December 23 - Biggie and Pac

We each got up around 07:30 today.  We started the morning by searching on The Fork (a website like Open Table) for restaurants that had availability for the 24th.  We found a Persian place, which looked interesting, as we figured we were going to have a lot of meals of regional food.  Shortly after booking it, we remembered we were planning to be at the Rathaus early this evening anyway, and since the restaurant was right near there, we decided it would be wise to change the reservation to tonight.  But then that meant we had to find a different spot for the 24th, and we found an Austrian place a short walk from our Airbnb.  Since we’d booked Christmas Dinner six months ago, we now had dinner set for our last three nights, and we could schedule other stuff around that.

There wasn’t much to schedule, however, since we’d already seen basically all of our “must-sees” on the prior two trips, so we weren’t exactly sure what to do during the days.  We had basically the same reaction in Budapest, with the exception of the Synagogue and Plehcsarda.  We wish Crystal’s parents could have been with us, because presumably they would have places they’d be interested in, and we could revisit places but do it through the lens of someone who hadn’t been there before.  For both Budapest and Vienna, we commented that they were a little stale, that they’d be more enjoyable if we were with other people, or if there were new places we wanted to go, or if it was a different time of the year, or some combination of the three.  We then realized that we did in fact have a new place to see in Bratislava - the Blue Church we'd seen at Mini Europe in Brussels - only we'd inadvertently missed the Blue Church when we actually went to Bratislava, and we'd basically walked right past it when we were walking west from the Old Bridge back to Old Town; oh well, next time.

We left the Airbnb a little before 11:00 and walked over to Maria-Theresienplatz.  The Christmas Market there was similar to always, just with less people.  There was a separate food and drink area, and that portion was the only area checking for vaccination status.  We each got some Turbo Punsch.  The deposit on the mugs was 4 euros each, so Crystal scoured her wallet for all the small change, wondering if she could find 2 euros worth, so that when we returned the cups we could give them the change and get a 10 euro note back.  As luck would have it, she had exactly 2 euros in small change.

We walked in a “straight” line - one of the few in the Ring, to lunch.  We walked through the Heldenplatz and other parts of the Hofburg Palace, ending up at die Feinkosterei Schwarz-Hirsch, a place we’d seen on The Fork when looking for the other restaurants.  It was an interesting theme, tapas-sized stuff, but all Austrian dishes.  We shared some chicken schnitzel with potato salad, goulash with spaetzle, some sort of salad, and a deer ham that was akin to jamon iberico, very smoky.  Everything was quite good.  Crystal ordered a glass of wine.  Justin ordered a gin and tonic, and used half his tonic, so when he ordered a second gin he ordered just a gin.  But they brought out a second tonic by mistake, and opened it before we could say something, so we decided it shouldn’t go to waste, and each ordered a gin thereafter to use the second can of tonic.

Whilst at lunch we found out that Pisco Latinbar wouldn’t be open on Christmas - Justin was gutted.  It was like Clark Griswold finding out that Wally World was closed in the movie Vacation.  He’d very much wanted to end 2020 by going there for Christmas, as we'd enjoyed Christmas there in 2018 and 2019, but we weren’t able to get out to Tenerife until a few weeks later.  So Christmas 2021 was the new goal, for a return of “normalcy” to our world.  And to have that not happen was a gut punch.  Justin was kind of a zombie after that as we walked around town.  We walked past Ankeruhr, the interesting clock, and went to the small Christmas market around St Stephens.  We got home around 14:30 and just killed some time.  

A little after 15:30 we went out to Schonbrunn on the underground.  It was pretty cold outside, and compared to prior visits, not too many people.  One advantage the Schonbrunn market has is that it has so much space, even with a lot of people it’s not cramped.  But today it didn’t matter.  The chalets at the market were not particularly interesting, but perhaps we were just jaded after three weeks of going to markets and seeing basically anything and everything.  Either way, we got some punch, and watched a little kid nearby really enjoying his punch - maybe it was the berries in the bottom?

The lights came on at 16:17 (no clue why then), and as soon as that happened a band played some tunes from one of the balconies on the palace.  We stayed a little bit longer, then took the metro back into town.  We got off at Karlsplatz, and expected to take the D train towards the Rathaus, but oddly there was no stop for the D train going that direction, only coming from the Rathaus, so we just walked.  It wasn’t the easiest walk, as we had to be very conscious of avoiding the bikes in the bike lanes so as to not get run over.

In addition to having the best selection of stuff, the Rathaus market looks the best as well.  It has an arch-shaped light arrangement at the front, with colorful light balls and candle lights above and below the arch.  Many of the trees in the park have lights in them, of varying colors, and there are other light arrangements here and there as well.  We didn’t go in the market right now, as we figured we’d come by after dinner.  The restaurant, Arezu, was a couple blocks behind (west of) the Rathaus.  Almost immediately the neighborhood became less touristy, with seemingly only locals around.  We found a bar we’d heard good things about, Tur 7, but there were no signs it was open or going to open after we finished dinner.

In Arezu there was only one other table full.  We weren’t sure why we had to come at 18:00 instead of 19:00, as we couldn’t imagine the restaurant was going to fill up that much in one hour.  Right near us was some cool artwork with Biggie and 2Pac.  We did some investigating and found out the artist is named Luis Morales de la Cruz and that he has an Instagram page.  Seeing paintings of Biggie and 2Pac, in a Persian restaurant, in Vienna, was certainly not something we would’ve expected to see.  Crystal ordered Barg, Justin ordered Barg & Kubideh, and we split a Shirazi Salad.  It was interesting to have wine with the food, as obviously that wasn’t possible when we visited Iran.

There was just one guy working the dining room, so maybe that’s why no reservations for 19:00 were possible.  He couldn’t keep up if the restaurant was anywhere close to full.  He couldn’t really keep up as it was, and the phone kept ringing, plus there were other electronic sounds too that wouldn’t stop.  We tried to imagine they were just trying to create the ambience of a busy city spot in Iran.  It took us a long time to get the check, and we weren’t able to get out of there until around 20:00.  Sure enough Tur 7 was closed, so we went over to the Rathaus and enjoyed some punch.  While we were drinking them, Crystal remarked that she felt a special kinship to the city, and also to Budapest.  Maybe one of these years we’ll live in one and/or the other.

After leaving the Rathaus we walked towards Roberto American Bar, another one that had been recommended to us.  On the walk over there we passed by two different Christmas Markets that we couldn’t remember seeing in the past, and we decided we might check them out in more detail tomorrow.  We saw a Range Rover getting lifted off the street onto a tow truck, like you’d pick up a stuffed animal in one of those machines you see at arcades.  Roberto Bar was open, but it was full, so our next try was Kleinod Bar, which was also open, but also full.  They did say they’d be open from 12:00-19:00 tomorrow.  We just called it a night, sick of all our plans going to crap, and had an early bedtime, relatively speaking.

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