Tuesday, December 28, 2010

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 !

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