Once again, the weather has acted as the Mystery Inc to our mischievous janitor, and majorly foiled our plans. Our initial idea was a picnic at the “Schönbrunn Palace” and to spend the day exploring the rooms and gardens available to the public; our back up was to head straight to the “Heeresgeschichtliches Museum” , or to non-Austrian speakers, the museum of military history. There are no signs or directions, so it’s a little difficult to find, but the building is unforgettable when you eventually get there. Dating back to 1856, it’s modelled on the Venetian Arsenal and borrows elements of Byzantine and Gothic design, but the real eye-catching nature of it lies in the two-tone brickwork. It’s also absolutely huge, and from what we gathered, was the largest of 72 buildings built after the 1848/9 revolution. The staff aren’t particularly welcoming, but we pay for our tickets (EUR. 4 for students), and the additional EUR. 2 for photograph permissions, and we were on our way.
The interior is breath taking, with marble statues, decorated ceilings, and the aura of regality flowing from every corner. The first room we entered was full to the brim with war relics dating from the ‘Thirty Years War’ to ‘Prince Eugene of Savoy’, the latter being responsible for defeating the Ottomans and establishing Austria as a high status power. The next few rooms encompassed the 18th century (up to Austria’s last battle against the Turks), Europe up to 1848 (where Austria violently crushed a revolution in Prague), and the lives of Field Marshal Radetsky and Emperor Franz Joseph Hall. These are all packed with weapons, armour, and artwork and offer a brilliant insight into the vast military history of Austria.
Downstairs, there are rooms dedicated to Austria’s naval fleet, with interactive exhibits that blew my mind as to the sheer complexity of ship construction. However, the real highlights were the rooms dedicated to WWI/II, which Jacob and I are thoroughly interested in. There are a plethora of world famous guns, such as the Gasser and Luger, war-planes dangle from the ceilings, and sombre displays reflect the devastation that ravaged Europe to its core. We stayed here for most of the day, quietly perusing the displays, and we even ate lunch at the café, which is cheap and cheerful.
After this, we attempted to head into the city centre, which was sparsely populated due to the rain; the shops we had wanted to pop into had closed, and we ended up sitting in a café for a while, enjoying a cup of cappuccino and playing a game of chess. When it came around for dinner, we struck an absolute goldmine.
Walking for 5 minutes from our hotel, we stumbled upon “Pizza Mari”. I thought the pizza we ate in Amsterdam was going to be the best we were going to have outside of Italy, but this has smashed its way into the lead. The restaurant is open plan, with white walls running into two rooms, a large bar area with an even bigger espresso machine, and a log-fire pizza oven, where the Italian chefs were shouting and singing with each other as they cooked. The smell hit us straight away, and even though the place was packed with curly haired hipsters, families, and couples on dates, we were allowed to sit at a little corner table usually reserved for those awaiting a take-out. The menu was fantastic, offering both red and white pizzas of all sorts of toppings; I decided upon the “Salame mit Prosciutto” for EUR. 11, and Jacob gets plain old “Salame”, which we watch being cooked with eager anticipation.
It arrived in no time, and was absolutely beautiful. The dough was fluffy and hand-stretched, the mozzarella was fresh and creamy, and the salame retained a huge depth of flavour encompassing a slight element of heat from the paprika. There was a hint of basil permeating the wonderful tomato base, and the layer of proper Italian sourced ham that crowned the top ensured that every bite was packed with delights. Aside from Pisa earlier this year, this is honestly the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, and any lovers of this god-given food should consume whatever they can from their menu. Be warned, however, they only accept cash.
Vienna has been an unusual place; there seems to be vast amounts of wealth here, and everything seems so clean and organised. I’m sure it has it’s fair share of modern culture, but we didn’t get the same buzz that others, such as Berlin, have given. They have Schnitzel though, so it’s still undecided.
Tomorrow, we head to Bratislava, which I know nearly nothing about; if you have any suggestions of sights to see and places to eat, please don’t hesitate to drop a comment.
Happy travels guys!