I’ll be home for Christmas

Finally I am back home for the holidays. There is nothing better if you ask me, than being with your loved ones and celebrating with them. I had my flight around one week before Christmas so I had a lot of time to spend with my close ones and to do some baking around the house. There is nothing better than the coziness of your own bed and the smell of freshly baked cookies.

There were a lot things changed around my hometown. I haven’t been home since September and I must say the change was for the good. There were a lot new things – like a huge roundabout, ice sculpture festival and a great Christmas decoration. Well in comparison to Vienna it is pretty much nothing but it was still nice since it is a lot more than last year.

I got the chance to see lots of friends and relatives over the past week and catch up with what’s been happening. The thing when you live abroad is that as much as you want to stay posted with everything happening in your friends’ lives – it is just not possible. Of course you know about the major things and you chat every now and then but still it is covering a lot less than you would want to.

As a matter of fact I am still waiting for some friends to return from abroad and catch up with them as well. I cannot believe it has been another three months away – it seems each time longer and longer. The funny thing is that once you get back home there is this funny feeling about being in your home again. The first two days it is always strange and a little bit weird till you get used to it again.

For example the place in Vienna where I am living is way smaller than the apartment where we live back home. That is why every time I go back it looks a lot bigger than I remember it. Don’t get me wrong – I love the feeling of living in a “huge” house but when you are in the situation of living in a tiny box for most of the year it is a bit strange at first when you are back home 😀

So for now that will be all – I wish you a very happy new year.

 

Enjoy!

IMG_3701.JPG

Vĕc Makropulos – The Premier

Tonight was one of the premiers in the new season in the Vienna State Opera. The funny thing is that I did not actually realize the premier was tonight – I thought it was earlier in the week. So I went there, actually a bit earlier than usual, only to see that there were so many people that I was almost at the end of the line.

Every time I go to the standing places line I always bring something to read with me. It always makes the time fly by and it could be very helpful especially when I have to read something for university. I always try to use up my time as best as I can – doesn’t matter if I am waiting for tickets at the opera house or I’m riding on the tram, I always try to make the best of it.

The opera was pretty nice. If I have to be honest I expected much less I was not very impressed with the music after all of the operas I have heard till now but the staging was not bad at all. Actually it was very interesting. The plot goes about a woman who is more than 200 years old because she drunk a magical potion in the 16th century and she became the best singer. It was quite interesting but you have to see it – it is worth it. Maybe it is not for every taste but still it made an impression to me.

It is written by Leoš Janáček but sadly I haven’t heard anything from him. The one opera that I heard of that he wrote is Jenůfa but I don’t have much more of an outlook over it. I hope I will get to see it in the near future. I still don’t know if I am a fan of Janáček since it didn’t feel so drawn to it that much but still I think I have to give it another chance to amuse me. It will still be running till the end of December so you should give it chance as well.

Enjoy!

makropulos-05-web

Photos:

(c) Vĕc Makropulos/ wiener-staatsoper.at

Wollzeile

If we have to talk about the “shopping streets” of Vienna the big shopping streets like Kärtnerstrasse, Mariahilferstrasse and Kohlmarkt pop in your mind and they could be easily found in every tour guide as the best streets dedicated to shopping. I cannot agree most – if you want to go on a shopping spree and not go around a shopping mall the whole day – these are the right ones for you. But well really want to talk about one other street here in Vienna which maybe stays a bit in the shadows when it comes to famous paths in Vienna but it is totally worth visiting.  It is situated very near to Stephansdom and it leads directly to Stadpark. You would find the famous Aida confectionary, Plachutta and Figlmüller where you can get yourself some delicious Schnitzels and many more.  It is one of the oldest streets of the quarter and it sure is an interesting place.

I was there once by mistake because I took the wrong exit of the subway at the Stubentor station and maybe once more and that was it. Not until two weeks have I finally discovered the beauty of this small street. And now, especially around the Christmas holidays, when everything is decorated, I just feel this is one of the most magical streets in Vienna.

With its small boutiques or pastry shops I am more than sure that it will charm you out with its beauty. Two weeks ago I decided to go around Vienna and take some pictures of the Christmas decorations. I remembered this small street and decided to take a shortcut. It was around 6pm so it was already pretty dark and I was quite amused with all of the lights surrounding me. For a second I thought I was not in my charming Vienna but in a fairytale. I mostly sure it was a Sunday afternoon because everything was closed and it was very quiet and peaceful.  Everything was closed (because that is very normal for Austria on Sundays) and there were just few people gazing at the windows just like me.

You can find a lot of things here. There are some bookstores, one or two organic markets for baking supplies, some pastry shops, two of which I completely felt in love with and many cutlery and home decoration stores. I don’t know what came into me but I was just so enchanted by all of that so I decided to go back there again next week.

A week after, on my way there, when my emotions were cooled down I thought – okay that’s just a regular street, it is nothing special. Guess what – all came back again to me. Of course not that strong because the surprise factor was missing but it was still just as magical as it was before and if not even more. I have to admit – I am sucker for Christmas things and I thought the whole street is dedicate to this holiday but I find nothing wrong with it – after all it is December, way to go Christmas spirit. So if you find yourself around the neighborhood around Christmas, make sure to check out this charming, inspiring street – I’m telling you, you’ll be surprised.

Enjoy!

Two Bakeries in Vienna

For everyone who has been in Vienna it is clear that this is the heaven for baked goods. Here you can find the most amazing pastries, bread and the second best croissants after the ones in France. The most amazing thing is that you can find them anywhere mainly in these two bakeries that are as popular as McDonalds here if not even more.

When I first came in Vienna 12 years ago as a tourist I was only familiar with “Anker” but not far longer after I found out there was a “rival” bakery in town and mainly – “Der Mann”. Till this day I cannot decide which I like better since both of them offer a great diversity and very delicious snacks.

“Anker” is established in 1891 so that means more than 100 years old!  They offer quite a lot of different things but I’ve always seen them as the brand for all those “salty” yummy things like bread, sandwiches, different toast, etc. As well you can find here (which I find very convenient and pleasant) boxes with fresh fruit salads and regular salads like Greek salad or even if you want they offer soup to go. I just think that in the very busy everyday regime we live it is quite nice to have some healthy options in the menu. It is for sure easy to go and grab a Cheeseburger – I’ve done it many times, but a soup to take away is just so much better. And then imagine combining it with one of these salads or some freshly baked bread – yummy! Of course they offer a great deal of sweet treats but I think the prize in this category goes to “Der Mann”.

I think “Der Mann” has been around even longer than “Anker”. Let me quickly check that up – yep since 1860. So that means great traditions, great selection, great place! I enjoy going there and gazing at their windows – they have so many things that you can dribble at, that I just cannot count them. I remember that around Valentine’s day they released a line with strawberry-flavored pastries and well what can I say – that was definitely a dream-come-true. Because I am such a big fan of strawberries I think I purchased most of the things once they were out. I really love their small cakes and pies as well – every time someone invites me to go at their house for a coffee or tea, I go and get ones of these. They look divine, the staff makes sure to wrap them properly and everyone that tried them was as excited as me about the flavor and the look of it.

But there is one more thing I want to rave about that they sell in “Der Mann” and that is their “Panne Oliva”. I am in love with everything containing olives and if you are like me you will love this one. I am quite picky when it comes to bread and I don’t like everything that I try but for real – that is the deal. I suggest you give it a try if you haven’t already. If you don’t eat half of the bread in one sitting I will admit I was wrong but I am ninety-five percent sure you will.

So make sure to stop by those two bakeries since they hold in themselves a large part of the Austrian spirit and mainly – good cuisine, home cosiness and freshly hand-made products brought to you with lots of care and a smile J

Enjoy!

logo_area      logo-kurt-mann-gmbh---co-kg.companybig

Christmas Baking

Every time around Christmas I am in the mood for baking. Once I am home everyone knows – the kitchen is off limits. I have to have my space! Jokes aside but I feel this time of the year is the most perfect one for making baked goods and just for cooking as a whole. I get such an inspiration from everything around me.  Just imagine that – outside is snowing, you are home, cookies are baking in the oven while you are reading a book and sipping on some hot chocolate. Well if that is not a perfect picture I don’t know what is.

I will share my perfect recipe for Christmas cookies and no, I don’t mean gingerbread cookies – everyone is making them. I got this recipe from my grandmother and she probably took it from her mother and so on and so forth but I think these are the most amazing ones. They are very popular in the German-speaking world under the name Linzer cookies. They consist mainly of dough with cinnamon and lemon crust and apricot jam in the middle.

Since my grandmother passed away 15 years ago, no one has made them at home and they don’t really sell them in my home country. It is very funny how I rediscovered them but I am telling you know how it all happened. I think it was June or July and I was at home, already on my summer break and I had nothing to do. So I decided I would just bake something. I went and took out my grandmother’s recipe book and let me tell you that is not a real recipe book. It is mostly a notebook filled out with pages and pages with different recipes, many of which Austrian. I was skipping through the pages when I reached a cookie recipe. Since I was not very experienced in the kitchen I decided that would be an easier thing to begin with.

After I chose the recipe I started preparing all of the ingredients and mixing them according to the instructions. Once I got to the cinnamon I cannot describe the feeling that got into me. I was taken aback! The smell of the dough was so familiar but I haven’t smelled anything like that in the last 15 years – how could it be? I’ve completely forgotten about these cookies obviously and found them again by pure luck. There were like hundreds recipes in that recipe book – it was not a coincidence that I found exactly this one.

So I started making the dough and is not really complicated at all – you just have to have suitable cutter shapes for the cookies but that is a piece of cake – they sell them everywhere apparently. Once I cut the forms out I baked 4 or 5 trays with them. The most amazing thing happened when my father came back from work and the first thing he sensed was that smell. I think I almost saw tears in his eyes – the familiar sent brought him back to his childhood memories and reminded him of his mom. It was emotional and beautiful and ever since I try to make them at least twice per year.

And here you have the recipe which I think now has been in my family for more than 100 years.

Ingredients:

280 gr flour

1 tsp baking powred

185 gr butter

2 eggs

70 g sugar

1 lemon’s zest

1-2 tsp cinnamon (I love it with more cinnamon)

½ jar of apricot jam

Mix in a big bowl all the ingredients except the jam and form dough from it. After you have the right consistency roll out the dough and make sure you put some flour on your rolling stick. You maybe want to have the thickness of 5 mm since for each cookie you need two parts. The cutting forms for a Linzer cookie are normally two – one which makes a whole cookie and one with a circle in the middle (so you can see the jam). Make sure to have equal number of the two halves – one whole and one with a circle. After that bake them in a preheated oven at 180oC until they are slightly brownish (depends on the oven – it takes around 15 minutes in mine). After that take them out and leave them to cool off. Once they are not hot use a knife and spread some jam on the whole cookie and put the one with the circle on top – it is that easy.

Enjoy!

 

Tosca

So yesterday I was at the Vienna State Opera to see Tosca after I saw it in my hometown in the summer. It was part of the repertoire last season but I just did not have the time to see it at the time and I knew it was coming this season again so I just decided to wait. I think I made a good decision because it turn out that I would probably see the opera twice this season because of the cast which is starring.

Yesterday it was concluding Maria José Siri and Roberto Alagna which both are amazing singers and it was a pure pleasure to hear them both sing. I have to be honest I caught myself feeling very emotional and my eyes teared up – the acting was so convincing and as you may know the plot is very dramatic.

For those of you who are not familiar I will briefly explain it – the first act begins in a church where the painter Mario is doing a painting of Maria Magdalena. At the time there is this guy that escaped prison and came to hide in the same church. Turns up both of them know each other and are actually old friends so Mario promises him to shelter him in his house and help him out. After that his mistress Tosca comes into the church. She is a rather jealous gale and she asks him thousand questions who is he there with and why is the woman in the painting resembling a girl from the church. Then he convinces her there is nothing to worry about and send her away.

Because the police are searching for escaped prisoner they come searching in the church. Ahead of the troupe is Sparafucile who is actually in love with Tosca. He decides to find a way to get rid of Mario and make her somehow surrender to be his. He tries to convince her that the painter is cheating on her and now is involved in the crime because he is hiding a criminal. Tosca doesn’t want to believe it but soon they capture Mario and start torturing him in front of her to make them both confess where the prisoner is. Sparafucile tells Tosca that she can save her beloved one if she surrender herself to him. She is repulsed but when he is about to send the guards to execute him she changes her mind. She makes him promise that he will set Mario free and he will give them both a document with which they would flee. Once he singed it he approaches her but she has been hiding a knife with which she stabs him and he dies. At that time Mario is writing his final letter to Tosca (and sings the most famous aria in the opera) because he thinks he will never see his beloved one again. In that moment Tosca comes and confesses everything she has done and tells him that the guards won’t shoot him for real so he has to pretend that he is dying and then they can travel far away. The hug and kiss each other, tears of joy (mine were tears of sadness) and the time for the execution comes. Tosca is observing from aside and sees the whole process. She is talking to herself what a good actor Mario is but once the guards are gone she sees that he is really dead. In the same time the murder of Sparafucile is found out and they search for Tosca so they can capture her. But there is nothing more on this world for her and she kills herself by jumping from the fortress’ walls.

So as you can see it is so dramatic because once you know the plot you can fully realize what is going on. I think for me the most tragic part was when they both weren’t suspecting anything, making promises to each other and plans how they would be together once everything is over and in the mean time I, as a viewer, knew exactly what was upon the two of them. Don’t get me wrong I know it is just acting but first – it looks very real on stage, especially if you have high class opera singers like these ones, which can make you believe that they are in love, dead and going through all kinds of emotions. Second it is just a metaphor for how life really is – you never know what lies ahead of you. One can make plans as much as they want but your future is not always determined solemnly by you.

The setting I must admit was not very impressive – there are far better ones that I have seen in Vienna and I mean there is nothing wrong with it but it is just too classical. I have nothing against it but since we are in the 21st century it is not a bad idea things to evolve and progress with time. I’ve seen successful and unsuccessful modern performances and there is a very thin line between them both but still the same setting since 1958, come on. (Yes, it is really that old, if you don’t trust me you can check it up on the Vienna State Opera website)

And even though I have my little remarks I personally think the atmosphere you get, quality and just experience is the best one can have. You just feel at home. I would highly recommend to go there at least once and witness it yourself.

Enjoy!

16141Tosca

Photo:

(c) Tosca/ wiener-staatsoper.at

Eatalico

I was introduced to this restaurant a while ago by a friend of mine. You won’t probably find it in the hot lists with pizza places around Vienna but let me tell you – they know what they are doing. I instantly fell in love with the place and now I am going to tell you why.

It is actually situated at a very communicative place – right in front of the Neubaugasse subway station – so I find this extremely practical. Every time when I have had too much pizza to eat I can just slide through the stairs into the subway station and be on the tube in no time. Also if the weather is nice – it is quite near Schwedenplatz so normally I would just go for a walk till there or even further to Stephansplatz.

Now let me tell you more of the place itself. Once you enter you smell the appetizing smell of tomatoes, dough and garlic and I swear there is nothing better than that. The dimmed lights and the cosy atmosphere just bring more to the table and make you feel at home or at your grandmother where you are safe and sound, filled with food and just being comfortable. I don’t know about you but I am a total sucker for freshly made food and here you have it.

To your attention – you have on display your pizza while being made. I really love when I can see how the chefs use fresh ingredients, bake everything there and have no pre-prepared things. The menu is very well done – it offers a variety of pizzas, pasta, risotto, appetizers and desserts.

I fell in love with two things from the menu and I admit that they are only two because I order them always and never try the other things – they are just that good. From the pizzas that would be the Eatalico pizza with some rucola, prosciutto, beef mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and parmesan. It is a very settle and classic combination and you if you prefer something not very heavy that is the right pizza for you – it has everything a bit salad, cheese, some meat and as well in perfect proportions.

I cannot skip the dessert that I’ve been loving ever since I tried it – Crema di Fragola. It is so simple and basic but its charm is exactly in its simplicity. Basically what you get is mascarpone and cream with the most delicious strawberries that I have ever tasted since they are not fresh but prepared from a jam or something – I am really not sure. This flavor is further enriched with a pinch of chopped pistachios on top. I cannot find words to describe what a heavenly flavor you get after the first spoon.

But even if you have other preferences I am sure there is something in the menu for every taste. Another thing I forgot to mention is that the portions are rather large, at least for me as a girl. That’s why they offer you the great option of splitting the pizza and even getting two different halves with the person you’ve come. So for example you want the Eatalico and your friend wants the Margherita – no worries, just tell them you want it split in half and they will serve it this way for you.

Enjoy!

http://www.eatalico.at/

Weltcafe – 10 Years

In Vienna near the Campus you would find this coffee place called Weltcafe. It doesn’t look like something special from the outside but I guarantee you – it is always crowded. It doesn’t have a certain generation target and you can see all kinds of people there – tourists, students, mothers with children, elderly – everyone.

It has been around for quite some time now (they celebrate 10 years today) and most of the people I’ve talked to are pretty familiar with it and have been there at least once. It is a very friendly place, convenient for small study groups or just meeting your friends over breakfast or one of their amazing Zotter hot chocolates.

Mainly when I go there I choose their breakfasts. They serve them all day long and they have traditional as well as a bit more exotic pieces. Each breakfast comes with a drink and I always take one of the Zotter ones – mostly the Cashew – Caramel. Really give it a try, you won’t go wrong! The traditional breakfasts include French one (basically an omelette), English and American. Other choices are the Nepalese, Japanese, Oriental and healthy one.

Apart from that they offer a lunch menu for all of the days between Monday and Friday and I must say they are very Vegetarian/ Vegan friendly. Each day they include different meals with mostly three courses – soup, main dish and dessert.

Another thing they offer is the weekend bunch. It is not very pricey – around 15 euros and it is a buffet so it will for sure satisfy your appetite. They run it till 14 pm so there is plenty of time to try everything. Another interesting thing that I’ve observed is that they don’t serve just dishes typical for a breakfast meal but pretty much things suitable for lunch as well like a goulash or lasagna. So if you want to have not only a breakfast but a lunch as well – you get plenty of choice.

To sum up I think there is something for everyone there – the staff is very helpful and polite and you find yourself in a very calm, positive atmosphere so make sure to stop by and have a look at this place – it is worth it.

 

cafe

20151204_134842

Mary Poppins

Okay so this musical has been running for a long time in Vienna. They even decided to continue and keep it running until January. I have seen the performance three times already and I must say it is a very interesting musical, appropriate for all ages and for certain will make you laugh and cry both.

I don’t know how many of you have read the book but that was one of the classics in my childhood and I remember reading all of them within a month or something. It was so interesting that I just couldn’t leave the book. I think there are around 8 books and they are great for younger children. I certainly had quite a good time reading them.

For the older audience I would really suggest the movie “Saving Mr. Banks”. It came out a few years ago and is starring Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson and Collin Farrell so for certain it will catch you attention. It is more of a biographical movie, telling the story of the making of the movie and as well biographical part dedicated to Pamela Travers.

But back again on the musical. I haven’t seen that many musicals in my life but I think I won’t exaggerate when I say that this one is a remarkable piece. I have never seen such performance and such an amazing combination of music, acting, effects and setting. The show is very colourful, positive and certainly makes you feel like a little kid again. Prepare yourself for a very moving night because it keeps you on the edge of your seat. There are many moments when you want to sing along or just clap in the rhythmus of the music – that is for sure.

If you worry that your children won’t understand a word – don’t! The whole musical is translated into German and sung in the language. Of course they offer you the option of looking at the English subtitles on the screen. I guess they did it mainly because of the younger children who still cannot read but for someone like me, who grew up with the English version it was a little bit disappointing. I really expected to hear the familiar words but I guess that is how they roll in Vienna (same situation with the “Mamma Mia” musical).

All in all I feel very satisfied with the musical as a whole. It is suitable for all ages, brings a great mood and I am sure that at least one of the songs will be stuck in your head for the next week. Mine was “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” –yes, just try to say it out loud, I dare you.

Die Fledermaus

I’ve been fascinated with opera for as long as I can remember. My parents introduced me to this art from a very early age. I think I was five years old when they first took me with them at an opera and it was exactly for Die Fledermaus. I remember very vaguely what was happening but I remember I liked it – I liked it a lot. Maybe because of the princess dresses they were wearing or maybe because of the amazing music but I fell in love. From then on I’ve seen more than fifty operas in my life and for a 20 year old person I think that is quite a number.

As Richard Gear’s character in “Pretty Woman” says: “People’s reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.” I really love this quote because it depicts it rather well and that is how it really is. I’ve witnessed many people seeing an opera for the first time and that is really the way it is.

Last night I saw the performance at the Volksoper and I have to admit – it awakened so many memories and warm feelings. The setting is very well made. It is very colourful and moving and keeps you very entertained the whole time. The music needs no comment – Strauss just wrote a masterpiece in which he captured the Viennese spirit and only when you hear it you can really feel it. Of course the overture and the waltz are one of the most famous and loved parts from the opera (mine as well).

As you may all know, opera is not a very cheap art. This would lead to think that with a student budget you have to be careful what you choose to see – not at all. There is this option in Vienna both in Volksoper and Staatsopera, mainly, to get standing places tickets. Very cheap – around 3 or 4 euro and totally worth it. The view you get is great and if you are lucky sometimes you may even be able to sit.

The other option you may choose is to buy a Restkarte (tickets that were not sold throughout the day) although that is valid only for students under 26 years. I chose this option yesterday – it is not as cheap as the standing places but is a very economic option – around 12 euros. I decided to take my chance and purchase that and I got a place at the balcony on the second row – how cool is that? So that way I was able to fully enjoy the performance and let myself sink completely within the music.

And that is trailer for the operette from the Vienna State Opera.