Great video series on Vienna

Published on 18 Feb 2016

It’s no secret that the Viennese are crazy about coffee. Chris spends some quality time at one of Vienna’s traditional coffee houses, enjoys delicious pastries and visits the Vienna Coffee Festival, which celebrates the city’s vibrant new artisan coffee scene. Oliver Goetz from the coffee roastery Alt Wien Kaffee explains what makes a perfect coffee.

Become a part of Vienna’s way of life. In each episode of this series we focus on one special aspect of life in Austria’s capital – and your host Chris Cummins is right on the spot.

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More about Viennese coffee houses…

It’s Green Thursday and all the church bells have flown to Rome

After a short break – I was in Belgium and Holland of which more later – it is now approaching Easter.  In this part of the world, still nominally a Roman Catholic country, this festival is marked in typical Austrian ways.


Copyright L Manson All rights reserved.

Today, for example, because the church bells have rung for the last time until the proclamation of Easter, the hours and times of the church services may be marked by people running around villages and towns with large wooden rattles. If you don’t believe me you can see pictures here

Why green?  well it comes from an old German word which is similar to green and it means mournful or weeping.  This is not accepted by all linguists but seems to be the most popular interpretation.  Despite this, the Austrians do have a tradition of eating green things on this day – especially spinach shown here with egg and potatoes.



By Anna reg (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 at (, via Wikimedia Commons



There is a belief that says ifyou eat green things on Maundy Thursday then you will be healthy the whole year.  Another belief concerns the eggs which are laid by chickens on this day.  They are said to be particularly fresh, will not go off and should not be used as a coloured egg for the Easter celebrations or ‘Eierpacken – egg knocking” It’s  conkers with hard boiled egg.eierpecken

By Anna reg (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 at (, via Wikimedia Commons

According to a recent report, the Austrians buy the equivalent of SIX EGGS per person over Easter – that’s about 50 million eggs.  Cluck cluck.  If you want to know more about the value of Easter to business in Austria – click here

I’ll be back soon with more bunny bonkers updates on Easter in Austria.




Spring in almost here in Schoenbrunn




It is the last day of February and the snowdrops and primulas and daffodils are just about out.


Meanwhile in UNESCO world heritage site Schoenbrunn palace garden, things are looking a little bleaker but it should only be a few more weeks before it starts to get more colour.  Actually, visiting Schoenbrunn is great whatever the time of year and in the winter you can see more of the ‘structure’ of this baroque garden: how the sight lines were designed to stretch along infinity defying axes, how solidly and well pruned are the hedges, what the Columbary  looks like without its leafy setting.


Here is a hedge from a closer angle, together with the aparatus which is used to prune the tall hedges. The design of this won’t have changed for hundreds of years…


Further into the gardens you can get the full effect of the sight lines out to the western side at the Hietzinger gate from the Naiad fountain in the round pool


The skies were very dramatic last week – with bright blue spring skies and billowing clouds.  Schoenbrunn looks stunning set against this backdrop, both from the back


the view up to the Gloriette against dramatic skies.  The court of honour at the front looked rather lovely this day.


The imperial carriage collection, housed in an old riding school was charming in the late February sunshine, as was the Columbary, at the centre of the Schoenbrunn Merry Go Round, or Landtmann’s Jausenstation – an attractive snackbar opening on 5th March..

The highlight today though was the traditional ladies’ cast iron convenience, dating from the early 20th century.  The four examples have recently been renovated, insulated, had 4 layers of paint and had underfloor heating installed at a cost of 429.000 Euro.  If Dr Who was an Austrian women – this would be what she would travel in.









Valentine’s films from Vienna



OK so it’s Valentine’s Day and time to catch a romantic film. Two of my favourites just happen to have a very strong connection to Austria.


Before Sunrise has come of age at 21 this year but still delights and charms. The first of the Richard Linklater trilogy tells the story of Jessie and Celine, who meet on a train and then spend the day and night getting to know each other, as they move through the Viennese cityscape. The trailer gives a taster of Vienna’s suporting actor role as the backdrop.

Discover Celine and Jessie’s Vienna

I love this film because it still brings a smile and it is responsible for making me  fall back in love with Austria. The first time I saw it I hadn’t been to Vienna for years and it was like a sledgehammer to my senses. I have since watched it at least 20 – possibly even 30 times. This is to try to recognise where every scene  was shot. I have slowly worked my way around the city discovering the locations -here are just a few of my photos:

These and/or other locations, I share on my Guided Walking Tour: Vienna in Film – Jessie and Celine’s Vienna.

The second Valentine’s tearjerker has a more indirect connection. The wartime Oscar winner Casablanca. The score was written by legendary Hollywood composer Max Steiner. He came from a well-established Viennese Jewish family with links to Strauss and the Prater amusement park. More on his history and legacy  on the  Hollywood in Vienna site.

The dashing Victor Laszlo was played by Paul Georg Julius von Henreid, a refugee from Hitler’s Nazi Regime  in his homeland. Originally from a banking family in Trieste, then in the Austro-Hungarian empire, his family moved to Viena where he studied under  Max Reinhardt. The young Bulgarian husband, Jan, was played by Helmut Dantine an Austrian also seeking refuge from the Nazis in the US. The head waiter Carl, was played by S Z  Sakall, also a Jewish Hungarian.

Peter Lorre was born Laszlo Loewenstein in Rosenberg in Hungary. However, the most famous Austro-Hungarian was the director Michael Curtiz, born Mihaly Kertesz in Budapest.

Play it Sam. Play, as time goes by..

All hail to the Herring!



Scarcely have the doughnuts/Krapfen settled when the next festive onslaught begins on our stomachs:  It’s Ash Wednesday and you eat Heringschmaus.

Heringschmaus can best be described as a buffet of cold fish dishes featuring herring and other cold fish in various salads. It marks the start of the Christian Lenten fasting season and it is said that the cold fish and the vegetables have a purging effect on a body which may have overeaten or drunk too much at Fasching /Carnival time.


By Andrew Hayward (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The original missal from the church forbade the eating of meat for the whole of lent.  Simple fish dishes were allowed. The richness and variety of the Herringschmaus buffets in the hotels and restaurants of Vienna are hard to reconcile with this idea of simple abstinance.  The buffets or 4 or 5 course menus cost up to 90 Euro per head. Details for 2016 here

Many choose to prepare their own versions with prepared or semi-prepared ingredients bought from markets and fishmongers throughout the city.  No surprise that the Herningschmaus have their own ‘police force’ – just like the Krapfen inspectors of yesterday…..  Delicious recipes can be found in this.  wonderful cookery website

unfortunately, only in German.  But you can enjoy the photos of various cuts of cold fish combined with potato, apple, cucumbers, onion, sour cream and mayonnaise – amongst other ingredients.

This dish was originally just a poor man’s food but today it’s become a gourmet’s delight.


Shrove Tuesday means doughnuts not pancakes!


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It is the final day of the Shrovetide season.  The run up to fasting time of Lent which is traditionally marked in many Christian countries with parades, fancy dress, wassailing and, here in Austria, with the traditional DOUGHNUT a.k.a ”Krapfen”.


There are many stories about the origin of this popular treat.  Did you know that in Germany they are called ‘Berliners’?.  OK so you heard of the time J F Kennedy, the US President declared his support for the cold war stricken city with the famous words ”I am a doughnut/Ich bin ein Berliner”


This German JFK synonym reportedly originated in the artillary section of the army.
A confectioner had been signed up to serve under Frederick the Great.  Although generally unfit for service, he remained in the regiment and had the strange idea of forming cannonballs from dough . However, since the field kitchen had no oven  , he decided to just fry the dough balls in the hot fat .

The Austrians at this point beg to differ. They cite a certain lady cook to the court called Cecilia Krapf. She is said to have created the jam filled fried dough for a court ball during the  Congress of Vienna

These ‘Cilli balls’ were yeasted dough filled with fruit.  During the Congress around 10 million of these doughnuts were eaten.

Sadly there is only a grain of truth in this story, since fried dough balls had been known since Roman times, when they were called ‘globe balls’.   In the 12th century the nuns in the convent kitchens were producing something called craplum or graphun – and this was the forerunner of the Krapfen.  There had been a pastry called a Krapfo since the 9th century and there is written evidence of Krapf-backerinen [dooughnut friers] in Vienna in 1486.  Sorry Cecilia.

Today fasching without doughnuts in unthinkable.  They come with a variety of fillings – the classic apricot jam, or vanilla or chocolate. Topped with caramel or just sugar.  However you will notice that Austrian Krapfen have a light yellow stripe round the middle.  This is because the dough is so light that they float in the fat, rather than deep fried doughnuts which sink to the bottom, they must be flipped.


If you want to try your hand at making doughnuts yourself, following a traditional Viennese recipe here is one from the Sacher Hotel

If you want to sell your doughnuts, then you better be careful that they come up to the exacting standards of the  Vienna Market office.  The 22 or so different manufacturers in Vienna, are quality  controlled by this (MA 59.)
A Krapfen must – if not containing a hole – be filled with apricot jam, which must be at least 15 percent of the whole. For each kilogram of flour, at least six egg yolks must be used.

The manufacturer who claims to make the best Schlemmerkrapfen in Vienna is Groisboeck in the 10th District.


They have a special kiosk open today when they expect to sell 50,000 doughnuts.  They have a super video of their manufacturing process – hang on for the peice to resistance of the filling processs. You can watch it here.


Finally if you want a reminder of your Faschingskrapfen allyear round, you can buy a special container from the Augarten Porcelain Manufacturer

Excuse me while I take a break for a cup of tea – and a Krapfen.