Vienna’s airport is like a vestige of the late seventies: Its big digital clocks flapping from minute to minute, clear signs in modern sans serif fonts backed on bright yellow glass. I didn’t actually remember the actual landing as I was fighting sleep on our second leg into the city. Today begins our short trip across Europe, starting in Vienna, then making its way across Northern Italy into Rome.
We began by getting to the hotel using the S-Bahn, or regional light rail, to get into the city, then taking a combination of subways, or U-Bahn, further into town. I remember my first trip to Europe about ten years ago, analyzing how all these intricate public transit networks linked together. I guess every trip starts this way.
One of the interesting activities in Vienna around this time of year are the Christmas Markets in public spaces around the city. This afternoon we ventured out to the Rathaus, or city hall, where in front were set up about a hundred stalls with vendors. The markets are filled with wooden stands, all uniform in design and colouring, and each offers a selection of snacks and gifts for sale. One food we tried were potato slices, baked on a large open pan. Another was a bratwurst, served by poking a hole into a bun using a large pointy stick, then finished with ketchup and mustard and a sausage. We also tried strudel, although admittedly from a stall might not be the best example of this famous Viennese dessert.
The other major type of vendor in the Christmas Market is the ornament shop. Glass globes and wooden trinkets were hung from the roof of the shack, creating a dense veil of ornaments overhanging in front of proprietors.
Something I haven’t seen in a long time in Toronto is the presence of smoking in bars. Tonight as we walked along the mostly closed shop streets of Vienna, we popped into a coffee shop and it was filled with the strong smoke found in commonly in European cities. Next to us was a group celebrating the Christmas season with champagne, while another table was with two random men, having a coffee and reading a magazine.
Tonight, we had dinner at a local restaurant, the Gasthaus Pfudl. Its holiday set menu included goose liver pate and swordfish and a traditional dumpling served as dessert.