The taxi came to pick us up from Folkestone at 5.oo on Saturday 19th December 2015 and drove us to Smeeth, where we picked up our friends. From there we drove to Gatwick South terminal, where we bought water, a plug adaptor amongst other things for the holiday, before breakfasting at Wagamama’s, between us poached egg on toast, croissant and bacon sandwich. All four us enjoyed free orange juice, all at a gross saving of £14!
A slightly bumpy flight later we landed in a foggy Vienna airport and took a taxi to the Hotel Beethoven opposite the Naschmarkt on the edges of the old town. After a quick settling in tot eh hotel, we paid a visit to the Naschmarkt, which sported all kinds of foodstuffs and Christmas trinkets. We dined on Bratwurst and three other types of Austrian sausage for our lunch and partook at one of the small café bars of gluhwein, although Steve, on that occasion had coffee.
Later we stopped again at another café for more gluhwein before heading back to the hotel for a siesta and to get ready for the evening.
At six o’clock we crossed the Naschmarkt once more, turned right then left until we arrived at an Italian restaurant called 8 ½ . We all chose pasta dishes. I had a glass of Prosecco with mine, but the others decided on a bottle of red wine between them. Returning to the hotel for a complimentary tea or coffee, it was not long before the four of us retired to a well-earned bed.
At 8.20 on the Sunday, Patch came to our room with travelling kettle, tea bags, milk and coffee so we could wake up to a civilised cup of tea. At 9.00 we went down for a continental-type breakfast, consisting of juice, fruit salad, yoghurt, croissant/scrambled egg and bacon, followed by tea and coffee.
After breakfast we took a taxi to the Altweiner Christkindlmarkt in the old town, where we picked up a few Christmassy things, before partaking of gluhwein. Here we had to pay 2 euros 50 deposit for a mug, so we kept two and returned two. (The idea, we realised eventually, is that you don’t return them, they sell more mugs that way).
From there we made our way to where the horse and carriages were, in a large square by another Christmas market. We took a 40-minute ride in the horse and carriage round the told, and parts of the new, town. It was cold so prior to getting into the carriage, the men bought themselves some warm hats. The tour took us past the Spanish Riding School so we decided to pay it a visit once we had finished our tour. Unfortunately the last pre-Christmas showing had been that morning so we had to make do with watching it on the DVD that was running in the foyer. It showed us all their ‘airs above the ground’ anyway, so we felt as though we had seen it for ourselves.
From there we made our way to the biggest Christmas market in Vienna – the Weiner Christkindlmarkt – which looked beautiful with all its twinkling lights and enticing stalls. It is all laid out in front of the town hall, whose gardens and trees have all been decorated at great expense, for the occasion. Another gluhwein was required here.
A short taxi-ride later, cheaper by half than the morning taxi, and we were deposited outside the Naschmarkt to walk up the strasse to our hotel for a rest, a wash and brush-up.
At 6 o’clock that evening we were entertained in the lounge by two young men, Michael Babytsch on violoncello and Pavlo Kachnov on the piano. Both were students at the University of Musik und Performing Arts in Vienna, although they both originated from the Ukraine. Their concert was in two halves. Firstly they played 12 variations on ‘Ein Madchen oder Weibchen’ from ‘The Magic Flute’ by Mozart, followed by Beethoven’s ‘Sonata for cello and Piano No 3 in A Major Op. 69’ (in 3 parts0.
After the interval we listened to music by Schumann ‘Three Fantasy Pieces, ‘The Swan’ by Saint-Saens (a beautiful piece) and finally ‘Hungarian Rhapsody’. For their encore they played Silent Night and I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas. After the concert, which took place on the mezzanine breakfast floor, we took a taxi to Augustinerkeller, below the Opera House, where we dined on authentic Weiner schnitzel in an ancient crypt-cum-wine-cellar-cum restaurant. It had a lovely atmosphere in there, with friendly waiters and pretty surroundings. It was 400 years old, one of the oldest buildings in Vienna. It was owned by the Bitzinger family, who also owned other restaurants in the city.
After dinner we went in search of the streets with the high-class stores (which were closed at that time of night) such as Prada, Rolex, Louis Vuitton, in order to find the pretty Christmas lights we had spotted earlier. Eventually, after walking first one way then the other and back again, we found them. They were worth the march, glittering like diamonds as they were. On the way we passed the Hotel Sacher, home of the famous Sachertorte, and Vivaldi’s home. Vienna is a beautiful city, especially at night, with all its twinkling lights.
Tired and weary from all the walking, we managed to hail a taxi and returned to the hotel, whose welcome warmth was a real tonic to our frozen bodies. Grabbing a quick beverage from outside the breakfast room, we made our way up to our rooms, where a hot bath and bed were waiting.
Monday morning dawned and, after the usual breakfast, we set off up the hill to the museum quarter to see some Klimpt. It was quite a steep incline, which played havoc with my knee after all the walking we had done the day before, despite several hot baths. However, on arriving there we found out that there were only three examples of Klimpt on display in the Leopold museum. So we deliberated what to do over a glass of gluhwein. Jenny and Patch decided to walk over to the Belvedere to see some more, leaving us to investigate the Leopold, which, in the event, we decided not to do. Instead we crossed the road to another Christmas market in Theresien Platz, which was much the same as the others. We picked up a hot dog and stood to eat it there and then, before continuing out the other side of the Platz, across the road, through the arches towards the building containing the Spanish School of Riding and out past where the horses and carriages were waiting for custom. From there Steve and I more or less retraced our steps from the night before, stopping off on the way at a small café for gluhwein and wine. There they seemed to be ushering people out of their seats as soon as they had paid and sitting people in spare seats at other people’s tables – a bad habit they seem to have in cafes in Vienna – a thirst for money at the expense of the customer. There was not even a lack of the latter!
Continuing on our way, past the cathedral at Stephansdom and swinging right, we passed the shops from last night, the Louis Vuitton, Tiffany’s, to name but a few, and some familiar names e.g. Zara, mango. At the end of the road we turned right to our arranged meeting point, the Sacher Hotel, by the station, and joined the long queue to get in. Twenty-five or so minutes later, we arrived at the door, but because two of our party had not arrived they would not let us in for a table for four until they came. Finally we enjoyed a famous Sachertorte each, with teas and coffees.
Then we made our way across the ring road in the general direction of the Naschmarkt and our hotel. After an hour and a half rest and pre-dinner drinks, we set off for our reserved table at the Amacord restaurant just over the Naschmarkt and to the right. The boys ate Weiner schnitzel and chips again, while Jenny and I had breaded lamb on beans and veg, which was delicious. However, the young waitress spoiled our night by trying to advise us how to tip in Austria. Nevertheless a good time was had by all regardless of that. We returned to the hotel for a nightcap before retiring to pack and bed.
The alarm went off at 7.00 for an early breakfast at 8.15 before returning to the airport for our flight home.