Pretending to be classy in Vienna: Mozart, Monet, and Cafe Sacher

I feel like my personality changed with each city I visited in Europe, just like how the people changed. I’ve always wondered –- is it the city that makes the people, or the people that make the city?

Vienna was classy, refined. “Refined” might be an inaccurate word, actually…it belittles the qualities of Budapest and Prague. But it’s the place of strudels and Mozart and the Hapsburgs, and these things stayed at the back of my mind wherever I went in the city.

Cafe Sacher

We went to Cafe Sacher, a traditional Viennese coffee house. Its Sacher-Torte has been around since 1832, a chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam whose history is as noble as its commissioner.

One evening in 1832, Wenzel Clemens Prince Metternich ordered the creation of a special dessert for his fancy guests. But with his chef unavailable, the task was delegated to a 16-year-old apprentice named Franz Sacher.

Imagine the pressure…and then the relief when the dessert turned out to be a total success.

I don’t even like apricot, but who turns down a $6 piece of cake and an equally expensive cup of coffee?

Picasso and Monet at the Albertina

Claude Monet was an artist I admired in my teenage years, although I knew nothing about art. Still, when I saw that a Monet to Picasso exhibition was being displayed at the Albertina, I decided I had to go.

But not until after an afternoon of shopping. When I finally arrived at the gallery, I had just an hour to run through some of the greatest artistic works of all-time.

I entered the first room of the exhibition and immediately headed for the first painting I saw.

“Oooh…” I cooed.

“That’s not Monet…” Natalie said.

“Oh. I knew that,” I said.

With the clock ticking, we dashed through Degas and Monet and Matisse and Mueller. I scribbled down notes and pretended I could read the German script underneath Degas’ Two Dancers and Emil Nolde’s Moonlit Night.

By the time we got to Picasso, we had to leave.


One of our activities incorporated a tour of Swarovski Wien & Essl Museum. I was too terrified to touch anything, but dazzled by the jewels around me and the skill it took to perfect them. People can afford this stuff in real life? Who decides they want jeweled panthers?

Our guide was an eccentric blonde lady who pointed at an art display on the lower floor and asked us what we thought of it. It contained a plaid egg sprouting fuzzy pink grass, a carousel horse, a giant silver skull, and a gorilla’s head perched atop a stick.

“Interesting…” said Levi, not all that convinced.

“Yes, some people think it is shit,” she replied.

Mozart Concert at Schoenbrunn Palace

I don’t know much about classical music, but apparently the Mozart concert at the Hapsburgs’ former summer home of Schoenbrunn Palace is the best in town. I can’t compare it to anything else, but I’ll take our guide Hugh’s word for it.

With warm summer air creeping in through open doors and Japanese tourists snapping photos despite the “no photography” policy, the combination of violin and cello and that delicate triangle was like the chocolate icing on the Sacher-Torte of my day. And what do you call the triangle player, anyway? Is he a trianglist? Beater of triangles? Do you attend music school to do so?

The one folly of our entire group, however, was that we had visited the Alt-Wiener-Schnapsmuseum beforehand, and had downed several free shots of Absinthe. Our heads nodded in time with the music, because completely wrapped up in the music of masters, we kept falling asleep…

This trip was sponsored by Contiki, but all opinions are my own unless held at knife point.

  • July 17 2012

    Looks like it was a good trip! I found Vienna pretty boring when I visited last summer. But I did like how much of an artistic city it was.

    • July 24 2012

      It was definitely a different feel than the other Eastern Europe cities I visited! But I’d love to spend more time there

  • July 17 2012

    I want a jeweled panther, damn it! New life goal.

  • July 18 2012

    And what do you call the triangle player, anyway? Is he a trianglist? Beater of triangles? Do you attend music school to do so?” Bah ha ha ha. LOVE IT. I also forgot I told you it “wasn’t a Monet.” NICE. I wish we had more time at the Albertina. I wish I had more time to talk to that cute security guard.

    • July 24 2012

      I KNOW! Could have spent all day there. But even an hour was fab!

  • July 18 2012

    Pretending? You are living it up!!! This blog always inspires me. :)

    Cathy Trails

  • July 21 2012

    I don’t know what you call a triangle player, although I had to play one for the hour or so I was in band in middle school. I thought I was going to be a ‘drummer’. Nope. Spent all my time running around beating triangles and tinking finger symbols. Doesn’t really do as much for creating a bad *** reputation as you might expect. :)

  • July 23 2012

    I felt that way about Austria as a whole, it was a bit too refined for me. I missed the grittiness of South America.

    • July 24 2012

      I loved Austria, but preferred Budapest & Prague…exactly for the reason you cited, grittiness!

  • July 28 2012

    I like that art display…the giant silver skull is kind of great!

  • August 20 2012

    Great article and I like your style of writing..awesome!!!

  • August 22 2012

    Your photography is lovely. I’m definitely hooked. I pinned the cafe picture on Pinterest:
    XO Suzy

  • May 12 2018

    Vienna is my favorite! If I could move anywhere tomorrow, it would be there. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, it sounds like an amazing experience.

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