We arrived early this morning at Vienna, the “City of Music!” We bussed to the city while listening to the tour guide, then we exited the bus to walk for the remainder of the tour. I was really excited to see Vienna, a city of 1.7 million people, and had planned to buy plenty of beautiful clothes and/or souvenirs here, but alas! Today was not only a Sunday (when very few places were open in the first place), to top it off this was “the National Holiday of Austria to commemorate the Declaration of Neutrality of 1955,” according to our newsletter. So there would be little, if any, shopping to be done today. Also, little, if any, in the way of visiting museums, etc. Bill and I were glad, though, that we had signed up for the extra tour of Schönbrunn Palace for later in the afternoon, so at least we would be able to see that. It was quite disappointing to learn that we had such a short time here. Of course, this just made me more resolved to come back to visit such a wonderful city (also known as “Europe’s most liveable city”) when we had much more time to spend!
We, in our group, had been hearing for days how Bill G. knew there was “a Sachertorte in Vienna with (his) name on it,” so we were all excited and on the lookout for these illusive Sachertortes. He had shown us a photo of one on his iPhone, so we all knew what to look for. Luckily, without even being prompted to do so, our tour guide volunteered the information by naming a few wonderful coffee houses, which were well-known for making the chocolate cakes, in the city. We passed right by one of those coffee houses. It’s called “Demel.” (After the tour, as a matter of fact, our group made a beeline back to Demel, not only for a decadent piece of the rich Sachertorte, but for a cup of their delicious coffee. The day was cloudy and cold, and we were all ready to warm up by then. After we had been seated and we ordered our coffees, however, we were dismayed to learn that the baker hadn’t yet baked any Sachertortes for the day! Luckily, there were many other gorgeous cakes and desserts in their glass cases from which to choose. One of the servers did point out to me a few “miniature” Sachertortes, which looked somewhat like small, cylindrical cupcakes. I immediately informed Bill G., and he and I each bought one of those. He ate his on the spot, but I didn’t have time to eat both this and my other piece of cake, so I wrapped it inside a couple of napkins and saved it for later. It was very good!)
Without going into too much detail regarding the famous Sachertorte, here is a bit of history. In 1832, sixteen-year-old Franz Sacher, who was in his second year of training as a chef for Prince Wenzel von Metternich, first created a special chocolate torte. According to Wikipedia, “while the torte created by Sacher on this occasion is said to have delighted Metternich’s guests, the dessert received no immediate further attention.” After many years, Franz Sacher’s oldest son, Eduard, completed “his own training in Vienna with the Royal and Imperial Pastry Chef at the Demel bakery and chocolatier, during which time he perfected his father’s recipe.”
The improved cake was first served at the Demel, but later at the Hotel Sacher, which was established in 1876 by Eduard Sacher. “Since then, the cake remains among the most famous of Vienna’s culinary specialties.” Unfortunately, there were some legal issues regarding which establishment should be allowed to call their Sachertorte the “original.” Finally, it was decided that the Hotel Sacher would have the right to the label, “The Original Sachertorte,” and Demel would have the right to stamp each of their pieces of torte with a seal that reads, “Eduard-Sacher-Torte.”
The Sachertorte “consists of a dense chocolate cake meringue based with a thin layer of apricot jam on top, coated in dark chocolate icing on the top and sides. It is traditionally served with unsweetened whipped cream,” though at each bakery (Demel and Hotel Sacher), the cake is made with a bit of variation. Anyway, Vienna prides itself on being called the “coffee house capital of the world,” where all types of tortes and other desserts are also served.
While riding around the city on the bus, it was too difficult to take a good look, let alone to take photos of the buildings and other areas that were pointed out to us. I remember riding along the Ringstrasse (Vienna’s grand boulevard) and seeing the Staatsoper (one of Europe’s largest opera houses), the Parliament Building, and others. I did take a few photos while on the bus, but I don’t know the names of many of the buildings.
We exited the bus at the Albertina Museum, which had a very artistic stairway, the theme of which is changed fairly often throughout the year.
This is also the location of the Vienna International Film Festival at the Film Museum, as you can see from the sign.
We walked past some interesting-looking shops on our way toward the Hofburg Imperial Palace and the famous Spanish Riding School (the Spanische Hofreitschule), which was founded in 1572 “with the aim of cultivating the finer points of horse-riding,” according to our Avalon Guide Book.
The Hofburg Imperial Palace was the principal winter residence of the powerful Habsburgs. Maria Antonia Josepha (or Josephina) Johanna (aka Marie Antoinette), who was one of the daughters of Maria Theresa (the only woman Habsburg monarch to rule the Holy Roman Empire), was born here in 1755. (As we all know, Marie Antoinette was executed almost 38 years later via the guillotine in 1793 in Paris during the French Revolution.)
After viewing what we could of the Spanish Riding School (we were not allowed to go inside, since everything was closed today), we followed the tour guide through some more streets and made our way toward the Graben, a main street in the inner part of the city. Here we saw the Pestsäule, a Holy Trinity column that was commissioned by Leopold I in 1679, after the Great Plague epidemic. For various reasons, it took several years to complete the statue, which was finally inaugurated in 1693.
After showing us where the Cathedral was, our tour guide left us, but cautioned us to be back at the bus area by around 11:30 so we could get back on the ship in time for lunch. This is when our group turned around and headed straight back to Café Demel. It was nice to sit down and relax for a bit with some fine refreshments.
After fortifying ourselves at Demel, Bill and I headed back out to the streets to look around before we had to return to where the buses would be waiting for us. We found a souvenir store that was open, so we bought a souvenir magnet for Steve. It showed Mozart riding on a Lipizzaner.
We made our way back to the Albertina and walked up the pretty staircase. We had a look around from the terrace area at the top.
We boarded the bus and headed back to the ship. After lunch, Bill and I would be going on the optional excursion to Schönbrunn, the summer palace of the Habsburgs.