A holiday in Vienna

This is a hard post to write. My blog is for me to remember the highs and lows of our year in Italy and Vienna was a holiday (slotted in with Nic’s history conference) that holds both highs and the lowest of lows for me.

Life has so many turns and bumps, when you have been clear sailing for a long time and thinking life just can’t get any better the bumps land hard and everything you know to be so turns into a series of free-falling, not knowing what to do or how to stop. I am going to talk about Vienna as the beautiful city it is, however, please excuse my lack of excitement and lack of cake photos…the wheels fell off my holiday before I could eat cake.

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We arrived in Vienna on Wednesday morning, bright and early as we had decided to take the overnight train from Florence to give the boys yet another travelling experience. The train is very easy and if you are short then probably a very comfortable ride, however, Nic and I were wishing we were a foot shorter when we laid on the sleeper beds.

We stayed in yet another Airbnb apartment and I have to say it was excellent. I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision when booking it as it was a bit out of the centre, however, when we arrived and met our host we all thought it was perfect. The place was big, bright and beautifully decorated in a vintage theme. Asta our host was very helpful and left us to our own devices. Perfect.

In the museumsquartier

In front of the monument to Maria Theresa near the Museumsquartier

To fill in the day we decided to take a leisurely walk around the city centre also ignoring the tiredness that was creeping in. Vienna is beautiful, let me state this clearly. The city is very easy to walk around, however, if you would rather use public transport then you have trams, subway or bikes to choose from. I have to say the subway is the cleanest I have ever seen ( I’ve seen a few) and extremely easy to operate, people are very happy to help if you need it.

I’m not sure if it was because we have been living in Florence where you can feel the grime and dirt of past centuries peeling off the buildings, but Vienna seems incredibly clean, bright and new. It was like they had just painted all the buildings ready for the tourist season.

We were hungry after our city tour and it was getting late so we decided to look up a traditional eating spot in our travel guide. Of course the two we thought sounded good were on the other side of the city. The first one was gone, replaced by a craft store (must have been really good!), however, the second restaurant (Figlmüller) which was just around the corner was an excellent first choice for experiencing Vienna, afterall it is all about the schnitzel!!

Max AFTER he'd eaten

Max AFTER he’d eaten

This place was fantastic and the schnitzel excellent. All their schnitzels are bashed out to 34cm of pure deliciousness. The crumbing light, crunchy and morish. Our server recommended a salad to share and this was actually one of the highlights of the trip. The four of us couldn’t get enough of it, the dressing was a perfect combination of sweet and sour. The potatoes were Nic and my favourite, while Alex couldn’t get enough of the carrots…as for Max, he was loving the 34cm schnitzel!

Wiener Schnitzel

Wiener Schnitzel

We rolled out of the restaurant feeling very happy, satisfied and up for a little more walking. Vienna has a wonderful cafe and food scene that I wasn’t expecting, I will have to do a photo journal post just so you can see what I am talking about. Now though I will take you on a photo journey of Vienna so you can see what I mean when I say it really is beautiful. As for museums I can highly recommend the Kunsthistorisches Museum which contains an amazing collection including one of the world’s largest collections of Old Masters.

A side view of Hundertwasserhaus

A side view of Hundertwasserhaus

If you are up for a hike just outside the city centre, then go and check out Hundertwasserhaus, a beautiful apartment building designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. This was a favourite of mine.

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While Nic was at his conference the boys and I checked out the Belvedere which is another dramatically large palace that was commissioned by Prince Eugen of Savoy.

Alex loved petting the fish

Alex loved petting the fish

A view of Vienna from the top of the  water animal zoo

A view of Vienna from the top of the Haus des Meeres

And if you are travelling with kids then I highly recommend a morning spent at the indoor water animal house, the Haus des Meeres. Lots of animals to look at and fish to pat and monkeys walking by…not to mention the view of Vienna from the top of this somewhat very ugly building.

A rear view of the palace from the gardens

A rear view of the palace at Schloss Schönbrunn from the gardens

On our last day we headed out to the Scholss Schönbrunn, which is the former summer residence of the imperial Hasburg family. This place is incredible, from the ballrooms to the gardens. The day was easily spent wandering around the grounds and palace rooms.

I will leave you here and write about the food scene next, something that deserves its own attention.

 

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Olive Harvest

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It has been a pretty busy weekend for the Baker family and not without mishaps and bloodshed because this just seems to be the way we roll these days!? So grab yourself a coffee and stay a while.

Friday was our landlord’s olive harvest day!! His lovely wife was out and about early Friday morning checking the olive leaves to see if they held too much moisture from the night. The rains were predicted and the pressing was booked in for Saturday morning so there was nothing else to do but help with the olive harvest. I have been eyeing our olive tree off for the past few weeks wondering when we will be picking; however, Roberto has just been telling me to wait….soon Camilla, soon.

After it was decided that picking could commence at 11am it was all hands on deck getting the nets laid. I have never seen how to pick olives so I was eager to help with the process, as were the kids for about half a second and then something else looked like more fun so off they went playing with sticks.

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The nets are very sturdy and massive, spreading out over a large expanse of ground, bushes and anything else that got in the way of catching the olives. Roberto had a fancy tree- or branch-shaking device that helped with the picking of olives up high while the rest of us gathered around the lower branches picking and sorting out good from bad the old-fashioned way.

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Max seemed to hang around a little more and managed to pick a few olives before the others called him over for a game of Knights and Castles…..

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The olives were mostly bright green, however, there were a few dark purple olives and I think when they start changing this is when you must start to pick?? I could have that wrong so please correct me if I’m way off track!

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As Roberto was shaking the olives out of the trees,

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Piera sat down on the boulders with her little basket and started picking the olives from the small new trees. I could have been more helpful, however, I had my good friend Sue coming for lunch so I really only picked until she arrived. Lucky for me Roberto still has more trees up the back of the property that need picking so I can get a proper fix as I find it relaxing work (again I picked over one tree, I may feel different after 3 or 4!).

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Roberto and Piera picked all day long and only stopped when they could no longer see what they were doing. When you have the press booked you don’t have the luxury of taking too many breaks. Roberto was up at 5am on Sunday morning to deliver his precious goods. When we saw them around ten on Sunday morning they were looking very happy and pleased with themselves and said with much pride ‘it is a beautiful green, very green!’ We were then invited to partake in the festival of the first press. They explained it’s like a party you would have if you brought a new baby into the family and really when you tend to these trees and watch the olives grow it really is a big moment when you reap your rewards.

We replied a hearty YES! and were going over to their place for a tasting of the new oil in the evening, I was beyond excited!

While all of this was going on, our very good friends from Chicago had arrived in Florence and were coming to visit for a few weeks. Excitement all round, old friends, first pressings and glorious weather…it doesn’t really get better than that and this is when the wind changed.

Sunday was a very windy day in Florence, the boys were playing out in the yard having a great time with old and new friends, and we were sitting back with Kathleen and Jim talking about how I almost walked them into the ground on their first day here and then we heard it. Blood curdling scream (attention grabbing) then a jumble of profanity coming from Max’s mouth (wash his mouth out with soap!). I jumped out of my seat and was about to say something like ‘I beg your pardon Maximilian!’ when I looked up and saw him coming my way with blood pouring from his head. He was fuming, crying and looking very red. It didn’t really hit me until he was close enough for me to put my hand over the wound and feel the warmth of the blood and that’s when I thought ‘HOLY SHIT!!!’

Kathleen is a nurse so she went right into work mode and kept the situation calm and focused. Pressure was applied, ice was applied and calm was brought to the situation. Heads bleed A LOT, this I know for sure because when we finally stopped the bleeding I could barely see the wound. K saw it straight away (trained eye) and thought it may need a stitch so we had to run over to our landlords (we don’t have a car) and ask for help.

The thought hadn’t left my mind that they were preparing for dinner that night, however, they were so completely helpful and dropped everything to drive us to the ER and Piera even promising pizza on our return…I love these people. Roberto had us at the hospital within 12 minutes, I think we waited 4 minutes before being ushered into another room when a lovely nurse with blue hair and green/white fingernails started shaving Max’s head to find the wound.

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Once the area was shaved she then said ‘Boh!….one stitch’ to which she proceeded. Anaesthetic would have taken too long to kick in so I told Max to grip my hand and she went for it. Max was very brave and it was all over in minutes. We were done and dusted in about 40 minutes and back home in time for the festivities to begin.

The festival of olive oil started with pizza and then worked its way up to wonderful stuffed peppers (they were filled with bread, capers, anchovies and olive oil) that I could of eaten all night, they had such a deep flavour and were completely morish. Bruschetta was then brought out and we were told to lightly brush the bruschetta with raw garlic then pour on the new olive oil quite liberally and then sprinkle with a little salt- DIVINE!! The olive oil came alive and the luscious grassy flavour dominated your taste buds….you didn’t want it to end.

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Preparations for the end result…..

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It was about here I wished I hadn’t had that extra serving of peppers because Roberto brought out the ribollita, salami, fagioli (at this point I almost burst but of course kept on eating because it all tasted fantastic especially when drizzled in the first pressing olive oil!!) I thought I had made it and eaten all I could until Piera threw her hands up in the air and said she forgot about the pork! I am not sure what part of my stomach made room but I was served a delicious helping of diced potatoes cooked with small pieces of pork (soaked in a little milk) and then roasted with bread pieces, sage and rosemary. If I wasn’t so full and bursting at the seams I would have had seconds, alas, I was done. If that was a celebration of the new oil I had wet its head well and truly and enjoyed every last drizzle…….oh and you know there was a dessert table just around the corner!

With Max’s head looking a little worse for wear and the four of us full of delicious food we said our thank yous, good byes and many thanks for everything else they had helped us with. Roberto placed a bottle of oil in my hands and I could not thank him enough for this precious gift. A gift I will keep on giving to my friends and family…..I’m already planning my own concoction of beans and olive oil- Yummmm