When in Wien…

Vienna, AUSTRIA //  Wednesday February 23 – Friday February 25 2011

…eat Sachertorte. 

Sachertorte is a dry chocolate cake and one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties. The original Sachertorte is made only in Vienna and Salzburg; the only other place where it is available outside of Austria is in Bolzano, Italy. The cake was created by Franz Sacher in 1832 on Prince Metternich’s request. It was later perfected by Sacher’s son Eduard, and it was first served at Der Demel Bakery. The owner of the title of “Original Sachertorte” however, belongs to Hotel Sacher which was founded by Eduard Sacher in 1876. For many years, Demel and Hotel Sacher fought constantly for the rights to own the title of “Original Sachertorte”; the cakes from both locations differed slightly with Hotel Sacher claiming to abide to the true recipe. In 1963, a court settlement agreed upon by both parties gave Hotel Sacher the rights to use the phrase “Original Sachertorte” and Demel the rights to use “Eduard-Sacher-Torte.” Presently, Demel’s cake is said to be the “true” Sachertorte cake.

A lover of all things sweet, I visited Demel to try its world famous Sachertorte. The bakery itself is a delight to visit; the shop windows are decorated with characters and props made from various pastries, and the decor inside the chocolate and sweets lined store and café is absolutely stunning and elegant. Visitors can even get a glimpse into the life of a Demel pastry chef and watch as they confect everything from cakes, pastries and breads, to the tiny, intricate and ornate details and decorations that top them.

The cake itself is different from your typical chocolate cake. It is much drier and definitely not as sweet. There is also a layer of marmalade under the top layer of chocolate, a feature specific to Demel’s version of the cake. It’s not my favourite chocolate cake, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Ready to dig in!

…be kissed.

Vienna, and more specifically, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum located in Belvedere Palace is home to Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. Completed in 1908, “The Kiss” is arguably Klimt’s most famous painting. Klimt’s painting style is regarded as a fusion of Symbolism and Art Nouveau. His paintings often focused on women and the erotic, and his works usually featured gold coloured decorations and spirals, organic lines and shapes. “The Kiss” embodies all of these features.

The Kiss

The identity of the two figures in the painting is unknown, although some have speculated that it is Klimt himself with an unidentified lover (Klimt had many lovers and it is rumoured that he favoured redheads, just like the woman in the painting). The painting deviates from Klimt’s tendency to depict women as the femme fatale, and instead focuses on love.

Gustav Klimt’s other highly regarded work of art, The Beethoven Frieze is also on permanent display in Vienna at the Secession building. Klimt painted “The Beethoven Frieze” in 1902 for an exhibition honouring the German composer and pianist (and was to be destroyed after the exhibition). Painted directly on the basement walls of the Secession building, the painting’s size is an impressive 34.14 m x 2.15 m and a must see!

…be a King (or Queen) for a day.

There is no shortage of palaces in Vienna and during my 2 day stay in the Austrian capital, I visited three: Hofburg Palace, Belvedere Palace, and Schönbrunn Palace. Hofburg Palace was the primary residence of the famous Habsburg dynasty and rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Remember the name Franz Ferdinand from high school history class? The one whose assassination in 1914 precipitated the events which lead to the beginning of World War I? Well, this was his family). Today, the President of Austria calls the former imperial palace home. If art galleries are more your thing, a trip to Belvedere Palace is right up your alley. The Belvedere Palace complex consists of two buildings, Lower and Upper Belvedere and a large garden. The Palace was built in the early 1720s by Prince Eugene of Savoy and was used as his summer residence. Today, Upper Belvedere houses Österreichische Galerie, an art gallery featuring pieces from the Middle Ages to the 21st century, while Lower Belvedere houses a collection of modern art in the Moderne Galerie. The magnificent Schönbrunn Palace was the former imperial summer residence. Today, the massive 1,400 room palace is open to the public. Take a guided tour and admire the grandeur and elegance in the decor and architecture of the palace and imagine what life was like at the Austro-Hungarian court.

Upper Belvedere

…go to the opera.

Don’t let those chocolate shops around town fool you, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was not a famous Austrian Chocolatier (but I’m sure you already knew that 😉 ). It is no doubt that the word “opera” is synonymous with Vienna; Mozart’s career took off in Vienna in the early 1780s, and today his works are still performed at Wiener Staatsoper, Vienna State Opera. Just like any performance, tickets to the opera can be expensive. However, tickets can be snatched up immediately before each performance for just a few euros in the “standing place only” zone – granted that you don’t mind waiting in a line for them. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to attend the opera while I was in Vienna, I guess I’ll save that for my next trip there… and in the words of one of the most famous Austrians, Arnold Schwarzenegger: Vienna look out, ’cause “I’ll be back!” 😉


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