Monday, January 13, 2014

Athens Greece - "Can You Dig It?"

Kali Chronia!!
(Happy New Year in Greek - of course spelled phonetically)

Yay!  We shed the coats and long underwear!  Wonderful warm people in Greece - we arrived here on New Year's Day and wondered why everyone was asking us about California.  We were stunned - maybe our accent.....until someone told us Kali Chronia (which sounds like California) was Happy New Year!

Since everything was closed New Years Day and the day after, we had to scrounge for our New Year's Dinner.  Thank goodness our landlord Nikos left us a bottle of wine!  We found some cheese and crackers and so like the Greeks, we started the year on the "Austerity" Plan.

View from the top of our apartment complex in Kypseli.  We can see the Acropolis lit up at night.


Some people in our group of travelers thought my use of the catch phrase "Can you Dig it?" at one of the hundreds of archaeological sites was lame. OK, but anyone recognizing the phrase from either the 60's Woodstock or the movie The Warriors, is also old enough to remember the easy- going feeling of that era. Although, the Taxi drivers and scooters may not be easy going, the vibe from the rest of this wonderful city embraces that early 70's feeling.

Escaping the cold of Vienna to arrive in low 60's weather (16 Celsius) we gladly embraced the comfortable warmth of the Greek people. Between the Ouzo, calamari, souvlaki and refills of Raki (on the house) we easily absorbed and took on the relaxed pace of Greek living.

Times are tough here and problems exist - the reality of the current times is evident on faces of the people, but given the friendly exchange or the opportunity to smile, the underlying Greek spirit emerges.

Temple of Zeus - just the start of all the Digs we will be sharing with you!

Ahh Nick!  "Greek hospitality is amazing" says nephew Eric.  Austerity is over as Nick plies us with ouzo and a delicious Greek dessert.

Rich feels right at home here - all the Greeks think he is Greek!  (Must be that Zorba look or maybe he has finally found a country that eats, laughs, and drinks as much as he does.)  We feel very welcome here!!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Pigging Out in Vienna

Viennese cuisine is hearty, heavy, and flavorsome! Loved the Goulash, Brats, Wursts, Leberkasse, and potatoes cooked every which way.  Our Swine and Dine Club had it's beginnings here and we pay homage to the Pig.

"Wiener Schnitzel and its Italian counterpart, Cotoletta Milanese, involved two Hapsburg domains in a culinary quarrel. Both branches of the family, Austrian and Italian, claimed credit for the invention of the dish, the latter branch tracing their claim all the way back to a banquet given in 1134 for the canon of Milan's St. Ambrogio Cathedral."
---Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking Through the Ages, William Harlan Hale [American Heritage:New York] 1968 (p. 516) 

We had to test the claim for the best Schnitzel in Vienna from many travel guides and friend Joe Popp.  Figmuellers definitely had an overflowing plate - at least the salad was healthy.  The after picture should tell you what we all thought. 

Hanging out at Bitzinger, the best Wurst at a stand outside the Opera House - I am singing an Aria over this dog!

At a food booth in Spittleberg with nephew Trevor, daughter Ren, and Ren's buddy Ali.  They are eating what is called an Erdapfelpuffer - a garlic infused Potato pancake is the only way to describe this delectable treat!

In between the pig, we stopped at many of the famous Coffee Houses in Vienna and had wonderful coffee and desserts.  Demmel's shown above has many pastry chefs working on the famous Vienna Apfelstrudel.  Famous Cafe's also pictured with some of these wonderful desserts are Cafe Sperl, Cafe Mozart, Cafe Central, and Cafe Landtmann.

Back to the Pig and another Schnitzel trip - this time to Schnitzelwirt - gotta keep working on where to find the best Schnitzel in Wein.

We sampled the traditional schnitzel along with the mushroom cordon bleu schnitzel at the  Plutzer Brau  in Spittleberg.  This is one of the favorites.

Rich was tired of  all the Schnitzel, so he decided to attack other parts of the pig.  Pork Ribs at the Centimeter - a busy hangout in our neighborhood.  With so much Schnitzel being consumed, there had to be good ribs around - he was right as usual when it comes to food!

Dessert break at the Famous Sacher Hotel Cafe, home of the Sacher Torte - tried to get a pic before a forkful was taken...

After eating probably 50 lbs of pork, we all finally decided on a winner for the best Schnitzel - Brezlg Wolb.  A suggestion from Laura Mitchell, a long time local.  
Thank goodness that is done!  I am so ready for something different.....

........Fish!!!   from the Saigon Restaurant

Renata and Victoria spent New Year's Eve with the Viennese locals - what they did they would not tell us!

Our last night in Vienna was New Year's Eve.  The Viennese know how to celebrate!! 
There were not only public displays of fireworks, there were also individual pyrotechnics displaying their skills throughout the city, it was like a war zone that ended with a Danube Waltz!
Vienna - Danke und Auf Wiedersehen!!

  Time to move on to explore another city.........

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

It's 3 AM in Vienna, Karaoke Time...

"I got you babe..."

Museums, Palaces and Cathedrals  OH MY!...After spending the first 6 weeks exploring the cultural aspects of Vienna, such as the incredible Churches, (St Stephens, Peterskirche, Karlskirche and 10 others) Museums not to miss (The Leopold, Kunst-Historriches, the Armor and Natural History to name just a few) and Palaces, (The Belvedere and Schonbrunn) we have been visited by our nephew Trevor and some of Renata's friends. When the  Pubs and Gasthaus close here, the best place to continue the party is the local Karaoke bars. They stay open until 4 AM and although the weekends are not enjoyable and filled with drunks singing Bon Jovi in the wrong key, the weekdays have some smaller crowds with beautiful voices and supportive audiences (even for energetic, albeit suspect, versions of Springsteen and Sonny & Cher)... Special shout-out to"Beer & Song" and "Sing a Song" Karaoke Bars.

The Schonbrunn and Belvedere Palaces - looking for a fixer-upper to flip.

It is sometimes a shock to the ear to attend a superb Opera such as Beethoven's Fidelio, (and we all were just blown away by the Staatsoper production), and the next night hear unique variations on the widest range of popular music of the last 60 years. A very good time in basement bars with great beer, lots of energy and meeting nice locals.

I take no claim on this blog, especially the picture of Sonny and Cher, and my off key singing you are lucky not to have heard (that is what a few beers will do).  I will admit Rich, Trevor, Renata, and Ali have beautiful voices, so hearing them sing was a treat -  I think all the opera we've been going to inspired them.

Spice Girls:  "So tell me what you want...."
"We are young...."

After a long day touring museums and before the Karaoke - checking out the local beer scene in Vienna's Centimeter  a local Gasthaus and the  1516 Brewery.

Hope to join many of you in song at a Karaoke Bar in some corner of the world!