March 7, 2010

Which is the best Coffee Capital Paris Vienna or Brussels

Which is the best Coffee Capital Paris Vienna or Brussels

Nutmeg says hands down Vienna is the best Coffee Capital.  You will find decent coffee in all three locations, Paris has already been mentioned (02/23 Don’t tell the French Italian coffee is better), Brussels is decent with many options for Italian expresso or café au lait.   However, the Viennese have created an entire culture around the “coffee-house” which generally involves a smoky bar or quieter lounge. Legend has it that soldiers of the Polish-Habsburg army, while liberating Vienna from the second Turkish siege in 1683, found a number of sacks with strange beans that they initially thought were camel feed and wanted to burn. The Polish king Jan III Sobieski granted the sacks to one of his officers named Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, who started the first coffee house. After some experimentation, he added some sugar and milk, and the Viennese coffee tradition was born. In Vienna, there are plenty of sweet choices to go along with your coffee.  The two most delicious and famous are the Sachertorte and Applestrudel.  Legend has it the Sachertorte was invented in the kitchens at the 5-star Sacher Hotel.  It is definitely very good although Nutmeg is not sure if it is the best.  The Sacher Café closely guards the recipe; in fact it is apparently locked in a vault.  Not to worry though you can find a very acceptable version on Epicurious.  The only issue in Vienna is they still allow smoking in restaurants so look for one with a non-smoking section…or no people. Nutmeg’s vote:  Vienna is the best coffee capital. [tfb username=’GingerandNutmeg’ count=’true’ lang=’en’ theme=’light’]

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March 7, 2010

Wonderful Vienna Austria

Wonderful Vienna Austria

This blog post is out of order (and late) our trip itinerary was Paris-Vienna-Brussels, however the weather and the sites in Vienna were so engaging that Nutmeg had no time to write, so the best is last. Nutmeg and Ginger both like Austria and agree Vienna is wonderful, for slightly different reasons: Nutmeg loves the fact that the Austrians seem to have combined the Swiss and German efficiency with fantastic architecture and cuisine that embraces the borders with Hungry, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. Ginger loves the fact the Austrians serve schnitzel and spatzle in many variations.  In addition, there is copious draught beer and the locally produced wine is very drinkable.  He also loves the fact that the country has some really great skiing and they love to Apres Ski. We visited Vienna the capital, it is a magical place, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. The population is about 1.7 million, there is a good road system including a ring road (Ringstrabe or Ringstrasse) designed and built in the 1860’s (eat your heart out Calgary).  This is a bike friendly city there are bike lanes everywhere, it is obvious that this is highly utilized as a commuter option.  Vienna has tied Vancouver for one of the world’s most livable cities. Vienna was founded around 500 BC, originally a Celtic settlement. In 15 BC, Vienna became a Roman frontier city (Vindobona) guarding the Roman Empire against Germanic tribes to the north. In the 13th century, Vienna came under threat from the Mongolian Empire, which stretched over much of present-day Russia and China. During the Middle Ages, Vienna was home to the Babenberg Dynasty, and in 1440, it became the resident city of the Habsburg Dynasties. It eventually grew to become the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and a cultural centre for arts and science, music and fine cuisine. It was occupied by Hungary between 1485-1490. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman armies were stopped twice outside Vienna. In 1679 the bubonic plague struck the city, killing nearly a third of its population. In 1804, Vienna became the capital of the Austrian Empire and continued to play a major role in European and world politics, including hosting the 1814 Congress of Vienna. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, Vienna remained the capital of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The city was a centre of classical music, for which the title of the First Viennese School is sometimes applied. Vienna has a large museum inventory including: Albertina, Leopold Museum, Natural History Museum, Belveder, Modern Art Museum and countless others.  Unless, you are planning to stay for months in Vienna you need to really target what you want to see.  Nutmeg and Ginger visited the Albertina; it has permanent collection, the Andy Warhol Cars temporary exhibition and a section of Hofburg staterooms. On top of the art scene there is music and lots of it, ranging from the beautiful Opera (Staasoper) and Music Hall (Musikverein) to many small venues for local and international acts.  It may seem obvious to some readers given this country was home to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Shubert so the appreciation for music has a long history. The Vienna Tourism group does a great job.  You can purchase a Vienna card for 18 Euro; this allows you to take advantage of entry, food and shopping discounts within a 72hr period.   Vienna Tourism has established some self-guided walking tours covering 6 different districts. Not to be missed are St Stephen Cathedral, The Hofburg Palace and gardens, The Parliament Building and the Town Hall (Rathaus Platz). Kids and Adults should see the Spanish Riding School.  It actually is still a riding school! The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is the only institution in the world, which has practiced for over 430 years and continues to cultivate classical equitation in the Renaissance tradition of the haute école.  You can go in the mornings and watch them practice, the cost is 12 Euro and you listen to lovely classical music while they practice, although you are limited in to viewing only what they are practicing at the time.  They have shows a few times a week. So Vienna is manageable, interesting, affordable and generally fabulous.  Go and Visit Wonderful Vienna! [tfb username=’GingerandNutmeg’ count=’true’ lang=’en’ theme=’light’]

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February 13, 2010

European Coffee and Chocolate Capitals

European Coffee and Chocolate Capitals

Nutmeg is off to join Ginger on a school trip. She really hopes that a school trip in your mid-40’s looks a lot different then it might of in high school. Anyway, watch for updates from the coffee and chocolate capitals: Paris, Vienna and Brussels. [tfb username=’GingerandNutmeg’ count=’true’ lang=’en’ theme=’light’]

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