Vienna: We Did Not Walk in the Cold Air

We’ll return to our regularly scheduled Weirdo Dublin Pubs programming next week, but first, some notes on a holiday. Last week, we went to Vienna for the first time, and in between the usual tourist spots like the Spanish Riding School, the Natural History Museum and the Haus der Musik, we managed to grab a few local beers; given the hot weather, the sheer number of radlers on offer was much appreciated. Also: TRAINS.

To keep this blog hyper-local for one moment, I have to share how exciting it was to go straight from our arrival gate in Vienna to A TRAIN IN THE AIRPORT – and not just one, there were various options, as well as buses! (For the uninitiated, Dublin is one of two European capitals without a train to the airport, though Budapest does have plenty of other transit modes – it’s been in the works for…well, a long time. It was last ‘guaranteed to open’ in 2007). And there was no need to take the (relatively) expensive express train, either; the S-Bahn to the U-Bahn got us to our hotel in mostly-air conditioned comfort, and very affordably, too.

After dropping off our bags, we headed out for lunch and had the first radler of the trip; I’m sure my Zwettler Radler from Salzburg is the sort of thing locals find unremarkable, but as someone who much prefers lemon vs grapefruit in my radler, I was very excited to have it – an ideal option for 30+ degree weather (something else we’re unaccustomed to, though it was much less welcome than the wonderful public transit, clean streets and ample public seating – we’re not built for heat or sunny conditions), especially with a tired child and a long (though much enjoyed) afternoon of excellent museum-ing on the cards.

Hop Devil!After a tour around the excellent Natural History Museum, which houses the Venus of Willendorf* as well as a broader prehistory collection, plus the more usual rocks (honestly, pretty great) and taxidermied animals (a very chill-looking thylacine was my highlight – I always seek out the thylacine, if there is one), we headed to the much-recommended 1516 Brewing Company for an early dinner – and there, we were in for a treat. In addition to an absolutely gorgeous lager (also used for the radler), they produce Victory Hop Devil under license, whole hops and all. As former Pennsylvanians, this was an extremely exciting discovery, and it tasted absolutely like ‘the real thing’ in Downingtown. In a world with so many hazy IPAs, it was such a delight to have it on this side of the Atlantic, and fresh as could be. And given that my most recent Hop Devil would have likely been in a plastic cup in a car park before a Union game, it seemed very civilized indeed to be drinking it from a glass, seated at a table in Austria. Top marks for the pretzels, too – regular readers know that I have a grand unified theory about how all pubs and bars should have soft pretzels available, and my notion was only reinforced. The Kimber Ale, a sort of Altbier-ish sipper, was also very nice on a hot day. Before an early night, I did repair to the Prater with the child to ride a few rides, and while none were remarkable, at least we weren’t injured – this time. More on that later.

After a good night’s sleep, a decent hotel gym and an excellent breakfast buffet, we took in the Spanish Riding School, and while the tour was very well-done, we were graced with the presence of That Sort of American, who wanted to discuss, at length, how the Lipizzaners were rescued by THE UNITED STATES ARMY who then FREED EUROPE AND SAVED EVERYONE FROM COMMUNISM – yes, he seemed to speak in all-caps. He also complained that the signs from the Hop On Hop Off bus weren’t clear enough for him to understand them (and yet, there he was), and that perhaps all the signage should be reconsidered. The two young women guiding the tour had the sort of fixed smiles I could only admire; they were patience itself, although one did remark, ‘well, I do work here,’ upon being told by the gentleman in question that she had been ‘mostly right’ when he quizzed her on the horses’ wartime rescue (‘I read a book all about these horses and Patton’) – though, for someone who had done so much of his own research, he was shocked to discover the Spanish Riding School horses are all stallions – this is simply the most basic of all basic Horse Girl knowledge. I really needed a drink after that.

Inside 1516Unfortunately, there was nothing particularly local, beer-wise, on at the Philly-themed restaurant we tried – both taplines had kicked – so I had to make do with a Budvar. Now, it’s never a bad beer, and it was a pretty fresh bottle, but I’ll just say that this place was no Passyunk Ave, though the cheesesteak mac & cheese was not bad. And we returned to the Prater again, this time, rather less successfully. The indoor roller coaster gave me a really bad whack on the head (which they insisted was ‘impossible’), and I still have a painful lump there, over a week later. It’s more or less on a 0/10 – would not return now. I wasn’t expecting a Disneyland standard from it, but I did think it might be on a near par with Tivoli – alas, this was not the case; the overall impression after the injury (and seeing the middling state of the park overall) was less grand theme park, more temporary carnival. And not in a good way. It’s a shame – the child did really enjoy the IKEA advertising all over the famous Ferris wheel (no, really – she spoke of it for days after). So, not everything was perfect, though trips rarely are – though that said, I don’t think I’ve ever come home with an actual injury before.

An Anchor Steam! Sic transit gloria.But on to happier notes…I managed to score another radler at the Zoo, this time from Ottakringer, and again, it was lovely to get there and back again easily on the U-Bahn, and the rare breed cattle and horses were a special bonus for me – yes, I get excited about these things, and the Noriker mare and her colt were a delight. We made another pit stop at 1516 between tourist sites, and then finished up our evening at Mel’s Craft Beer and Diner. We chose this more out of necessity – there were things a picky child would eat – than design, and while the overall beer list was a bit basic, there were some interesting little highlights, and another unexpected American treat – they had a bottle of Anchor Steam. It was also the only place we could find a Vienna Lager – again, in a bottle that didn’t seem terribly fresh, though not by any means bad – but I suppose that’s the curse of the travelling beer nerd; the historic local style is always difficult to find, but there are plenty of the sort of things you could find absolutely anywhere, well, absolutely everywhere. Still – Anchor Steam!

Despite the knock on the head, I’d very much like to go back to Vienna again; there are quite a few museums and music-related sites we didn’t have the chance to check out, and I would absolutely go back to 1516 for any seasonal offering – I certainly wouldn’t say no to another lager or Hop Devil.



*For People Like Me who read all of the Earth’s Children/Clan of the Cave Bear books in the 1980s, you too can re-experience their very Mary Sue-ness with an entire wall of replicas of the artifacts referenced in the books. It would not have been weird to see someone cosplaying Jondalar and Ayla, or maybe Creb. It was a Whole Thing.

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