the land of punsch

Or punch, as we know it back home. The best way to try and cure cold hand, nose and general face syndrome in freezing cold Vienna is to hang out at the many Christmas market or street vendor stores who sell sweet, warm cups of ‘punsch’ to willing travellers and locals. We think the main ingredient was gin, though whatever was mixed in with the fruity tonic was more often than not strong enough to give you the energy to tackle that latest stroll round the city.

And what a fine city Vienna is. Think ridiculously large and grand buildings. Think impressive churches and cathedrals. Think sausages. Everywhere you go, if people aren’t smoking (another keen pastime) then they are munching greedily on ‘wurst’.

It’s definitely the time of year to visit this part of world and not just so you can justify spending your Euro’s on warm alcoholic beverages. It just feels like it should be cold here. And it is cold, minus three this morning when we were trying not to look lost whilst searching for the temporary railway station that we finally located on the outskirts of town. With the build up to Christmas and the dozens of craft stalls littered inside the markets, I’m more than happy to be wrapping on several layers, scarf and gloves in Austria’s capital city as opposed to visiting in the summer months.

It was a much bigger place than I envisaged. The underground metro system was a godsend, saving frostbite from kicking in after those standard adventurous walks around the main sites the city had to offer. We took a journey to Schönbrunn which was home to the emperor of Austria until the early 1900’s. Apparently this was one of Mozart’s favourite places to play a gig or two back in the day when classical music ruled. The palace’s gardens were massive, giving the chance to climb up a hill where you could see the whole of Vienna in a far clearer and impressive manner than the view from St Stephen’s Cathedral that we’d climbed the previous afternoon.

My other favourite part of Vienna has been the brilliant sized portions of food served up. Wiener schnitzel is becoming a favourite dish of mine. We stumbled upon a tiny bar called ‘Landsknecht’ in the cheap part of town where we feasted upon this local delicacy whilst surrounded by pissed up, very proud Austrians. Every song that played on the jukebox seemed to involve singing the words ‘We love Austria’ as loudly as possible…..nearly as good as the Barmy Army boys singing ‘Jerusalem’ after a long nights boozing! The bar had great character, sized similarly to a skittle alley with only a handful of tables. The chef (who looked like the local Peggy Mitchell) was soon seen joining in with the singing, drinking and dancing with the locals as soon as she’d done her work cooking our tea!

Sadly cheap bars have been at a premium here. We finally stumbled upon a bar yesterday afternoon which was exactly what we were looking for. It was the kind of place that obviously hadn’t had any work done to it since it opened. There were three or four old men happily sat doing the Sunday Crossword whilst supping a Zwickl or a Gösser beer and (as standard) having a fag. There was no pool table or quiz box to be found, only several board games including a chess board. Not having played chess since my defeat in the latter stages of the 1997 National Primary School Championships (I’m not sure it was called that but I’ll roll with it) I wasn’t expecting to beat my Oxford graduate opponent. An hour or so later I found myself celebrating a two nil victory!

Vienna was cool – as ever when I visit a new place I always say that the biggest compliment I could give a city is that I’d happily go back and recommend it as a place to visit. If only for the punsch…


2 Responses to “the land of punsch”

  1. 1 Martin Chapple
    November 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Well done beating the post-grad!

  2. 2 DK
    November 22, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Your writing conjures up a really wonderful Vienna Rich…

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