In the past several years I have traveled throughout several European countries and grew fond of really great coffee. I believe that most people have not experienced the aroma and smooth taste of truly great coffee.
It isn’t that I think of myself as a connoisseur or an advocate of beans from specific places throughout the world. I also don’t believe I am a snob because I rather enjoy a cappuccino or a latte than a cup of black Americano.
This story is about exceptionally great coffee with a particular emphasis on cafes and coffee in Europe. Like the one in this photo inside Cafe Konditorei in Vienna, Austria, many European cafes sell delicious pastries along with exceptional coffee. Fantastic coffee, pastries and food are also found at the famous Cafe Central, also in Vienna
I began my nomadic adventure exploring Europe in October 2014. I recently realized that breakfast is my favorite meal when I visit local cafes. Not only is it my favorite meal but it also has become almost an obsession in what I eat. While in different cafes I have met some very interesting personalities who have helped me understand and appreciate their respective cultures. This story is about my breakfast obsession and the friends I have made as I have crossed Europe and found several mouth-watering breakfast delights.
In three weeks the time on the clocks will change here in Central Europe and we will be on “Winter Time.” Summer has come and gone as I spent much of it exploring Austria on holiday and in two weeks I return to Spain.
I have most recently been living in a small village in Wolkersdorf but my travels have taken me far and wide throughout the country to Krems, Horn, Melk, Tulln, Semmering, Salzburg, Graz, Innsbruck, Villach, the Wachau Valley, and Vienna. Many of these beautiful places, people, and artwork have been captured in photographs that I have shared on Facebook, blog entries and in messages to friends and family.
It is both happy and sad to be returning to Spain in two weeks. I have greatly enjoyed my holiday in Austria and with Winter cold and snow coming and the time change bringing darkness earlier in the day, I am anticipating the warmth on the Costa del Sol and friends there. I will miss the people I have met in Austria, the confectionaries, lattes, apple strudel, wiener schnitzel, and this distinct culture that I have appreciated.
Today’s blog is all about places I have captured in photos while in Austria. I hope you enjoy them!
My initial stop in Austria was in Krems an der Donau. It is one of the oldest settled communities in all of Austria and was an excellent place to begin my Austrian holiday. Many people speak English in all of Austria but especially in Krems. I wrote a few entries in my blog about Krems but my favorite one is here. Following Krems, I stayed awhile in Melk. In Melk I particularly enjoyed the park at the Abbey and wrote about my Melk holiday. Krems and Melk are the bookends of the Wachau Valley. Famous for apricots and grapes for wine, the Danube River flows through the Wachau passing many small villages with Spitz, Durnstein, Rossatz, and Emmersdorf among my favorites. The castle ruins at Aggstein are in the Valley and well worth the visit. I wrote about Aggstein and its famous “Little Rose Garden.” I especially enjoyed visiting the ruins during a Renaissance festival and loved the food and writing about my visit to Aggstein.
In many of the places I have mentioned I went by train and boat to visit towns and cities in Austria. Most notable to me was Salzburg and is certainly one of the places I want to visit again someday. Salzburg is the location for the movie “The Sound of Music.” The scenery in the mountains and lakes is stunning and in the mountains one cannot help hearing Julie Andrews singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” While in Salzburg I visited Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” where the beautiful mountain views take your breath away. I wrote two blogs about my visit to Salzburg and Eagles Nest. One can’t help but to be inspired to write in these places with beautiful skies and spectacular peaks.
I have taken so many photos that it is always difficult to determine which to include in any blog or to post on Facebook. Staying in Vienna presented a problem in that there are so many places one wants to visit and if I were to reflect on them all, the blog would be way too long. The city offers so much… classical music by Strauss and Mozart among others, opera, historic, beautiful monuments and architecture, and wonderful food and drink. I narrowed my photo selections to a few and decided to write about the “City of Dreams” from a perspective that focused on present day Vienna as dreams that have been realized. There are also memories in Vienna that are sad such as the 65,000 Jews who never returned during the Holocaust, the NAZI annexation of the entire country during World War II, and the oppression by the occupying Russian forces following the war. Vienna was also the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and there are wonderful and sad stories throughout the history of the Empire. These are captured in the numerous museums throughout the city.
Hiking along the Wachau Valley Trails brings you to many of the famous places I have mentioned previously. There are many selections of trails to take and one can always find solitude and reflection somewhere in the Wachau. Surprisingly often you find yourself in one of many vineyards. The grapes from the Wachau are particularly desired for making Gruner Veltliner wine which is loved throughout Austria and Germany.
Two of the towns in the Wachau Valley are Rossatz and Durnstein. Each are known for many things but my adventures were often focused on taking photographs, eating different foods, learning about history, and tasting wines.
Rossatz in particular is quite beautiful. Located across the river from Durnstein in the Valley, the town is often identified as the heart of the Apricot Mile. In the Summer when apricots are ripe, they are for sale everywhere. In addition to fresh apricots, apricot dumplings are particularly popular. There are all sorts of drinks and syrups made from apricots. But in Rossatz I enjoyed its quiet charm. Many just don’t know about it and the serenity found there in the vineyards, throughout the community, and along the beach. That’s right, there is a beach on the Danube very close to Rossatz. It also turns out that there are several along the Danube.
My excursions have taken me to many fascinating places in Austria and I have captured some of those memories in this blog. I enjoyed my Summer holiday very much and look forward to returning sometime and reliving many of the memories that I have described and many more. So for now I will say “Auf Wiedersehen” from Austria as I plan my return to Mijas Pueblo, Espana, later this month.
I extended my stay in the Austrian Wachau Valley where I am now exploring in and around the town of Melk an der Donau. Melk is at the beginning of the gorgeous Wachau Valley with the Danube River running through it. The Wachau extends about 35 kilometers down river to Krems. Melk is a small community of about 5000 and is dominated by the picturesque 11th century Benedictine Monastery, Melk Abbey (German: Stift Melk).
The Abbey is the principle tourist destination for the numerous Danube River cruise tours that tie-up here enroute from Amsterdam and elsewhere to Vienna, Budapest, and beyond. My apartment is in the older part of the town with the massive Abbey immediately behind me.
Overlooking the Danube, the Melk Abbey has a long history. It was founded in 1089. You can read more about the Abbey and the history of Melk here. For now, though, I am going to share with you some of my pictures and my observations.
The town has a rich history and the town government provides numerous placards (in German and English) throughout Melk that provide the tourist with a great deal of information about the early inhabitants, their relationship to the Catholic church, the influence of the reformation, the first ruling dynasty in Austria, the impact of World War II, the buildings, the town growth, and the flooding of the Danube in recent times as well as the recording of the massive flooding in 1501.
Melk is a chameleon. It takes on a typical tourist hot spot in the daytime as tourists flock to the Abbey. There are many places to have a coffee as well as a good wine and schnitzel. In the evenings, however, the tour groups from the river boats are mostly gone and those in town are residents and numerous bicycle riders who have stopped for the night.
Weekly there are band concerts with participants in traditional Austrian dress playing music on the Rathausplatz. This is when the community just sits back and relaxes with a large beer-in-hand and listens to the music and occasionally sings along.
Abbey tourists enjoy the massive old library, paintings of royalty and old world leaders, statues, and the beautiful artwork of the church interior. The Abbey is beautiful both on the interior as well as the exterior. With a bit of luck you can hear musical rehearsals which in themselves are spectacular. But for me, the exterior gardens are quite special and a place that is often overlooked by the tourists who are visiting with very limited time to absorb the grandeur of the Abbey, the town and the area.
I have found the groomed walkways in the Abbey gardens to be nice but the peace and solitude found in the garden woods is very special. The smell of evergreens add to this place high over the Danube River flowing by. It is an ideal spot for me to contemplate, listen to nothing except for a few birds and the breeze in the trees. It is a great place to relax in the shade… my next destination.
Stunning medieval architecture and extraordinarily beautiful countryside is found throughout Lower Austria. Captured in photos of Aggstein, Durnstein, Rosaatz, and Melk I have shared on Facebook many of the old structures, castle ruins, monuments, stone-terraced vineyards, and the picturesque Danube River that make the World Heritage Site of the Wachau Valley unique and special.
While many find the charm of Austria to revolve about Vienna, I have opted for a more rural area in which to holiday for the past three months. My residence has centered on Krems an der Donau, maybe the oldest of communities in all of Austria. Here people are referred to as “Kremsers.”
Located down river at the end of the Wachau Valley, the town of 25,000 inhabitants even today remembers and celebrates ancestors from the Middle Ages and their influence in creating Krems. The town is very long on memory, pride, and tradition including personal dress, food, wine, religion, and music.
In this blog I am primarily sharing photographs. While I can tell stories, the photos speak! They shout of the history and pride that Kremsers feel for their community, their ancestors, their architecture, their food and drink, their traditions…their way of life.
As I enjoy a slice of cinnamon-sweet apple strudel at my favorite outdoor cafe, I pause to listen to the chimes of the Steiner Tor. I hear the commuter trains in the background. I see lovers holding hands and smell roasted coffee which beckons me to sip a caramel latte. I hope you enjoy my reminiscences about Krems and can envision the beauty that makes Krems a wonderful place to feel the past while in the present.
I have deeply absorbed Krems’ preservation. It is there for the taking by Kremsers, me, and future generations. The soul of this community is in, and its voices come from, its landmarks, traditions, and people. So gathered here is my collection of photographs that I have found particularly interesting to these ends as I explain in captions.
In the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe plays the role of Maximus, son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Maximus’ life is relegated to fighting for his life as a gladiator after Commodus takes power and strips Maximus of his general officer rank. By several historical accounts, however, Maximus, as portrayed in the movie, is largely fictitious and a composite of several individuals. But Emperor Marcus Aurelius is real and died in 180 AD in a Roman camp in modern-day Vienna, Austria which is about an hour and a half from my apartment in Krems. Roman influence is still sometimes felt throughout the region. Last weekend I went to Tulln (a past Roman settlement) and was reminded of the Roman influence as modern-day gladiators with Maximus’ desire, determination, and dedication competed. More about that later.
Tulln is located on the right bank of the Danube River between Krems and Vienna and I have journeyed by train there three times in the past couple months. Tulln was settled well before the Romans arrived over 2000 years ago. The Roman Empire had an outpost in present-day Tulln and the Danube at one time was a boundary for the Empire. Near the Danube, in the area where the Roman fort was located, is a statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and an excellent museum with artifacts and items attributed to Tulln’s Roman past. There are few visible, physical remnants of the town’s Roman-period existence except those excavated and now preserved in the museum.
I certainly enjoy visiting such historic places like Tulln and museums dedicated to their history. This museum is especially good with numerous artifacts and explanations of them. But on my post-retirement adventure in Europe I also crave several things that are simply American like pancakes with real maple syrup, eating hamburgers with real beef (think about that for a minute and you will understand), and so on…. One such craving is my passion for American football. That is what lured me last weekend to Tulln to see modern-day gladiators with the Tulln Air Force Hawks competing against the Blue Hawks from Asperhofen in a real American football game! It is wonderful that here in the middle of Europe I can experience watching the game I enjoy and witness things that have been incorporated into the game day.
American football in this area is what Americans would call a “club sport.” The players come from all over Lower Austria and are playing for the love of American football. Where football (soccer) is king, these gridsters may eye being discovered for an opportunity to play on an American college football team or may envision a professional career as the NFL in Europe gains traction. Regardless, they are modern-day gladiators.
The announcer spoke in German and added color in English like “Oh my God, quarterback sack!” Each team’s starting players ran onto the gridiron through “smoke” out of a large inflatable helmet as their names were announced. The officials marched onto the field (although out of step) and there was real respect for them. There were cheerleaders too! They came from the Vienna Wildcats and cheered for the Tulln Air Force team. There was a lot of fan noise throughout the game with horns, drums, clappers and other devices to support their hometown team! Noise was unending and only stopped at halftime and during injury time-outs. About 300 faithful fans attended. There was no halftime show and I observed that halftime was like a social outing among friends.
On the initial kick-off a player was injured. Every player on the manicured grass field and sidelines and every cheerleader went on a knee for this and each time a player was injured. I thought it to be respectful and almost like they were jointly sending a prayer that the injury not be serious. The food at the concession stand was interesting. Remember, this is Austria. The choices on the chalk menu were grilled frankfurters, grilled hamburgers (see note above), and, of course, grilled pork. Beer, wine and Coke were also sold along with cigarettes which were permitted to be smoked anywhere other than in the bleacher area.
Finally, Tulln’s gridsters just didn’t have an adequate passing quarterback and lacked a punter so they ran on every fourth down (including a 4th and 20 from their own 20!). Asperhofen’s Blue Hawks had a dominating defense and at the end, the hometown gladiators lost the contest. However, I give them and the game a “thumbs up” as each of the modern-day gladiators, the fans, and I enjoyed the day of American football.
Lower Austria is a state in Austria where the Danube River flows through the country. The state is in the northeastern part of Austria and is named “lower” to indicate elevation which is lower than in the mountainous regions of the country. I am presently residing in Krems which is at the end of the Wachau Valley in Lower Austria and have previously documented the beauty of the region in other blog posts.
In this entry I want to tell you more about the food and wine. Food and wine are very serious topics for which there is great pride in heritage, taste and visual effects. Principle meat products in the region come from pigs. Beef is extremely expensive. In addition, chicken is available but overall pork wins out as the primary dietary meat component. Roasted and smoked pork products are in huge demand and are sold in grocery stores, markets and are everywhere during festivals. Pork is on every menu and it appears to me to be in just about every lunch and dinner. I like eating the roast pork and schnitzel.
Wine is sacred in the Wachau Valley! Vines are grown all along the Danube River in the terraced slopes on the hillside in the Wachau. The stone terraced slopes (pictured) are traditional everywhere in the Wachau. Gruener Veltliner (picture copyright Wikipedia) is the main grape grown here and makes up about 35% of Austria’s wine production. That is more than any other grape in the country. It dates back to Roman times and makes a dry white wine that white wine lovers enjoy… I personally prefer a red. I have been on two winery tours since arriving in Austria and they were both very worthwhile. In the tours you obtain a sense of the wine production methods, quality control and how intensely important wine production is to the people who live in Lower Austria.
Apricots (marilee) are another main crop in the Wachau Valley. They were introduced to the region before the Romans arrived, more than 2000 years ago. While wine grapes are mainly grown on the slopes of the left bank of the Danube, the largest apricot growing region comes from the right bank near Rossatz. The area orchards are often referred to as the “apricot mile.” So far, I have enjoyed the jam and liqueurs that are made from them. Soon, though, there will be an abundance of fresh apricots on sale everywhere here. I will be stuffing myself with them!
Just as wine is sacred to the residents of Lower Austria, apple strudel is sacred to me!!! Every restaurant and bakery has an abundance of sweet apple strudel, served warm and enhanced by vanilla sauce and / or real whipped cream. I enjoy the strudel any time of the day but especially at breakfast with a nice, aromatic coffee. Frankly, I haven’t found an apple strudel that I didn’t enjoy!
That’s the update from Austria today. I hope you enjoyed my observations about local wine and foods!