December 22 - Now Officially Christmas

Because of the early evening the night before, Crystal was up at 06:30 and Justin at 07:30.  Our only plans for today were to get some pastries at Konditorei Kormuth at 10:00 - which was literally across the street from us - and to take the train to Vienna.  Everything else was TBD.  Since we were killing time in the morning, Justin went out to take some photos around town.  He went halfway across the Most SNP Bridge (on the west side this time), then came back and went up towards Bratislava Castle before he ran out of time and needed to head back.  He did see the restaurant we ate at in 2018, Modra Hviezda.  

Around 9:50 or so we realized that Konditorei Kormuth was not going to open at 10:00, so we just left right at 10:00.  The owner said he was going to come to pick up the keys in person, but he never came, so we just put them back in the lockbox.  We grabbed a 10:12 tram back to the train station, and wouldn’t you know it, we got one last Christmas Tram.  At the train station we purchased tickets to Vienna, and we were all set with 10-15 minutes to spare before the 10:37 train.  Oddly, the train to Vienna had no gate information, so there were a couple dozen people in the waiting area staring at the departure sign, waiting to see where to go.  It kept getting closer and closer to 10:37, but there was nothing.

And at 10:38, the train just disappeared from the board.  There was no announcement, no explanation, nothing.  We wondered what the hell just happened.  We didn’t know if we’d missed the train, if it was running late, or what.  We were worried because the 11:37 train to Vienna didn’t show any track information either.  While we like Bratislava, we had no desire to be stuck there.  Crystal checked for things on the Austrian Rail Network application, and Justin checked social media accounts for the rail lines.  Justin found a tweet in Slovakian, which he then translated using Google Translate, indicating that the 10:37 train had been canceled, and that people should take the 11:37 instead.  We liked seeing that last part.  Right around that time Crystal saw the current status of the (supposed) train coming from Vienna, which was going to (supposedly) go right back to Vienna at 11:37, and it was on its way, so we both breathed large sighs of relief.  Shortly after that, at 11:05, the departure board showed a track number for the 11:37 train, so we felt 100 times better.  

All of this happened in just over 30 minutes, but it seemed a lot longer.  To “celebrate” we purchased some train wine (interestingly, the woman at the store spoke to Crystal in German unprompted, and Crystal responded in German).  We also got some pastries, both sweet and savory.  The train arrived at 11:25, and we got on immediately.  As we were getting on, there was a very, very intoxicated man trying to get off the train, falling over a couple of times.  We made eye contact with one of the employees, whose eyes gave off a look like “You have no idea, I’ve been dealing with this guy all morning.”  The guy eventually got off the train, and we got seated.  And sure enough, the train departed at 11:37, on time.  We enjoyed our pastries and train wine, plus better views than when we took the train in 2018.  There were some windmills, a bunch of fields, and some nice views as we crossed the river just before arriving in Vienna.

We arrived at the Vienna station around 13:00.  We were able to walk to the U1 Metro line inside the train station, and before entering the Metro we bought a weeklong pass for all public transit in Vienna, figuring we’d be using it frequently.  On the U1 it was just a couple stops before we arrived at Stephansplatz.  We came up the stairs and we were right next to St Stephens, smack dab in the middle of the Ring.  It was a short walk to our Airbnb, which we were able to check-in early to, fortunately.  We quickly dropped our stuff, then immediately headed out, as we hadn’t done squat yet today.

Our first stop, perhaps not surprisingly, was at Bitzinger for Kasekrainers.  They were as good as we remembered, thankfully, and really hit the spot.  We continued north on Augustinerstrasse past the stalls for the Spanish Riding Horses and to Michaelerplatz, where we were surprised to see that the usual White Christmas Market in front of Hofburg Palace was not open this year.  We hoped it was the exception and not the rule.

We were relieved, stoked, giddy, all of the above when we got to the Rathaus and saw its Christmas Market was open and seemingly normal.  We showed our pass sanitaire to enter, and once inside, sure enough, it was pretty close to how we remembered it.  The only difference was having to show our vaccinations and IDs to get in.  We made a slow beeline to the back left corner to get our Erdbeer (Strawberry) punch, and it was awesome, so now it was officially Christmas time.  Justin kept confusing words for Erdbeer and Himbeer (Strawberry and Raspberry, respectively), perhaps from the punch.

From the Rathaus, we took the D Tram to Belvedere Palace, across and a little to the southeast of the Ring.  The Belvedere Market was more or less how we remembered it as well, again with the added detail of needing to show our vaccination status.  We got some pictures, and waited for the lights to come on to get some dusk photos, but they never did - we think the lights just aren’t that bright.  We took the tram over to Karlsplatz, and we were surprised to see a Christmas Market out front of Karlskirche.  We’d seen a small one there in 2018, but seen nothing in 2019, and this market was huge.  There were a lot of interesting and unusual chalets, including one that had a Vietnamese or Thai (can’t remember which one, sorry) punch that had chiles and lemongrass and was very tasty.  We would’ve stayed longer, but we were both freezing and we wanted to warm up, so we came home and did some Duolingo until 18:00.

Just after 18:00, we walked over to Josef Bar, which we went to the last time (2019) and really enjoyed.  Our first round was a Red Riding Hood (Crystal) and Kill Bill (Justin).  The Kill Bill had turmeric infused rum, and the drink was a kind of a take on a daiquiri.  For our second round, Crystal ordered their Snickers Old Fashioned (the bourbon is infused with snickers bars) and Justin got a cocktail with Tanqueray Sevilla, citrus, pineapple, and vanilla - it tasted like summer.  The bartender, Cristof, was originally from Hungary, and we asked him about his thoughts on Vienna versus Budapest and which he preferred.  Best as we can recall, it was a tie.

For our third round Crystal ordered another Snickers Old Fashioned, and Justin got a drink with Pussers Overproof Rum, an Austrian Rye, Lemon Juice, and Simple Syrup - Cristof tasted and had an “ooh, tasty” reaction - we agree it was tasty.  We were seated at the bar, which was nice, but that meant we were also right by front door, and every time the front door opened, cold air came in, and Crystal especially was cold, and had never warmed up after leaving Belvedere Palace.  We wrapped up around 21:00, looking for something warm to eat and a warm place to sit at.  We had seen online that a place around the corner was pretty highly rated, but when we walked over we saw it closed at 21:00, so that was a bummer.  Out of habit, we walked over to Santo Spirito, which was near our place, but there was a note stating it was closed from 21 December through 26 December.  

So we walked around just a couple more blocks and found 3 Hacken, which we’d confused with Magazin on our first trip here; we’d never actually been to 3 Hacken.  Tonight that would change.  We went in, and got seated in a large-ish room that had 3 tables with patrons - one with 3 guys, one with 6 guys, and one with 2 guys and a girl.  It gave off a Fortune 500 Board Room sort of vibe.  It was thankfully warm inside.  It was nice that the restaurant could just scan our QR code from our Pass Sanitaire, so that was money well spent.  We each got a glass of wine, Crystal got some sort of stew with sausage, dumplings, pickle, beef, and topped with a fried egg, and Justin got what he thought was going to be small pieces of pork that were fried, but it was more like 3 mini schnitzels - it was still good, just not what he was expecting.  We each got another glass of wine, and we headed out a little before 23:00; we knew from Cristof that restaurants and bars had to close by 23:00 at the moment.  Back at the Airbnb, Justin looked for restaurants to eat at on the 24th, so as to not repeat our failures from the previous two trips.  Then we called it a night.

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