23 December - Peruvian Night

We started this morning walking over to the horses.  Dewey and Clarita had wanted to see one of the shows with the Lipizzaner horses, but there were no shows until the 28th, the day after we were slated to leave.  We weren’t sure if this was because there were no scheduled shows, or if the shows were sold out.  Either way, we told Dewey and Clarita that we could show them the horses at their stalls by the Michaelerplatz.  Justin walked us over there the correct way, but then, perhaps out of habit, turned right towards the Christmas Market instead of left towards the horses.  We walked half a block before Crystal said the horses were the other way.

This was perfect timing, because when we got to the stalls, a handful of horses were being walked over to the show ring, and walked right past us, just like in 2018.  It was good timing all around, and teamwork by us to get lost but then get corrected in the perfect amount of time.  We told Dewey and Clarita this was all purposeful.  Now having seen the horses, we did turn around and walk towards the Christmas Market, specifically the Freyung market, as the 23rd was its last day.  For many of the markets, especially the smaller, less touristy ones, 23 December is the last day they are open.  Because of this, we changed our original plans to come to Vienna one day earlier, which is why our tour the day before included us having our luggage in the van the entire time.  We figured going back to Budapest, only to then leave Budapest the following day, didn’t make much sense either.

Anyway, at the Freyung Market, we showed Dewey and Clarita around, and Clarita seemed unimpressed, at least relative to what she’d seen in Salzburg, so we audibled and took her straight to the Rathaus, the creme de la creme of Christmas Markets, at least in our experience.  We walked around there for a while, seemingly with half of the school children in Vienna, plus one super cool bulldog that we kept running into.  We got a Feuerzangenbowle, similar to what we had in Cologne last year.  To our surprise and disappointment, we couldn’t find the stall that had the erdbeer and himbeer punsches that we enjoyed so much the last several years.  Also, the heart-shaped cups that we always thought of keeping were now gone, replaced by new cups.  We should’ve kept one, oh well.

Crystal purchased us 72 hour transit passes, and we immediately made use of them by taking the tram from the Rathaus to Mariatheriesenplatz, in order to check out that market as well.  Here we were able to find a place with a mixed berry punsch (sehr gut!), and another place that sold pretty tasty langoses.  Crystal permitted Justin to hold the langos, and he rewarded her trust by not dropping it this time.  We got back on the tram and took it another stop or two, to Karlsplatz, where we went to the Karlsplatz market on its last day.  We showed Dewey and Clarita the goats, and then we got some of the Thai punsches (with lemongrass and a tiny amount of chilies).  

By this time it was around 12:30, and we figured we should grab lunch.  We weren’t too far from Salm Brau, a beer pub we ate at in 2018, so we decided to head over there.  We got seated in a side room that had almost no tables in it, just a ladder up to some room that presumably had some beer-making equipment in it.  Our waiter descended the ladder to take our order, which is something we couldn’t remember seeing before.  Dewey ordered the roast pork, Clarita ordered pumpkin soup, Crystal ordered salami bread, and Justin ordered the bauernschmaus (lots of different meats).  Clarita also ordered a hot chocolate that came with about 2-3 inches of whipped cream on top, with brown sugar and/or cinnamon sprinkled on top.  But on the side they brought out two sugar packets, apparently just in case the drink wasn’t sweet enough as prepared.

After lunch we split up from Dewey and Clarita, starting our afternoon wandering around Belvedere Palace.  It was a nice day outside, although once again very brisk.  We checked out the Christmas Market at Upper Belvedere, but for once we didn’t get anything to eat or drink.  At the very top of Belvedere we flipped a coin to see whether we’d walk through District 3 or District 4.  For places to move in Vienna, we’d been looking mostly at Districts 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, or 9.  We’d planned to walk around these on our visit, and the bad news we received in Rome wasn’t going to dissuade us.

We walked around District 4, one of the smallest districts in Vienna, roughly bounded by Belvedere, the Naschmarkt, the Ringstrasse, and the train station.  We just picked some random streets to walk around.  The streets were remarkably quiet for how many things were so close by.  We saw some colorful street art, a local restaurant (Cuadro) with some good happy hour specials (we were too early today), some quiet parks for kids and for dogs, and most of the residential buildings looked nice enough.

We walked back into the Ring near Karlsplatz, past the Opera House, and back to the hotel.  We were tired, and Justin took a nap whilst Crystal did some language lessons and listened to podcasts.  Around 18:00 we went over to the AmHof Christmas Market, since tonight was its last night.  The market was pretty full, and we realized it wasn’t that far from Freyung; we had just walked different ways to each of them.  If we didn’t have dinner reservations, we probably would’ve gotten something, as the food at AmHof looked pretty good.

It wasn’t too far from AmHof to Josef Bar, so we walked over there for something pre-dinner.  We’d been to Josef Bar several times over the years, and the bartenders there are always some of the most creative and helpful bartenders we’ve had.  Tonight was no different.  Our bartender was from Greece, and went to great lengths to explain how drink A became drink B when the bartender in city X changed ingredient Y, but then drink B became drink C when a different bartender used grapefruit instead of lemon, and so on.  For our first round, Crystal got something called a purple reign for C, J got something with rum, sherry, and other stuff.  After 30 minutes or so a guy from the US sat down next to us.  His name was Lee, and he was from New York.  We chatted about our respective trips, and he was fascinated with Krampusnacht in Hallstatt.  For our second round, Crystal ordered an aviation, and Justin got something with mezcal, Luxardo, grapefruit, maraschino, aperol (?) and spicy bitters (we think).  Our drinks were pretty colors, so we got a picture to remember the evening.

We were having a great time, but we had dinner reservations, so at close to 20:00 we had to quickly finish our drinks and bounce.  It was a short walk over to Qero.  We arrived 3-4 minutes after Dewey and Clarita, and Heidi and Tom arrived 3-4 minutes after us.  For our drink orders, Heidi ordered a smoky sour, Justin and Clarita ordered maracuya sours, and everyone else ordered pisco sours.  For our food orders, the men all got lomo saltado, Clarita got some seafood taquitos, Heidi got aji de gallina chicken, and Crystal got chaufa.  Everybody seemed very happy with their food and drinks, and we were relieved, as it was a risky proposition to get Peruvian food whilst in Vienna.

We had assumed (correctly) that we’d have a ton of Central European food on other parts of the trip, and we’d wanted to eat at Qero since 2019, when we came for drinks but smelled a million good smells all around whilst sitting at the bar.  We tried to eat there in 2019 and 2021, but it was seemingly always closed on the 24th, 25th, and 26th of December, so when we saw we’d be in town on the 23rd we just booked it and hoped it would work out.  It did.  And we’d be eating more Austrian food tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

It was raining when we left Qero, so we took two separate Ubers to get back to the hotel.  We “raced” between the two of us and Heidi in one car, and Tom, Dewey, and Clarita in the other car.  They beat us back to the hotel by probably 30 seconds.  Everybody but us got on the elevator, and we decided to take the next one.  [We think they finally caught onto us tonight.]  We walked over to Pisco again, just a couple blocks away.  Crystal got a maracuya sour and Justin got a maracuya chilcano.  Crystal was going to leave after one round, and Justin was going to text her when he got to the hotel, but then we realized that he needed a key to get in the front door to the building, so that wasn’t going to work.  Crystal kindly agreed to get a second drink so Justin could stay a bit longer, ordering a daiquiri.  Justin ordered a glass of the Dictador 20 year rum.  We finished a little before 00:00, and Justin thanked the proprietor and told him it would be less than 3 years before we would see each other again.  Ojal√°.

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