We missed travel Tuesday this week, didn’t we? I was in a post-Christmas sugar cookie and family-time induced state of bliss and forgot to get it done. Oops. #sorrynotsorry Those Christmas cookies were REALLY good, guys. You’d forgive me if you tasted them, I know it. So we are doing Travel Thursday this week. It’ll be fine.
Today’s travel post takes us to Vienna, Austria. Christmas was giving me all the 1-year memory feels of Austria as this time last year we were soaking up as much Alpine holiday cheer as we could.
We randomly decided to head to Vienna on Christmas Eve and had no problems getting a hotel last minute through TripAdvisor. We booked the Austria Trend Hotel Savoyen for less than $100 a night. It was beautifully appointed, felt luxurious for the price, and was in the perfect location to walk to area attractions like Belvedere Palace – and the hotel upgraded us to a suite when we arrived. Score!
After a quick napper and a wardrobe refresh, we headed a few blocks down the road to our traditional Austrian Christmas dinner at Enziana Stube at the Hotel Vienna. I CAN NOT recommend this place enough. It was 100% the most quaint, cozy, warm, inviting, Christmas-y and DELICIOUS meal you could imagine. It was a price fix menu with traditional Austrian fare and something like 7 courses. The hotel has an Austrian lodge feel and the waitstaff are in lederhosen and barely speak English – so practice up on your German, my friends. (As a side note, we saw a particularly upsetting French family YELL – like top of their lungs, the whole restaurant stopped to stare, YELL at their waiter. “WE WANT A WAITER WHO SPEAKS FRENCH!!!” So go back to France, Frenchies, and get all the French waitressing your freakin’ French faces desire, this is Austria??? Poor guy, he threw his hands up and ran for the hills, no doubt. Das ist nicht gut, meine Freunde. Nicht gut – don’t be those people.)
I didn’t take photos as I was determined to just be in the moment and enjoy Christmas Eve in Vienna with my hubby … it’s likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You put the phone down and enjoy those sometimes. (Try it, it only hurts for a moment! I promise!) And on a side note, many of the restaurants in Vienna take reservations via email, and are great to work with, despite the language barrier. Google translate for the win!
Since Vienna turned out to be somewhat last-minute, we had limited plans and choices on Christmas Eve for activities. Several choir performances and ballet/opera options were, naturally, booked up at that late hour. So we improvised and hung out at the hotel bar, Bar Soissons. We met the most entertaining bartender of our lives at this Bar Soissons. Once he got done laughing at my struggle to say various phrases in German, he kicked it into teacher mode and worked with me the entire night. I learned more useable German in that bar than I learned in months of using various teaching apps. We laughed a lot and learned a little. Perfect Christmas Eve, yah?
Waking up in Vienna on Christmas morning is as hauntingly magical as it is unbelievable – it made me smile, which is very un-viennese of me, but I’m American so… picture or it didn’t happen, yah? —-> It feels ancient, steeped in tradition and more than anything, like a city full of Christmas. But in a very Vienna, elegant sort of Christmas-y way. Which means fur coats and coffee houses on Christmas morning.
If you didn’t know, coffee house culture in Vienna is unsurpassed. It’s a tradition that goes back hundreds of years, as do some of the cake recipes. We opted into the Demel experience which meant sipping coffee and champagne at 9am, next to a family in fur coats. From father to the four-legged family dog, fur coats for everyone. This is just another morning at a typical Vienna coffee house for this family.
Demel is famous for their pastries and the sugared violet recipe dates back to 17 something-or-rather. Once you crunch into one, it’s pretty obvious why they were so popular with royalty. Coffee in Austria is something to experience. Demel in Vienna is no exception. Austrians treat coffee with reverence and they serve it that way too. It’s always on a sparkling tray, in a small pot, with a single serving of cream, various types of sugar and a strudel or slice of cake. You sit, sip and realize life is good. Sehr gut.
The rest of our Christmas Day was spent on the Belvedere Palace grounds, taking in the stunning architecture and hunting down Klimpt paintings in the gallery. Then back to our hotel bar for more language learning and the driest, dirtiest martini in all of Austria. Or at least that’s what the girl next to us ordered before spilling it all over herself. Dinner AND a show… what luck.
Vienna… good sausage, GREAT coffee, distant but nonetheless cordial people and the best dang sugared violets in Europe. That’s how Austria does Christmas, folks.