113 – A Weekend in the Imperial Capital

This post is complementary to a previous visit to the former imperial capital. This time the travel purpose was not tourism as such, but a surprise appearance at my father’s birthday do. A little bit of tourism was involved, of course, and some fine dining, as any important birthday would require. I booked at Silvio Nickol at the Palais Coburg, outstanding location and an impeccable service, however, two months later I cannot really recall much about the food, which may be admittedly owed to the fact that my mum kept passing her wine pairing to me, so I was a little jaded by the time desserts were served. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with the restaurant, the two stars were perfectly justified, just nothing memorable. Lot of edible flowers. Well, I guess all flowers are edible, although I probably would not risk nightshade blossoms on my plate.  And of course, the double wine pairing was a nice touch. Cheers Mum.

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On the other hand, I also had the pleasure to eat in the one starred Blue Mustard, which has since unfortunately closed for refurbishment. Possibly much needed refurbishment, as the entrance to the restaurant evoked the Sopranos’ Bada Bing! a little, but once inside, the food was exciting, the wine list contained but interesting and Austria-centered, the service attentive but discreet, and the final bill very reasonable. Hopefully they will reopen soon to the same (or better) standard.

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A little bit of touristy stuff, that in parts did not happen the last time. Visit to St. Stephen Cathedral (including the bell tower). An obligatory return to Belvedere to admire the  (slightly creepy) Kiss. Does anyone else think the Kiss is creepy? I get it, it’s big and gilded  and shiny and it has a kissing couple, only the couple does not quite kiss. The lady in the painting looks a bit uncomfortable, as if the guy was kissing her against her will. Judith is my personal favorite. That’s a woman who’s just cut someone’s head off and her expression is saying: “The arsehole had it coming. Anyone else dares messing with me?”

We spent a day in Schönbrunn palace gardens, ZOO and greenhouses. The royal palace is certainly impressive, if a little antiseptic. No photos from the ZOO, as disturbing animals behind bars feels like adding insult to the injury, with exception of the shagging turtles, as they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Follows a little exercice de style in flower photography. They say that the best lens is the one you have on you. This may be true, but I don’t think this rule includes attempting to take macro photographs with a portrait lens, unless I say it was done on purpose, whatever the purpose may be.

Last day, a visit to the Albertina museum. It is a tough job to pick a museum in Vienna if you only have time to visit one, but Albertina has two rather persuasive arguments: an impressive collection of over one million drawings and prints by anyone from Michelangelo to Schiele (Don’t worry, not everything is on display, just two rooms of absolute highlights) and the extraordinary Batliner collection, a private art collection of a Liechtensteiner  (I had to google the demonym) slightly dodgy lawyer Herbert Batliner, that covers anything from Monet to Picasso (and beyond), now on permanent loan to Albertina.

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Fun fact (given we are talking about dodgy countries): Liechtenstein and Switzerland (by extension of the pre-existent treaty between the two countries) were the first two countries that (roughly over 900 days after the referendum vote and roughly 50 days before the original Brexit date) the UK triumphantly managed to reach a post-Brexit trade agreement with. As of May 16 – some 50 days after the original Brexit date, the number of regions that are covered by some sort of agreement with the UK contains trading giants such as Palestinian Authority, Faroe Islands, Seychelles, Fiji and a handful of Caribbean tax havens (so, with Switzerland and Liechtenstein in the group, can you see a pattern there?). In case it still surprises anyone, it seems that Liam Fox has his priorities very clear:  “We need to make sure our offshore funds are safe and easily accessible in case all hell breaks loose here in Blighty. Fuck trade, we take care of our own first. Change that: we just take care of our own, full stop.”  How did I get here? Oh, the art collection of a man in charge of private wealth management of people implicated in drug crime and money laundering (although, that is apparently not a criminal offence in Liechtenstein).  Silver lining: money made from helping prominent Tories (and others, I’m sure) to avoid tax is invested into fine art, and you can admire some of it in Albertina.


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