I realize all too well that I have by now exhausted anything new or interesting I could say about Viennese Christmas fairs (that’s last year’s post, and even the links work with Germanic precision), except that I still like them a lot, and yes, I bought that damn mug from Karlsplatz again. This although the blog’s industrious co-photographer very correctly pointed it out that one day one of us will open a kitchen cabinet and get squashed by an overflow of mugs which were bought with the incorrect idea that they are needed. Actually, not incorrect: my soul needs that Advent mug, in spite of the fact that it’s not my soul drinking tea from it, nor is it my soul trying to fit it on the last free inches of a shelf.
There is perhaps one useful item of information I can dispense when it comes to the Karlsplatz market: the mulled wine closest to the church is the spiciest and sweetest, and as such the best, and you should particularly avoid the one branded as bio Glühwein close to the exit towards the museum: its bio-ness is probably the excuse for its foul, almost ciderish taste. A further novelty was a visit to the institution I have recently taken to calling, in faux-aristocratic way, a micturation chamber, for which I blame the bio Glühwein mostly. This being said, the establishment was fairly clean in spite of being basically a festive portaloo, and I was just about to be impressed by how Austrians do drop the required 50 cents without coercion when I discovered with some surprise that behind an innocuous looking service door there is an inordinately grumpy man yelling Fünfzig cents! alternatingly towards the women’s and the men’s rooms.
Prior to our visit to the market, the blog’s industrious co-photographer had had a traumatizing morning, mostly due to my incompetence at placing orders, combined with the old-world strictness about fixing them of Café Sperl. The visit began in an inauspicious way when we were frothing in a giant queue squeezed into a tiny corridor at the entrance, with the staff ignoring us in the most blatant of ways. This is an art, perfected to the extreme by personnel working on the territory of what was once the mighty Habsburg Empire, with the Czechs being the absolute masters, and Austrians seemingly running close behind: they stare at you with majesty, informing you that they damn well KNOW you are there, but also CHOOSE to look through you for the time being.
This unhappy situation was finally defused by a couple of locals who dashed trough to occupy some empty seats uninvited, and we followed their lead. Shaken by the tremendous effort of getting seated, I then ordered two strudels, when in fact the blog’s industrious co-photographer has wanted a Sacher Torte. When trying to rectify my mistake, I was informed that orders cannot, should not and would not be changed- basically like the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the man’s dead and that’s that, now eat your strudel. It was a good strudel, but this did not impress the blog’s industrious co-photographer, raised in a more Eastern and thus customer friendlier culture.
He was therefore in a slightly foul-ish mood until we accidentally and fortuitously discovered the 1516 Brewing Company on Schwarzenbergstraße, where he indulged in his first ever burger in Vienna (breaking free of his compulsion to order Wiener Schnitzels each time) and found it to be exquisite, especially paired with the brewery’s own IPA on tap. I did not break free of anything, and went for sausage and pretzels and regretted nothing. I also might have had one IPA too many for early afternoon hours, and thus might have later, during the compulsory visit to the Frick bookstore on the Graben, bought a book I already have. Because summaries on the dust jacket these days are not what they used to be in the days of the Empire.
PS: For the first time in a very very long time, the Stephansdom is not covered in scaffolding. In exchange, they seem to be dismantling and fixing the golden leaves atop the Secession museum. And since we’ve mentioned the Stephansdom, I keep hoping that one day somebody will finally realize that a Sia/Johann Strauss mash-up with members of the Vienna Ballet swinging from the chandeliers on the Graben is exactly what the New Year’s concert needs to be really cutting edge.