above the crimson banquets.

The other side is earthy and warmer in tone, has the same tables and Thonet-like chairs, beige banquets, plus a handsome marble coffee bar.

IT and Sue went there (I left Vienna already).

We later read that Café Drechsler is open 23 hours a day (which is not as common in Europe as it is in the US with 24-hour diner) and it serves clubbers and market workers from Naschmarkt in the early hours. I imagine that it would be a bit like the now-closed Florent in New York before the meatpacking district became trendy and then touristy.

Improvised light switch – nice touch.

(This is not a Gerald Richter painting)

Directly across the street from Café Sperl (covered in my last post) is Café Phil at 10-12 Gumpendorferstrasse – it is a mutant of the traditional Viennese kaffehaus (but not the kind of “coffeeshop” one finds in Amsterdam).

Cafe Phil provides hot beverages and sells books and magazines.

It also sells vinyl, CD, DVD, etc. The ambience is so laid back that the people were falling asleep!

It also sells the furniture used by the patrons and the lights. Apparently, a weekly TV show about popular culture is filmed here.

Despite its looks, just like the traditional kaffehaus, one can linger for hours with just one cup of coffee. It is indeed a great place to relax by yourself and meet people if you want.

Just a bit up the street from our rental apartment is a Museli bar called Corns ‘n Pops (37 Gumpendorferstrasse).

Look at the choices on offer.

Serious about cereal ?

And the variety of toppings.

We had a very late breakfast there.

We were rather busy planning our day’s activities. Instead of creating our mix, we deferred to the menu suggestions. I was the laziest and ordered the museli du jour – which had among other goodies a sprinkle of grated ginger on top.

While we are on the topic of food and drinks on Gumpendorferstrasse, a few store fronts from Cafe Phil is a Korean restaurant Hanil (at no.14) – whose offerings are as korean as it can be in Vienna – it also runs a couple of sushi joint across town. Next to Cafe Sperl across the street is Ra’mien (at no.9) – a design-conscious, minimalist pan-asian restaurant – where we had noodles for dinner one night – the place was packed with people ready to go out for the evening.

According to Wikipedia, the Viennese coffee house is an institution of Vienna that played an important part shaping the city’s culture. Around the end of the 19th century, it was the place where intellectuals, politicians, artists lingered – reading newspaper, writing, talking and playing games. We tried lingering there …

This café is located further down the street from our rental apartment where it splits as Gumpendorferstrasse to the left and Lehargasse to the right.

As it turned out, Café Sperl at 11 Gumpendorferstrasse is the real deal and not a touristy place. As is common in many Viennese Coffee Houses, there are marble tabletops, Thonet-like chairs, and newspaper tables.

The square tables by the window (pictured above) allow patrons to play card games and chess – one evening, we saw a group of ladies playing cards in there.

The seating arrangements around the windows are also particularly welcoming, as it accommodates a variable number of people and encourages informal socializing between separate groups.

The high ceiling, windows, and mirror at the end makes the place very airy despite the wood panels and velvety upholstery.

Patrons can spend as much time as they want with a cup of coffee while reading all the newspaper and magazines. I cannot help but think of the Starbucks inside Barnes and Noble in the US. Notably, I do not remember seeing a television any where – so it cannot turn into a sports bar.

The English has billiard table in public houses (pubs) which may serve a similar social gathering function as the Viennese cafe, except that the conversations in a pub are likely to be driven more by alcohol than by the news. Billiard or pool tables in cafe are unimaginable in the US and Britain.

We went there in late morning and had a leisurely lunch there. I suspected the billiard tables will be used in the evening. These are not pool tables, they have no pockets!

One of us had a special wiener schnitzel that is covered not just with bread crumbs but also with nuts and corn.

Although they do not have a bar, I believe alcohol is served. Don’t remember seeing any sign of internet access here – still relying on the olde newspaper for info?

Apparently, the cafe was featured in Richard Linklater’s 1995 movie Before Sunrise, with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, which along with its Paris-based sequel Before Sunset, I recommend highly.

File:Before Sunrise film.jpg

The interior was also used in the movie A Dangerous Method, which featured Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

Do check out Café Sperl‘s web site which offers several beautifully captured interactive panorama of the interior and exterior of the cafe.

For our stay in Vienna, instead of booking hotel rooms, we and Sis rented an apartment for the week.

The apartment is located on the second floor of 22 Gumpendorferstrasse in the district of Mariahilf 6.

There are four apartments per floor. The building is entirely residential but the area still has some light industry.

It is in an old building but the apartment’s interior was completely renovated. Very NY Soho loft.

High ceiling, airy, and modern, the whole apartment is painted white with minimalist furniture. A few big mirrors added more space.

The curtains in our bedroom were psychedelic.

Modern bathroom. They supplied us with threes of everything from towel to toiletries, and even 3 Nespresso pods in the kitchen.

This piece of glass separates the kitchen and the bathroom and I believe it is a map of Vienna.

The kitchen is modern and has a pass-through to the living room.

Interesting bookshelf, possibly home made. The little red and blue blobs were plastic spaceman figurines that were glued onto the bookshelf. We were happy to find English language Lonely Planet and Wallpaper guide books.

Whose’s design is this? I have seen a series of lights with a red cable  in a catalogue before but just cannot remember now.

The building kept the old elevator, giving it much character. One has to close both doors after use otherwise it is stranded on the floor you got off.

Except the ground floor, a key is required to call the elevator to your floor.

This was our home for the week. We booked it at Viennaresidence which caters to mainly business short-stays – I will use them again.

After we attended the Champions League final football game, we left Munich the next day for Vienna – the beginning of a week’s vacation. Our train was RJ65 departing at 11:27 from Munich to Budapest on platform 11.

Our train is run by the Austrian Federal Railway (Österreichische Bundesbahnen or ÖBB) and the service is branded Railjet.

Although there was the Bistro on the train and we had breakfast at the hotel, we still bought a load of snacks at the station.

Sue booked us tickets for First class Business – which is apparently even better than first class. While it cost us quite a bit for this segment of the trip, it was also the best rail travel experience we ever had.

Many aspects of our train seat are like an airplane’s seat. The three of us were seated in a section which can accommodate four passengers, two and two facing each other. There were enough spaces that we kept in our section most of our luggage except my bulkiest bag.

Reading lights, power sockets, reclining seats with foot rest … roomy, no crowds, quiet, no city center-airport trip, seat-side service – definitely a nice way to travel medium distances in Europe.

An attendant came to ask if we wished to order drinks and lunch, and offered us newspaper and magazines. We did not have to go to the Bistro.

The train stopped at Salzburg, Linz, and a few lesser known Austrian cities.

The train was quiet and steady; some of us were fast asleep at 200 km/h. This screen in our section displays a map indicating our progress and the schedule times of arrival and departure.

Sights rushed by at high speed, … I would not have minded stopping here.

We reached Vienna at 15:44, arriving in Wien Westbanhof, all of us well-rested. A very nice way to travel indeed.

The next few posts will be all about Vienna.