U-Bahn’ing like it’s my job

Vienna, Austria

After yesterday’s ridiculously packed day, we cut ourselves some slack and slept in this morning before hitting up the gym and walking to Naschmarkt, the largest market in Vienna. Saturday mornings are the busiest time, when vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, as well as olives, cheeses and breads.

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We worked up an appetite walking around before ducking into Naschmarkt Deli, whose glass walls provide a fishbowl’s perch out onto the action. The Turkish breakfast — which included olives, feta and other market vegetables — and a bagel sandwich, whose contents we’re not entirely sure of, were both awesome.

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On Saturdays, at the end of the market, right by Kettenbruckengasse, is a huge flea market. There’s really something for everyone — from war trinkets to old fur coats strewn on the ground — including this guy, selling (quite literally) a kitchen sink.

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We bought 24-hour passes and hopped on the U-Bahn green line to Schonbrunn. Our Sisi ticket, which we bought yesterday at the KaiserAppartements, included entrance to Schloss Schonbrunn, a palace said to be second only to Versailles in its opulence and wealth. Built in 1700, it has some 2,000 rooms and was used by royalty — as well as Napoleon from 1805 to 1809 — until 1918. About 40 of its rooms are now open to the public, which we toured with our ears attached to audio guides as we battled the tour group masses.

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Afterward, we strolled around the gardens, which would have been much more enjoyable had it not been 30 degrees outside. Still, we got a chance to check out the Neptunbrunnen, the Neptune Fountain opposite the palace.

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We walked back to the U, and with a transfer at Schwedenplatz, took the red line to Wien Praterstern. The Prater is one of Vienna’s many parks, dominated by the Risenrad, an old ferris wheel built in 1897. A 20-minute ride aboard the historic cabins offered some great views of the surrounding countryside, including the Vienna Woods.

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Back on the U, we transferred at Volkstheater and took the orange line to Zieglergasse Station for the last attraction on our Sisi ticket, the Hofmobiliendepot, essentially a converted storage warehouse for royal furniture and everyday objects. There are over 6,000 items on display, rows of chairs, coat racks, foot-stools, mirrors and candelabras. With no tourists to compete with, we had an absolute blast here.

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On the U for one last trip, we returned to Stephansplatz and bee-lined to Trzesniewski, said to be the country’s best sandwich shop. If it was good enough for Kafka, it would be good enough for us. The egg and paprika, salmon and bacon and herring and horseradish two-bite sandwiches, washed down with a glass of carrot-apple juice on-tap, hit the spot.

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Meinl is Austria’s answer to specialty food stores like Chapel Hill’s Southern Season (or perhaps it’s the other way around). While it was a bit smaller and didn’t have the same variety, it did have some pretty unique foodstuffs for sale and we didn’t have any trouble filling up a basket.

Back at Le Meridien, it was time to hit the gym again before a late dinner at Cantineta Antinori, a Tuscan winery that has opened a few select Italian restaurants around the world. We started with an antipasto sampler and arugula salad and then split wild boar and mushroom gnocchi. With a couple of glasses of red wine, it hit the spot.

On our walk back, we stopped at Palmenhaus, a bar set in an old restored Victorian palm house. Its high arched ceilings and roaring digital fireplace above the bar offered a perfect backdrop for a Johnny Walker nightcap.

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