arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 15th, 2009 12:10 am)
I slept in a little this morning, caught up on some email, and headed out for the Naschmarkt, which is Vienna's big outdoor food market. I knew it was going to be kind of insane on a Saturday, but that tends to work in the ogler's favor - because shopkeepers can't really hustle you through a transaction or away if there's no way to move any more quickly than a slow mosey.

Herbal and fruit cordials of every variety:

Shopkeepers were a little annoyed that I kept asking for small quantities of everything - usually 100 grams - but there was just so much that I wanted to taste! Even though I only bought a little of this and a little of that, I still ended up with so many bags.

My first stop was at this bakery stall, where I bought one of these almond and chocolate confections. It was so delicious - when I ordered it I had no way of knowing how good the chocolate was, and how thick - how delicious the toasted almonds held together with sticky sweetness and candied orange peels would be. If I'd known, I would have bought two!

I bought some babaganoush and asked for ein stuck of falafel and the woman said "EIN?!" and laughed and took one from the steaming hot bowl, dipped it into tomato hummus, and passed it to me - refusing payment! I thanked her and tucked the baba into my bag, and bit into the falafel croquette - it was easily the best falafel I've ever had. Definitely better than L'as du falafel - this was a thin crisp crust over a piping hot, creamy, mealy interior that was fragrant with herbs and spices. I held my face to the steam and inhaled it like it was incense, and relished every single bite. It was soooo good. Overall, I have to say that you really want to make sure that you shop from the Iranian-owned stalls in the Naschtmarket. They have a totally different cultural spirit of market-based commerce that involves giving stuff to people who buy stuff, and I am all in favor of it. The Austrians didn't do that at all, and they were way less sweet and funny.

I stopped in a cheese shop - you wouldn't believe the intensity of the smell, the olfactory confusion of it - ripe cheeses of every sort, sweet neufchatel with nuts, butter cheese topped with fig preserves, sharp peccorinos and romanos, and pungent blues of every variety, easily hundreds of varieties of cheese. I bought a slice of Saint Agur which was astonishingly good - it's a less salty, creamier Roquefort.

And at the last minute, I also asked for a little slice of Camembert with Calvados (the Camembert is dipped in apple brandy during the cheese-making process). The Camembert is so ripe that it's completely runny - when I unwrapped it it was melted like raclette, and I ate it the same way, scooping it out of the paper with hunks of Turkish bread. Also delicious! 

Next I stopped at an Iranian fruit and nut stall, and enjoyed a lovely chat with the proprietor, a little old Persian man in a huge ushanka hat who has lived in Vienna for 20 years. I bought a bag of raisins and a bag of pistachios, and then he made me a generous gift of a bag full of his best and most costly mixed fruits - huge dried cherries, strawberries, and plump golden raisins, and the most delicious wasabi peanuts and peas I've ever had. I was really touched by how sweet he was.  He handed me one of everything to taste to see if I liked it before putting a scoop in the bag - he was delighted by how delicious I thought they all were (in my family we don't feel at all shy about expressing our enjoyment of food!) and I was delighted by how generous he was - every time he moved to another wooden barrel and held out a new delicacy for me to taste I wanted to laugh and clap my hands like a child. So many flavors and textures, salty and spicy and sweet. That one was my favorite stall, and if I can find or make the time I think I will go back and see him again and buy some more of those delicious dried strawberries.

I also had a glass of very fresh pineapple juice for one Euro.

And I saw a spice seller engaged in a lively trade of spices already scooped into little cups.

There were a LOT of olives. I bought some stuffed with garlic, and some stuffed with almonds, and some stuffed with creamy cheese. They were delicious. It was hard to convince the woman to sell me just a few of each, because she felt pretty strongly that I should buy several kilos. But we worked it out.

The biggest capers I've ever seen in my life, and olives stuffed with *whole Szechuan red peppers*:

Incredibly fresh, barely brined olives.

Calamari stuffed with seafood, tiny sweet red peppers stuffed with tuna salad, various seafood salads, zucchini grilled with pine nuts, and sardines wrapped around fat olives:

Loads of people were buying armfuls of pussywillow branches to take home as a reminder that Spring is very nearly here (and everyone is SO ready for it)

When I got to the end of Naschmarkt, I discovered that there was a freaking flea market at the end of it!!! Oh, man. And my arms were laden with olives and dried fruits and nuts and Turkish bread and a pretty new scarf (5 Euro pashmina-silks? Or something) and a giant navel orange, and cheeses and eggplant and avocado dips and that was my left arm all done holding stuff - and I had my camera in my right hand. But I am not one to ignore a flea market. I am one who hopes she will find a cheap backpack in the fleamarket so she can carry on at leisure!

But it was not a fabulous fleamarket, and there was a very dark mood in much of it, because some authorities had come through checking permits and there had been a lot of gypsies with illegal tables and the tables had been taken away and all their stuff thrown on the ground and some were hauled off and people who were shopping just jumped into the piles of stuff and took what they wanted. It was pretty shocking. I watched the aftermath at one of the stalls and was confused, then I happened upon a gypsy woman standing and making loud lamentations over a pile of (hers? a friends?) stuff, and started to figure shit out. All of this antique and vintage stuff was thrown on the ground and getting trampled. I saved a pretty little handmade matchbox for a game table (a large square box covered with velvet and ribbon, with four little drawers holding with matches on each side). I think it is from the 1920s, maybe a little earlier. I took it right out of the dustbin of the beastly man in city coveralls who was shoveling everything into a dumpster while people squacked and scrabbled on the ground grabbing things up. Grrrrr. Horrible to throw such things away, and horrible to treat the gypsies trying to make a living so badly. Better they should have been fined on the spot than such a terrible fate. For pete's sake, go bother the beggars and fakers, not the people selling goods! I was a little steamed. Of course the non-gypsy sellers in the vicinity were pleased as punch. Gypsies get nothing but grief in this world. Gypsy culture isn't blameless in that, and I don't have any problem with saying so. It's when something is patently injust and counterproductive that I get vexed. /rant

I really liked this painting.

I acquired three things at the flea market for a total of 20 Euros, which is an astonishing bit of restraint on my part. First, the matchbox (free). Second, a single silver spoon with a pleasingly deep bowl and - I think - a depiction of Rotkäppchen - in German, "Little Red Cap" not Little Red Riding Hood - on the spoon handle (5 euros). I dug it out of a box full of mixed flatware and hoped for more - of course it was the only piece. The spoon is by Berndorf, an Austrian maker. It has a bit of tarnish, but nothing serious. There are also two ornate solid brass antique drawer pulls which to my eye are quintessentially Viennese. I haggled for them! In German! How far I've come. Both for 15 Euros. The fairytale spoon is a gift for my father, who I imagine putting it to use in his coffee-making nook as a stirrer. The drawer pulls are for my mother, who will put them to their proper use somewhere. And the matchbox is for me.

I was hoping to find something cute and Viennese and vintage or quirky for my niece's birthday, but nada. I have to find something soon, because the window for getting it mailed is getting smallish. I found some adorable sweaters at the market but they were new and of middling quality and the seller was absolutely insane. She wanted 30 Euros. 30! For a tiny child's sweater! For 20 more I could go buy one from a posh shop near St. Stephans that would be a zillion times cuter. I tried to haggle with her, but she was like "Oh, that is actually a larger size, that one is 35 Euros!" Forget it!

I was so tired and my hands and arms so full that I decided to scrap my original plan of goint out to the Zentral cemetery and picknicking on market fare there, and headed back to the hotel to drop things off, eat lunch in my room, and then go back out. It was the right thing to do. The train ride was really long out there. Like I thought maybe we were going to Salzburg long. And it was evidently going to or from Tackyvania, because seriously, this? Is nothing. I saw lots more that was even further over whatever:

I was really disappointed in the cemetery. No great shakes. A few neat things, like this fairy monument:

Big, but totally flat, and right in the middle of the Vienna airport's eastern and northern lines of descent. I was seeing a lot of airplane belly a lot closer up than I really like to see airplane belly.  Still, I think I am going to probably go back tomorrow if I get done with the Belvedere in time for a side trip back out, although I have now seen the graves of Strauss and Schubert and Beethoven and the memorial of Mozart (the cemetery lost his bones during a reorganization. Seriously. Though supposedly the gravedigger who dug up that plot to make room for a new grave saved back the skull and gave it to a museum).

The position of those naked buttcheeks and Brahms' body language makes me feel like he is thinking "I wish these whores would leave me alone so I could compose some shizzle for rizzle! Dayum. Leave B-Rams be, bitches!"

Strauss' grave is the prettiest.


Beethoven, Mozart, blah. I did not find and thus have not yet seen the gravesite of the composer and musician buried in those hollowed grounds who actually means the most to me. Those other guys are OK, and their monuments are OK. But I want:

Falco. Oh, man. How in love with Falco was I in 1986, 1987, and 1988? A LOT. We did not get MTV as part of standard cable for the first few years I was in high school, so I'd have to stay up so incredibly goddamn late to watch music videos on Friday Night Flight - anyone else remember that?

Oh, lord. It was still infinity times better than that "USA Up All Night" shit that replaced it. I was so glad that we finally got MTV soon after Night Flight went off the air so I could watch 120 Minutes with Downtown Julie Brown instead.

I feel so incredibly old right now. Because that, dear readers, was 20 years ago. Holy hell.

Still: I would like to pilgrimage to the grave of Falco. It makes sense. I might even take a flower. There will, however, be no ridiculousness involving writing poetry on clove cigarettes or weeping openly or whatever it is that people do on the graves of Rimbaud or whatever.

And finally: the best guerilla street art I've seen here. The first picture is of the original, the second includes the satire.

Looks like someone used superglue! And acrylic paper!

Tomorrow I am going to the Belvedere. And possibly back out to the cemetery for Falco, because I have done more internet searchifying on the subject of how to find the grave. There should also be laundry, but hey, guess what? According to Tripadvisor there are no longer any public laundromats in Vienna. I have no freaking idea what to say about that or how or why, but evidently some hotels have laundry rooms for guest use, and others charge out the wazoo for it, and guess which kind I am living in! Ugh. But again: handwashing jeans is a don't, so I may be stuck with the situation unless I want to take a train out to the po' folks suburb and try to find one there. Egads. So there's a downside to being someplace so prosperous. No laundromats. I guess.

This entry took forever to type, yikes. Bedtime!

arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 15th, 2009 11:37 pm)
Another cold, gray, rainy day - I slept as much as I wanted and then ate a brunch of this and that from yesterday's market. I reviled my hotel and indeed all the hotels I've stayed at so far for not providing at least a kettle. I understand they don't have coffeemakers in all the rooms here like we have at home, but no means to even make a cup of tea is just uncivilized.

I went outside. I realized my new scarf and my umbrella are matchy. I took a picture. It's blurry of my face because I thought someone was coming around the corner catching me doing Myspace-style self-portraiture and: embarrassing.

It would be the only picture I was able to take all day, because the Belvedere doesn't permit cameras. At all. Anywhere. Except in the garden. That immediately put me in a bad mood, and I'm still feeling pretty cranky because the pieces that I saw which made the most powerful impact on me aren't available digitally anywhere, at least not that I found (Shana will possibly prove me a liar on this and I'd be glad of it, she seems to find the most impossible things) - studies for paintings in the Mayor's House of the City of Prague that reprent Czech virtues using Czech historical figures in allegoretical settings. They were wonderful. I can tell you they were Justice, Maternal Wisdom, Strength of Purpose, Prepared for Battle, Creative Spirit, The Chosen, Constancy, and Independence. They were amazing. They inspired me with ideas for stories. I would really like some way of referring back to those images, but without my camera...

I was really unhappy. Really, really, really unhappy. I've never been forbidden to take any pictures at all in a museum - usually as long as you're not flashing, you're fine. I guess France and America are more liberal on that policy? The only exceptions I can think of are a few modern art exhibits I went to because the works were still under the artist's copyright. Perhaps it's the same thing with the Mucha, but in the WHOLE museum? Ugh. It turns out that banning photography in museums is becoming the norm. That's a real pity. A digital image can never take the place of the real object. It's not a bootleg! Refusing to allow people to take not-for-profit pictures of things they have seen, are seeing, it just feels wrong to me. I feel kind of bereft.

I did find a few online images of a few things that I saw, mostly thanks to the fabulous Museum Syndicate site:

Cycles Perfecta reminds me SO MUCH of [ profile] galligaskin . It's practically a portrait. 

Some day I am going to make a headdress like this one and wear it ALL THE TIME:

Byzantine Head, the Brunette

My mother had a tin with this on it and I loved looking at all the details. It was a treat to see it in person, in its original color and texture.


For the rest... Hopefully some day I'll see them again. In a book or something. I'm sad. I'll look harder for them later.

It being Sunday and everything in the world closed, I decided to finally check out the down at the heels pizzaria next door to my hotel. It's about what I expected, but it had its charms. For one, the older Italian owner gave me an absolutely GIANT pour of red Lambrusco. It was crazy. It was like two fingers over the half litre mark in the wine glass. I was feeling absolutely no pain by the time I finished it while I was waiting for my pizza (in one of my mental-health-break recursions to the familiar, I ordered the same kind of pizza I always order at home - pineapple and ham). Whle I was sitting there another elderly Italian gent came in - I was deeply, deeply charmed by the fact that he was wearing very fine tailoring of a certain vintage, I think the late 70s? And his umbrella was perfectly matched to his jacket, in an identical  red and blue houndstooth. I was so in love. The jacket was paired with a light blue shirt, a red paisley tie, and a striped waistcoat. I seriously love the Viennese men's clothing. They're adorable dandies - the clothes have so much panache and wit! Because I had been openly gawping at him of course I had to recover so I said "Gruss gott!" and he said "Guten abend!" and the owner said "Buona sera!" and gave him a glass of white Lambrusco, and the dapper gent raised his glass to me and said "Chin chin!" and I said "Cheers!" and we toasted each other and drank. Man, there are times when I really wish I spoke German. This was one of them. This is like the second time I have missed out on getting to talk to an awesome dapper older gentleman.  I probably could have had a go in Italian, but settled for giving him my best smile instead of giving him agita by butchering his mothertongue in his ears right before dinner. 

I do love a glass of Lambrusco. Really any kind of sparkling wine, especially red sparkling wine - which is cold, refreshing, relaxing, slightly sweet but mostly crisp - makes an excellent attitude adjuster at the end of a long, walky, rocky day. (It had a few bad moments - seeing the streetcar doors slam in the face of a 90+ year old woman who was trying to give on nearly gave me a heart attack and made me want to cry at the same time, it was awful - the museum was frankly kind of dreadful, the sort of place where the docents treat everyone like stinky vagrant vagabonds who are going to filch the good silver if you take your eyes off them for a second, and they stare with nasty suspicion and are just generally overbearing - nothing ruins a pleasant art buzz like having your gaze intercepted by someone who is sneering contemptuously at you, ugh - the museum cafe was run by a woman who was in such a foul mood that she was being horrible to everyone, I walked in and picked up a Herald Tribune and a sweet older English couple told me to run for my life!

But all the restaurants in the area were closed, so I had to sit down. She was rude, but I'd been expecting worse after talking to the Brits, so I wasn't put off too terribly by it. The goulash soup was just brilliant, easily some of the best beef soup I've ever had. The cubed beef had been marinated to perfection in just the right ratio of red wine and vinegar and was tender and flavorful, and the potatos were perfectly cooked, and the cubed red and green peppers still crisp, and the broth just of the right thickness and savor. It was heavenly. The coffee was divine. But it was not a good situation in that cafe. She was the only server, and the place was absolutely jammed with Sunday daytrippers, and if you were nice to her it just made her angry, which is probably the mistake the Brits made. The first time she hissed at me when I smiled at her I decided "cool polite" was better than "warm friendly" and after that we got on fine.  I left her a good tip anyway, on the grounds that if I'd been in her place I imagine I'd have made contact with my inner berserker several hours earlier, probably breaking every demitasse in the joint while gibbering incoherently about swarms of locusts and crumbs of torte and how the day of reckoning etc. etc. etc.. She was still valiantly fighting the fight, if not graciously.

Yikes - it's bedtime for Frances! Tschussle!



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