I had never heard of a sachertorte before we arrived in Vienna but it would seem that they are quite popular and famous
. Basically it is a two layer chocolate cake with what looks (and tastes) like a thin glaze of cherry preserve between the layers and then the whole thing is covered with chocolate icing. Sachertorte was first made in 1832 in Vienna and it is still being sold all over the city with different bakeries even going as far as filing lawsuits over who can lay claim to making the "original" Sachertorte. We went to the winner of the lawsuit, the Hotel Sacher to try the "original Sachertorte," and found it to be OK but not necessarily the best chocolate cake in the world as we have heard it described. It needed to lose the cherry goo and be a little more moist but I think we would have a lot of angry Austrians on our case if we said that out loud while we were in Vienna.
We took a walking tour of Vienna and discovered just how much the Habsburg family has influenced the city of Vienna. The Habsburg family was one of the largest royal families in Europe and has ruled various areas of Europe from as early as 1278 and continued to rule the Austro-Hungarian empire until their defeat in 1918 at the end of WWI. The Hofburg Palace in Vienna was the winter residence of the Habsburg's during their time in power and it continues to host important political events to this day. When we were first down at the palace, we noticed that there were a LOT of police in the area and the next day when we took the tour, we learned that Vienna is hosting the world economic forum this week and the meetings are taking place at the Hofburg Palace
. They were expecting a lot of protests so there were 2000 police officers there to handle crowds. They ended up only having approximately 200 protesters so there were a lot of police that looked quite bored, which may have explained the van full of Red Bull that we saw in the palace parking lot. During the years that the palace was home to the royal family, it seems that each generation wanted to leave their mark on the place so it was in a constant state of renovation and addition during it's almost 600 year history. In 1918 when the Habsburg dynasty collapsed, a huge new wing of the palace was still under construction. The cathedral in the palace which was once the private cathedral of the Habsburg family is now a public church and is open for viewing. There is a huge pipe organ in the church and during the 1700's Mozart used to play it on occasion.
While we were in Vienna, it seems that the cucumber producers of Europe banded together to try and get people to eat cucumbers again after they were falsely blamed in the recent E. Coli scare. Both days we were in Vienna, there were people on the streets with stacks of cucumber boxes giving them away to people who passed by. We saw one woman walk away with 2 cases of cucumbers! I have a feeling that Greek salads are going to be appearing on a lot of daily special menus.
We had not planned to visit Austria at all but, it turns out that someone decided to put Austria right smack between the Czech Republic and Croatia... Since we were in Prague and had planned to go to Zagreb, it made sense to stop in Vienna along the way. I'm sure that Vienna is proud of many things but the one thing you can not escape in Vienna is Mozart. There are concerts and operas every night in Vienna and the downtown core of the city is swamped with people dressed like Mozart selling the tickets. We are not really fans of classical music or opera so against the recommendations of over a dozen Mozart impersonators, we decided to skip the opportunity to catch a concert and instead sampled one of the other classics of Vienna, the Sachertorte.