This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Das Original

vienna-26Today we wanted to have the cake and eat it, too. And it was possible, because Hotel Sacher both serves and sells its famous torte. But who knew that the lunch menu at Café Sacher was so delicious? And that the walls were a bright red, and the china sparkling white? And the service so graceful. It all really became less about the cake and more about the entire experience.

The cake shop clerk recommended to not buy a big cake but single-serving cakes, if possible. Because there is more chocolate and jam per mass, and that makes it all so much better. We agree.
vienna-27(Café Sacher, Vienna, Austria; February 2017)


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Coffee with cake and music

vienna-9Breakfast in Café Central, with white bone china. Where once Trotsky sat. And Freud, Adler, Tito, and even Lenin. The tea is still excellent, and so is everything else. Before 9 am it is quiet, but after 11 am there is a line lasting the rest of the day.

Afternoon coffee in Aida. One of the many pink places scattered around Vienna. Aida has a helpful guide for the bewildered tourist who thinks coffee is just coffee, whereas in Vienna it is avec a whole lot else, too.

And in Aida, cake is preferably taken “mit muziek”, or with music. Perhaps a shot of kirsch, or an amaretto. This fluffy pink establishment claims that in olden times, if one wished for a little shot of liquor, one only had to say one wished for a little music. Of course. (Only in Vienna….)vienna-19(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)


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Taverns in Vienna

vienna-7Wine, vaults, and wienerschnitzels. Viennese taverns are not really bars but restaurants where you can stuff yourself with delicious no-nonsense food and drink local wine. Either underground, or in heurigers (winemakers’ own local taverns). Expect simple comfort food and surprisingly good cheap housewines. And from time to time, awful local music.

And if you are not acquainted with Austrian wines, try a Riesling or Grüner Veltliner from Kamptal, or any -auslese (sweet dessert wines).

(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)


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When in Vienna…

wiencoffeeWhen in Vienna, order coffee like the Viennese.

Yes. This is what the drink looked like before I took a single sip. I believe it is one little espresso shot being crushed under a mountain of whipped cream.

The Einspänner really is more cream with coffee than coffee with cream. The story goes that an Einspänner was the favorite drink of the Viennese one-horse-carriage drivers: hot espresso coffee warming one’s hands, staying warm by the insulation of the massive heap of cream on top. If one got a customer, one could simply filter the hot coffee through the cold cream and drink it up in a few seconds.

I can think of no other city where horse carriage drivers have such a sumptuous and functional signature drink. And I cannot help but wonder if the original Einspänner did not contain a wee dram of booze, at least from time to time?

(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)


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Old English pubs

eaglechildBusiness lunch at Eagle and Child with a quantum physicist, discussing medical sciences. Dinner at the Bear Inn, a pub from 1242, among 4,500 club ties (including one tiny panel in the ceiling for women’s ties). Instead of rowdy drunk people, there were ladies dining and students playing chess with glass pieces.

Only in Oxford. oldpub(Oxford, United Kingdom; January 2017)


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B-side experience

kirtipurrestaurant-4“Give us a B-side of Kathmandu”, we had said to our guide, some hours and adventures earlier. “Something you wouldn’t show to first-time visitors, something hidden.” As we walked down the steps into a dark alleyway in Kirtipur, avoiding a suspicious-looking dog, I wondered what we were up for this time.

We entered what looked like a traditional Newari family house: woven fiber mats on the floor; people sitting on terraces of different heights, sipping something from bronze cups; a man washing rice. Women sitting in a ring, preparing food in front of a fire. kirtipurrestaurant-3Our tablecloth was what looked like a flowery bed linen, spread out on the carpet. We sat on the edges of it, sharing the floor as a table.

We had to try the rice beer, our guide said. I was only one of 2 who finished their cup and I did feel dizzy afterwards. kirtipurrestaurant-1We had to try the food he said. All of it. And the bread, too. I’m glad we did. It was delicious. Apart of the black beans that set my mouth and throat and everything below it on fire.

Our Nepali colleague saw my photo on Facebook and commented laconically that we’d probably not make it to work the following day. Meaning that we would not make it further than 5 m from the toilet seat. Little did she know of the random places in which I’ve exposed my gastrointestinal system to much more serious challenges. This Newari restaurant was clean, cozy, and an absolute gem. Now if only I knew how to find it again!
kirtipurrestaurant-2(Kirtipur, Nepal; November 2016)