Vienna 7: May 15, 2007 -- Last note from Vienna, great news on food, opera not so great -- notes from Bob and Sally

Bob Corbett's note:

It is late afternoon Tuesday and weíre headed home, calling it a LAST DAY. Iím so very sad about that. I simply love this city and canít wait to get back.

Last night was somewhat of a disappointment. I have seen four live versions of The Magic Flute, three here in Vienna (including last night) and one in Kansas City, by the Kansas City Opera Company. This one last night was my least favorite. The Magic Flute is very long and simply needs editing. The other three versions Iíve seen seemed to me to have been well edited and the opera flowed much better. Itís hard to follow in any case since it is such wild fantasy.

Secondly it can have lots of dialogue (much more of that had also been edited down in the other versions I saw), and then, to add to the difficulty for me, the dialogue last night was done so very SLOWLY, like the actors were speaking to children.

The music was awesome, and, as always with any version of The Magic Flute the technical staff just goes crazy with creativity and does the most wonderful and outrageous stuff with the fantasy parts of the opera (most of the opera). There last nightís crew at the Volksoper did not disappoint, THAT was splendid.

Nonetheless, I found it all very over-long, slow and boring after all.

However, today made up for any minor disappointments. We had known today was to be a rain day and just accepted our last day would face that minor obstacle. Yet this morning it was not sunny, but wasnít raining either. After breakfast we headed up the Kohlenberg, the high hill in the Vienna Woods overlooking Vienna. Our plan was simply to ride the bus way up there and have something in the cafe with chairs overlooking all the plain below that makes up Vienna. We got to the top of the mountain about 9:30 AM to discover it in a total mess of renovation. They are adding a simply GIGANTIC hotel to the restaurant/observation place and it will be marvelous when finished, Iím sure, but is a terrible mess right now. No matter, it still wasnít raining, but chilly and the handful of people up there were sitting inside at the window tables. Sally and I went out on the deck, right at the edge of the railing and had all of Vienna below our feet, seeing miles and miles in the plain.

That was just lovely. After a while we headed back to the bus, but much to our surprise the sun even shown a bit. I asked Sally if she wished to do some walking and much to my delight she said, yes, she hoped we could. So we walking a while in the forest. It was so lovely with the gigantic trees and one little bird which came right to us was magnificent with a bright yellow head, and more yellow on the wing-tips. I donít know the Austrian birds so I have no idea what it was. Beautiful.

We walked a while and eventually came to the road again and there was not only a bus STOP, but even a parked bus. I couldnít believe our luck. We got on and in a while were back down near the village of Grenzing, a hot-spot for heurigers. We only wanted to walk around there and did for a while and eventually came to a place where the street-car to Vienna turns round and we rode back into town.

It was time for lunch and we had ONE LAST RESTAURANT to go to HATAM, another Persian restaurant. Iíve been going there for years and really love it. My favorite waiter wasnít there, but the owner was the same man and absolutely nothing had changed in this sparkling, elegant and marvelous place. I asked the owner about the younger man, the waiter, who I knew was his relative (the guy was in his 40s and we really got along). The owner said it was his nephew and that he had gone back to Persia. I said, back to IRAN? He smiled and said NO -- Back to Persia. I got it. This was a political statement, not a question of geography.

Years ago the waiter had suggested I have the grilled chicken dinner, but add some barberries to the rice, it would cost extra. I said, letís do it. And I never ate a different dish there in the years that followed. One of the best restaurant meals Iíve ever had. It was still on the menu but I asked the very young waiter about the barberries and he had no idea what I was talking about. I called the owner over and he showed me a special dish that had the barberries. I said -- fine, but canít you just add the barberries to the dish I want, the 1/2 grilled chicken with rice and salad. Of course, of course, he laughed and thus came two dinners in a while (it takes a while since EVERYTHING is made after one orders.

It was simply stunning and Sally and I tried to figure if THIS surely was the best meal of the trip? But we couldnít decide.

The owner even took a photo of Sally and I ate table, and later on when we get our photos, I will share that with you too.

We were really stuffed, but ONE thing remained. Sally had never had apple strudel in Vienna. That is totally unacceptable. Off we went to the elegant and lovely Cafe Pruckle on the Ringstrasse of the inner city. I used to meet many of my classes there and always sat at the sidewalk tables, but now it was raining so we went inside. We had a fairly young waiter -- at all the fancy inner city coffee houses the waiters are tuxcedoed and very elegant. This guy was just haughty and was one of the very few waiters Iíve ever had in a coffee house that I couldnít kid and laugh with. I insisted that I wanted the strudel warm, which didnít please him, and then I wanted two birne schnapps. He was honestly taken aback. He wasnít used to anyone ordering schnapps with applestruddle at 3 PM in the afternoon. He did the closest thing to "sneering" at me Iíve ever seen and Sally and I just cracked up after he left the table. But, the struddle was warmed perfectly, and the schnapps were delicious -- he might have been haughty, but he was correct as a waiter. When I got my second schnapps he was even less happy, and when I called for the bill, he made an absolute production of serving some other food to two tables first and then brought the bill with fawning fake sincerity. Smallest tip I gave on the entire trip, but dang the strudel was awesome and the schnapps even better.

We are near home and will be back to the hotel by 5 PM. We plan a night in and have a bottle of honey wine we got at Naschmarkt for tonight to eat with our dark chocolate, just two small squares each.

Tonight we will pack. This will be very challenging. Now a days one canít bring bottles of liquor onto the plane. So we have several bottles of schnapps, some wine, three wine pitchers and four schnapps glasses to pack in our CHECKED baggage that will have to be packed very carefully so it doesnít get broken. Wheeeee. I dread that job. In order to achieve this we will both carry some of our clothes in a regular large plastic grocery sack so there in room in our backpacks for the wine, schnapps and glass-ware. Oh me, will unpacking in St. Louis be nervous, and even before that, when we collect our bags first in Chicago to clear customs and finally in St. Louis to take home, we will first and foremost be looking to see if the bags are WET!!!!!!! A broken bottle of schnapps will set me to weeping on the spot.

[Later note as I post these notes to the web: All bottles, glasses and pitchers Made it home safely and unbroken.]

We have bus tickets for the morning, will breakfast early at the hotel and take off for the airport via public transport, a short 45 minute ride on a sub- way then the airport TRAIN, a real full sized train.

What to say of this trip? So hard to do any summary of it now. Later when we get home I will edit all these notes into more standard typing, and clear up the grammar and spelling and such. We will also do a list of the various hotels and restaurants and such things as that, and I will mount the entire trip notes to my travel web page.

I do have menus with me from several of the restaurants and have told the owners that I will do translations of their menus and e-mail them to them so that they have English-language menus for their guests who donít read German.

I loved every minute of the trip, but clearly, Vienna is, was and will always be the highlight of any trip where I visit this second home of mine. I just canít wait to get back here and do hope it is soon.

Wiedersehen aus Wien,


Sally's note

Hi Everybody,

Itís now 4:30ish OM here in Vienna, and the unusually warm weather has taken a turn. Its now about 55 degrees and raining, though the high temp for the day was more likely this morning when we woke up! It was sunny then but Bob heard the forecast and knew we were going to have rain. And on our ride up to the Vienna Woods, we could see the clouds moving in.

The only effect the rain had on our plans for the day was that we made sure to take our rain jackets with us.

And we were happy and maybe a bit lucky that the rain didnít begin in earnest until we ducked into the restaurant for our mid-day meal!

Earlier as I said we decided to ride up to see and walk through the Vienna Woods. There is a beautiful look out, actually several of them, along the way until you get to a spectacular spot, called Kohlenberg and from there you look out over the whole of Vienna!! Bob says its amazing how flat Vienna is, but truly the site is spectacular! I even have some photos of us there and Bob will post them to the travel site when we get home.

Then we wanted to sit a bit and enjoy the view so Bob ordered a glass of wine and for me some very lovely apple juice at the restaurant there. We sat inside at first because it started to sprinkle rain. But soon after that it looked like it stopped and we went out and sat on their porch/patio.

Right next door to the restaurant they are building a new hotel. What a view those rooms will have!!

Bob suggested that we walk a while since it was clearing up a bit and looked brighter. And he found one of the trails that said we could get to a bus in 20 minutes. So we took the trail and are both very happy we did. No rain at all, and a very lovely walk through THE VIENNA WOODS!!

The bus was right there at the end of our walk and though it didnít leave for maybe 10 minutes, we were ready to sit a bit.

We took the bus to another bus or streetcar I canít recall which. Anyway we were on our way to another of Bobís favorite restaurants for our mid-day meal. And it was another feast!

Ah... and since I had my camera with me, we had the waiter take our photo with the food as it was served. Itís the second Persian Restaurant and its called Hotam. The owner and the waiter were as nice as could be and the owner of course remembered Bob. Even commented on his haircut, the last time he was there his hair was long in the back. :)

We had a wonderful grilled chicken, each of us had a half chicken, grilled the Persian way, which is not as spicy as you might think. But tasty and so tender and juicy!!

With a little salad, some grilled tomatoes and a whole plate of rice, with a covering of saffron rice on top and some type of berries. I donít know much about the berries, but they are tiny, almost as tiny as a grain of rice and they too are grilled and the flavor is wonderful!

Then if we hadnít already feasted, we went to a favorite cafe that Bob took his students to for classes when he taught here, because both Bob and I recalled that we had done almost everything -- almost. We still hadnít had any strudel!! How could we leave Vienna without having some apple strudel??

So we split one serving (a very generous serving) of apple strudel and each had a glass of schnapps!! By then it had been raining seriously, and the trip to the cafe was a bit splashy, but as I said, it wasnít that cold, so we crossed the street and took the streetcar to the Ubahn (Metro) and here we are back at the internet cafe near our hotel.

What a wonderful trip! Its almost impossible to believe that its over. And yet we have done so much that its difficult to remember all we have seen and done over the past month.

So, with tears in his eyes, Bob will walk with me back to the hotel and we both will proceed to pack our bags (backpacks and a carry-on of some kind) for our trip home tomorrow.

And before we get home we will be talking about and planning our next trip. We have several fun options that Bob may have written about them in one of his notes already. And I will be making a list of the books and maps that I want to look for at the YMCA book fair that will be held in a couple of months at home.

But first we will take a couple of days to relax and rest up from this trip and our overnight flight home.

Have heard from several of you and am so happy that you enjoyed our travel notes. Its been fun sharing our adventures.

Sally Ryan Sharamitaro




Bob Corbett