24 December - Eating, Drinking, Being Merry

Before we left the room this morning, Justin played Last Christmas and Feliz Navidad on YouTube on his laptop; he was a little irked that hardly anywhere had played them for us so far on the trip.  He left around 08:45 to walk around the 3rd District and check it out.  Crystal chilled out for a bit longer, then walked over towards Belvedere with Heidi and Tom.  Dewey and Clarita took mass transit over to Belvedere, and all 6 of us met around 10:15 at Upper Belvedere.  Heidi and Tom wanted to see some of the artwork inside the Belvedere, and we thought Dewey and Clarita were going to join them, but they decided not to, instead just walking the grounds.

We split off, as we’d already been inside the Belvedere before.  We walked around the 3rd District, doing diligence like we’d done the day before.  We made a brief pit stop at Nure’s Backshop for red velvet cake with raspberries.  We made another pit stop for turbo punsch on Landstrasser Hauptstrasse, the main street through the 3rd District.  The street was full of commercial shops, but very eclectic.  Not only were there bars and restaurants, but there were also coffee shops, flower shops, salons, electronic shops, and more.  It reminded us a bit of Clement St in San Francisco.  We liked what we saw in the 3rd District.  There was a quiet area over by the Botanic Garden, near the consulates for Yemen and Russia, that we figured was probably pretty safe because of the neighbors.

After meandering through the 3rd District, we walked back into the Ring (the 1st District) right around noon.  Shortly before getting back to the hotel, we passed by an interesting monument.  It was to Karl Lueger, the anti-Semitic mayor of the Christian Social Party in Vienna between 1897 and 1910.  All over the statue and its base people had painted the phrase “Schande” (shame) in various bright colors.  Apparently when this first started, people tried to clean the paint away, but after a while they stopped, letting the monument stay in a new, different, form.  Nowadays, people like us can see this statue - that ordinarily wouldn't have caught our attention - and we can read about this guy and learn why everyone hates him so much.  It seems like perhaps we should allow this same sort of thing in the US, but even as we type this, we realize it would go incredibly poorly incredibly quickly.

From the hotel it was only a 3 minute walk to Pfudl, where we’d eaten a couple times before, including last Christmas Eve.  The menu seemed much more limited than we remembered, but perhaps it was because it was Christmas Eve and the staffing was limited.  The two of us, and Clarita ordered the roast pork.  Tom, Heidi, and Dewey ordered the schnitzel.  There were rave reviews all around, so apparently the limited menu didn’t create any issues.  There were even better reviews for the Hazelnut schnapps that Crystal, Heidi, and Dewey ordered.  Tom and Justin both got berry schnapps.  There was a Filipino couple sitting next to us, and Clarita got to speak some Tagalog with them on the way out.  She found out that they lived in Amsterdam and were visiting for the holidays.  It bummed us out that even in Vienna, and even in 2022, one of the guys had to refer to his “friend” when he was talking about his significant other arriving a bit late - they were each wearing wedding rings for goodness sake.

After lunch we went back to the hotel, but then the two of us, plus Heidi, went to Kleinod Bar.  Our goal was to have fewer rounds this Christmas Eve than last year.  So we had to keep it under 12 (or so).  And we did, with only 3 rounds each, although they did give us a free shot before leaving (so that doesn't count).  It was nice to hang with Heidi, as we get far fewer opportunities now that she doesn’t live with us any more; this used to be something we got to do every Friday.  We left Kleinod a little before 16:00, and we rested a bit in the room.

We had arranged with Heidi and Tom to visit Josef Bar when they opened at 18:00, but at 17:45 it was just Tom who met us downstairs.  Heidi was taking a nap.  The three of us got to Josef Bar right when it opened.  We didn’t have a ton of time, but Tom got a Crazy Lebowski and then a Mexican Breakfast, Justin got a naked and famous and then some tart rum drink, and Crystal got a painkiller that was a bit too pineapple-y for her palate.  The three of us met the other three at the restaurant, Mnozil's Gastwirtschaft zum Kellergw√∂lb, which we determined is one of the very few restaurants open for dinner on Christmas Eve.

We were seated downstairs, and we could see the restaurant was already about 75% full.  Dewey and Tom both ordered schnitzel (their second today).  Clarita ordered soup with bread dumplings.  Crystal ordered spaetzle.  Justin ordered some sort of house special with tomatoes, peppers, rice, and chicken.  [We can't remember what Heidi ordered.]  There was a table discussion over which schnitzel was better - lunch or dinner - and nobody could decide.  Everything was good, but sadly we’ll probably remember most that we had to wait forever to get our dessert/drinks and/or the bill.  Eventually, after probably 30-45 minutes, we decided to just pay and leave rather than order dessert and wait another hour or whatever.  It was hard to be mad, however, since it was Christmas Eve, there were only about 2-3 servers for the whole restaurant, and the restaurant was absolutely packed.

We walked back to the hotel, and Dewey and Clarita went upstairs.  The two of us, plus Tom and Heidi, decided to try to get one round at Kleinod, which was just around the corner.  But it was now full.  So then we tried Roberto Bar, but it was full as well.  But then we recalled that Josef Bar had been fairly empty at 18:00, and also wasn’t as easy to just happen upon walking the street.  And there were plenty of people walking the streets, taking in all of the beautiful Christmas decorations that Vienna had to offer.

Sure enough, we got the last table at Josef Bar, and they remembered us anyway (from earlier tonight and the night before), so perhaps they would have helped us find space if there wasn’t an open table.  It was a bit too warm inside, but otherwise everything was very nice, with a good mix of 70s funk (Stevie Wonder [again!], Kool & The Gang, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, etc.) and Christmas tunes, including a Last Christmas cover.  We enjoyed two rounds, then left around 23:15.  Justin’s second round, a Snickers Old Fashioned, had a giant ice cube and a special pressure-sensitive coaster that illuminated the ice cube when it was on the coaster.  Back at the hotel, before dozing off we heard several minutes of bells that ended right at 00:00, marking the beginning of Christmas.

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