Some photographs from a recent trip to Austria (over the winter holidays). I was hoping to also go to Budapest (where I have gone before) and/or Prague (where I have never visited previously), but in the end that didn’t happen. I did travel to both Vienna and Graz, plus some towns in the countryside of Austria.
Note: I posted a number of these on Tumblr already.
(Closest tube station: Kettenbrückengasse)
I always, without fail, go to this market whenever I am in Vienna. Although it sells a kind of things, it’s really a market for foodies. You can get both high-quality items from Austrian farmers (local produce and traditional products such as sauerkraut and cucumber pickles) as well as exotic wares from everywhere, in particular Turkey and parts of South East Asia – the latter because the Naschmarkt is located in the area of Vienna’s Chinatown. It’s a lively place: sellers will call out to you and offer tasters (olives, hummus, dried fruit). They also always oversell (if you want 200 g, they’ll give you 250 g, because that’s alright, isn’t it?), but haggling is allowed.
The Naschmarkt is, hands down, one of the best places to get spices. Here’s an Indian shop (the market is a mix of enclosed shops and open stalls), but you will also find plenty of spice stalls which sell everything from long pepper to chilli threads to sumac to you-name-it:
The Turkish influence at the market is unmissable. There is a whole history to it, as Vienna was besieged by Turks in the 16th and 17th centuries (and shaped by modern immigration in the ~1970s) – the city’s coffee culture owns its beginnings to these historical events.
I bought some Zotter chocolate (new variety: Rice & Soya: “Shanghai”) at the market. In fact, we finally (after years of trying) visited the chocolate factory that produces these hand-craft, gourmet chocolate bars:
Graz, which is located in the province of Styria (Steiermark in German), is the second largest city in Austria. It’s in the south-east of the country, about half an hour from the Slovenian border. Graz tends to be overshadowed by Vienna (the capital) and Salzburg (thanks to Mozart and, for North Americans, the Sound of Music), and even Innsbruck (since Tyrol is at the heart of skiing culture), but is actually a rather charming city to visit. It’s mostly the Japanese that seem to be aware of this, as you can always spot some J-tourists in some corner of Graz.
The city’s old town is particularly well deserved and has many (and some extremely gorgeous) buildings from medieval to contemporary times. In fact, the historic city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here’s something that has been around since at least 1569 (the bakery itself only, not the actual building – its current location is from 1880). The ‘Hofbäckerei’ name, by the way, is a reminder of imperial rule.
Christmas Deco, Graz
One of the side effects of coming from an expat family is that you end up with rather atypical things. While we stick with some traditions – a real Christmas tree and real candles (yes, really!) – the ornaments we use are papier-mâché baubles, bells and birds that my Dad brought from Kashmir (Indian part) over the last ten years.
The only time I saw a bit of snow during my trip was when going for a day hike on a small mountain (1445 m) called Schöckl, which lies at the very south-eastern edge of the Alps and is known as the ‘Hausberg’ (‘home mountain’) of the city.
The view from the top is rather pretty – mostly a wide expanse hills and mountains as the province is known as the ‘green heart’ of Austria (~60% is covered in forest, another 25% is meadows, orchards and vineyards).
The sis and I went to the Sapa, a French-Vietnamese fusion place in Vienna, which serves rice paper rolls, clay pot curry and soups. Yum yum. Here’s the vegan bánh canh chay, with home-made udon:
I also cooked up some stuff (tofu and veg) in a tetsunabe pot I bought (in a Korean shop) at the Naschmarkt. The bowl, spoon and place mat are stuff my family got in either Taiwan or Thailand (don’t remember), the blurry table cloth is from India, because, that’s just how things are at my parents’ place.
As always, I ate roasted chestnuts, which they sell on the streets from November on. They are one of my favourite things in the winter, though I think the roasters in Graz do them much better than those in Vienna (more generous portions, slightly charred chestnuts so you get a crunch and contrasting softness inside).
Leaves and Things
Random, pretty vegetation, mostly a reminder that December and January felt more like autumn than winter. It was much too ‘warm’, around 8 degrees Celsius most of the time. Boohoo for the total lack of snow.
Silvester (New Year’s Eve)
I’m writing ‘Silvester’, because I think it’s a much more charming word than the English ‘New Year’s Eve’. In the photos there are some lucky charms (four-leaved clover, chimney sweep, pigs, the poisonous Fliegenpilz mushroom) for 2014 at the Farmers’ Market, which people hand out to family and friends on Silvester or the first day of the new year:
Another Silvester tradition is to melt lead figures (often in the shape of lucky charms) and pour the liquid into cold water. The resulting shape is then used to predict one’s fortune for the year to come:
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