Posted by inka on Apr 26, 2012 in Austria
I grew up in a ‘Kaffeehaus’ culture. Starbucks at all weren’t even a blip on the horizon. You went to a café to meet friends and sit in style. Or read a book or the paper for as long as you pleased. Nobody would have dreamed of eating and drinking out of plastic. The cakes you took away with you were lovingly placed in a box, wrapped and adorned with a bow. Not thrown helter skelter into a paper bag which becomes a soggy mass in a matter of minutes. I have to admit, I still hate any kind of self service joint, although it can’t always be avoided.
Luckily, it isn’t as if the Kaffeehaus culture has vanished. It is alive and well and two of my favorite examples are to be found in Italy and Austria. In Venice and Salzburg to be precise.
I visited Venice’s Caffé Florian for the first time during carnival last year. Which gave the place a special magic, but even in ‘normal’ times it’s the epitome of an elegant café. Here is a bit of history.
Opened on December 29th of 1720, Caffe Florian is a contender for oldest coffeehouse in continuous operation. Originally is consisted of only two rooms, but successive owners (most of them family ) expanded the premises to include the Hall of Illustrious Men, the Chinese hall, the Hall of the Senate and the Oriental Hall. Located in the arcade which surrounds Venice’s Piazza San Marco, the café became a meeting place not only for the rich and famous like Goldoni, Casanova, Goethe, Lord Byron or Marcel Proust but for citizens from different social classes. It was one of the few places where the new Gazzeta Veneta could be bought, read and…discussed. True, it’s also a tourist attraction, but basically it remains a Venetian meeting point. You can listen to the piano player and enjoy wonderful cakes and of course, the world famous Italian ice-cream.
Caffe Florian during carnival
Piazza San Marco
No less fascinating and enjoyable is Salzburg’s Café Sacher. Café and hotel are side by side and it opened in 1876. The terrace is overlooking the River Salzach but I like best the indoors and the Wall of Fame
. Not to mention the famous Sacher torte, a chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam. The cake is actually older than the café, having been created by Mr. Sacher in 1832 when he was a humble apprentice at the court of Fürst Metternich. Having been asked to dream up an especially delicious desert, he had the inspiration for his chocolate and apricot cake. A concoction I enjoy every time when I visit Salzburg.
Posted by inka on Apr 8, 2012 in italy
I have to thank Sophie of Sophie’s World for alerting me to the fantastic competition ‘Go with Oh’ has on. You can become their autumn blogger by entering the competition and following the rules. Then, if you are lucky, you may be the chosen one to spend a whole month in the European city of your dreams and tell everybody about your experience and adventure.
I would love to go to Venice. I have only been once before, on the occasion of Carnival and, apart from joining in the festivities, like attending the opening ball in a palazzo and strutting around in my costume, I haven’t had much opportunity to visit the places in Venice I have dreamed about for a long time.
- Carnival in Venice
- 1 Having chocolate cake in Café Florian
Every big city has an emblematic café or restaurant no self respecting visitor can pass up. Venice is no exception. Café Florian under the arcades in St. Mark’s Square is the place where Tout Venice stops by for coffee, chocolate cake and to see and be seen. This pastime has a very long tradition, as Café Florian first opened its door in 1720 and the establishment is a contender for older coffee house in continuous operation. Artists, writers, painters, journalist and other celebrities frequented Café Florian since the beginning, among them Goldoni, Goethe and Casanova, the latter maybe attracted by the fact that the Florian was the only coffee house which allowed women.
It’s not only the drinks and cakes which make the Café attractive but also the opulent decorations. I want to look at the Sala degli Uomini Illustri, the room of famous men, depicting portraits of the 10 most famous ‘sons’ of Venice.
2. Going on a Mystery Tour
Venice is nearly an epitome of drama, intrigue and mystery. Her grand palazzi as well as the narrow alleys, the countless canals and dark squares evoke images of conspiracies, murder and mayhem, of bodies floating in the Laguna and masked men and women hurrying along under cover of darkness. To my delight, I saw a Mystery Tour on foot advertised, the tour guide being an actor in period costume. Hearing the tales of the past, finding Casanova’s hiding places and much more is an adventure I’d love to experience. The tour will lead into hidden corners of Venice a visitor might never find on his own.
- Guide for the Mystery Tour
- 3 Watching the glass blowers on Murano
In 1291, when glass making already had a tradition in the city of Venice, the Venetian Republic ordered all glass blowers to move to the island of Murano for fear of fire to the many wooden houses from the furnaces. That’s when the history of Murano glass really began. The artists invented the finest methods to produce outstanding objects made from glass, incrusted with gold thread, multi colored, imitating jewels and incorporating enamel. Their craft was passed on over the centuries and to this day, Murano glass is appreciated and collected all over the world.
Glass sculpture in Murano
I want to see the glass museum in the Palazzo Giustinian and to watch the glass blowers in fascination as they produce the most delicate vases, flowers and chandeliers out of a red hot lump of glass.
4. Rialto bridge and market
The Rialto bridge is one of the architectural icons of the City of Venice. The current stone structure, consisting of two ramps leading to a portico in the middle, dates from 1591. There were a few predecessors to the current bridge, the first a floating bridge and the others wooden bridges which burnt down. The importance of the bridge increased with the expansion of the Rialto market, a paradise of the freshest fruit, meat, fish and vegetables and a place no self respecting Venetian housewife will ever pass by when shopping for the ingredients of the daily meals.
Having the chance of living in Venice for a month in autumn/winter, when the summer tourist hordes are gone and the locals have reclaimed their city, is a unique experience to live, shop and cook like a Venetian. I want to rub shoulders with the haggling shoppers and to taste the samples, proffered by the vociferous vendors. Then I want to cross over the Rialto bridge with my string bag full of the freshest delicacies and enjoy the splendid view of the palaces lining the Grand Canal. And along the way, I might make a few more purchases at the shops and stalls which line the bridge.
5. Enjoying an opera at La Fenice
I love opera. The music, the drama, the costumes and I can’t think of a better venue that Venice’s opera house: La Fenice. Not least, because the building itself has plenty of drama in its past. Again, fire was the culprit. Twice the opera house burnt down and then, in 1996, disaster struck again. This time it was arson, two electricians deliberately caused the fire because their company was facing heavy fines over the delay in construction work they were carrying out on the building. They went to prison and yet, again, La Fenice rose from the ashes to open with La Traviata in 2004.
Using old plans and photigrphas, the opera was rebuilt in the original style, which pleased many but annoyed a few who thought Venice should have used her spirit of self invention and design a totally new opera house. Many famous names of the world of opera , in particular that of Verdi are connected with La Fenice and I’d love to dress up and enjoy an evening of Italian Opera at its best.
Apart from my five favorite spots there are of course St. Mark’s Squre, the Palace of the Doge, the length of the Grand Canal, a ride with a Gondola, a visit to the cemeteries of Burano and much much more to see and do in Venice. A month will fly by like a day.