I loved Vienna. Why wouldn´t I? It´s full of beautiful architecture, fine art, excellent food, and people who look like they fell out of a Gorsuch catalog. I spent some time at the famed Spanish Riding School with my sister-in-law, who teaches dressage, and we spent plenty of Euros on some trachten mode (no lederhosen, but fabulous scarves, boots, wool slippers, felt hats and capes.) We ate. And drank. And ate and drank. If eating and drinking well were an Olympic sport, I was doing my best to win a medal, although compared to the sybarites around us in cafes and restaurants I’d never place higher than a bronze.
The sounds of the fiacres (horse-drawn carriages) on the cobblestone street outside our hotel at night.
Three stunning Japanese women dressed in what I´ll refer to in my ignorance as Full Geisha, conferring delicately one evening while selecting their pastries at the Sacher café.
The kids with their boombox outside the Stephansdom every day, breakdancing for the tourists to classical music – some Mozart, sure, but also Debussy.
The sweet-sour smell and taste of the mildly fermented grape juice (think hard cider) they call sturm, sold out of barrels on the street in October, which they (and I) drank in absurd quantities.
Sprawling on the grass outside the Hofbergpalace in the sun, watching a single red balloon bounce and spin its way across the endless expanse of lawn.
Shopping at Julius Meinl am Graben, a two-story gourmand paradise that makes our local Sutton Place Gourmet look like the Quik Mart. If you are a foodie and/or interested in high-end grocery shops and ever get to Vienna, go. I came home with various sardines, preserves, pickled oddities, gourmet chocolates, treats in fancy tins and jars, a tiny creamer with their logo, and a longing that won´t go away. If I go to heaven, that store will be there.
I did not come home with any fragrance. Really, I tried. Vienna is extremely cultured, which I expected. But in their way they are also pleasure-seekers to a degree that surprised me. I wanted a perfume associated with my pleasure, the way my tiny bottle of Arancia Dolce from the iPdF store in Florence transports me instantly back to Italy. I smelled a lot of product. Fragrance-wise there are perfume shops everywhere, and mostly what I notice is they carry everything from the low end Alyssa Ashley to the Chanel together. A couple of places have Serge Lutens. The best niche shop (as someone commented last Monday) seems to be Duft und Kultur on the Tuchlauben, near the city centre. I smelled Dzongkha there, and they carry Esteban, Keiko Mecheri, Le Prince Jardiniere, Penhaligon, Rance and some other things. Their shop is beautiful and looks like an old apothecary, with the wooden cabinets.
For the highest concentration of fine perfumeries I would recommend the four-store cluster of: the beautiful Knize store on the Graben (I should have bought the Sec, it smells like incense); Nagele & Strubell store directly across from Knize (where I sniffed the Mugler coffret); the shoebox-sized parfumerie immediately next door to Knize, whose name escapes me (something Sohn) but which is stuffed with a startling amount of unusual fragrances. I almost bought Caterina by Lorenzo di Medici there (the bottle alone is worth it), but for reasons unclear I left without it. The delightful sales person also told me she has some discontinued Caron in the back, information that was totally wasted on me, as you know. I meant to return and get some names, but I didn´t. There was also a parfumerie set to open this week around the corner from the Nagele store, called something simple like Le Parfum, and they looked like they had some very interesting things. I tried, but I couldn´t talk my way in. Maybe next time. After you´ve sniffed and spent yourself into semi-consciousness, go sit at the Meinl café at the end of the block and recover with a café mélange. Then head inside for dinner groceries. You deserve nothing but the finest, and they have it.
Bottle image: www.ausliebezumduft.de
Spanish riding school: srs.at