Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Magic of Vienna on Viking Cruises

Whether or not we’ve ever written it down, we all have a bucket list. Those lists consist of places we hope to go. Many of us dream about these places, while others make it their life’s mission to travel to them.

I’ve actually got two lists, though neither one is on paper. One is of places I wish to explore and the other is of places I just need to get to in order to see if the magic is really there. 

The latter list includes places such as Paris, Rome, and London, all of which I’ve been to. There’s one place I hadn’t visited until I arrived on my Viking River Cruise. That place is Vienna.

It was cool and foggy when my friend Tracy and I arrived in Vienna, Austria. The buses were waiting to take us on a tour of this city that played such a major part in the world war. 

Vienna had come out the other side and become a spot of history and culture, with former homes of Mozart, Beethoven, and even Sigmund Freud throughout the city.

The tour took us to some of the highlights of the city, including the Prunksaa State Hall, the Spanish Riding School where the Tribute to Vienna Horse Show is, the Palace of Justice, the Parliament, and a few of the many incredible Gothic cathedrals.

We were both impressed with the architectural displays in the city as well as the culture. Museums, music venues, opera and ballet houses were all in abundance. The city is as vibrant and impressive as Paris or London, even though it doesn’t have an Eiffel Tower or Big Ben.

We finished the tour downtown with lots of time on our own to explore. Tracy and I first headed for some shopping at the flagship Swarovski store, where I picked up some gifts that could only be purchased here.  There is certainly no shortage of shopping in Vienna, but we wanted to do more.

Tracy and I decided to spend some time at one of the many museums. We chose Albertina and it was a wonderful choice. This art museum had some of the most magnificent collections I’d seen anywhere, including selections from Monet, Picasso, Matisse, and more.  It was unbelievable to be able to see so many renowned artists at once.

We also had lunch at the Café at Albertina Museum. I had a wonderful pumpkin soup and roasted potatoes, while Tracy enjoyed salad and quiche.

Before we returned to the ship for dinner, we stopped at two of the 21 Christmas Markets in Vienna. 

This city certainly has more markets with even more items than any of the others did. In fact, there was one market dedicated to crafts alone, and another had mostly meats, fish, and cheese.

I didn’t purchase much at the markets, with the exception of one of the giant Bavarian pretzels which looked (and tasted) irresistible.

We had an early dinner back on the Viking Embla because there was a very special night ahead. 

The river cruise line had arranged an exclusive performance for us at the Vienna Opera House. It was a selection of opera, ballet, and classical with some of the House’s best performers. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience to be there experiencing something like that.

When we returned to the ship, the Viking Embla chef had prepared a delicious Beef Goulash soup for us, along with some Austrian wine that was waiting. After it warmed us up from the cool night air, Tracy and I headed to our stateroom to rest up for the day ahead in Slovenia. 

*Christmas in August? Yes! I was running a bit behind and I decided to just save my Viking River Christmas Market Cruise report until July. After all it’s a perfect time to start thinking about booking one of your own while the prices are low!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sailing through Austria with Viking Cruises

Our third day on the Viking Embla was a much more relaxing day than the previous, though I wouldn’t trade my time in Salzburg for anything.

The first stop of the day was in Melk and Tracy decided to go visit the Abbey, which I heard was filled with beautiful art (and wine made by the priests). 

I chose to stay on the ship for a relaxing breakfast and to catch up on some work.

Tracy was back in time for our Viking River Cruise Austrian buffet lunch. It included a selection of meats such as bratwurst, as well as local wine, beer, and apricot schnapps. During lunch we were serenaded by an Austrian accordionist.

The ship sailed along the Danube River in the afternoon, arriving in Durnstein, Austria in the evening.  

We had dinner before heading out to the town. I ordered the Greek appetizer plate which consisted of perfect portions of tasty baba ganouch and hummus, followed by a wonderful Porcini Ravioli, though the beef filet was a bit two rare for me.

Tracy enjoyed the cheese plate for dessert while I had the flan and ice cream.

After dinner we were led by guides from our ship to the Domaine Wachau winery. While the guests took the tour I asked for a private tasting so I could discuss the wines in detail. 

I didn’t have a lot of experience in Austrian wines and I was very curious to see what they had.

I heard all about the winery, which has been there for more than 300 years. It had originally belonged to the monastery and is now owned by a cooperative of local farmers.

We talked about the varietals of the area, including Muscatal, Gruner, Veltliner, and Riesling. We also talked about the popularity of apricot in this area and how it was the best apricot around.

I tasted quite a few wines and I actually liked all of them. 

My favorites were the 2012 Riesling Smigel, a wonderful white peach; 2012 Gruner Veltliner, with an aroma of kiwi and honeysuckle; and the Trockenbeerenauslese, an incredible late harvest of which I purchased two bottles to take home, though I’d never try to pronounce it.

In addition to the wine, Domaine Wachau sells many other products, including jams, chocolates, and evening clothing items.

We all walked back to the ship in the moonlight. It was a chilly night, but we had a nice view of Castle Durnstein. It was once again time to retire early. I was especially eager as the next day would bring another city on the Viking River Cruise I was anxious to explore, Vienna.

*Christmas in August? Yes! I was running a bit behind and I decided to just save my Viking River Christmas Market Cruise report until summer. After all it’s a perfect time to start thinking about booking one of your own while the prices are low!