Memories of Vienna

In a recent post, I referenced The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire by Time/Life. This picture always made me smile.

The caption reads, “Even in Vienna, the simplest food often tastes best. Witness this cabbie downing his sausage and beer with quiet satisfaction while waiting for a fare in front of St. Stephan’s Cathedral.”

If I know the Viennese, this guy was anything but quietly satisfied, and was probably griping to himself about the tourists, the government, the church tax, the weather, the beer, life, the universe, and everything. No, seriously – I love the Austrian people with all my heart, but the caption on the photo just doesn’t do reality justice.

But my goodness, that Würstel mit Senf (sausage with mustard) looks good. Hope he has a pile of Kren (fresh shredded horseradish) under his slice of bread… I can’t count how many times I’ve stopped at a sausage stand on the streets and snagged just what he’s having, or perhaps a Leberkäsesemmel – the Austrian version of a bologna sandwich, only 10 times better.

So many memories… I’ve shared a couple of them before, here and here, but there are so many it’s hard to choose from among them. I lived in Austria from February 1975 to December of 1976, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. So here are some of the more significant ones for me, in no particular chronological order.


Hallowe’en in Austria is a holy day, not one of ghosts and goblins. The evening before November 1, All Hallows Day, people make a pilgrimage to the cemetery and light candles for the souls of the dead. This was taken in Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) on October 31, 1976.

And the following morning:

I love Beethoven’s music more than any other, and I was honored to be able to honor his memory at so many different sites.

The Beethoven Monument in Vienna

Vienna, of course, is the home of many famous musicians:

The Strauss Memorial in Vienna’s City Park

Hot chestnuts for sale beneath the old Stadtbahn (City Elevated Train) tracks. A wonderful thing, these… I remember them at Christmas time on the streets of New York in the 50’s. 12 chestnuts for about 60¢ – the exchange rate was about 15 Austrian Schillings to the dollar at the time.

One of the old Stadtbahn trains.

Tichy Ice Cream parlor on Reumannplatz 13 in the 11th Bezirk

Still there, still famous. Here you get gelato, not American style ice cream, in a whole symphony of flavors.

I laughed hard the first time I saw a police beetle. I didn’t laugh at all the first time one of them pulled in front of me flashing a sign, “Bitte Folgen” (please follow) and I collected a speeding ticket.

Stefansdom – St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Sachertorte is the quintessential Austrian pastry. A sponge cake covered with apricot jam and chocolate, this cake is designed to be taken with schlagobers (whipped cream) and plenty of water. There are more Austrian pastries than you can shake a stick at, and you may like some of them more than this one – but it remains my favorite to this day.

I could go on. In fact, I will go on in another post. But now I want some Sachertorte, and I don’t have any. So I shall sit in the middle of the floor and cry.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

WÖK – Wiener Öffentliche Kuchenbetriebsgesellschafft

The “Vienna Public Feeding GMBH” was established in 1919, with the goal of providing for the nutrition of children and the more vulnerable sections of society. It was renamed the “Viennese public kitchen company” in 1920, and retained that name until the company merged with Wigast. From 1999 to 2001, Wigast was gradually absorbed into the Austrian Tourist Office; at that time it was the largest restaurant umbrella company in Austria and included restaurants such as Rathauskeller, Donauturm and Schloss Wilhelminenberg, as well as the Wienerwald chain. In 2008, the Tourist Office sold off its restaurant holdings to better focus on tourist promotion.

The WÖK above was photographed in the summer of 1976 in the 18th Bezirk of Vienna.

What you got there was cheap and edible, but not much else. It reminded me of the ÖBB Betriebsküche in Villach, where I became acquainted with Beuschel; indeed, when I read Melville’s description of Turkey in “Bartleby the Scrivener” – (his clothes were apt to look oily and smell of eating-houses), WÖK is always what I think of. That said, the memories are indelible, and the WÖKs now belong to history.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Vienna: Chimney Sweep, 1976

I love the light in this photo. This Schornsteinfeger (chimney sweep) was working in Gertrudplatz 7 in the 18th Bezirk of Vienna, sometime in the latter part of 1976. I caught him up in the attic and asked him to pose for a photo. It’s one of my favorite memories of Austria. (Next to the heiße Maroni, the Schnitzel, the Chokoladeschnecken, the mountains of Innsbruck, usw usw usw…=)