25 December - We Fancy

Crystal was up at 07:00, and Justin at 07:20.  We got cleaned up to be presentable (or at least as presentable as possible) for Cafe Gloriette.  We’d walked up to the Gloriette a couple of times on prior visits, and had taken notice that there was a cafe and bar there.  We had thrown out the idea of getting brunch there sometime, but had never done it ourselves.  But we’d asked the group in November if they were interested, and they said yes, so we booked it for Christmas Morning.  Now that Christmas Morning had arrived, we were figuring out how to get there.  We’d only walked up the hill from Schonbrunn, but that wasn’t going to be a practical possibility this morning.  So we looked at Google Maps and then Uber to see if there was a common recommended route to drive.  

In this process Justin saw that we could get an Uber XL so that we could all be lost together.  But when he went to order it, despite the app saying the vehicle could hold 6, it could actually hold only 5.  So we got two vehicles, with Justin traveling with Tom and Heidi, and Crystal going with her parents.  Crystal’s driver went directly to the correct spot.  Justin’s driver kept trying to drop them off in spots with closed gates before finally following the directions that were provided from the start.  We were to the southwest of the Gloriette, with tall trees around, so nobody could see anything.  

This made us happy, because we knew what we were walking up to, but the other 4 did not.  Along the walk we saw lots of squirrels, birds, and joggers out on the paths.  We heard several audible “wows” when the view of Schonbrunn and the city appeared just as we got to the Gloriette.  Inside, we were seated at a table of 6, but sadly (though not unexpectedly) not right next to the window.  It was a nice buffet with tons of different breads, meats, salmon, and cheeses.  There were also eggs, ham, sausage, and bacon.  There was also a dessert platter with about 6 different things.  To drink they brought us an included glass of some sort of sparkling cherry wine, but then we ordered a bottle of prosecco for the table as well.

As we ate, drank, and were merry, there was a violinist playing classical tunes with some Christmas-y stuff mixed in.  A pianist joined in as well, later in the meal.  We kept muttering our breath “ooh, we fancy!”  Most people were dressed a bit nicer than us, but we saw one person wearing a brewery t-shirt, and we felt fine after seeing that.  Also, we were now over a 3 week trip through Europe where we had nothing but a backpack for our clothes, so whatever.  After finishing up we slowly meandered down the paths from the Gloriette to the Palace, stopping to take in the views every so often.

At the bottom we used the facilities, and then we went around to the north side of the Palace to the Christmas market.  All 6 of us got a punsch of some sort; Crystal got a mango punsch and Justin got a strawberry lychee punsch.  As nice as Cafe Gloriette was, this was more of our vibe.  We walked around the market for a bit, and then we walked over to the U4 line.  We took the U4 line to the Stadtpark station, and from there it was just a short walk back to the hotel.  We got back around 12:45, so lunch time.

We all got cleaned up, and then all of us but Clarita walked over to Bitzinger to get a snack between our brunch and our respective dinners later tonight.  Bitzinger had a relatively long line, about 10-15 minutes, but the line just made us more hungry.  We all got Kasekrainers, but Crystal and Heidi got theirs without buns (just bread for Crystal, and nothing but mustard for Heidi).  Crystal and Heidi both got wine, and the men all got beer (how stereotypical).  Per dollar, this had to be the best meal of the trip.  After we finished eating and drinking, Dewey walked back to the hotel and we went exploring.

The four of us walked through the Hofburg Palace area, past Demel (and whatever their special dessert is), through Maria-Therisienplatz, and then up Mariahilfestrasse in the 6th District.  After realizing it was a bit too posh for our liking, we turned north and walked into Neubau (7th District), which seemed kind of hipster, but it was tough to tell with most of the stores closed and no one really out.  We’d heard that the 7th District was hipster, so maybe that was influencing our views subconsciously.  We took note of the crosswalk signs, many of which showed same-sex couples with little hearts as the “walk” sign.  We skirted into the 8th district and arrived at the Rathaus just as some of the evening lights were coming on (so just after 15:30).

We got a punsch and were standing at a table, just chatting, when it was almost 16:00 - we wondered aloud if the rest of the lights would come on then.  It turns out yes, but with a surprise.  A big lighted heart emerged from a box above the Market, then traveled across some wires to a tree, where it began “beating” and eventually got all the hearts in the tree to light up.  It was very cool and unexpected.  If you don’t like Christmas at the Rathaus in Vienna, you aren’t going to like Christmas anywhere.  We walked around the gardens to check out some of the amazing Christmas decorations, then bid adieu until next year to the best Christmas Market in the World.

We all walked back into the Ring, and then walked across town, getting back to the hotel around 16:30, give or take.  We chilled for a bit, since we’d been out pretty much all day, save for our 15 minute break before heading out to Bitzinger.  During our break we realized we didn’t have any reservations for tomorrow, so we looked up some of the places we’d considered previously, and then we checked out the menus.  Zu den 3 Hacken had more options available, so we emailed them to request a reservation for the following night.

At 18:52 we left our room for our 19:00 reservation at Magazin.  As usual, we had to wait for the elevator, and it would’ve been embarrassing if we were late for a restaurant just two buildings over from our hotel.  Thankfully we got there on time.  When we came in and said we had a reservation, the female server saw us, gave us a bit of a double take, almost said something, grabbed the menus, and then seated us.  We got a free aperitif, perhaps because we come every Christmas.  Crystal got a Campari Soda, and Justin got a Martini [we now think in hindsight this was vermouth from Martini & Rossi, but it was free, so whatever].

For our appetizers, Crystal ordered the bone marrow with some awesome garlic sauce, and Justin ordered a cream of chicken soup that was excellent.  We ordered a bottle of Pinotage (the 2018 from Durbanville Hills), which was a surprise that they’d have that in Vienna, as it's not a common varietal.  For our mains, Crystal ordered the venison meatloaf, and Justin ordered a sous vide goose that was spectacular.  Like last year, we tried to get the male server to have apricot schnapps with us, but he again politely refused and had a glass of wine instead.  [He told us the female server didn’t drink, so she didn’t enjoy with us either.]  They seemed to know we came every year, as the woman waitress acknowledged it.  [We think what happened when we came in and it was quasi-awkward is that she wanted to thank us for coming every year, but then realized our accent was awful and we clearly weren’t locals, and she was confused because how could it be that gringos came here every year.]  Hopefully we’ll see both of them again next year.

We’d been eating and drinking all day, but we agreed to one (and only one) round before going to bed.  We tried Truth or Dare, a well-regarded bar not far from the hotel.  But it was closed, so we switched things up and went to Blue, which we’d passed a half a block earlier.  At Blue bar the bartender gave us each a free shot, and then we each ordered a Zombie.  The Zombies were quite good, not too sweet or too boozy (at least in flavor).  The bartender was very nice, and he told us if we came back tomorrow his boss would be here.  To our credit, we (for once) actually held ourselves to one (we don’t count the free shots, as we didn’t ask for them).  We got back to the hotel at 21:40.  We had a bite of the chocolate cakes we’d been given when we left Cafe Gloriette - it was perhaps the most concentrated sugar we’d had since eating the alfajores in Buenos Aires in 2008.

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