The drive through northern Italy was lovely, but once I saw the gorgeous Austrian countryside, I felt right at home. The rolling hills were peppered with dense tracts of forest-like area and sprinkled with adorable cottages and farms. Austria was, for me, the clear winner of the Prettiest Landscape Award.
Our tour director Bern had hyped up this chain of Austrian/German roadside restaurants called Rosenberger, located in or near gas/service stations in the region, and WOW, they lived up! Upon walking inside, we were flabbergasted at the wide array of food available, buffet-style: salad, fruit, hot food (vegetables, rice, pasta, etc.), freshly baked breads and pretzels, desserts and baked goods, even fresh-squeezed juices! I served myself a huge bowl of mixed fruit and a plate of rice, ratatouille, sautéed bell peppers, steamed carrots, and herbed new potatoes, with a bretzel roll (not a typo, that’s the German) alongside, all for only about 7€.
Our hotel in Vienna was the absolute nicest so far. Apparently it used to be a Club Med. (Inside joke, but it’s true, haha.) We only had a little bit of time to clean up, though, before heading to dinner. We were the only group in the quiet restaurant, which appeared from the outside to be a cozy Viennese family abode.
At last, we were in Riesling country! I had grown to love my red wine during the first half of the trip (which was actually a personal goal of mine), but I welcomed the return to my longtime favorite: sweet whites. The whole group received a glass apiece of local Riesling on the house (served in short glass beer mugs!), and then Greg, Kim, and I shared another bottle.
Throughout the trip, I had expected that my enjoyment of local cuisines would taper off. Northern Europe makes me think meat, cabbage, gross creamy cheesy stuff, and other such “comfort foods” that I’ve never liked. Vienna proved me wrong in a big way. The rye bread on the table was a great beginning to the meal, but my main dish really blew me away—a savory vegetable strudel topped with a fantastic paprika gravy and served with chunky parsley potatoes. I had a brighter overhead shot of this, but I wanted to show a peek of the inside, which was stuffed with carrots, potatoes, green beans, and more. What a delicious surprise!
The strudeliciousness continued with dessert—a flaky, powdered-sugar-dusted apfelstrudel (apple strudel).
As in Paris, Florence, and Athens, we were treated to in-house music during our meal.
I was really jazzed for what was in store after dinner—a visit to the symphony! How very bourgeois of me, no? I LOVE classical music; I grew up on it, in fact. The opera hall (Börsensäle Wien) was handsomely ornate.
The nine-piece ensemble played Mozart and Strauss pieces, accompanied at times by either a pair of opera singers or a pair of ballerinas, and (even though I’m more of a Bach and Beethoven girl myself) I adored it.
It was a beautiful first evening in Vienna, and it really stoked my excitement to spend the entire following day there.