Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The one in which schlachtplatte back in early March decides that Vienna would be a great place to spend her summer vacation but of course would now have much rather gone to the ocean

So in March, I went to the movies and watched this documentary .

Now, the thing is: if you watch a documentary on "summer in *insert random country or city here*" in March in Berlin, it looks like a brilliant idea to immediately go and book a trip there because you are longing for summer. But that's exactly the problem - you are longing for summer and not necessarily for the place said documentary is about.  
But, I went ahead and booked a 5 day trip to Vienna in August. Parental advisory: don't try this at home kids, because, let's face it, when it's August, you want to be at the ocean.

But, having said all this, I made the best of a city trip for which I was no longer so enthusiastic, by calling it a beach holiday. The idea was: try at least 4 swimming pools or beaches with no pressure to tick off all the classic sights of Vienna. 

And so I did! 
On day one, I went to Neuwaldegger Bad, which is definitely on the pricier side (come after 3 pm when it's cheaper, and yes, 3 pm means 3 pm. If you arrive 7 minutes early, the Gnädige Frau at the entrance tells you you have to wait until the news are on the radio...). I didn't take any photos there, but it's a very sophisticated bath, beautiful pool, nice lawn and excellent Butterbrot at the small restaurant. And their Kästchen (which apparently are totally essential in pools in Vienna) are wooden gems of early 20th century craftmenship. 

Gänsehäufel is a true classic when it comes to Danube beaches in Vienna and all the above pictures were taken there. It takes a while to get there by public transportation, but it's worth the trip. There are several beaches plus a wave pool, which I did not try though.

The only day when it didn't look like I could go swimming, I decided to spend the afternoon in Bratislava, which I basically only did to have a new country on my list (and, on top of that, a country that my sister doesn't have on her list... ... yes, I know how childish this sounds).

At least on a Friday afternoon, Bratislava suffers from British stag party easy jetters, and the entire old town is an endless line of touristy restaurants. All in all, I wouldn't recommend going there. 

But of course, I did not only swim in Vienna, but also dived into Austrian cuisine. By far (honestly, by far, far) the best cakes and Mehlspeisen are served at Café Demel . Yes, it is expensive, but compared to other places (like, the Sacher café which is totally, totally overrated), it is very much worth every penny. The mouthwatering Marillenknödel pictured below with a humongous amount of Semmelbrösel for instance cost 7,80 Euros, which considering the fact that Demel is the number one Konditorei and former Hoflieferant, is a fair price. 

Considering Kaffehäuser, I went to Café Central, which is really disappointing, I'm sure it belongs to some big culinary chain. 
Café Sperl is a nice choice for breakfast and for reading the newspaper, it seems to be a Kaffehaus that is actually still frequented by locals, not just by tourists.
I didn't have time to eat or drink something at Café Prückel, only to peek inside, but it's definitely worth going there, maybe not for the cake, but definitely for a drink and the museum-like interior which teleports you back in time to the 1950s. 

Another beach I visited was one of the Strandbäder at Alte Donau. These are a lot easier to reach by public transport and also very very nice. All in all I was really surprised how clean and warm the Danube was.

An aboslute must see is the Eiscafé Tichy. Their Eismarillenknödel?!?! OMG! It's so so good that it's well worth the small detour to Reumannplatz. We are not talking haute cuisine icecream, but a truely authentic place where staff wear a funky uniform which again makes you feel like you travelled in time. I wish I had gone there hungrier to try even more of their ice creations, but I definitely would urge everyone to absolutely get an Eismarillenknödel.

On Sunday morning, I went to the last must-visit pool on my list, the Krapfenwaldbad, which is like almost outside of Vienna and it takes forever to get there, but it's so worth it! It's as meticulously clean and well kept as all the other pools, plus it comes with an absolutely stunning view of Vienna! I must say, people in Vienna are really good at this Bäderkultur!

But of course I also squeezed in one or two museums, of which I most definitely would recommend the Rotes Wien Museum im Waschsalon. Take the guided tour if possible and learn all about the impressive history of communal housing (which is omnipresent in Vienna), of which the Karl Marx Höfe are just one small part. It was highly fascinating how progressive social democrats used to be once upon a time! Free childcare, affordable housing for everyone, why are these things no longer at the center of politics these days?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"Absolutely, totally useless, unnecessary!"*




And precisely therefore oh so beautiful and nourishing the soul for years to come!

* Quote by Christo on "the floating piers".

Copyright of the art work: Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Copyright of all photos: j.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

La ferme auberge du Felsach in Fellering, France

What a view, right?!? Another plan I had for my vacation was to eat at fermes auberges with simple, but excellent local dishes.

My aunt recommended the auberge Felsach, and we couldn't have had a more fun evening.

It started with the fact that we were almost out of gaz and as we climbed the tiny serpentines to the ferme, the range of kilometers predicted by our car dropped by ten kilometers every 2 minutes ... ... At least we knew that the way home would almost be entirely downhill!

The ferme really is in the middle of nowhere, but when we got there, it was full of people! It happened to be the day of the transhumance, and two big groups of people where there to celebrate! 
Etienne Valentin, one of the owners of the ferme however made sure that even our party of four felt welcome and had a great time! It was a pleasure listening to him explain to us the panorama (on a day with good visibility, you can see the peeks of the Swiss Alps!!). And the food was absolutely amazing!

The menu started with a slice of tourte, a meat pie typical for the region which was served with carrot and radish salad. Already last time, I wanted to eat tourte, but we couldn't seem to find the place where I had had it as a child.

Between courses, I had to get up to take some more photos. Unfortunately, it was not warm enough to sit on the balcony-like terrace this time, but you always have to have a reason to return to a place, right?

Fermes auberges are definitely not a place for vegetarians, as all dishes are heavy on meat, but being a meat lover, that ain't a problem for me! The main course was smoked pork chop with farmer's bread, a huge bowl of green salad for everyone to share and a really good potato gratin (the traditional roïgabrageldi where not availabale that day).

Next came the cheese plate: A young Munster, goat cheese and Bergkäse (a more matured type of cheese). They were all made from the milk that is procuded on the ferme! And together with a hearty slice of farmer's bread, made a delicious meal. 

If you look closely, you can see the cattle on the upper left corner, thank you, dear animals, for the milk that was turned into this lovely cheese!

But that wasn't all, non, there was still dessert to be had! We had absolutely delicous vanilla, raspberry and rhum raisin ice cream which is produced by a friend of the auberge-owners down in the valley. It is quite typical that they do not just serve any kind of (industrial) ice cream, but chose just the best dessert to match the quality of the entire menu! 
What you also should try though is the fromage blanc (cottage cheese or Quark) that comes with a layer of sugar and is then drenched in heavy cream and Kirsch! I'm not sure you are allowed to drive after two bites of it though... If we hadn't been in an excellent mood already, we would definitely now have been! The fromage blanc is made fresh every morning and the cream also comes from the ferme! It doesn't get more local than that I guess...

By now, a storm had come up and the visibilty changed within minutes. From inside, it was actually quite cozy to watch how it was raining cats and dogs! That also gave us the chance to start a conversation with some of the people who were also there. We talked both in French, German and Älsässisch, and one of the men said how important it is especially in a region like Alsace, to cherish the European Union! It made me feel really sorry for the Brits because I don't think they will ever understand the European Union. With no actual border regions where people are thankful that after centuries of ongoing wars, peace is there to stay, they never really know what it means to do and live Europe, I guess. 
As an eternal sign of égalité and fraternité, one Monsieur even offered to personally drive us the 200 meters to our car, so that we wouldn't get wet, even though that meant that he had to walk through the rain to first get his car, which meant that he ended up being soaking wet! In the meantime, one of his buddies took out his clarinette and played a little tune for us! I know, by now you think I'm making half of this story up, but it's all true! What a fun evening!

So if you are looking for an absolutely authentic ferme auberge, where the hosts live and breathe hospitality, where you can fraternize with the locals, where the food is simple, but absolutely impeccable, then Felsach is your choice! And if you for some reason are still not convinced, then let me remind you of that view!

copyright of all photos j.