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.

Highlights included:

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:
Spanish riding school:

  • Leopoldo says:

    Din – I didn’t mean to insult Prague… It is beautiful, but the last time I was there (and I’m a back street wanderer in all senses of the words…) I was tripping over other tourists, most of whom were gauche gawpers and ghastly gonadbrains. I felt disenchanted, because I remembered it so differently from my first ever visit there, so long ago… Nostalgia’s a bummer, ain’t it? But it’s still breathtaking in its beauty.

    Lesbian strippers? boring? Not if they can do the two-way tassle trick form the Graduate!

    and March – may your overkill always work for you. I’m experimenting with Daim Blond mixed up with others today…

  • March says:

    Cheez — no, no caution at all. If you do the tourist stuff diligently, you’ll be walking several miles a day. Considering my caloric consumption, I was stunned to discover I returned home at my departure weight.:-? But we love to walk everywhere, so we hoofed it all over the place. Walking in foreign cities is one of my great personal pleasures (right up with eating in them!)

  • March says:

    Mimi — oh, it was wonderful. I could have spent another week there, easily. Especially since that veeeery interesting perfume shop was opening. I have a sinking feeling that one set of bottles I saw through the door was the Micallefs, which I have been wanting to try for ages.

  • March says:

    Sariah — if you have a sweet tooth, definitely schedule Vienna on your future travels. Just the marzipan is elevated to high art. My guidebook has 2 pages devoted to pastries.

  • March says:

    Patch — I’m having pastry withdrawal. What the hell am I supposed to eat here — a Dunkin’ Donut?:((

  • March says:

    dinazad — Prague. Just saying it gives me goosebumps. I threatened to include it on this trip, but he really wants us to go together. A girl can dream.

  • March says:

    Tigs — no way!!! My husband is the real addict, he likes the little wee ones best, packed in olive oil. I’m sure he wishes during his darker hours that he’d married a sardine heiress…

  • Cheezwiz says:

    Welcome back March!

    From the sounds of it, I must be cautious if I ever get to Vienna. With all the tempting pastry, I might exceed the weight limit on the plane-ride home. Your description of the Meindl food emporium has me drooling.=p~

  • Sounds like you had a wonderful time. I love Vienna!

    Nice to see you back.

  • sariah says:

    I’m late to the party – work is killing me this week. Welcome back! Thanks for sharing – I like me a little armchair travel. Arghhh, pastries.

  • patchamour says:

    Hey, welcome home. “And vision of Viennese pastries danced in their heads.”

  • dinazad says:

    You’ll love Prague – I just wish I could show it to you!

  • Tigs says:

    Welcome home March! Sounds like a wonderful trip… Argh, sardines! Are you a little fishy fan? Did I ever tell you my father runs the largest sardine cannery in North America? The herring is worshipped in my family – but not by me, except in an indirect (monetary) sense, since I hate eating them.

  • March says:

    Elle — yessss!!!! The medieval lesbian stripper nightclubs, where saucy wenches bring you tankards of meade in between pole dances… we skipped that, too. We did drink some excellent Belgian Trappist beer in this Belgian/Hungarian (Belgarian?) restaurant near our hotel.

  • March says:

    Tom — the pastry. My sister-in-law was sooooo bored with me and my pastry plans (two+ servings per day). That didn’t include the chocolates and the marzipan pigs and the candied nuts…

  • March says:

    Dinazad — we were staying on the Buda side, and we spend most of a day on foot on the Pest side. I gave it my best shot — and lots and lots of Hungarian florints. We were staying at the bottom of the hill where the palace is, and that was truly beautiful. It was the hustling and haggling that ultimately wore me down; that and the prices have skyrocketed, at least for tourists. Although maybe they’re figuring the average tourist can’t do the conversion math from Euros to HUFs correctly so it all seems like Monopoly money at 210 florints to the dollar… I am, in fact, a fairly generous traveler, but even I have my limits, and $20USD for a 5-minute cab ride just pisses me off.

    Prague I have saved for next year with The Big Cheese. It is one of our long-standing fantasies.

  • March says:

    Robin — I know, I know. Part of my mind just goes dead when I travel. Probably all the blood flow to my stomach.

  • March says:

    Leopoldo — LMAO at the idea of you wearing Blue Agava… maybe some CB Musk on top? My SL experiment started as a belief that SL Chypre Rouge + Fleurs d’Oranger = Mandarine Mandarin. While that’s not quite true, one odd impulse led to another and I’m now wearing layers of (pardon the abbreviations) CR+FdO+MM on my LEFT arm, and MM+Clair de Musc+Chergui on my RIGHT arm. It’s all overkill, but overkill is working for me today.
    See Elle’s comment below — it sounds like it’s been Estonia’d — LOADS of medieval lesbian stripper nightclubs. Somehow I am thinking you’d be bored.

  • Elle says:

    Oh, no! But LOL! Sounds like Budapest has changed since I was there last – gone the way of Estonia w/ it’s medieval lesbian stripper night clubs. Sigh.

  • tmp00 says:

    Sounds wonderful- I’d have gained about 50 lbs amongst all that pastry…:d

  • dinazad says:

    Leopoldo, honey, don’t you say a word against Prague – all you have to do there is step about three yards off the beaten tourist path, and you have the most beautiful city in the world…. wouldn’t surprise me if that worked in Budapest as well.

  • Robin says:

    So glad you had a wonderful trip!

    But gah, let me at those discontinued Carons…you could have made a killing on ebay, if nothing else!

  • Leopoldo says:

    Please share your noxiousness with me – tell me your experiment! I’m sniffing Blue Agava (why that daft a at the end) and cacao on one hand – nice, light, pretty, foody. So not me. I want to be scared by your mix!

    You know, I should go back to Vienna someday. And Budapest used to be lovely – shame about the inexplicable rise of the cheap boobies – it’s been Pragued, I guess.

  • March says:

    Vi — well, they DID sell a lot of stuff. I’m still mad I didn’t bully myself into that unopened store, I’m pretty sure I saw Amouage and Micallef in there.:-w But smelling the Mugler without being arrested was okay. I’m back to reeking of Serge Lutens today — cold and rainy, perfect for Serge. (I’m wearing three in a noxious experiment.)

  • March says:

    Teri — honestly, I think Vienna would be wonderful for pretty much anyone. It would also be a great place to take kids — lots of parks and museums, and the people and transport are kid-friendly.

  • March says:

    Judith — yeah, well, their keyboards are different. So my msgs home would have read funny even if I weren’t lit every evening.

    It was exactly the civilized trip I needed.

  • March says:

    Marina — you. Would. Have. Loved. It. I can totally see you moving into Meinl and eating all day long.

  • March says:

    Elle — Budapest we were a little less thrilled with. Honestly, I think we’re the wrong demographic, judging by all the tourist ads for places you can go drink shots from glasses wedged between the waitress’ breasts… whatever. Some excellent statuary, though.

  • March says:

    P — I missed you too! Looking forward to your exploits on Friday.

  • March says:

    Chaya — oh, it was paradise. I love the way new (to me) places smell. And taste.

  • March says:

    Dinazad — you took me back with your comments. Regarding the ear: much of the Stephansdom is under scaffolding, I believe it is being cleaned. Although given the blackened exterior, I’d be worried that the crud is all that’s holding the outside together. I didn’t see the ear.

  • violetnoir says:

    No, I don’t think Vienna is known for its perfume, babe. That would be….Well, you can fill in the blanks.

    Welcome back, March. I am so happy that you returned safely. We all missed you!

    Hugs and love!

  • Teri says:

    Sounds like a marvelous trip. Vienna has always been one of my aspirational travel destinations as I’m a lifelong fan of Mozart and learned the fine art of Sachertorte and Linzertorte making at my grandmother’s knee.

    So glad you enjoyed yourself. 🙂

  • Judith says:

    Wunnerful, wunnerful! Not only am I repeating myself, I am making typos left and right. 🙁 More coffee!!!

  • Judith says:

    What a wonderful trip!!! All that wonderful food and drink (and, of cours,e culture):d

  • Marina says:


    I am not envious at all. Not at all. :((

  • Elle says:

    Welcome back! 🙂 Sounds like you had a wonderful time in Vienna! I don’t associate scents w/ Vienna either – well, except for food scents. Look forward to hearing about your time in Budapest as well.

  • Patty says:

    Welcome home, I have missed you!!!

  • chayaruchama says:

    Welcome home, sweetie…
    Sounds like you were incredibly restrained on your visit !

    Glad to have you back… please tell us more when you are up to it !

  • dinazad says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed yourself in Vienna! As for your scentless return: some countries are about smell and fragrance, some aren’t. Personally, I don’t think a fragrance could transport me back to Vienna or anywhere else in Austria, unless it were, of course, the smell of food. On the other hand, a cookbook, especially a pastry cookbook, has me back in seconds. A handful of pistachios and a cold, wintry morning has me wandering the Naschmarkt, with the white and gold of the “Secession” rising above it. The reproduction of a Klimt painting, the feel of a rich piece of cloth, the sensuous curve of a marble behind on some statue, the sun on a solidly sumptuous piece of sandstone architecture – all that can bring back Vienna for me. But not fragrance. Which is as it should be. Some cities just aren’t about fragrance.

    Just one question: When I was last in Vienna, there was a life-size fire-engine-red human ear about half-way up the left arc of the main entrance of the Stephansdom. I never did find out whether it was supposed to be modern art or just some practical joke. Is it still there?