Sunday, October 11, 2015

Vienna: Art and Chocolate Cake

With a long history of royal families, Vienna has several palaces worth seeing. The last time I visited Vienna, I went to the Schönbrunn Palace, the sprawling former Habsburg summer home. You can tour some of the 1,000+ room residence and the massive gardens to get a glimpse of imperial life. 

This time, I planned to go to the Belvedere Palace and Museum. The Belvedere Palace is also the former stomping ground of the Habsburg family. This royal residence is closer to the city center. The grounds are broken up into two palaces (the Upper and the Lower Belvedere), the gardens, the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. Now all of these parts can be seen individually or purchased together on a group ticket. 

Most of the permanent exhibits are housed in the Upper Belvedere. They have a large collection of Austrian art. I don't always enter art museums when I travel, but I had extra time so I went for it. The star of the gallery is Gustav Klimt. His "The Kiss" is probably the most recognizable piece in the museum. It's so popular that they put a replica in the lobby of the museum with a sign promoting selfies. (No flash photography is allowed of the real painting.)  

From there I walked by Karlskirche and the Royal Opera to my next destination, one that I was really looking forward to: Hotel Sacher for a piece of the original Sachertorte. The Sachertorte chocolate cake is a well established institution in Vienna. History has it that the Sachertorte was created in the 1800s as a special treat for Austria's Emperor. The cake is chocolate sponge with apricot jam and chocolate icing. The cake became a big hit, and still is. Fun Fact: December 5th is dedicated National Sachertorte Day. Needless to say, when I arrived to the Hotel Cafe, there was a line out the door. 

When I finally got in, I ordered the orginal Sachertorte and an espresso with milk. (PS- there are loads of delicious looking desserts if you're feeling adventurous.) The interior of the hotel cafe is elegant and proper. While you are waiting for your cake, you can even read all about the history of the hotel and the secretly guarded recipe. Then the cake arrived. It was moist and sweet, but not overkill. A leisurely afternoon having a coffee and cake is just what you need in Vienna to replenish you from all the museums you've been visiting. 

To conclude my final afternoon in Vienna, I passed by the University of Vienna. Unlike the business university I had been to the day before, this campus was much more traditional. There was a terrace/courtyard in the middle of the rectangular-shaped building where students were reading and socializing outside. I wandered down some halls, trying to imagine what it would be like to be a student here. I studied in universities in the U.S. and Spain, so I always like to compare other campuses. I think I would like it. :)

Belvedere Palace grounds
Upper Belvedere

View of Lower Belvedere and the city center
"The Kiss" Selfie Point
Royal Opera House
Sacher Cafe

University of Vienna
University of Vienna courtyard

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