Travel Diary: Vienna, Once More (Food & Culture)

Jesuit’s Church.

I’m back from Vienna! It was a great trip. I managed to balance work and free time well: I photographed every document I wanted in the archive, and still had ample time to explore the city!

I’m not sure if anyone is interested in this, but this is how my workspace looked in the archive. I’m working with administrative documents from the 18th century. They usually come in a cardboard binder inside these carton boxes like the one on the top right. They’re different documents – letters, protocols, and spreadsheets – about administrative tasks and problems regarding the organization of the Banat, an historical region that is situated in the border triangle of Romania, Hungary and Serbia today. Obviously I can’t work my way through thousands of pages in a four day span, so I concentrate on digitalizing them in order to be able to access them at home. I used to scan them during previous visits, but this method ended up being rather expensive. This time around I took pictures of the documents with my camera. I hope I can work with these photographs just as well as with the scans!

(MOSTLY HEALTHY) FOOD

It was incredibly important to me that I eat healthy and regularly during my stay in the archive. The first time I visited there, I’d stay until closing time and then pick up a burger on the way back to my hotel. Later I’d raid the snacks machine in the hotel lobby. Every day. It wasn’t good. Consequently, I made it a point on every further visit to eat healthy food, and I definitely notice a difference in my daily disposition. For lunch I usually ate a pre-packaged salad from the Billa supermarket. In the evening I’d hit up some of the restaurants I already went to in January.

I had the Oaxaca Bowl (brown rice, spinach, avocado, kidney beans, corn, tomatoes, red onions and salsa) and the Recoverii Smoothie (coconut milk, banana, mango, pineapple, tumeric and honey) at Freshii Franziskanerplatz. I really like their food, but it didn’t seem very well frequented. It’s sad because there aren’t enough healthy fast food joints around here!

On the second day I had sushi at Akakiko, another tradition. Although I changed it up this time and had the Oreo Cream Dream for dessert instead of the mango coconut pudding!

The Maschu Maschu is a recent discovery for me. I ordered the falafel shawarma mix and the limonana (nana mint with lemon juice). Both are delicious! The service is friendly, but somewhat slow. That’s why I didn’t order dessert even though I wanted to try the malabi pudding.

My highlight of the week was definitely dinner at Meissl & Schadn. I was too late to reserve a table at Plachutta, but nevermind! Our evening at Meissl & Schadn was fantastic. Phil had a Wiener Schnitzel, and I had a Zwiebelröstbraten nach Altwiener Art. I didn’t take my camera because I wanted to enjoy dinner with my boyfriend, but I did snap a quick picture of our dessert with my smartphone camera. It’s called Wiener Wäschermädeln and it was simply divine! Funny story: I had a problem deciphering the dessert menu because the Austrians sometimes have different words for things as we Germans. The (very friendly and obliging) server noticed me googling the different desserts and explained to me that Wiener Wäschermädeln are apricots filled with marzipan that are then deep-fried in a coat of batter and served with custard. Sounds decadent? Yes, but worth every single calorie!

TOURIST STUFF

The Hofburg.

Phil has never been in Vienna, so obviously we had to cover some basics. I decided to visit the Imperial Apartments at the Hofburg with him. They are coupled with the Sisi Museum, which is fine and has some really gorgeous dresses, but don’t get me started on the fact that a cult has developed around a woman who did nothing but get married and mope around prettily, instead of Maria Theresia who, oh I don’t know, just governed a giant realm for decades in the face of much adversity, no big deal. (I clearly have some feelings about this.) Anyway, the Imperial Apartments are still definitely worth a visit because they show you how the Habsburg family would live in the 19th century. I really love that they give you a glimpse into the servants’ rooms and hallways as well to round off the picture!

Maria Theresia.

MUSEUMS & EXHIBITIONS

My newest discovery on this trip is the Weltmuseum. Like the Albertina, it might just become a place I go to every time I’m in Vienna. They had a gorgeous exhibition about contemporary Nepalese art, Nepal Art Now. I’ve always regretted that my art history studies were so Euro-centric, which is why I take every opportunity to get to learn about something outside my beaten path. (I tried to give credit to every artist, but since I unfortunately didn’t take notes in the exhibition I sometimes don’t know the exact title and year of an artwork. Sorry, I’ll do better next time!)

I really enjoyed the mix between traditional imagery, modern popculture, and political commentary in these artworks. It’s open until November 24th, so if you find yourself in Vienna I recommend a visit!

The Albertina at night.

I honestly didn’t expect to like the Dürer exhibition as much as I did. Obviously, this exhibition is once in a lifetime opportunity to see so much of Dürer’s art in one place. Not unlike Klimt for example, the omnipresence of his art comes with a loss of emotional reaction to it for me. Once I stood in front of his drawing, though, I was awestruck. The amount of life-like detail and observation of nature is unparalleled, not to speak of the deeply moving humanity and personality of his portraits. Just look at the laughlines in his portrait of Emperor Maximilian! Or his lovely drawings of the Virgin Mary!

My buddy Homer and I, just chilling at the Albertina. 😉

I had actually planned to go to the Leopold Museum with Phil because he likes Egon Schiele, but when I realized the Kunsthistorisches Museum showed a Caravaggio Bernini exhibition I asked him if we could go there instead. Caravaggio is my favourite painter after all!

The exhibition was fine, even though I thought the title was misleading. They didn’t really have a lot of Bernini originals. Instead they showed Italian, French and Dutch painters that were either contemporaries of Caravaggio and Bernini or direct successors in the tradition of their art. The actual theme of the exhibition is The Discovery of Emotions, since Baroque art shows us intense moments meant to trigger equally intense emotions in us. Every exhibit was grouped under one of these emotions, for example horror, compassion, or love. It was interesting to see how the individual artists chose to portray these emotions, and compare them with each other from this point of view. Of course I spent most of the time in front of Caravaggio’s paintings, like his (very coy) St. John the Baptist!

Caravaggio, St. John the Baptist, c. 1602.

This post became so large I decided to split it in two parts! I’ll tell you more about the delicious cakes I had at coffeehouses and show you my shopping haul, which includes original artwork and beautiful jewelry, on Friday next week. Hopefully you enjoyed this travel diary so far!

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