By Merrill Bonarrigo
On the way home from The Republic of Georgia we stopped in Vienna, Austria. Krems is not far from Vienna and since it is the sister city of Grapevine, Texas, we wanted to see the area and taste the wines. Mozart, waltzing, and delicious desserts were the expectations of our visit. That is just the appetizer of the Vienna experience.
From the airport to our hotel took only 45 minutes during 5 o’clock traffic. The hotel was located at a metro station which gave us access to everything in just a few minutes. The 72 hour metro ticket, which is good for subway, tram or train, was perfect for us. The first day is always a day of discovery. The Vienna Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off bus was a good way to see the city and learn the history. Vienna is one of the largest cities in the world relative to the size of the country. There is so much to see and so much to learn that the 48 hour ticket is the minimum I would recommend. After 6 ½ hours of sightseeing (the buses start at 10 am and the last bus boards at 4:30 Monday – Saturday) we did not see half of the sights available. Vienna is like a masterpiece of culture in music, art and architecture.
Markets are all over town. This was an unexpected treasure. Many markets are open daily but the Flohmarkt (flea market) is open on Saturdays only. It is part of Naschmarkt, at least a mile long and offered everything you can imagine. Our favorite markets were Naschmarkt and Freyun market. Naschmarkt offers not only products of all types, food and flowers, but it also is the perfect place to enjoy breakfast or lunch at one of the numerous cafés along the market promenade. The hours posted are 6:30 am until 7 pm, but at 3:30pm vendors in the Flohmarkt portion were already packing up for the day. The Freyun market featured beautiful crafts and artisan items. The weekend we were there was prior to Easter and the whole market was filled with the most beautifully hand painted eggs.
The best surprise were the wines of Austria. On the way to the Am Hof market, we stumbled upon Meinl’s Wine Bar. The friendly server gave us a great tutorial on local Austrian wines. Gruner Veltliner and Zweigelt were standards for us. He introduced us to Gelber Muskateller, a dry crisp white wine with a nose of Muscat, and Gemischter Satz, a vineyard blend of 3 to 20 regional grapes and the traditional wine style from the city of Vienna. The most fun evening was at Pub Klemo, Margaretenstrasse 61. Decorated in wine region maps from all over the world, it encourages guests to try many wines by the taste. Sitting at a table with the Austrian wine region map as a tabletop, we were able to look at the region and topography while tasting the wines. The discovery here was Blaufrankisch, also known as Lemburger and the father of Zweigelt. It had a tremendously spicy floral nose with fruit forward flavor and short finish. In addition, where GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) is popular in the US, in Vienna CS-M-ZW (Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Zweigelt) is gaining popularity.
The next day we took the metro U4/bus 38A to Kahlenberger which is on the mountain overlooking Vienna and the vineyards of the Wien region. There at the Kahlenberger Restaurant you can dine mountainside with a panoramic view of Vienna. It is the perfect setting for Sunday lunch and people-watching as bikers, runners and hikers ascend the mountain on local roads through the vineyards. The food was excellent. Try the pork shank with creamy basil risotto and the Gruner Veltliner from the village of Cobenzl which you can see in the hills below Kahlenberger. This wine reminded us of the Merrill’s Vineyard Riesling with a hint of Muscat in the nose. Messina Hof Rieslings are true to their Germanic/Austrian roots.
Make sure that all of your shopping is done before Sunday since all shops are closed on Sundays. Only restaurants and bars are open. A trip to Vienna is a must. Its delightful people, beautiful architecture, and friendly English-speaking youth make the visit easy.