The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur
May 27 - Vienna and the Neusiedler See

Off on the road to Vienna, about an hour away. The autobahn is pretty much like any other superhighway -- lots of trucks and nothing much to see. As the road ended and we got into the city traffic of Vienna, we remembered why we like it in the country so much! Margene wanted to see Schonbrunn Palace, the seat of the Hapsburg dynasty back in the 18th and 19th centuries, so we jostled with the crowds from the tour busses once again. Schonbrunn is reminiscent of Versailles although not nearly as large or ornate. We saw about 40 of the 2000 rooms! OK, two thousand rooms is pretty good . . . but a lot of them are small! :-)

We still weren't sure if we were going to stay in Vienna for the night or not, so we drove into downtown to get a sense of it. After lucking into a parking spot on the street, we found ourselves at the Hotel Sacher, home of the original Sacher Torte. (Oh yes, and they also have a very tony hotel!) It all goes to show what a signature dessert can do for you! More photos and discussion on following pages.

We also got to see how American foodservice influence is creeping in everywhere. Coca-Cola and McDonald's are givens everywhere in Europe at this point but we saw our first Starbucks in Vienna. I found this interesting in a city so known for its historic coffee houses. Does this mean that new generations want new approaches to old customs? It was really sad to see it, however. It's bad enough that every mall in the US is a clone with the same stores but if the whole world gets that way, where is the cultural identity?

Needless to say, we decided that, although we had certainly not seen Vienna, the city scene was not feeling right to us. So we worked our way out of town at the front end of rush hour traffic and headed to the Neusiedler See, the largest steppe lake in Central Europe (and in the general direction of Budapest.) We ended up in Podersdorf, a resort town on the eastern shore. Surprisingly, it about the only spot on the lake that actually has a beach. The rest of the lake is ringed by a wetland area of reed beds. Somewhere in here we will figure out what we want to do (and where we want to stay) in Budapest, our next city encounter, but the task of the moment is to relax . . . and eventually figure out where to have dinner! Tough work.

Schonbrunn Palace and Podersdorf

Café Sacher and the Restaurants du Jour

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