Old Vienna: Coffee at Demel and Central

Amidst the boxes I’m happy I finally found my box of photo CDs.  I’m delighted the DVD reader reads them well and the photographs are still there after almost a decade.  I shall have to back them up.  With digital cameras, I take more pictures but print less and then end up losing some when my harddisk crashes. Technology.  Looking through my Vienna photos, I am reminded of the coffee culture there.  There are cafes or “Kaffeehaus”  on almost every road.  Each with their own atmosphere and their own unique style.  Stories abound as to how it all started.  Some say when the Turks were defeated in 1683 they left bags of coffee,  hence started the coffee culture in Vienna.  Fascinating.  Now coffee is known worldwide.

I have two favorites in Vienna.  Cafe Demel and Cafe Central.  Demel is wonderfully beautiful and dates from 1786.  The Hofburg towers above the small road from Demel at Karntnerstrasse and the selection of cakes and candies are in such intricate little boxes I want to keep the packaging.  They not only look good, they taste good.  Empress Sissi of Vienna is said to have ordered candies and other goods from this coffee shop. 

When you enter, you immediately see a long counter of candies and snacks.  There used to be seating in the front room, but now they have converted the entire area to a little shop.  Luckily, I had the opportunity to enjoy the ambiance of the old room that dates back over 200 years.  It’s a small coffee shop and there are crowds of people but the atmosphere is just wonderful. Inside you can watch them making chocolate and there is even a little museum.  (http://www.demel.at/) There is also plenty of seating in the back.

However, if you want to go to a more spacious coffee house and enjoy coffee with live classical music, go to Central cafe. Housed in the Palais Ferstal which was originally built for the Stock Exchange, it is in a beautiful architectural style of late romantic historism. (According to their website: http://www.palaisevents.at/en/cafecentral.html not exactly sure what that term means, but I like the architectural style anyways)

Central Kaffeehaus is a place for philosphers, thinkers and writers. Even Sigmund Freud and Trotsky used to come here.  I like it.  There are newspapers in various languages for you to read free of charge.  If you go there in the afternoon around 3pm there will be live music of either Strauss or Mozart or other famous classical music  performed by a Violinist, Cellist and Pianist.  I forget if they play everyday or not, but I suppose you could call and ask.   Nevertheless, the music sounds magical.  
Especially so when its cold outside and you need somewhere warm to just sit and relax.  I remember going there amidst the snow fall.  It was cold and getting dark, but the warmt that greets you inside clears all that away.  The high archs, painted ceilings and lighting that take you back in time makes you feel warm and fuzzy.  All this whilst taking it in all with one sip at a time. This is the soul of Vienna.  This is what I love.  
Even if you don’t drink coffee, like me, you can just go there for tea or cup of hot chocolate.  Their chocolate there is good, more than good.  It’s rich and chocholaty. Just the way I like it…yeah.  Their Apfelstrudel is also so good. I like Apfelstrudel.  Somehow the ones in Bangkok just don’t taste the same.

Old Vienna: Schnitzel at Figmueller

It’s the weekend and we all must dine.  I love long weekends where I have the time to meet friends, hang out and just enjoy eating good food.  Life is great at this point.  When we travel, we also must eat good food.  For me, travel and good food go hand in hand.  To experience a culture fully, you must eat the food they eat and enjoy the entire experience.  One of my favorite restaurants in Vienna which is frequented by both locals and visitors is the “Figlmueller.” 

Opened since 1905, at Figlmueller you can have one of the most famous “Schnitzel” in Vienna.  I drool just thinking about it.  What is this weird sounding food called “schnitzel”?  It is basically pork tenderloin which has been pounded until very thin.  It is then put into a batter and topped with breadcrumbs before being fried.  It’s served with salad and potatoes. 

You can have schnitzel almost everywhere in Vienna, but what makes Figlmueller so special is that the schnitzel here is very thin.   They pound it so thin that the schnitzel literally falls off your plate with a diameter of more than 30cm.  It’s not greasy and the pork is just so crispy and tender at the same time.   It is delicious. My stomach is starting to growl even though I just had a lovely dinner and I don’t want to eat before sleeping so I shall have to stop my description of the food here.  Go try it if you have time 🙂

The ambiance?  There are two restaurants all within walking distance of the Stephansdom, but the original one is at Wolzeille. As you make your way to the alley you might wonder if you are in the right place.  It’s quiet, until you get to the restaurnat and step inside. It’s bustling yet its cosy and you feel like you are in a traditional viennese restaurant.  The wooden tables and windows that open out onto the small alley where the restaurant is located makes it worthwhile.    I’ve never been to the newest one at Backerstrasse, but I heard from those who’ve been that its equally good and a bit a less crowded.

The price is also not too expensive.  It’s EUR13.90 for a Schnitzel and that is usually enough for a full meal.  With some salads it’ll be around EUR20 per person… I must thank my local Austrian friend who recommended me this place.  If it wasn’t for her, I’d never have found it.  Hmm.. I wonder if I’d ever get to go back there again…I hope so.  

As with all places in this day and age, I discovered they have a website so check it out if you have time 🙂  http://www.figlmueller.at/index.php