SUNDAY AFTERNOON IN VIENNA
After an exciting morning of performances and stopping to re-fuel at Cafe Central coffee house, I saunter along quiet Sunday streets towards Vienna’s Old Town.
CURIOS & QUIRKY OFFERINGS IN VIENNA’S OLD TOWN
The smell hits the back of my throat and forces my attention. It’s that rich, sweet musty scent of tobacco. My nose is led to a vintage tobacco shop; a tiny box of a shop tucked away in the corner of a cobbled back street. The window’s crammed full of old smoking pipes, sheesha pipes and smoking apparatus from all over the world. Further along the same street, I’m charmed by an antique map and navigation shop. Globes and old maps from all eras of history are on sale, with bronze compasses and vintage navigation tools. I’m in love. Vienna’s Old Town back streets are bursting with charm and character.
Narrow cobbled streets & alleyways intertwine, revealing old pubs, coffee houses, restaurants, museums and galleries.
Schonlaterngasse, Jesuitgasse and Backerstrasse unwind to reveal age-old ancient churches and monasteries mixed up with vintage smoking shops and olde book shops with that deliciously musty smell.
It’s dark now. I’m transported to a London winter in the 50s; bitter cold, old street lighting and an edgy air of danger. But in Vienna, I experience no such danger, even exploring the streets of the Old Town alone at night. As I navigate the quiet back streets, I stumble across ‘Alte Schmiede.’ The lights are on and the door is open, on a Sunday evening. That alone is reason enough to enter.
Posters festoon the walls on the ground floor. I spot a sign pointing down the winding stairs into a basement. It translates from German as ‘To the concert, downstairs, free entry.’ Of course, I wander down and straight into a group rehearsal. Half an hour later, a group of musicians will perform a free concert. And I’m in. I’ve wandered straight into the Arts Association, a non-profit organisation encouraging arts of all kind.
‘SPRECHEN SIE DEUTSCH?’
It’s an intimate basement setting; a tunnel-feel with exposed brickwork. Before long, the entire basement is full of people of all ages and backgrounds. The one thing they share is conversational German. I don’t. This means I miss all the jokes that make people laugh between pieces of music, as the band introduce each piece of music. I’m tempted to laugh along but fear getting caught out, so decide not to and sit there slightly embarrassed instead. Still, the performance is entertaining.
CLASSICAL QUINTET WITH A TWIST
The unusual classical quintet band comprises a Violinist, Harmonica, Bass, Trombone and Cello player. The Trombone is hilarious, providing laugh out loud moments. The musician makes a character of his instrument; I imagine a miserable, whinging old man! Unexpected and engaging…and free; this is a fantastic local experience I’d highly recommend. As a solo female traveller, I’m also a little proud of myself for not walking away from fear of feeling shy or out of place. Little victories!
GOURMET MEAL IN AN UNLIKELY SPOT
Late in the evening by the time I leave and the hunt is on dinner. I’m after somewhere cute and cosy with good hearty food. On Backerstrasse, I spot a cosy snug restaurant called ‘Specht’ – the Parmesan and Thyme Risotto is calling me in. I enjoy a glass of red wine and feast on a most surprising meal. The Risotto arrives jet black. It’s dyed with squid ink & topped with King Prawns. The flavours are divine! Inside, the atmosphere is very local, which is just what I was hoping for. In the basement, they also have a cosy lounge bar with quirky caricature portraits on the walls.
Specht is a real gem and a treasured find. I’d wholly recommend it for somewhere local, unusual and packed with character and flavour.
It’s been a Sunday to remember and cherish. Crammed full of all my passions in life, I feel totally, completely satisfied to the core. Complete with unintentional delights and surprises as well as the pre-booked exciting ones, it has been soul-nourishing Sunday in Vienna!
- ONE NIGHT IN VIENNA: 1st time solo female travel Austria (ani-shah.com)
- For Every Sight, a Coffee House: Vienna Insider Tips 1 (ani-shah.com)
- Ten of the best alternative music venues in Vienna (guardian.co.uk)
- Secret London: The City’s Best Vintage Shops (onefinestay.com)
- Vibrant Vienna (goudenleven.wordpress.com)