Wednesday, December 29, 2010


26 Dec 2010 -4 C @ Vienna
Hotel, courtesy of Emirates, in Dubai for transit passengers with 8 hours transit or more.Though family, we can opt for 2 rooms because of Pat in the traveling party.

We checked out of Pension Suzanne ( cash only ) and left for VIE. Rather than taking the train to Landstrasse and then transfer to the CAT, I had arranged for airport pickup from AirportDriver some weeks back, 31 euros payable in cash to the driver.

The driver arrived punctually ,picked us up outside the Pension and zipped us to VIE in 15 minutes.

At VIE airport, I congratulated myself for checking in at Emirates online the night before because the queue was superbly long. All I had to do was get our boarding passes from the web check in and luggage drop off counter.

After passport control and customs control, we took our purchased items and tax refund forms to the tax refund counter where a duty officer certified the documents. At the money exchange near it, we were refunded in cash, some more pocket money for further shopping before departure.
Gargantuan wasn't enough to describe Dubai airport. Fast and cheerful service and sufficient washroom would have made the airport my favorite transit place.

A four hour flight and we landed in Dubai. Meanwhile we admired the girth of the many pillars adorning  the arrival hall, resembling pillars of huge worship halls but bigger and oohed at glass lifts the size of my bedroom !

After a long walk, we joined an extremely long and slow moving queue at passport control. It was a terrible wait seeing tourists bumped off and refused entry. With a little prayer and submitting our passports, hotel vouchers with 'sponsored visa' and boarding pass to Singapore, we were quickly admitted. Whew!

After the customs control, we waved our Millenium Airport Hotel vouchers to the staff at the transfer counter, who promptly ushered us to the hotel van nearby. We zipped past the airport, manicured palm trees and giant malls. 5 minutes later, we were checked in quickly by the efficient staff, meal vouchers for 2 meals ( dinner and breakfast ) and room ready for us - amazing efficiency! Millenium is a big hotel and the room suitably so that we wonder how they make money out of this free transit business. The buffet at the restaurant could not be better.

Depending on the connecting flight, the wake up call was programmed 2.5 hours before departure. We still had time for a buffet breakfast ( efficient people that we are ) and a superfast check out saw us back in the airport just 2 hours before departure. Give yourself ample time to go through the passport control and then some more time to walk through the giant of an airport to your departure gate. That would be enough workout for the morning ! If there are any complaints, it is that DBX is too big and walking along it tires you out.
Whoever runs Dubai airport thinks shopping is more important than basic amenities, eg toilets. Shops are closed at 4am when lots of passengers transit with only Burger King and Macs in operation.

Dubai's duty free shops are said to be one of the cheapest in the world but we did not verify it. With 1200 channels in-flight, we were already planning our individual entertainment program on the 7 hour flight back.

Indeed, we did not sleep a wink and TV dramas and movies of all nationalities kept us busy, laughing or crying at our seats, depending on which movie we watched. The only interruption I allowed myself was snacking on the yummy snacks handled out quite very often. I watched the entire season of a Japanese serial and arrived at Changi Airport goggle-eyed.

Thus ends my Europe trip, with a teeny introduction to the middle east. If I am to do it again, I will equally divide time between each city, take trains across borders every other day and have a good time from shopping districts to mountains tops, all within a easy ride. Whatever the  choice, it will never be boring and an attitude for adventure will make us see things beyond the cookie cutter packaged tour. Have fun!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

25 December Fri @ Vienna -6C Light snow, gusty winds

Our Christmas service at the Hofkapelle, within walking distance.

I woke up with the streets dry and void of snow and bemoaned the fact that this is not going to be my first white Christmas after all. Exhausted from the late night activity yesterday, we dragged ourselves out of bed to prepare for Christmas mass at the Hofburg Musik-kappelle. Many months ago, I have purchased tickets to celebrate Christmas with the Vienna Boy's Choir singing Haydn ( ) at the imperial palace on Christmas day and this day has finally come.

It was too cold and windy to walk, so we took a train from Stephansplatz to Herrengegasse. Pat is a good navigator and I all needed to do was ' enter ' the final destination and he would do the rest. We were not the only early birds at the Hofburg - many more joined us thronging up a myriad of twisting stairways, sometimes up and sometimes down.  Huffing and puffing, we found ourselves in a self contained section high above the main worship area and were dismayed. It looked like we were able to hear and not see.
Boys will be boys, even if they are Vienna Boys Choir members. Some fooling around during the service was inevitable.
Our woes did not last long, as a trickle of musicians entered a side door, next to our viewing gallery, and then the boys in sailor suits made their entrance too. Like the many tourists beside me, I heaved a sigh of relief to at least see the choir 'at work', mere meters away from us.

The boys provided the main choral muscle from high above the sanctuary and their contribution in songs, from Joseph Haydn, took more than half the worship time slot. The singing was not very synchronized at times but the leader boy executed a beautiful soprano part perfectly, drawing sighs of admiration. Somewhere at the back of the choir, 2 boys did what most boys do : chatting and playing silly games when they were not singing, causing ire from the choir master. The atmosphere among the music makers was relaxed, which makes watching them pleasurable.

After the service, we navigated  a fresh set of stairs and ended at the back of the Kappelle, greeted by light snow, billowing from right to left in the gusty winds. Light snow floated around us, like ashes, breaking into many little 6 prong snow flakes on our black jackets." A white Christmas ! " H was delighted but I secretly hopped the cold weather will not derail our flight out of Austria tomorrow. Talk of thinking ahead !
All's closed except the museum on Christmas day

Continuing down towards the Museum Quatier, we ended up at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts rated 3 stars by Frommer's. Regardless of the rating, we had to go somewhere sheltered, because everything is closed today, sharing the sentiments of scores of people who were also there.
Our lunch place in the museum
Museum interior . The grandeur speaks for itself.

It is a very beautiful museum, right from the start, enthralling me all the way. I am no architecture buff but I demanded more photos taken at its foyer than in the galleries. The richness of the place outrivals most of the galleries I visited in Rome and Paris. As a plus point, photos without flash can be taken except for one, which presumably is because the art pieces were on loan from somewhere. I lapped up the fine works of Reubens, Caravaggio and many others. The last time I had tackled a gallery with gusto was at the D'orsay in Paris,5 years ago.
One of the many statues of kings and emperors

4 hours later and not totally finished, we checked out the coins section which is low on the tourists' list. We gave the Egyptians a miss , exhausted, and searched for sustenance downtown, at Aida Konditeri. Short staffed on Christmas eve, a grumpy waitress attended to us unhappily, after much gesturing. We had our last tea break in Vienna city of Himmer Bombe, Torte and coffee.
We packed back all the street food of Vienna and had the feast of our lives in our Pension

Aghast that everything else is closed and nowhere to spend our remaining Euros, we had to resort to eat-in. We became ultimate gluttons carting almost everything in sight from a kebab store at Kartnerstrasse. What a way to end our culinary journey in Vienna!

24 Dec Thursday @ Vienna 3 - 7 C Very windy, cloudy

Gateway to Vienna's fringe
Christmas eve is supposed to be cheery and festive but the weather was anything but. The streets are wet but cleared of snow, having melted in the night. Since Vienna's weather forecast is above zero, we donned our parkas and whittled our shirts to just 2 thin layers.
Take this bus to Kahlenburg

Being Christmas eve, Vienna city is in the process of a shutdown, tourist sites, shops and all, down to only essential services by late afternoon. Well, there is always the outdoors so we embarked on a mini expedition to Kahlenberg, a 400 m mountain spot at the fringe of north Vienna, near the Danube.  A train ride to Hielligenstadt ( U4 ) and a change to bus 38A took us out of Vienna city, beyond Grinzing. I suspect this part is not covered by the Vienna weekly pass ( area 1010 ) because of a strange sign beyond Grinzing that shows Wien with a cancellation mark.

The way beyond Grinzing gradually took a different look, much to my alarm. Bitumen covered road gave way to  snow laced stone paved road and finally we entered territory with snow covered trees. A heavy fog hung around us. Alighting at Kahlenberg, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, besieged by thick fog, visibility down to not more than 10 m.
Our mascot,Mr G, was thankful for a coat of faux fir to shield him from the cold in Kahlenburg
Following the chimes of a nearby church which we could hear but not see in the fog, we groped around the vicinity and found an Asian couple, huddled in the cold, waiting for the next bus down to civilization. When the fog lifted a little, we saw a hotel and tourism university ( MODUL ) nearby. At the nearby lookout point, all was doom and gloom, which necessitated a visit to the hotel café.
From Vienna's highest point, the plains of neighbouring cities laid before us
Thankfully, the fog lifted and unfolded before us, the valley and city of Vienna. On our right, the Danube flowed, separating Austria and Slovakia. It was said Bratislava  would be visible on a clear day, but I would never be any wiser.
Grinzing was at the foot of Kahlenburg. We ate pizza here on Christmas eve.

12 noon. The fog was heading for us again and it was time to call an end to our adventure. Mindful that the last bus of the day runs at 4.30 pm back to town on Christmas eve, we took the next bus down to Grinzing. Unfortunately, our favorite Grinzing restaurant was closed on Christmas eve and so we settled for our second Italian meal in a cute little place, Nino's, nearby. A Roman pizza, pasta, wine and drinks only cost 30 euros, not a bad deal.
We booked to eat here months in advance. A 20 minutes walk from our Pension.

Walking past the pastry place where we had our cakes the first time in Grinzing, we took tram 38 back to the city.  A little rest and then it was time to seek out Plachutta, our dinner place for the night. It was supposed to be a leisurely walk towards Stephensdom and beyond but the biting wind made it into a mini jog. Despite our 7 pm reservation, we were made to wait for 20 minutes due to poor management. All was forgiven when we sink our teeth on the famous Tafelspitz. Never will I look down to boiled beef again! Coupled with sour cream and chives, the Tafelspitz was incredibly succulent and tasty. There was a faint herby smell in the soup, which we could not recognize. The staff was incredibly nice and served us well, a meal that warranted an extra tip from Pat. We had very helpful advise on how to eat the bone marrow with rye, a hilarious moment because we were squeamish about it.

Although we were charged bread tax for the bread hardly consumed and H reacted with indignation, we gamely paid, 2.80 euro each, for a pleasurable experience. All in, a Tafelspitz for 3, drinks and wine, bread totaled 91 euro, just as I expected. Though pricey, Plachutta was a good recommendation by Frommer's.
Midnight mass at Stephensdom.

At 11.30 pm, we ushered Christmas with a choir performance which morphed into a German sermon. Somewhere in Rome at the same time, the Pope was calling for world peace. We slink out of the service like the other tourists, figuring out this may be one sermon God may forgive us for not attending.

Tomorrow, Christmas beckons with another wonderful day ahead. Blessed Christmas to one and all !

23 Dec Thu @ Vienna -3 to 5 C

The palace located at Vienna's outskirts
I have debated whether to make full use of the weekly pass and travel around Vienna or pay extra and take a train out to Gyor/Budapest/Prague, all OBB train rides of over 2 hours. Finally, money prevails. The hourly schedules and long train rides to and from these places were also reasons to stay in Vienna. The annoyance of missing the hourly train back from Neuschwantein is still fresh and I do not want to risk a night stranded elsewhere, because of the adverse weather. A cold snap is  making its way down from Paris/London and I get the jitters just thinking of it.
Huge palace grounds

We make our first museum visit ( in Vienna ) this day to Schonbrun Palace. It is a stone's throw from Pension Suzanne, by direct train 5 stops down.
After the guided tour inside, it is free and easy time in the grounds.

Like every other museum in Vienna, the entrance fees are hefty. We paid 9.50 euros per person for an imperial ( partial audio-guided ) tour. Being in the suburbs, the palace compounds are still covered with snow. A christmas market was running at full steam with lots of school kids, 23rd Dec being the first school holiday of the season.
A beautiful winter day at Schonbrun

The  tour was informative, well mapped out and timed. We learned a bit about Empress Maria Therese and are finally able to connect her to the sad fate of her youngest 11th daughter, Maria Antoinette, married to the king Louis of France, and later beheaded there.  Of course, Vienna is big on Austria's most popular and last king, Maria Therese's successor and son , Franz Joseph and his cousin-wife, Empress Sisi.

After a very tiring session walking through more than 20 palatial rooms, we went over to the gardens, ankle high with powdery snow. It is a very big place with zoo and all, which we did not attempt. The 2 shutter bugs took photos of the white landscape while I watch the sun tease the eyes with light works on the glittering snow.
Sundown comes early at Schonbrunn
Belvedere, a smaller palace in downtown Vienna, is just as majestic.

2.00 pm. After Schonbrunn, we decided to palace hop and check out Belvedere. A short train back from Schonbrunn, we transferred to tram D which takes us south towards Sudbahnhof. The stop, Belvedere, was situated just outside the palace walls. The palace looks smallish from the entrance but exudes a majestic aura with its ornate sculptured walls. Admission hours would end at 5.30pm in winter, a rush for us, so we walked around the gardens that is at the back of the palace. It is very much smaller than Schonbrunn but has many more beautiful sculptures lining the walkways.
One more day to the biggest event in Vienna, Christmas Eve

Sundown, back in the city, we had a little walk along Stephensdom and then Wozeille to check out Plachutta, where I had earlier made a reservation ( by email ) for Christmas eve's dinner. Bushed from the day's walking, we called it a day and took a train from  Stubentor station, steps from Plachutta , back to the pension at Karlsplatz.

Last minute shopping
Tomorrow, we will see the denizens of Vienna party away into Christmas day. What will be in store for us ?

22 Dec Wed @ Vienna 3 C

Vienna's ringtram for visitors. As of 2010, it did not make a round trip anymore.
Some weeks earlier, I made an appointments with Mr Burak of Violinaffairs, located near Taborstrasse station, for a viola tryout. H's violin is a tad too big and we had hoped to get a slightly smaller one for her, as a side memento from our Europe trip. Burak had been told of our requirements  and H's current standard, so that he can get something suitable for H.
Parliament.You can write in for a visit when Parliament does not convene.

His little violin repair shop only has 3 violas to offer, 15 inch being hard to come by in Europe : 1 Hungarian 'hand crafted' 15 inch, 1 German ( Munich ) made which was slightly too big and costs 3500 euros and a suitable sized old viola with visible blemish but  exudes a sweet voice that cost 3000 euros. None was suitable or struck her fancy. The entire trial took a decisive 30 minutes and we were off. H expected this outcome and was not duly upset, thankfully.
Beethoven Haus
Beethoven's original score.

We were ahead of schedule so we ended up at Beethoven's house, located at Schottentor station, for a visit. I had expected the little tour to be like at Mozart's in Salzburg. Therefore, we were shocked to pay 2 euros each, browsing through photos and some old documents with not a single English explanation. It was a total rip off. There was nothing to learn or see, and the scenery out of the windows overlooking the university opposite was also poor. I would not recommend anyone to spend the time and money for a visit.
Bus station at Grinzing
Walking back to Schottentor station, we went to the basement level and caught tram 38 bound for Grinzing. It is located at the periphery of Vienna, covered by the weekly Vienna ticket. In the tram, an old lady with impeccable English, explained how we could reach our next destination, the pathological museum,  by bus. She even corrected my wrong narrative that the nearby church as the VotiveKirche, not the Stephensdom.  It was a lively encounter, one of the many extended by the courteous and friendly people in Austria. Their initiative and eagerness to help touched us so much we are now German and Austrian fans.
Our Lunch place at Grinzing. We came twice because the food was SO good !
Grinzing,  reachable at the end of tram 38, is a sleepy little place in winter. IT is located near the Vienna woods and like Nussdorf and many others, is a magnet for wine tasting tourists in summer when the grapes are harvested. While browsing around, someone even pointed out the direction of the wine taverns, thinking we have gone the wrong way. It was a delightful time wondering around the place, skirting snowed in pavements. At Cobenzlgasse, we settled for a quaint little tavern, the Brandl, because we saw a lot of locals visiting.

Brandl is designed to delight. It looked and felt like a refuge on a  cold winter's day, fire crackling, lots of wine, sleepy dogs and laughter. We ordered a feast for 2 that felt more like 3 for as little as 30 euros. I would go there again if I ever have the chance.
The entrance as eerie as the museum. It houses pathological samples within the university.

Again, back to Schottentor by tram 38 from Grinzing, we walked west to the pathological museum, which is opened to the public only on Wednesdays, 3-6pm, admission charge of 2 euros for adults. It was a very cold evening and a fairly long walk from the tram terminus/U-station. We consulted the tattered tourist map and wandered into an official looking compound, to be greeting by a Christmas market, patronized by  many children. We walked past the fair towards courtyard 13 ( easier said than done ) and at a cul-de-sac, stood a round, domed shaped brick building that is very different in appearance from its surroundings.

The museum  housed medical teaching aids in many forms, from infectious diseases to pathological anomalies. The 3 of us have recently read a book about the investigative work on cholera pioneered by John Snow, so many names on display was familiar. As we went down the circular corridor, the displays progressed to TB,  birth defects, STDs, rather discordant and un-related. We would have derived more  satisfaction from the visit if the narratives were in English.
Vienna's State Opera House by night. A stone's throw from our apartment.

By 6pm, it is time to make the long , dark and cold walk back to Schottentor. We took U2 back to Karlsplatz and make good our order of the Borodin CD. Pat even had time to post a postcard ( of a German recipe ) back home.  If all turns out well, we should receive 2 cards from ourselves this trip.

21 Dec Tuesday @ Vienna 0 to 3 C

Vienna gears up for Christmas
Despite our unhappiness at the amenities with Pension Suzanne ( no wireless internet, unheated toilet ), we slept soundly . Our program was to do  a city tour by public transport.  Breakfast at the next building was not spectacular, a decline since Munich. I fed myself over the computer in the breakfast room, the only hot spot, reading email and checking weather matters.
Last few days of school outing before the holidays.

Vienna was still cold despite forecasts. After breakfast, we took a tram tour ( 2 ) starting from Opera to Parliament, passing MuseumQuatier. Tram 2 no longer make a complete city loop and went off the Ring, where we alighted and walked back to Rathaus. Scores of school children went there for a baking marathon and it was more entertaining seeing the kids all wrapped up than the building itself.

More photoshoots of the Rathaus and Parliament later, we hopped up tram 1 in front of the Parliament to Schwendenplatz. We alighted 2 stops too early and ended up along a length of Joseph-Kai. Up again on the tram at Schwendenplatz, we continued our tram ride towards Stadpark. On the tram, we met the Korean girls whom we encountered at Untersberg. What a small world!
You can't miss J Strauss. Just follow the Japanese tourists!
Vienna's green lung is a delightful place for all seasons.

At the second stop at Stadpark, we alighted and paid a visit to Johann Strauss golden statue. The park was covered with snow, deserted and forlorn. We had quite a good time in the park, taking lots of photos amidst the soon to melt snow.
Naschtmarkt offers a visual feast. Popular with tourists.

A short tram ride to Karlsplatz followed by a U-bahn ride to Kettenbruckegasse found us in the end section of Naschtmarkt, Vienna's famous fresh produce market. A nice boy pointed us in the correct direction and we walked in the seedy graffiti sprayed neighbourhood, eastwards towards opera house with much apprehension. The market is very mid-eastern in flavor selling all sorts of exotic mideast snacks. Aggressive touting from every stall owner made us very uncomfortable. The amount of things sold was pretty extensive : spices, clothings, raw meats, vegetable, oils and balms. At the famous Gegenbauer, we bought a 250ml bottle of Cabernet Savignon gourmet vinegar for 10 euros. The proprietor was nice enough to throw in a free lesson on the difference between balsamic and normal vinega, which I promptly forgot. Tut-tut.
Famous vinegar place that makes the sour from practically everything. Often mentioned in tour books, the boss is informative and friendly.

Lunch was at this Italian bistro at the other end of Naschtmarkt. It was some more salty Schnitzel, salad, fish and chip at a self touted best Austrian food place in Vienna. For 45 euro, it was very expensive, even more so than Tokyo's Tsukiji !
Our lunch place, good but expensive.That's me, always figuring what to eat next!
Salieri, said to be Mozart's rival in court. A much misunderstood man perhaps.

We walked towards the Museums and turned into Mariahilfstrasse, intending to shop till I drop. The shopping belt was a tedious uphill walk, shops were overcrowded and similar to the ones at Kartnerstrasse. I left disappointed.

A train ride back to Stephansplatz and we were back to roaming Kartnerstrasse. I thought I would just pop in to visit Swarovski but the buying atmosphere there was infectious and Pat's enthusiasm caused me to end up with 2 pairs of earrings and  a couple of crystals.  The day's doom took a lift there and then. Delight indeed!
Crystal HQ with somthing for everyone.

H fared well too. At Arcadia Music, she finalized her order with Dorothea. If all systems go, she should be getting her Borodin CD tomorrow.
Our night photo shoots in frigid weather. Christmas was in the air.
Night time glory
Christmas fever at the Rathaus

We had a night shoot session at the Rathaus, the MuseumQuartier and its Christmas markets. At 5pm, Vienna was cold and dark but bustling with party revelers. The 2 shutter bugs had a good time talking about aperture, shutter speed and so on while I had a good time checking out every store available.
This is how I remember Vienna
The 2 photographers were in overdrive to make my creative concepts come alive. Bravo !

We dined in for the first time in our little kitchenette, our first salt free meal. It was soothing, even although it is predictable pasta stuff. If only Austrian meals can be this cheap and good, I would be one happy traveler.

20 Dec Monday @ Salzburg, Vienna 0 to -5 C

Our last base in Austria at Kartnerstrass

It will be 6 days in Vienna before heading for sunny Singapore. We had earlier purchased OBB tickets in Salzburg, bound for Vienna for this day. It was an open ticket for travel on the 20th of Dec, family offer of 101 euros. There was a few time slots for us but we opted for the 9.01 am train, RJ61 , bound for budapest, enroute Vienna. It would take us 2 hours and 40 minutes to go east, traveling at a cool 200 km/hr at most times.

My first mistake regarding the ticket was not reserving seats, an extra 10 e for three of us, which I thought was not necessary. Boy ! Was I wrong ! We started our trip at 3 different seats until Linz, where a departing passenger meant I could sit beside H. We hugged the northern edge of the Alps and traveled through snow and more snow ( think Spring Waltz , the Korean show, and it is more or less like that ).

Nearing Vienna, pockets of white snow gave way to brown and trees showed more bare twigs. Vienna is warming up and getting out of the cold snap, at least for the coming week. H is not thrilled that we would probably not have a white Christmas but that means travel gets easier that way.
Stephensdom, the main Cathedral near our apartment

We alighted at Westbahnhof in Vienna and continued our journey by U-bahn. There was a little delay from figuring out what ticket to buy for H but we decided she qualifies for "apprentice" ticket, 6.60 euros, for Monday to Monday. Adults weekly tickets costs 14 euro, which was what we bought, although we would be there for only 5 days.

We took U3 from Westbahnhof to Stephansplatz, a 5 stop ride. There, we lugged our luggage along Kartnerstrasse, enjoying the buzz of tourist crowd and shops along the pedestrian only mall. At the end of Kartnerstrasse, at Walfischestrasse, we saw our Pension at the left. At the end of the glitzy mall was this non-descript lane that was quite alarming. Pension Suzanne is contained in this plain old looking building - accessible only by buzzing the proprietor. Oh-Oh!

We cart our luggage up a couple of steps to the next level where the reception is. Our room was not ready so we left the bags in a store room and went around Kartnerstrasse, in search of lunch.
All  one euro each. We ate as fast as we ordered.Tsk!
Vienna was supposed to be warmer than Salzburg that day but the feeling was anything but. The air was damp and snow was melting, making puddles of icy slush everywhere. We walked around the States opera house and then towards Stephensplatz. Off Graben, we sampled one of the must try : Buffet Trzesniewski, a sandwich buffet shop where everything goes for 1 euro. The sandwiches were good but would have been better if they had been warm. We had to jostle for a few seats available but coming from Asia, we have much practice in this aspect.
After lunch, we walked round town anticlockwise, starting from Stephensplatz, along Graben towards the Hofburg palace. Pat managed to locate the Hofburg Kapelle, where we would be seeing the Vienna Boys' Choir sing on Christmas morning.
Palace in downtown Vienna. Vienna Boys sing here every Sunday

We walked past the Spanish riding school ( smelt it mostly ) , past Josephplatz, the AugustinerKirche, Albertina and ended our land tour at the State Opera House.
State Opera House
Living Area of the Pension

We went back to the Pension Suzanne to settle our luggage issue and sort out formalities. Our room was located in room 401 in the next building, separated by a courtyard. Internet could only be accessed from the dinning room in the main lobby, which is a no-no. It would mean walking through the cold and up to the breakfast area for internet access. Moreover the stairways and lobby is not lit by motion sensor, only when a switched is pressed. This I know, through the accounts of forummers, but still it miffed me. Our apartment is Ok, except that the toilet is not heated, kitchenette not adequately equipped and breakfast starts at a late 7.30am. In exchange for excellent location, I have sacrificed connectivity and creature comforts. That's what you get for 130 e for staying in the middle of Vienna!
A Christmas market as our steps reassures us of a constant supply of snacks. Restaurants line the streets as well.

We located Arcadia music, a CD store where H hopes to get a Borodin Quartet CD. By now, we know it is mission impossible, as the Quartet is not well known. Dorothea, Arcadia's staff, managed to order one for H, available a couple of days later.  As a matter of precaution, we went down  to EMI at Kartnerstrasse. Luck was with H today and she got herself an original Borodin Quartet CD playing Borodin!

After contemplating a few places and exchanging woeful but hilarous restaurant reviews with an English woman, we found ourselves in the first Italian place in this trip. Al Caminetto offered us very good Roman pizza and pasta.  The popularity of the place was obvious - the restaurant filled up shortly after we entered. For 30 euros , it was a value for money meal, a feat not easily repeated in the capital of Austria.