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2019 Christmas in Europe (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany)

2019 Christmas in Europe (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany)

Old Jan 6th, 2020, 12:35 PM
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Vienna (continued)
The next morning we had breakfast at Demel. We fully embraced Viennese culture by having cake for breakfast. M had the sacher torte (dry, as expected) and I had something with layers of apple, plum, poppyseed, and chestnut puree. We also had some of the best, richest hot chocolate of the trip. After our meal we stayed a little longer to poke around the beautiful store.

Next it was on to the Hofburg so see the Imperial Silver Collection, Sisi Museum, and Imperial Apartments. I enjoyed the silver collection but wouldn’t say that it’s a must-see. I’m sure most people visit because it’s included in the Sisi ticket. The Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments were really interesting, although I’m not sure if I feel bad for Sisi or exasperated with her. Because of the pairing of the museum with the apartments, I learned a lot more here (with an audioguide) than I did from the tour at Schonbrunn. Both palaces are worth visiting, but I think I slightly prefer Hofburg - as least in the winter when Schonbrunn’s gardens aren’t a huge attraction.

Our next visit was to the Austrian National Library. I love books and reading and libraries, so I try to get to as many libraries as possible. In addition to the gorgeous Baroque library, there was a really interesting exhibit about Beethoven and his life in Vienna, which M and I both really enjoyed.

We weren’t starving, but we had a long list of cafes we wanted to visit while in Vienna, so at this point we headed to Gerstner for lunch. It’s a chocolate shop on the ground floor, a bar/café on the next floor, and a restaurant a floor above that. We were seated on the cafe level; I'm still curious about the top-level restaurant, but we didn't have time to return for another meal. We had grilled cheese sandwiches (they’re not called that on the menu but that’s essentially what they were) and, of course, more cake. I really liked Gerstner; the furnishings are beautiful, and it was just a lovely place to have a leisurely lunch.

After lunch M and I split up. She wanted to visit the Kunsthistoriches Museum (which I’d seen on my previous trip), and I wanted to do the Rick Steves audio walking tour around the city. I paused the tour a lot because there were just so many beautiful scenes to photograph. Vienna does Christmas lights so, so well!

After a few hours M and I met back up again at the Christmas market on Maria-Theresien-Platz. I liked this market; it’s small but has a festive feeling to it. I also found a stall selling beautiful ceramic ornaments, so a bought one for myself and one as a gift.

We ended the night grocery shopping – first at Julius Meinl and then at a more affordably-priced Billa. Americans take note: our 24/7 culture doesn’t really carry over to Europe. We often had to go out of our way to find a grocery store that was open as late as 8pm.

Tomorrow: More cafes, more palaces, more Christmas markets!







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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 08:23 AM
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You scored on the Vienna apartment! Enjoying your reporting style. Thanks for including photos.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 07:33 PM
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Vienna (continued)
The plan for our second full day in Vienna was to spend the morning at Schonbrunn palace. We took the train out to the stop just beyond Shonbrunn so that we could have breakfast at the Oberlaa Doymmeyer Cafe. I was surprised at how full the cafe was at 9am on a Wednesday morning. We weren't really in a tourist neighborhood, so who were all of these people who had time for a leisurely cafe breakfast?! I had chosen this cafe because of a comment I'd read somewhere about Oberlaa having the best pastries. I was kind of disappointed that my only choice of pastries was brioche or croissant, but my simple breakfast of chamomile tea and brioche was good enough.

Grateful to have a clear, sunny (though still chilly) day, we walked from the cafe to the palace through the palace gardens. My previous trip to Vienna was in October, so who knows if I'll ever get to see the palace grounds in full bloom. Still, the grounds are impressive.

We had purchased the Sisi Ticket online before the trip, so luckily we didn't have to stand in any lines to gain entrance to the palace. The tour comes with an audioguide, which focuses partially on Franz Josef and Sisi and partially on Maria Theresa. It was quite crowded, plus I' d been through Schonbrunn before, so I wasn't quite as impressed with this palace as I had been the day before with Hofburg. That being said, I still enjoyed it and it's definitely worth a visit for anyone visiting Vienna.

After our tour inside the palace was finished we set about making our way around the Christmas market in front of the palace. I finally got the spatzle I had been looking for - potato dumplings with cheese, crispy onions, and bacon. It's basically a grown up mac and cheese and so incredibly good! I also found a couple of wooden Christmas ornaments I liked as well as a modern graphic-style map of the world.

Next up was the Naschmarkt. Either Google maps lead us astray or I read the directions wrong because we got off the metro much sooner than we needed to. I didn't mind the long walk though, and I hope M didn't either. The Naschmarkt is a bunch of stalls selling produce, dried fruits, candies, etc. with vendors enthusiastically or aggressively (depending on your perspective) trying to get you to sample and buy their goods. It would have been great had we been in need of a meal or doing more cooking in our apartment, but since neither applied, we breezed through fairly quickly.

M wanted to have a good schnitzel while in Austria, and I'd read about Figlmueller as a poplar schnitzel spot, so we got in one line only to be told that without a reservation we needed to go around the corner to another Figlmueller restaurant (or is it just another entrance?). Anyway, the line there moved pretty quickly, and we were soon seated. Here's where we had our first encounter with a rude waiter. I know Viennese waiters are known for being gruff, but up until this point the waiters had been either friendly or politely distant. Things were going well here until I asked for tap water and got the response, "Madam, this is a restaurant. We do not serve tap water." I just looked at him and eventually he sighed and brought me a glass of tap water. This is not the last time or place we'd come up against this, and I'm not sure how to think about it. In a place like India or Egypt I'm all about paying for bottled water for obvious health reasons. But in a place like Austria where (as multiple people told us with pride) the tap water is better than bottled water, I get annoyed with being asked to pay for water. I'm on vacation, eating out for every meal, usually ordering multiple courses. I'm spending a good amount of money, and I'd like to be able to save a euro or two by not having to pay for water to accompany my meal.

Anyway, despite that little interaction, we really enjoyed our meal. The side salad with it's slightly sweet mustardy dressing was one of the best things I ate on the trip. I'm not a schnitzel connoisseur, so I don't have much to compare it to, but the main course was quite good as well.

One of my objectives on this trip was to visit as many cafes as possible, so when, on our walk back to the apartment, we passed Cafe Pruckel, I suggested we stop in for dessert. The decor is more mid-century than 19th century elegant; the selection of cakes was surprisingly small. I ordered apfelstrudel and it was disappointingly soggy. All in all I'd say this cafe is skippable.

It was still fairly early but already dark, so we were more than happy to head back to the apartment. We watched A Christmas Prince: Royal Wedding, which was just as delightfully cheesy and cliché as expected! It was really nice to have some down time.






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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 04:20 AM
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Still reading and enjoying. Thanks!
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 09:44 AM
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elberko Thanks for following along! I got super busy last week and wasn't able to continue the report, but I'm back and ready to finish this thing up!
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 12:08 PM
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Wow, that library!
Vienna looks fabulous.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 12:22 PM
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Though we left Vienna this summer after seven years, it is, and likely will always be a treat to read about our former adopted hometown.

For future planning, the second level of Gerstner near Opera is splendid. The rooms are wonderfully decorated; and if you are fortunate enough to secure a table near the open windows in pleasant weather, the view of Opera makes for a delightful lunch companion. (Oh, and the Tartare is exceptional...)

In all of our time in Vienna we never dined at Figlmüller. Dinner-sized Schnitzel never appealed to us, and it seems that they may have gone the "charge the tourists for tap water" route, along with the likes of Cafe Landtmann and a couple of others. For shame.

And I agree that the "Dish Room" at Hofburg can be a little tedious.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 02:18 PM
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Adelaidean As a child watching Beauty and the Beast I thought that incredible library was just something someone had dreamed up for the movie. Fast forward 20 years and I've seen numerous "Beauty and the Beast libraries" in my travels throughout Europe!

fourfortravel So I'm not just being cheap by being annoyed by the charge-for-tap-water situation? We had an even ruder waiter at Cafe Central that wouldn't serve us tap water. I had wonderful memories of Cafe Central from my 2010 trip, those feelings were dimmed somewhat at seeing how crowded and touristy it's become now, and then after the waiter situation my feelings about Central turned totally negative. At Cafe Landtmann they charged us, but at least they didn't make a big deal about it.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 07:15 PM
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Vienna (continued)

Although we'd be staying in Vienna for a few more days, the Sisi Apartment wasn't available for our entire stay, so we had to say a reluctant goodbye to this beautiful, comfortable apartment. We headed across town to the Neubau neighborhood to check into our new lodging, a cottage that was much smaller and a bit shabbier, though well thought out in its design. The neighborhood had a totally different vibe than the neighborhood in which we had been staying - lots of Indian and Vietnamese restaurants, a bookshop that seemed to focus on spiritual enlightenment, maybe less wealth but more energy. Both neighborhoods were great in terms of proximity to the city center and public transit.

Once settled into the new apartment, we pulled up an Art Nouveau walk I had found online and navigated our way to the Anker clock. It was just before 1pm, so we waited until the clock struck the hour...pretty anticlimatic. On another day M went back to see the clock strike 12, which she said is much more impressive. We saw the famous Engle Apotheke shop and then paused our walk at Cafe Schwarzenburg for lunch. I'd say the style of this cafe is masculine and refined. I got goulash soup and chocolate mousse cake, both of which I really liked. This was my second-favorite cafe in Vienna.

We continued on with our Art Nouveau walk, seeing a building on the Graben, the Karlsplatz metro station, and the impressive Secession building. We weren't sure about going back to the Naschmarkt, but I wanted to get better photos of the Otto Wagner buildings across the street, so I convinced M that we should go. We had no idea how close it was! Although we'd been looking at maps every day, we were finally starting to understand how things relate to one another and fit together.

The sunset was brilliant this night - the sky all lit up in pinks and purples. Once it was dark we walked a few blocks back to Karlskirche and the Art Advent Christmas market. I loved this market; it had such a fun, festive feeling to it! In the middle of the market there's a big area with hay for kids to play in as well as pens for goats and piglets. This ended up being my favorite Christmas market in Vienna.

For dinner we had reservations at Motto. Or at least I though we had reservations. They couldn't find us on their list and when I pulled up the emails I'd received from the restaurant, I realized they weren't confirmations but messages telling me the time I'd requested wasn't available. They were very kind and told us that if we could be finished in an hour they would seat us. This is a newish restaurant, and it seems to be the hip place for locals to meet up for a meal with friends. I really liked the decor; unfortunately my yellow curry wasn't all that great. I didn't note down what M ordered, but I remember that she liked it.

Our last stop of the day was the Spittelberg Christmas market. I was really excited for this market because I'd read that it sells unique, handcrafted items. This is true, but the items were things like hats and soaps, not the Christmas ornaments I was looking for. Still, it had a young, energetic vibe to it. We ended up finding a pop-up shop that sold paper goods and Christmas items that had an all white, minimalist aesthetic. I found a lot that I liked but nothing that I loved and had to take home with me. M bought quite a few gifts here.

Regarding the Christmas markets in Vienna, while there was a lot that I really liked about them, I was a bit disappointed in the shopping. I guess I was expecting there to be tons of unique, handcrafted ornaments, nativities, and other Christmas decorations. While there certainly were those things, they were like gems you had to find amidst the many mass-market items you'd see at every market. I started enjoying the markets a lot more midway through the trip - once I had bought enough souvenirs and gifts and could enjoy the markets more for the food and atmosphere than for the shopping opportunities.


Secession Building










Piglets at the Art Advent market


Motto
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Old Jan 14th, 2020, 03:05 AM
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"So I'm not just being cheap by being annoyed by the charge-for-tap-water situation? We had an even ruder waiter at Cafe Central that wouldn't serve us tap water. I had wonderful memories of Cafe Central from my 2010 trip, those feelings were dimmed somewhat at seeing how crowded and touristy it's become now, and then after the waiter situation my feelings about Central turned totally negative."

You were not being cheap, and you were right to be annoyed. My eyes rolled with your comments about Cafe Central; I dropped in once early in our arrival to Austria in 2012 for some sort of meet-and-greet and was turned off by the chocolate cafe logo atop each torte. I thought it terribly pretentious and never went back. Cafe Schwarzenberg and Burg Ring 1 were my go-to whenever I found myself in the Inner Stadt.

I tend to agree with you about the Vienna markets with respect to the gift selections. We tended to prefer the small village, one-weekend-only markets well outside of the city for handmade and artisanal items. But for sparkle, it is hard to beat Vienna at Christmas time.
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Old Jan 14th, 2020, 09:14 AM
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Vienna (continued)

Continuing on with the longest trip report ever...I'll try to be more brief, but I just love recording alllllll of the details.

We had breakfast at Cafe Diglas. Nice interior but my brioche and hot chocolate were nothing to write home about.

M and I split up for the morning after that. She wanted to see the morning exercises of the Spanish Riding School. I had done that on my previous visit to Vienna and had been extremely underwhelmed. I guess I was expecting jumps and horses in formation and something probably more akin to the performance, not the morning exercises. When M said she wanted to see the Lipizzaner stallions I tried to give her enough info to set realistic expectations while not raining on her parade. She went and enjoyed it.

In the meantime I hopped on the tram and listened to the Rick Steves ringstrasse audio tour. It's definitely not a must-do, but it was a nice way to spend an hour. Once I got off at the opera house, I walked back to the Rathaus Christmas market to buy the German Christmas pyramid I had seen a few days ago.

M and I met up again for lunch at the Palmenhaus, where we'd made advance reservations. Eating inside a giant greenhouse was just as beautiful as I had imagined it would be. My salad and spinach/feta strudel was very good. I think it was here that M got the traditional Austrian beef in cream sauce with potato dumplings. She felt it was a bit bland.

Next we made a return trip to the Art Advent Christmas market. Yesterday M had seen a handmade ceramic nativity mobile that she had decided she wanted to buy, and we also wanted to go inside Karlskirche and take the elevator up to look out the window in the dome. The inside of Karlskirche was not what I was expecting! Yes, it has the ornate Baroque altarpieces and colored marble, but there were also huge spheres that looked like giant Christmas ornaments suspended from the ceiling. At first I was annoyed that whatever these things were interrupted the view of the church, but then M read something that explained that the spheres are a commissioned artwork, continuing the tradition of the Catholic church as a patron of the arts. Okay, that makes sense to me.

Also impeding the view is a giant elevator, but this is temporary and is being used in restoration work that is happening in the church. With your entrance fee (6 euros I think), you can go up the elevator to a window that looks out across the city and down on the Christmas market. I'm afraid of heights, so being that high up in the church was terrifying, but the view out the window was worth it. (Vienna really doesn't have an impressive skyline, but I liked being able to look down on the market below.)

On our way out of the Karlskirche area, I bought the Art Advent market mug. I knew I only wanted to take home one mug from a Christmas market, so I was being choosy about which one I kept. I got a non-alcoholic punch with berries, and it was so good!

We made our way to the Graben and into Peterskirche for the daily 3pm organ concert. It was packed but after each song a few people would get up and leave, so we were able to get seats pretty quickly. In between organ numbers, what looked like a high school choir group from America was performing. It was kind of odd to hear the Mr. Grinch song being sung in an 18th-century church, but they also sung a beautiful version of Silent Night in both English and German.

After that it was on to St. Stephen's where we each tried to listen to the Rick Steves audiotour of the cathedral. We didn't pay to go into the fee area of the church, plus it was kind of a zoo inside with so many people, so this wasn't the most enjoyable experience. I think it's sad that what is meant to be a holy place was so....chaotic.

I have to mention the Manner store. I'd read that Manner wafer cookies were kind of a thing in Vienna, but I really didn't think anything of it because a wafer cookie is not something I would normally seek out. I only went into the store the first time because M wanted to. I bought a small package of the Snack cookies and I was immediately hooked! I don't know what it is about these cookies, but they are way better than your typical pink, yellow, and brown cheap grocery store wafer cookies. Although Manner is a brand you can find in all of the grocery stores in Vienna, we must have stopped into the Manner flagship store next to St. Stephen's three or four times. We each stocked up on packages of cookies to take home for ourselves and as gifts.

Finally, we ended the night at the Belvedere Christmas market. We entered from the Lower Belvedere side, which is farther from the market itself but provides a great view of the museum all lit up. We really didn't see anything at the market that we hadn't seen before, but we stayed long enough to order sausages and mustard for dinner.


Karlskirche


Interior of Karlskirche with sphere art installation and elevator


Looking down on the Art Advent market from high up in the interior of Karlskirche


Art Advent souvenir mug


Peterskirche


Belvedere Palace/Museum
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 03:48 AM
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I really enjoyed reading your Trip Report memejs. I have wanted to visit Germany and Vienna at Christmas time for the Christmas markets too! Thank you for taking the time to do such a wonderful report
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 07:51 AM
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jagirl2 You're welcome. Thanks for reading!
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 07:58 AM
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Vienna (continued)

I was really excited to have breakfast at Vollpension, the cafe with food cooked by grandmas. I'd looked up pictures online and it looked really cute! Unfortunately when we arrived at around 9am on Saturday morning they told us they were booked for the day. They take reservations seriously in Vienna! We hadn't really had a problem up until now, but we had been noticing that many cafes had reserved signs on a number of tables, even on weekday mornings.

We decided to go to the Shokocompany store at the nearby Naschmarkt, where they make hot chocolate by melting a little chocolate bar of your choice in hot milk. We followed that up with some not-amazing pastries from a nearby shop.

Next up was a museum visit - we had purchased tickets to the Upper Belvedere to see the Klimts and other paintings. The building itself is beautiful - it used to be a palace. In each room there's a sign with some explanation of what the room used to be used for and how it was decorated. I really enjoyed the collection, though I wish I'd gotten the audioguide. I debated about whether or not to get it, and looking back I wish I had.

After the museum we decided to make a second visit to Cafe Central for lunch. Once again there was a line and it was starting to drizzle. While M waited in line, I ran to a nearby Christmas market to buy a small wooden nativity I had seen at several of the markets we'd visited. It was expensive and mass produced, but I loved the abstract style of the figures and I knew I'd regret it if I didn't make the purchase.

Once seated in the cafe we had another run-in with a rude waiter who refused to serve us tap water. When M took a sip from the water bottle she keeps in her purse he told her to put it away. It was only at the really touristy places that we were charged for tap water or given a hard time about it. At most places they just brought it to us without a word. This is what makes me angry about the whole situation - if drinking tap water is a thing that's just not done in a country, that's one thing, but when it's only an issue at super touristy places then it's taking advantage of tourists. I'm not usually one to shy away from popular places (they're popular for a reason, right?), but I think Central may have gotten too popular for its own good. Anyway, I forgot what I got to eat for the entree, but for dessert I got a chocolate hazelnut cake that looked beautiful but only tasted mediocre. The waiter had pretty much soured me on Cafe Central anyway.

It was rainy and cold so we headed back to the apartment to rest for a couple of hours. In the evening we got dressed up and took a tram down to the Staatsoper, where we had tickets for a performance of the ballet Le Corsaire. It was amazing! The dancers were incredible, the costumes and sets were colorful, and music was great. It was a really fun experience. Although we could have gotten standing tickets for 1/10 of what we paid, I'm really glad that we spent the money to have reserved seats. We paid around $50 and had great seats on the front row in one of the high, middle-ish sections.

By the time the ballet ended the rain had stopped. We took the tram to the Rathaus stop and crossed our fingers that we wouldn't need a reservation to be seated at Cafe Landtmann. There was a short wait, but luckily we got a table. M ordered the cheese plate and I ordered the Viennese torn pancake, which is served with apple sauce and plum sauce and is so SO good! This was one of my very favorite desserts of the trip, and Cafe Landtmann was my favorite cafe in Vienna.


Belvedere Gardens




Vienna Operahouse


Viennese pancake
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 08:14 AM
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Kaiserschmarrn! Yum.
As a child, we often had Kaiserschmarrn for dinner on meatless Fridays.
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 07:20 AM
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Vienna (continued)

Sunday was our final day in Vienna. We went to a mid-morning church service and then took our bags to the train station to be stored in a locker for a couple of hours before our train to Prague.

We had time for one final lunch at a Viennese cafe, and I was really glad when M suggested that we go back to Cafe Landtmann. I said we had time, but I didn't really factor in the time it would take us to get around the city. It took us about 25 minutes to get to the cafe, and then there was a short line to be seated. As we waited I started thinking that this probably wasn't going to work out well. Anyway, to make a long story short, I ended up having to practically inhale what was an exquisite apfelstrudel and vanilla cream sauce. It was absolutely delicious and I wish I could have really taken the time to savor it.

One note about cafes. When I first traveled to Vienna in 2010 I hadn't known about Viennese cafe culture. We visited a few cafes, but with only three days in the city, our time was limited. I'd always thought that if I ever returned to Vienna, all I'd want to do is visit cafe after cafe. So that's what I planned to do this time around. Now that I've done it, I can say that some of the cafes are really beautiful, but many times those scrumptious-looking cakes look better than they taste. For all of the money that we spent eating meals in cafes, we really didn't have too many stand-out dishes. I'm glad I got to have the experience I wanted of seeing a bunch of Viennese cafes, but if I were to advise others, I'd suggest eating at a few of the best cafes and also mixing in a variety of other cuisines and restaurants. Here are my favorite Viennese cafes:

- Cafe Landtmann - great food, classic interior
- Cafe Schwarzenburg - very good food, nice interior
- Gerstner - beautiful interior, nice selection of cakes

I feel like we had a good, thorough experience in Vienna. Of course we didn't see everything - the city has so much to do - but we were able to do and see a lot without feeling rushed or tired out. I actually loved that we had enough time to return early to the apartment on a rainy afternoon or evening for some down time. Vienna is beautiful and elegant and does some of the best Christmas lights I've seen anywhere, but that being said, it doesn't get a place among my very favorite cities. I would never discourage someone from visiting, I just don't think it's a place I need to return to when there are so many other places I'd love to see.

On to Prague!


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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 06:18 PM
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Prague
The RailJet train to Prague was much older and more Soviet-feeling than the OBB trains we'd taken inside of Austria. The train was made up of private compartments though, which was nice. We had to transfer at a small town just over the Czech border, and it's a good thing I checked my watch and the schedule of stops when I did, because there was no announcement for the stop. We got off and made a quick transfer to another train that looked even older. It seemed like there were reservations/names on all of the compartments, but we just entered one and hoped for the best. Luckily no one came to tell us that we had taken their seats.

We arrived at the train station, withdrew a bit of cash in Czech korunas from the ATM, and bought tram tickets. We checked into our home for the next few days - a beautiful apartment in the Mala Strana, just up the street from the American embassy.

We weren't really looking to go out and do much - just get a bite to eat - but we ended up wandering across the Charles Bridge and then we just kept going until we got to Old Town Square. Now I won't say that we were exactly over Christmas markets by this point, but we'd seen a lot of the markets in Vienna and they had started to feel the same. The market at Old Town Square totally revitalized our enthusiasm for Christmas markets! The food was different, the goods being sold were different, and there was that giant Christmas tree all lit up at the front of the market. By this point we'd been traveling for just about two weeks, but arriving in Prague totally re-energized us!

The next morning we had a reservation for breakfast at Cafe Savoy. My scrambled eggs were runny, but M ordered the French breakfast and really liked it. After breakfast we took our time walking up to the Prague castle complex. Prague is just so beautiful! We stopped to take pictures at just about every turn.

The city hadn't felt too busy thus far, but once we got to the castle we found the crowds! I'm not sure why tickets for the castle sites aren't sold online; we had to squeeze ourselves into the ticket office to buy our pass, but that was much better than the super long line we saw just about an hour later.

We first visited St. Vitus cathedral. You can go into the cathedral without buying a ticket, but in order to walk the interior perimeter you have to scan your ticket. My favorite part was the St. Wenceslas chapel, which is a jewel of a room that you can peek into.

Next we went to the castle itself, which sounds more grand and impressive than it really is. I read all of the placards and tried to piece together an understanding of Czech history, but for some reason it eludes me. We also saw St. George's chapel and the Golden Lane, the latter being very crowded. I know Prague Castle is one of the big "must dos" of the city, and I'm not necessarily saying skip it, but I also don't think you're missing anything amazing if you have a free peek inside the cathedral and then skip the rest. The best thing about castle hill are the views, which are totally free.

There was a cute little market behind St. Vitus. Although I had already bought a Christmas market mug, I liked the one here well enough that I decided I needed one to take home. The mug is small and perfect for when I want a portion of hot chocolate that won't make me feel like I've ingested a sugar bomb. At the market itself I drank a really delicious pear apple cider. We also got a giant potato pancake for lunch.

At this point M wanted to go to the Loreto church. I considered going to the Strahov monastery to see the library there, but I had been before and had the pictures and memories to prove it, so I just took my time wandering around castle hill taking photographs for an hour or so. After M and I met back up we sought out a specific street in the neighborhood that M had read about. I couldn't tell you what it's called, but yes it was quaint and not at all crowded.

M wanted to rest before dinner, so she went back to the apartment and I wandered down through the Mala Strana into Old Town popping into shops and seeing what unique gifts and souvenirs I could find. I ended up buying a nativity set made out of corn husks at Manufaktura and some Christmas decorations made from straw at the Old Town Square market.

Our plan for dinner was to get goulash at Lokal. It was 5pm on a Tuesday and the restaurant is not at all fancy, and yet they told us that they were booked through until January 2. I'm not sure how important reservations are at other times of the year, but at Christmas they were essential. Had I known that Lokal was a chain, we probably would have searched out another location farther from Old Town, but when I put the restaurant name into Google maps, I just got the one location. We wandered a bit and found a little Italian restaurant where we had pretty good pizza for dinner.

We'd also been looking for a grocery store where we could stock up on some snacks, but everything we'd found so far had been mini marts with just alcohol and chips. We asked the waiter at the restaurant and he let us know about a Tesco that wasn't too far away. Of course, after visiting Tesco we saw grocery stores everywhere! Two popular chains are Billa and Albert, for anyone who might find that info useful. There was also a produce shop near our apartment that sold very good, very cheap produce.












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Old Jan 22nd, 2020, 10:51 AM
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Prague (continued)

This was Christmas Eve day, and we weren't sure what would be open this day and the following one. For breakfast we set out for a bakery that I had read sells kolaches. We have a very popular little store in the town where I live that sells these Czech pastries, so I was eager to compare them to the real thing. When I asked in the bakery for kolaches the girl pointed me over to a selection of breakfast cakes that didn't look anything like what I was expecting. I'm not sure if kolache is just a general term for pastry (from what I can tell I don't think that's the case) or if the girl didn't understand what I wanted and just pointed me to her best guess, but I never did get to compare real Czech kolaches to the ones we have here. Instead we ended up having breakfast at the Municipal House Cafe, which is another of the gorgeous art nouveau cafes that was, surprisingly, not crowded.

We arrived at the Mucha Museum just 20 minutes after it opened and were surprised to find a line to the ticket counter. I'm not sure why I kept being surprised that other people wanted to do the same things I wanted to do . The museum is small, but I really enjoyed it. Mucha first came to fame by painting advertisements in Paris for Sarah Bernhardt's productions and later focused his efforts on works that depicted Czech history and culture.

Next we wandered over to Wenceslas Square. While there a large group of motorcyclists rolled in. A few of the riders were dressed up in Christmasy gear and one bike even had a small Christmas tree on the back! I heard one guy say that he was from Italy! They were good natured about letting people take pictures of their bikes and with them.

We didn't get anything at the Wenceslas Square market because we were still full from breakfast, but the food options there looked especially good, so we made a note to come back.

It was a beautiful clear, sunny day. We really lucked out with weather on this trip! We wandered our way back to Old Town Square to take pictures during the daylight. It was packed! My previous trip to Prague had been in October, and while it was busy then the crowds were nowhere near what they were like now. I'm curious, is Prague even more congested in the summer, or does Christmas rival the summer crowds?

We walked - shoulder to shoulder - with the crowds back across Charles Bridge and then back to our apartment, where we got a little more dressed up for our Christmas Eve festivities.

For Christmas Eve dinner we had made late lunch/early dinner reservations at Cafe Imperial, which I consider to be the most beautiful cafe of the entire trip. I had endive salad, pumpkin tortellini (which was especially good), and chocolate mousse cake. Thoroughly filled, we found our way to the Mirror Chapel at the Clementinum for a Christmas Eve concert.

The program was a mix of Christmas carols and classical favorites played by a string quartet from the Dvorak symphony orchestra. There was also a soprano soloist, which I wasn't expecting, but really enjoyed. You could tell that she really put her heart into the performance. We chose this particular performance for the setting, and the Mirror Chapel did not disappoint. It's a fairly small venue with an organ once played by Mozart.

A 5pm performance meant that we were finished before 7pm, but we were perfectly happy to head back to the apartment to drink tea and watch Christmas movies. It was a fantastic Christmas Eve!




Cafe Imperial


Mirror Chapel
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Old Jan 22nd, 2020, 11:35 AM
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Really loving your report, your writing is fun and entertaining and informative.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2020, 01:12 PM
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Adelaidean Thank you! I'm no maitaitom but we can all aspire to write trip reports that entertaining!
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