Tag Archives: Coffee

The Dutch, me & winter destinations

You don’t have to like winter sports to enjoy spending time in the Alps.

A report in today’s derStandard names Austria as the top destination for winter sports according to a survey by a Dutch tourism website. Personally, winter sports and I go together as naturally as oil and water. However, living in Austria, winter is probably my favourite time of the year and I enjoy spending time up in the mountains.

Whist I may not participate in most of the traditional sporting activities of tourist and locals, I do find plenty of things to entertain, amuse and inspire me on my trips to the Alps.

One of my pastimes starts by travel up the mountain on a cab car with the morning skiers, strolling slowly over to the restaurant, taking up residents at a table by the window, and ordering the first coffee/strudel combination of the day. If you want an alternative winter sport let me explain.

Now some of these restaurant/cafe huts can have the look and feel of a factory canteen, whilst others have that traditional look associated with Hollywood Christmas movies . For this particular ‘sport’ either type of venue will do but you need a table with a good view of the ski lift(s).  Ideally, if they have one, your table should also be near a roaring open fire to add an additional layer of snugness and smugness. After having settled down with your coffee you can turn your attention to the warm-up game. This one is called spot the Brit and it’s not that hard to pick up your first points. You turn your attention to the endless queues waiting for the ski lift(s) and simply look for the ‘skiers’ who seem to be continuously failing to reach the front of the ‘queue’. These are the novices Brit’s who will take some time to overcome their ingrained desire to stand and progress in an orderly fashioned. Gradually you can observe them coming to the realisation that the word for queue when translated back into English from German re emerges as the word scrum. However all this, as I say, is by way of a warm-up exercise. The skill in this particular window ‘sport’ is to pick a dozen or so subjects and commit them to memory. This is a relatively easy exercise as you will have plenty of time to get to know your chosen targets – most people on the slopes spend hours standing/shuffling in the scrum for the pleasure of a few minutes going downhill on their bone breaking device of choice. You can then take up to an hour’s break reading a book or catching up with twitter (reception is often excellent in such locations whilst oddly and annoyingly none existent in some parts of Vienna!). It’s important not to spend more time on these distractions or you can miss the chance to pick up points. Three points are awarded for ever person who comes off the slope in under two hours and one point for those that last a full two hours. An additional three points are gained for each individual who spends more time then eating and drinking than they did on the ski slope. On a sunny day these points are also awarded if the individual takes a seat outside and after eating then joins the others around them in the ritual by which you spend a long period of time with your eyes closed, head tilted towards the sun. If you are playing this game competitively then the skill is in selecting those rare individuals who will provide you with an automatic 30 points. These are the ones who actually spend more time on the slopes than sitting around enjoying the food, drink and sun – but they are a truly rare breed and not easily spotted.

For a more energetic time on the mountains I would recommend taking a stroll along (safe) paths ways from the ski slopes. The frozen landscape, the beauty of the mountains and the peace of the walk is often without comparison. It also happens to be health, cheap, fun and you still end up in the ski hut drinking and eating but without the frustration of the queues and the pain from the bruises. For something even more special take a stroll through the winter landscape after dark on a clear night. Venturing out into the icy landscape and seriously sub-zero temperatures to observe the night sky, the woods and mountains under moonlight, the stillness in the dark, are all truly worth leaving the warmth of your accommodation and afterwards there is always a mulled wine to warm you up again.


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Filed under Entertainment, Holidays, Sports, Vienna Life

Relaxing with a coffee

The Naschmarkt is a magnet for tourists to Vienna and within a short walk of the market is one of the city’s most famous shopping streets Mariahilferstrasse. Both tend to be bustling, crowded, noisy places with plenty to see as well as opportunities for a coffee and food. However, situated between these two is the Cafe Sperl, another of my favourite coffeehouses, offering a more peaceful atmosphere in which to refresh and regroup before throwing yourself back into the fray that is the shops and market.

Although in the classic Vienna Coffeehouse mould Cafe Sperl also includes, oddly, two pool tables and a piano (the latter actually begin used for musical entertainment on occasions I understand, rather than simply providing decoration). Naturally the coffee is of the quality you would expect and they also have a rather good light meal menu. The coffeehouse provides free Wi-Fi and for the English and I noted on my most recent visit copies of the Times to read.

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Filed under Coffee in Vienna, Vienna Life, Wine, Beer & Food

Street markets bring an area to life

I generally take the view that shopping is a necessary chore, something to be accomplished with the precision of a surgical strike that allows you to get back to the interesting things in life. One of the few exceptions to this rule is spending time strolling around a street market.

Like most cities Vienna has its share of fixed markets and street markets. One of our favourites is the street market around the Yppenplatz in the 16th district. The mix of stalls from Turkish breads to fish from the Austrian mountain lakes, combined with the bustle of crowds and the noises generated by street entertainers competing with those selling the latest cause, all provide the sort of atmosphere that makes wandering aimlessly through the throng a real enjoyment.

The liberal sprinkling of small cafes and restaurants also add to the attraction of spending time in this part of Vienna. But readers who know my passion for coffee will be surprised to read that the search for a good coffee and comfortable seat takes second place to one of my lesser know passions – the love of a good cheese. Whilst R is busy seeking out yet another bargain or two, H and I wander off to our favourite cheese stall at which point the trouble starts. There are just too many delicious cheeses to taste and we usually end up debating the merits of each one. Things then become somewhat more difficult as we try to restrict ourselves to the purchase of only three or four different cheeses and usually fail to stay within my notional budget.

After the stresses and strains of choosing from amongst such excellent cheeses and sampling the various fresh fruits on offer around the market, normal life always returns with the move to a cafe with its offerings of strudel and coffee. Last Saturday our market trip enhanced by a visit to, for us, a new cafe with an Indian menu. As I sat enjoying my coffee, I was struck by the fact that amongst the customers the conversations were being held in English as well as German. My native tongue can so easily heard and used here in Vienna that it is not surprising that some English speakers living here never do learn German.


Filed under Vienna Life, Wine, Beer & Food