You may have noticed that I have had infrequent blog posts lately and not because I haven’t been doing anything or working on my blog….quite the contrary! Along with all my travels and adventures that I will soon be writing about, I have been working steadily to get my new and improved blog site up and running!
At the end of May I flew to Rotterdam for a Traverse blogging conference where I learned about the world of blogging. For two days I attended seminars and classes on various aspects of writing and running a blog. I was able to learn and be inspired by some of the top travel bloggers. It’s an exciting world, but so much to learn.
Moving forward I will not be posting to this site any longer so please check my new site, www.thefearlessforeigner.com for all my future adventures and to get travel tips for your own. It’s still a work in progress, but I am excited to finally give you a sneak peek.
Anyone who has been reading my blogs for awhile now knows my struggle with the Russian language and how hard it is to not speak the native language here. In case anyone was wondering, I gave up on Russian lessons or my teacher gave up on me. Not really sure which way that went. I didn’t put enough time in to be able to really learn the language.
What I have put time into is years and years of Spanish. It’s a shame to let that go to waste so I try to find opportunities to practice when I can. When I heard about the ESP Club Moscú, I jumped at a chance to keep up my Spanish skills.
ESP Club Moscú
As well as Spanish lessons, the ESP Club Moscú offers other events to practice speaking Spanish. Among other programs they host cooking lessons, lectures and book clubs. About a month ago a friend invited me to attend a film meeting where we watched the movie “Primos” and discussed it afterwards. This was all in Spanish of course. It took me back to my study abroad days and how tired I would feel after concentrating so hard on understanding what I was hearing. Not only did I put my comprehension skills to the test, but then I had to speak and answer questions about the film. Needless to say I need to keep up with my Spanish much more.
To continue the Spanish theme we went to a Peruvian restaurant afterwards called Lima. I don’t think I have ever had Peruvian cuisine before so I don’t have much to compare it to. I can say that it tasted less Russian than most places here, but as usual in Moscow I wasn’t wowed by the food and neither was my friend. The waitress only spoke Russian and there were no menus in English….but there was Spanish, aka a good opportunity to brush up on Spanish food vocabulary. Lima has various events and is probably busier now due to the world cup than the almost completely empty restaurant when I went.
ESP Club Moscú: Vorontsovskaya Ulitsa, 19a, p. 1, Moskva, 109147
The Football World Cup officially began in Moscow a few days ago on Thursday, June 14th. Football fans are pouring in by the thousands and these fans from around the world are adding some much needed diversity to the otherwise very Russian capital. Last weekend when visiting the Red Square area the fever and excitement was felt in the air as I walked past people speaking a wide range of languages and showing off their own national pride.
Backtrack to a few weeks ago, I was able to visit Spartak Stadium on a field trip with my school. It is home to the professional Russian football team, Spartak. Along with holding Spartak’s home games since 2014 when it was built, it is also the host of five world cup matches this year.
In the guided tour we started with a behind the scenes look at the jacuzzi and massage room, the warm-up field and the locker room. I’m surprised they let our little three year olds climb directly up onto the players personal chairs.
Then out onto the pitch for a unique view of an empty stadium.
We were also treated to a peek inside a VIP suite. Those must cost a fortune for the World Cup games.
Our last stop was the football museum within the stadium. Of course it was another Russian museum all in Russian.
I don’t have any plans to attend a World Cup match, but I am enjoying the anticipation and excitement that this major world event is bringing to the city. Working at a British International School means there is A LOT of talk and hype about the matches. Even though the tour guide at the stadium couldn’t convey a lot of information in his limited English, I have learned quite a bit about the sport from my colleagues. If I dare say so myself I am almost becoming interested in the matches as well!
Austria is a great choice for a destination for so many reasons including: culture, music, Alps, lakes and cake! Before my trip I was asked what I was planning to do and I always responded, “eat cake!”.
What – Sweet Treats
One of the most famous Austrian desserts that seemed to be on almost every single dessert menu throughout the country.
It seems like so many countries have pancake based desserts. This shredded pancake version is an Austrian favorite that is served with stewed plums, apple puree and sometimes raisins. Oh and lots of sugar on top!
There are numerous varieties of pretzels found throughout Austria. If you have a sweet tooth you should definitely go for the fruity, sugary or chocolaty varieties.
Ice Cream & Gelato
These treats aren’t Austrian, but nevertheless they can be found all over the country. I think we just about tried at least one ice cream or gelato in every single city we visited and never had a bad one.
Viennese Cakes & Desserts
On our travels we saved Vienna for last which meant we saved the best treats for last. Vienna is known for its coffee and cake culture. Not to say that the rest of Austria doesn’t have good desserts, but every single one of our desserts in Vienna I always wanted a couple more bites. Towards the end of the trip I was starting to worry that I hadn’t tried enough of the famous cakes and made extra effort to plan the days around some dessert breaks.
This well-known Viennese dessert even has its own holiday! It is a chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam. I was holding out on ordering it because the apricot layer didn’t particularly appeal to me. But eventually I knew I couldn’t claim to try the local foods in the destinations I visit without having the famous sachertorte. Surprise, surprise I actually really enjoyed it. The version I had tasted like a decadent chocolate cake with an added moist, thin fruity layer in the middle.
If you are a chocolate lover and apricot doesn’t sound appealing, go with the truffletorte. My mom ordered this dessert and it arrived before my own. I had to contain myself from eating the whole thing when I was offered a “sample”.
There are way too many tortes to mention, but get yourself a torte in Vienna. You won’t regret it.
It’s hard to choose a favorite dessert of the trip, but this one might just be it. Not that any of the desserts were difficult to finish, but if you want a lighter option this sponge cake with the glazed strawberry topping makes this dessert option an ideal choice.
Where – Vienna Cafés & Restaurants
There are cafés all over the city with delicious desserts to sample. Here are a few classic choices.
Kohlmarkt 14, 1010 Wien, Austria
Complete with gift shop, Café Demel is a classic choice for a range of Viennese specialities in an elegant setting. There is even a museum you can visit on Friday mornings. Among their many tortes they are most known for their Sachertorte. There has been a battle of of who developed the Sacher Torte. Was it at Café Demel…..
Philharmoniker Str. 4, 1010 Wien, Austria
…or at the Hotel Sacher? The hotel is another option for upscale dining and desserts. Both Café Demel and Hotel Sacher may have the most well-known “got to try it here” sachertortes, but they are also pricier and some say the cakes are just as good elsewhere.
Albertinaplatz 2, 1010 Wien, Austria
Another classic and elegant café that is open late and a perfect place to end an evening after an opera. Upon entering the café you immediately have a feast for the eyes with a glass case full of the many delicacies on offer.
Singerstraße 1, 1010 Wien, Austria
A pinkish themed chain café with multiple locations and an overwhelmingly large pastry selection. Our grumpy waiter who rushed people to order, yet took forever to bring the deserts and the bill, helped perpetuate the viennese cafe culture stereotype of rudeness. Also the location we went to near St. Stephen’s cathedral had pay toilets where you received a voucher that could be taken off your bill. The Viennese cafés can get away with it though, because the desserts are just that good.
Krugerstraße 9, 1010 Wien, Austria
We were in the mode for ice cream and we kept stumbling upon places with glass cases that faced the sun. The already melty ice cream was not what we were going for. We saw the line for Ferrari Gelato before we saw the actual storefront. The line moved really fast and we got some fresh gelato that was worth the wait.
Heuer am Karlsplatz
Treitlstr. 2, 1040 Vienna, Austria
We had dinner here along with dessert. Based on my dinner, a pricey headless fish with the fish’s head served on a separate side platter (that’s a new one for me), I wouldn’t necessarily recommend. But the New York cheesecake, that didn’t taste like any cheesecake I ever had in NYC, was worth the visit. It’s not a huge piece though, so to avoid any potential sharing fights, just have everyone in your group get their own!
It’s actually painful to envision and write about all these cakes and not get to eat one. As I write this I think back longing to those desserts and crave for just one more bite. Not that I could ever stop with only one bite! There is a lot more I would like to see and do in Austria, but I would return with the sole purpose of eating dessert!
It’s no secret that I love food. I haven’t planned an entire trip around food (yet!), but I do make an effort to eat as much of the local food as possible and plan for a diverse range of eating opportunities whenever I travel. I look back fondly on these savory foods and memorable restaurants in Austria.
What – Savory Foods
A meat and vegetable soup that is primarily eaten in Central Europe. The Austrian version I had did not taste at all like my grandmother’s recipe, which is more of a meat and pasta dish, that I grew up eating. I was glad I tried it, but my grandmother’s version still wins.
Because goulash is already a soup it didn’t quite make sense to order a soup as a soup version. Regardless this ‘goulash soup’ was well seasoned and helped to warm me up as I enjoyed the views on top of Untersberg mountain.
Sometimes locations are known for a type of food that I feel is just as good back home or really doesn’t taste that spectacular in the particular location. Pretzels do not fall into that category! I don’t know what kind of magic they do in Austria, but pretzels truly taste better there.
An Austrian staple found at countless places that is often served with pretzels, fries or bread.
Whether pork, chicken or veal, this is a breaded meat dish that you can not go to Austria without trying. Typically served with potatoes and cranberry sauce, the schnitzel looks huge but I was always able to finish mine!
Spätzle & Pork
Spätzle is a soft-egg noodle that is common throughout many European countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
A classic Viennese dish of boiled beef or veal that I really wanted to try, but did not get a chance. It was on the menu at most traditional Austrian establishments.
Where – Cafes & Restaurants
Salzburg: Gasthof Alter Fuchs
Linzer G. 47-49, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Located on the other side of the river from the old town, this cozy place with classic dishes on the menu had a traditional Austrian feel.
Salzburg: Pretzel Stand in Kapitelplatz
Familie Reiter – nur am Kapitelplatz, Salzburg 5020, Austria (square with a man standing on top of a big gold sphere)
During our Sound of Music tour our guide recommended this pretzel place to everyone and announced that it had the best pretzels in Salzburg. Sometimes I am skeptical of tour guide recommendations mid-tour, thinking that they are only trying to promote a specific business. Our guide was right about this one! With almost ten different varieties of pretzels as big as your head, you are sure to find a flavor you will enjoy.
Salzburg: Die Wiesse
Rupertgasse 10, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
We didn’t know if our hunger could hold on long enough to reach this locally recommended biergarten and were about to give up when we heard music. By following the sound of a tuba we made it to this biergarten that was full of Austrians in their traditional dirndls and lederhosen. As it was a national holiday we were treated to a festive and authentic display of music, dancing, and eating. Even if you don’t luck out with the festive atmosphere we experienced, the outdoor garden and food are still worth a visit. Another great recommendation from our tour guide that is a little off the beaten path.
Salzburg: Untersberg Mountain – Hochalm am Untersberg
Located on top of Untersberg Mountain, this traditional looking restaurant offers classic fare at reasonable prices and close up views of the surrounding alps. See my full Untersberg post for more information.
Salzburg: Café Latini
Judengasse 17, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
This café is good if you want something a little quicker within the old town close to all the sights. I particularly recommend the ice cream and a nice outdoor table for prime people watching.
Haarhof 3, 1010 Wien, Austria
We weren’t quite ready for lunch when we stumbled upon this restaurant, but it was too good to pass up. It was almost hidden within a little courtyard. I had a chicken salad here. It sounds really basic, but the spices in it made me scarf down my salad at the rate of which I would usually eat a piece of chocolate cake.
Intersection of Ballgasse & Blumenstockgasse — restaurant in the center with green boards
Sometimes you are given a sign in life. One of these times happened when we were standing on the street debating where to eat dinner, when a man walked by and handed us a restaurant flyer. It said the restaurant was within one minute walking distance. The fact that a movable flyer said within one minute walking distance was amusing, but we decided it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. It was within a one minute distance, on a side street at the meeting point of a fork in the road with a few restaurants. Another slightly more secluded area with several cafés. Although we typically ate outdoors only for lunch when it was warm enough, we wanted to experience the area outdoors for dinner as well. We were given blankets as we enjoyed our top notch salmon and schnitzel dishes.
Vienna: Schönbrunn Palace
For where to eat at Schönbrunn Palace check out my full post on our visit there.
Other Cuisines and Restaurants
Of course the main eating focus was on Austrian specialities, but one of the things I dislike the most about living in Russia is the lack of diverse and flavorful foods. We were in Austria for nine days so that gave us a chance to try some other cuisines as well.
We had a few different Italian meals and they were all scrumptious.
Gmunden: Vienna Cafe DP Gastro GmbH
Sparkassegasse 1, 4810 Gmunden, Austria
We ate at this Italian spot to satisfy our hunger that developed when kayaking on Lake Traunsee. It was our first meal in Austria and our first time experiencing the service culture in Austria. From traveling quite a bit around Europe I wasn’t quite as surprised as my mom by the lack of attention we received and the odd encounter of one waiter starting to take our order, then proceeding to talk to another waiter and leave.
It wouldn’t deter me from returning again one day. My salmon pasta was the type of dish that I just wanted to lick the plate clean. The views of the lake and the mountains in the distance rounded out the experience to a favorable one.
Seefeld: Restaurant Seefelder Stube
Innsbrucker Str. 23, 6100 Seefeld in Tirol, Austria
When visiting in May, during the off-season, there are not too many restaurant options. Our hotel manager suggested three places we could eat. Our pizza and pasta dishes at the Seefelder Stube arrived exactly as we ordered them and full of rich flavors.
Vienna: Ristorante San Carlo
Mahlerstraße 3, 1010 Wien, Austria
This ristorante near the Opera House has a slightly more elegant feel so when we came in drenched from the rain we wondered if they would even let us get a table. When the waiter led us to a table and then turned around we were left standing awkwardly in the middle of the room starting to get concerned that we wouldn’t get a table for real. It was our last meal in Austria so we were starting to get the hang of the Austrian restaurant world so we kept calm and waited until we finally got a drafty table near the door to the rainy weather outside. Soon enough we were served our food and my luscious pasta dish made me quickly forget about the temperature.
Vienna: Salud Restaurant and Bar
Johannesgasse 23, 1010 Wien, Austria
Don’t go here if you want attentive service, but do go here for some good tex-mex food.
Whether you want to have some Austrian dishes or not, you are sure to find something tasty in Austria.
May’s museum of the month is the Sisi Museum in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. Finally I can wholeheartedly say that I recommend the museum of the month. The visit got off to a rocky start when the ticket agent tried to convince us not to visit the museum because we would not have enough time. With a ticket to the museum you are able to visit the Sisi Museum, the Imperial Apartments and the Silver Collection. While we didn’t have enough time to visit all three, you can visit the Silver Collection at a seperate time. The ticket agent was so kind to ‘forget’ that detail!
After we convinced her that we indeed did want to visit we had an entertaining and insightful visit (and had enough time!). Audio guides were given to use throughout the museum and the apartments. Usually I find myself zoning out when listening to those, but here I was interested and focused.
While visiting the museum you learn about the life of Empress Elisabeth through the set pathway that then leads directly into the Imperial Apartments. Perhaps what made the audio guide so interesting was that Empress Elisabeth, more well known as Sisi, was such a fascinating person who didn’t actually want to live a royal life. The objects displayed add to the story of her unusual royal life.
I included Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO world heritage site, on the same post, because it was the summer residence of the Imperial family and another site to learn more about Sisi and the other Hapsburgs of Austria. Along with Sisi we learned about Empress Maria Theresa, Francis I and their children. Among their children was Marie Antoinette, a former Queen of France. It’s intriguing how many well-known people from history fill school books such as Marie Antoinette, when others such as Sisi are rarely mentioned or more easily forgotten. I never realized or at least remembered that Marie Antoinette had Austrian heritage.
There is an audio guide that provides information when walking through the palace rooms. The guide is very similar to the one at the Sisi Museum. Fortunately it is just as interesting too. There is only a small amount of repeat information. It did not deter me from being attentive and it really helped me remember the information and put it into context. Especially because there is information on other individuals in the Hapsburg family it was helpful to have the knowledge of Empress Sisi ahead of time.
Schönbrunn Palace Park & Grounds
Just like the Hellbrunn Palace and park in Salzburg, the vast grounds of Schönbrunn palace are free and open to all.
There is a huge amount of greenery to explore for free, but for a little something extra check out the the places listed below that require an additional admission.
This garden offered us good side views of the palace and tunnels to go skipping through while we reminisced about our Sound of Music tour.
This garden was the least impressive to me, but it did have a wide variety of exotic plants.
This one isn’t a garden, but it offers a view of the palace from above. It requires a bit of an uphill walk outdoors and a tight staircase within the Gloriette to reach the viewing platform. It provides an overall viewpoint of the palace and the grounds.
Any child or child at heart would agree with me that this is the best garden. What’s more fun than entering a hedge maze, saying “race you to the lookout point” and taking off before the other person knows what happened? Well beating them to the end and watching from above as they struggle to find their way is slightly more fun!
Taking advantage of all the playful parts of the mazes was pretty fun too.
Cafés & Restaurants
Along with a couple of snack carts there are about ten different cafés and restaurants within the palace grounds. You can even catch an apfelstrudel show at the Café Restaurant Residenz & Court Bakery. I would recommend the two restaurants below both for their food and atmosphere.
I knew I needed some cake later in the day so I tried ordering a salad here. But needing a little extra protein to make sure I could continue running through mazes, I asked for some chicken to be added to my salad. Although chicken was available in other salads, this was just not possible for mine. While I went with the salad anyway, soon enough the waiter returned to tell me they were out of the salad. I’m a very persistent woman, so I went with the chicken schnitzel but asked for a green salad on the side…..kind of what I wanted originally? With the waiter’s limited English and obvious confusion, my mother warned me I probably would not get what I requested.
Low and behold, I did…..and out of the many times I had schnitzel throughout the trip this was my very favorite. On top of that we had one of the nicest waiters of our trip, which helped to break the stereotype of rude Viennese waiters.
Landtmann’s Jausen Station
Landtmann’s is off the beaten track a bit more than other restaurants, but it’s slightly secluded location within the greenery contrasts well with the colorful, beachy feel of the resturant.
My food at was much easier to order, but just as tasty. I had a Viennese speciality, the Sacher Torte. While I ordered it more because I like to try the traditional food everywhere I travel, I ended up really savoring every bite.
How to get there
Sisi Museum: Best to walk because it is within the center of Vienna.
Schönbrunn Palace: Use the underground U4 and get off at the stop named “Schönbrunn”. You need to buy a ticket from a machine at the station. Make sure to validate it by sticking it in a little box before getting inside the car. The boxes are usually located on the main floor before you go down an escalator to board.
Wear comfortable shoes when visiting Schönbrunn palace if you plan to walk around the grounds and the gardens. Much of the time you are walking on gravel so your shoes will get dirty.
The regular ticket includes admission into the Sisi Museum, the Imperial Apartments and the Silver Collection. The museum and apartments need to be visited together, but the Silver Collection can be visited on a separate day. There is also the Sisi ticket which offers admission into all those places within the Hofburg Vienna as well as the Schönbrunn Palace & the Imperial Furniture collection. With this ticket you do not have access to all the paid gardens at Schönbrunn Palace. Then there are various ticket combinations to visit Schönbrunn Palace with or without the gardens included.
We bought the regular ticket for the Sisi Museum and the classic pass for Schönbrunn, which includes all the paid gardens as well as both tours within the palace. Three to four hours is the recommended time for the classic pass. We spent at least six or seven, including lunch and dessert.
Toilets are available at the beginning of the Sisi Museum. As far as I know there were not any other toilets throughout the museum or apartments (the museum automatically leads into the apartments). At the end, the museum was closing so we were not allowed to go back to use the toilets at the beginning and instead sent to the paid toilets nearby.
There are paid toilets immediately when entering Schönbrunn Palace grounds. If you walk across the wide open plaza you can use the toilets for free within the palace. There was usually a line, but you did not need to have a ticket to access the toilets. Within the maze garden there are free toilets but you need to have a ticket.
Our last stop in Austria was back where we started, in Austria’s largest and most well-known city, Vienna.
Free Walking Tour
We did a free walking tour through Good Vienna Tours and as the name suggests got a good introduction to the city. I messed up the timing and instead of doing the tour on our first morning as planned, we did it on our second morning. For some reason I felt a little lost within Vienna and the tour really helped to orient me to the center of the city. It also gave an overview about everything which kept the tour interesting because so many topics were discussed but was useful in helping us decide what we wanted to do with the rest of our time. I would recommend doing this tour your first morning in the city if possible.
A fair amount of the tour was focused on the Hofburg palace, one of the largest palace complexes in the world, and all the institutions that make up the complex. Many of the Viennese sights to see are within the former residences and government buildings of the Hapsburg emperors.
Albertina Museum – Art museum, known for its print rooms.
Austrian National Library
We planned our schedule to visit the Austrian National Library, Austria’s largest library and another component of the Imperial Palace complex, when they were having a free open house. During the visit we were able to look around the impressive Great Hall. Informational panels are set up throughout the imperial hall. We learned that during Hitler’s reign many books were taken from Jewish families and added to the library. Over the years these books have finally gone back to their rightful owners. It’s a gorgeous building that reminds me of the Beauty & the Beast library. When we were there it was full to the brim with tourists and didn’t quite have that library feel I was hoping for.
Spanish Riding School Tour
Neither my mom or I have any interest in horses. I really have very little interest in animals at all. This didn’t deter me from wanting to visit the Spanish Riding School through a guided tour and learn about the famous Lipizzan horses. The riding school is another part of the Imperial Palace. Throughout the tour we visited the horse stables and got close to them, but were only able to take photos from a distance.
We saw the tack room with the saddles and bridles. We also saw their morning practice arena and the performance arena.
Even though we didn’t have a particular interest in horses and definitely no equestrian knowledge, we both really enjoyed the tour and found it interesting. Our guide was great and shared a lot of details about the requirements of being a rider and the daily lives of both the horses and riders. For the first time ever the school now has a female rider.
Vienna Opera House
Our first night in Vienna I surprised my mom with tickets to the Vienna Opera House to see the ballet, Balanchine, Neumeier and Robbins. Visiting the famous opera house was a must for me.
Inside the building is just as opulent as it is on the outside, so there are many visitors all fighting for the perfect shoot.
Another way to see the inside of the opera house is to partake in a guided tour. If you want to catch a glimpse of opera for free stop by the opera house in the evenings and you might catch a free live broadcast outside.
We lucked out being able to visit the museum on the first Sunday of the month when it is free. The museum covers the history of Vienna through paintings and a variety of other historical artifacts. The collections are organized by time period. There are some beautiful paintings and I learned a tid bit here and there, but for the most part I was glad our visit was free.
When we visited there were two exhibits. One on Otto Wagner that I did not find particularly interesting. The other, which will be at the museum until January 2019 was on hair and skin. At first I thought it would be weird and scientific, but it was actually on the history and changes within beauty care of the years with some connections to Vienna. It was interesting to think about something that we use and do everyday and how those routines have developed and changed over time.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
You can go inside the cathedral for free or pay to walk to the top for a view. We took a peek inside during a service. It’s gorgeous on the inside, but I felt a little weird gawking around in the back as people were in the middle of service.
After all the sights were closed we enjoyed a nice evening stroll in this park before dinner one night.
Opera House: We had first row seats in the center of the ‘Balkon Mitte Rechts’. They offered an unobstructed full picture view, but you had to sit up/be tall or lean forward a bit to see over the railing. Looking around the theater it seemed like people in all parts of the balconies had to do the same. From my own research I know that anyone sitting in the second row in the side boxes can’t see at all. Standing tickets for 3 euros are available if you wait in line and of course stand during the entire show.
Spanish Riding School: Unless you have a particular love of horses and/or want to spend the money on a show, I suggest doing the guided tour instead of the morning exercise. While you don’t see the horses in action, you do see them and get to learn a lot more about the school and the famous tradition in Vienna.
Free toilets are hard to find. Even some cafes in the center charge, but offer a paper voucher upon paying that can be deducted from your bill. Within the Hofburg complex there is a paid public toilet, but it closes at 6pm. Near the main shopping street there are underground toilets. Other than the intimidating lady forcing you to pay, they are actually quite nice considering you feel like you are going underground to a metro station. McDonald’s is always a good bet too, but of course there is a fee.