Couple more trans-Transylvania trips coming up

Carpatair -- we defy you to find a weirder stew at 29,000 feet!…if only Carpatair had a repeat-customer incentive program. Sounds almost…Arabian, doesn’t it?This is Carpet Air -- great business class seating! Nope, that’s “Carpet Air” (see image at right). On Carpatair, you get weird stew and some kind of Romanian Mystery Cordon Bleu — as opposed to tassles and a monkey. Guess I better get used to it. I’ve got two — count ’em, TWO — trips back to Iaşi before Christmas.

But oddly enough, while surfing Wikipedia today at work, trying to learn more about the place where the guys we’ve hired live and work, I found a link back to the Detroit area where I least expected it. Do you know where Ypsilanti gets its name from? I do, now. Check this out: Alexander Ypsiliantis occupied Iaşi in the Greek War of Independence, and the town of Ypsilanti, Michigan was named for his brother, Demetrius. Thanks, Wikipedia! Now I know that the town didn’t lose a bet with Ann Arbor (they’re so smug) and wasn’t forced to build a name for itself out of random Scrabble tiles.

I am going to have to make up for all the Glühwein and meters of sausage from the Weihnachtsmarkt I’ll be missing while I’m gone, trying to convince Romania that while its pizza is the closest thing I have found in mainland Europe to American-style pizza, it truly needs no ketchup (trust me on this).

Salzburg & Vienna Recap

Well, there we have it; another great trip in the bag. Clicking on the links below to the restaurants, hotels, etc., will take you first to our reviews of them (read the reviews for our specific opinions), and from there you can get to their own websites where applicable.

Here’s how it went down:

2006-11-19

Took an early train to Salzburg from Regensburg via Landshut and managed to put our BahnCard 50 discount train passes to good use — we got 25% off of the travel from Salzburg to Vienna. Dropped our stuff at the hotel, where we got a very good deal on the rooms thanks to Sarah’s internet travel scouting skills. Biggest benefit to the hotel (besides the price): Sound of Music Channel (all hills alive, all the time). Had lunch at the K & K on Waagplatz, which was recommended to us by the staff at the hotel. Then we took the Sound of Music tour, where Sue was our guide again, just like when Gabe and Potter and I did our Salzburg trip back in November 2004. Although the weather was much better this time, I liked the smaller tour group better last time. For dinner: the Sternbräu (another Frommer’s suggestion).

2006-11-20

Arrived via the Austrian Rail (ÖBB) from Salzburg at the vacation apartment and had a nice introduction to the city from the landlord. Walked around a lot taking in the city by night. Actually, it was kind of “by night” pretty much the whole time because in rainy November, Vienna doesn’t seem to get much light, even during the day. We had dinner at Zu den Drei Hacken and it was a very nice way for us to welcome each other to Vienna.

2006-11-21

Tried to visit the Schatzkammer. Shopped a bit for an extra shirt for Cliff and some scarves to match Sarah’s new jacket.

Attended a concert at the Wiener Musikverein. Selections from Mozart, Haydn and Chausson, plus two encores (a Ravel and a Brahms) piece. Some were just strings, some were strings and piano. Very, very nice, and fairly cheap.

2006-11-22

We ate lunch at the Gulasch Museum. It’s not really a museum, but rather a restaurant specializing in the Hungarian part of the cuisine of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Really good.

We had our Lunch-Dessert at the Café Central. We had such a fantastic cup of coffee and dessert here by ourselves (Cliff & Sarah) that we knew we just had to bring Carolyn and Max here later. And we did exactly that, on our collective last day in Vienna.

The Schatzkammer proved extremely interesting — if a little steep at €8. You can kill 1.5 hours easily gazing at the treasures of the Holy Roman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and ecclesiastical collections from these regions. Note well: Frommer’s Austria (11th Edition) lists their daily schedule as Tuesday through Sunday, this burned us. Their actual day of rest is Tuesday, not Monday.

At the Belvedere we checked out the 19th and 20th century collection and really liked some of the later stuff (including Klimt, Monet, and Kokoschka). You can read more about the history of the building on Wikipedia.

Later that day, knowing it was our last night in Vienna, we decided to each get a Schnitzel at the Schnitzelwirt Schmidt. Very good food, but beyond the quality, the quantity was astounding.

2006-11-23

Alas, this was the day we were to leave Vienna. However, the good news was that there was plenty of leftover schnitzel for lunches, which freed up a little room in the budget for Carolyn and Max to treat us at Café Central, where they got to try the wonderful coffee and we sampled other desserts. That Mohr im Hemd was still the winner in my book, but I was quite happy with my Marzipankartoffel (yellow cake inside a potato-shaped marzipan mold, dusted with chocolate powder to simulate the dirt). The other good news was the weather; we got lots of bright sunshine in the early afternoon. This permitted us to take the elevator up the top of one of the wings of the Stephansdom to enjoy the view and admire other famous buildings while killing time, waiting for our shuttle to the airport:

So there you have it — now we’re back in Regensburg, Carolyn and Max are back in Detroit, and everyone is getting into their routines…until the next trip. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.

Spanish Rice

Cliff has this cookbook from his parents that has great recipes. I really like to use it as a jumping-off point. When I am attempting something new, I refer to this book to see if it can give me some pointers. I usually hugely alter the recipe for flavor’s sake, but it’s a good place to start. The ingredients for this one have been heavily modified, but the cooking technique is direct from the book. Thanks, Betty (and Cliff, Sr.and Rose)!

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 hot green Thai chili, finely chopped (remove seeds for less heat)
2 T vegetable oil
1 c uncooked white long grain rice
2 1/2 c chicken bullion or broth
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 T chili powder
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp black pepper
5-10 drops Tabasco sauce (Cholula’s better)

Sauté onion, garlic, bell pepper and chili over medium-high heat just until onion becomes translucent. Add rice to skillet and stir well to coat with oil. Gently sauté rice, stirring frequently, until light golden brown.

Add all remaining ingredients. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

back in Germany, but not home yet

Hi,

Greetings from Nuremberg, Germany. We’re on sort of a layover here from our flight out of Vienna at the *Nürnberger Hauptbahnhof,* killing a little time*at an internet cafe.

Vienna is certainly worth another look — but we’d want to do that in the Spring or Summer, for sure (which unfortunately, is when everyone else wants to do that too).

More pictures to follow in a subsequent post, but that probably won’t happen until tomorrow at the earliest.

Schnitzelwirt Schmidt

The Joint
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Neubaugasse 52
1070 Wien
+43 1/5233771

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/vienna/N8195.html

Cliff

Alter Schwede! This place was by far, the best value in terms of cost per gram of food served.

The place itself was kind of attractively gritty, in that upon entering, you knew immediately (apart from the name of the joint) that it was not in competition with Café Central. I went with the Garlic Schnitzel, Carolyn had the traditional Schnitzel Wiener Art, and Max went haute couture with his Pariser Schnitzel. Sarah’s was another order of magnitude cooler though, and she’ll tell you about it herself below. Alas, we have only our full-bellied memories of hers; we somehow neglected to photograph it for posterity.

Sarah

Ok, Cliff covered everything above perfectly. Which allows me all kind of room to wax rhapsodic about my metric buttload of Schnitzel.

It was a Schnitzel Cordon Bleu – with ham and cheese. First off, the thing was hanging off both sides of the plate! and it was heavy, to boot. I know this because we ended up taking three quarters of it home and it turned into breakfast for me the following morning and lunch for both Cliff and I that afternoon!! A Schnitzel (for those who don’t know already) is a pounded cutlet of veal or pork (generally) that is then washed in egg and breaded and pan-fried. Because of this, it’s usually pretty thin – say half an inch cooked. This creature that I ordered was easily a little over an inch thick. Why? Because of the stack of ham – equal in thickness to the schnitzel itself – adorning it! The most important part, of course, is not its size or weight, but that it was delicious. So much so that I was able to keep eating it for the next two meals!

Here’s the most unbelievable part. Three of us had beers, we all ordered a full-size meal, we all took home leftovers and we spent less than 10€ per person!! In a city where everything seems a little expensive, if not blatantly overpriced, this place is a fantastic value.

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Gulaschmuseum

The Joint

Schulerstraße 20
1010 Wien
Austria

Cliff

We had some great gulash! We ordered off the upper end of the menu and still got away for less than €14. I got the pork gulash labeled “spicy” — and they weren’t kidding. It was a pleasant burn, with plenty of paprika. The Bratkartoffeln were just “Ore Ida,” if you know what I mean.

Sarah

Weird place, but again, Frommer’s comes through. Honestly, due to my lackluster German skills (or ignorance of Viennese vocabulary), I don’t even know what meat I had, but I think it was either Elk or Venison. Either way, what a fun way to taste the Hungarian influence of the old Austro-Hungarian empire! I had a traditional gulash with a dark rich sauce, packed with paprika – although I think mine was sweet paprika as opposed to Cliff’s hot stuff. It came with more of my beloved Semmelknödel and a small tossed salad. Service was a little indifferent, but everything came out in a timely manner and the price was really reasonable. It’s kind of tucked away in a small side street just down the way from the cathedral, but it’s very much worth seeking out.

Café Central

The Joint

Herrengasse 14
Wien

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caf%C3%A9_Central

Cliff

Thanks, Wikipedia.

What a swell place! I felt way underdressed here, but in any outfit lacking an umbrella with a duck’s head on the handle and an overcoat and a bowler, I suppose that feeling is natural. We tried to take some pictures of the interior, but Wikipedia’s done a better job (and their images are licensed for distribution…love that).

Aside from the decor, and the history, which you can read about at Wikipedia, we ordered (on our first visit) einen Verlängerten and einen Mohren im Hemd (shown at right, click for details).

Sarah

Welcome to our all-Frommer’s vacation! I swear, the Vienna section of the Frommer’s Austria is impeccable! Although they’ve rarely led us astray, they were unbelievably on the mark for every recommendation in this section.

Vienna is famous for its cafés and confections, and this place is like a textbook example of what Viennese café culture was all about at the end of the nineteenth century. The decor is incredibly elegant, but I only felt underdressed until our wonderfully formal, kind and patient waiter attended to us. We both had the same thing (Mohr im Hemd and a Verlängerten) on our first visit and we were so impressed that we got Carolyn and Max to pop in here for a coffee on our last day in Vienna. On the second visit, Cliff had a Marzipan ‘Potato’ (yellow cake inside a marzipan shell, dusted with cocoa powder to simulate ‘dirt’) and I took a chance on a slice of Altenberg cake (chocolatey, creamy, cakey love). It’s a little pricey, but isn’t a slice of sweet creamy history worth it?

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Viele Grüße aus Wien

Hi all,

Just a quick note from an internet café in downtown Vienna. We’re staying at a great vacation apartment near a streetcar line that puts in the heart of the old downtown area in just a few minutes. We’re eating like Habsburgs in restaurants and cafes (Viennese cappucino is a force to be reckoned with) and having better luck with the weather than we expected.

Here are a few pictures to tide you over until we get back to Regensburg and can do a full report of all the places we’ve visited. Tonight: a concert at a symphony in town.

Zu den Drei Hacken

The Joint

Singerstr. 28
Wien
Austria
Phone: +43 1 512 5895

Cliff

Portion Gansl mit RotkrautMore goose! I got a drumstick with Rotkraut (sweet-and-sour purple cabbage) and it was excellent. Also, there was some paté which was quite nice — and apparently also made of goose parts (but that’s just a theory).

Franz Schubert was a big fan of this place. Nice atmosphere, but loud if full (or there’s a big party behind you) and little chance to escape the smoke.

Sarah

I finally tried Tafelspitz! In spite of my previous forswearing of beef in German-speaking lands (they’re better at pork), I had to sample this famous Viennese dish. The verdict: meh. It’s not bad, it’s just not outstanding. I think I’m spoiled on American beef.

That said, this place is very small and old-fashioned, but was bustling. The service was nice, but a little rushed. And by the end of the meal, we all needed to get out of the billows of second-hand smoke. Normally, I don’t mind a little bit of smoke, but I think the Viennese smoke more than most.

Apartment Ausstellungsstrasse

The Joint

Ausstellungsstraße 31
1020 Wien
Austria
Phone: +43-1-728 66 98
http://www.apartment.at/index_eng.php3/app/115/0/0/

Cliff

This was a fantastic apartment in a great location. My only complaint: the listing says it has an oven; if it did, we couldn’t find it. Generous fridge, beautiful interiors, and most of all, a very helpful, friendly, and informative landlord. I’d love to come back to Vienna and stay there again.

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Sarah

We are vocal advocates of vacation apartments over hotels when you’re staying for a few days in a certain area and when you’ve got 4 people (or more) all traveling together. It usually ends up being significantly cheaper (due to kitchen facilites and no housekeeping) than a hotel. Still, this place was a shock upon arrival. The apartment is HUGE! Not just in area, but volume, with gorgeous high ceilings. The landlord, from whom we picked up the keys, gave us a very thorough tour, several maps of the area and lots of great tips for the area (where’s the ATM, closest grocery store, etc.). Plus, it was on the European 3rd (American 4th) floor of a walkup building – great to work off those Viennese pastries!