Tag Archives: wines

Visiting Mikulov, Czech Republic

We just got back from a short trip to Mikulov, Czech Republic – a trip that we’d highly recommend.

Mikulov is a wine town surrounded by beautiful hills just an hour north of Vienna. It is small enough to be relaxing but not so small that you have seen everything after an hour. It is popular with hikers and bikers, but since we had two small children, we spent most of our time exploring the chateau and walking around the town.

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By way of comparison, Mikulov isn’t as stunning a Cesky Krumlov, but it’s much more authentic and lacks Cesky’s so-perfect-you-feel-like-you’re-at- Epcot Center feel (i.e. Czechs actually live there).

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You can see Mikulov in one day, but we decided to spend the night so we’d have time to relax and explore the grounds of the Lednice Chateau , which is roughly 20 minutes away. We walked around one of the lakes, but we will take one of the boat or carriage rides if we ever go back. The grounds are huge. (Note: there’s an inexpensive parking lot across the street from the chateau and plenty of restaurants in the area.)

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While we did not visit,  there is also a chateau in Valtice and a lake just north of Mikulov.

If anyone is interested in spending the night in Mikulov, Czech Republic, I would recommend our hotel Lormuv Dvur. It is a beautiful 1-bedroom house that has a large kitchen, family room, and yard with a small pool and sandbox just for your use. The bedroom has a king and a twin bed and the family room has a pull out couch. The owner provided a crib… and left us homemade bread, apricots, and whole milk for the baby. It worked out well with kids (though we had to move many of the decorations of our one-year-old’s reach)… but I’d also recommend it for folks travelling without kids.

Submitted by Laura

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Sturmzeit!

Those of you new to Vienna are in for a treat. Around the end of summer, signs in café windows begin to advertise “sturm.” Sturm stands dot the first district, it’s on offer at beer gardens, and there are even entire refrigerated bins dedicated to it in some of the bigger grocery stores (Merkur on Krottenbachstrasse and Interspar in Q19, for example). What is this mysterious “sturm,” you ask?

Sturm for sale!

Sturm for sale!

Sturm is partially fermented wine, and is available in red and white. You can see in the picture that bottles of sturm are topped with tin foil rather than capped or stopped like other wine bottles. This is because the liquid is still fermenting: it’s still bubbling away even after it’s been bottled for sale. It tastes somewhere between grape juice and wine, in that it’s sweet but not as sweet as straight juice. It also comes in non-grape varieties:

Raspberry and apricot sturm

Raspberry and apricot sturm

If you are dying to try some sturm right this very moment, the Gelbmanns Gaststube at the Rathaus Film Fest is selling it by the glass. Otherwise, it will start to pop up around the city within the next couple weeks. Enjoy!

Rathaus Film Festival

One of the highlights of our past two summers in Vienna has been the music film festival. A large screen is placed in front of the Rathaus, and hundreds of chairs and bleachers are put out so people can enjoy the music films that are projected onto the screen. The music films are shown nightly at sundown, and range from classic operas and ballet performances to modern jazz and rock & roll.

Get your free musical performances here!

Get your free musical performances here!

About 20 food stands are set up along the path leading from the ring road to the front of the Rathaus, representing culinary delights from both Austria and as far afield as Australia. Each booth also offers a couple signature cocktails, and the Ottakringer Brewery has a stand offering an amazing variety of brews. There are also a couple ice cream and coffee trucks interspersed with the food stands. The “culinary strasse” is open from 11:00 a.m. to midnight.

Food stands and seating

Food stands and seating

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  • Visit the event’s website (German)
  • Visit the Vienna tourism board’s website (English)

 

Review: Restaurant Noir

Imagine impenetrable darkness. Have you ever done a tour of a cave where they turned off all the lights and it was so dark that it did not matter if your eyes were opened or closed? That kind of darkness. How would you feel about eating a five-course meal in such darkness, pouring your own beverages and feeding yourself soup? In my case, it was the most fun I’ve had in awhile.

Our friends from the States are visiting for a week and we made reservations at Restaurant Noir, located at Neubaugasse 8 in the 7th district (close to the aquarium).  The restaurant does themed dinners and last night’s theme was stories from the “1001 Arabian Nights.” When we arrived we were seated in a (lit) lounge, offered some “Oriental” tea, and given the menu so we could choose our “menu” (in the Austrian, “set meal” sense of the word).

We were not choosing what we were eating, mind you. There were five options: vegetarian, fish, poultry, fish, or mixed. There were clues about what the courses were and the language was phrased within the style of the evening’s dining theme, but you did not know exactly what you were getting. You told the host whether you wanted three, four, or five courses and which option you wanted. (I went with the fish, in case you were dying to know.) This was also the time to tell the staff if you had any allergies.

Once you ordered you were asked to leave watches, phones, etc. in a locker in the lit area of the restaurant, then the guide came to gather up all the people being seated at the reserved seating time. The guide was a blind person who led the diners down a pitch black stairwell into the (also pitch black) subterranean dining area, brought your plates and took them away, provided more drinks as necessary, and brought you back to the lit area at the end of the meal. Everything else (pouring the drinks, eating your meal) was up to you.

I’ll admit that being utterly unable to see was freaky at first, but the guide was very comforting in many senses. She had a great sense of humor and made us laugh to break up the anxious mood, and she offered sugar water to help relax people who were having a harder time to adjust. She also brought us “puzzles” to solve in between courses: bags of spices to sniff, toys to identify by shape, different type of textiles to feel.  There was also an auditory show between the courses, but it was all in German so a lot of it was lost on us.

All this is to say that it was a very fun experience. But what about the food? My god, the food! Let me put it this way: after the first course I gave up all attempts to use utensils and greedily ate up my food using only my hands. Even better, I was able to give in to my long-held desire to lick my plate clean because no one could see and judge me. From this you should infer that the food was that good. Everyone at our table was in agreement that the food was phenomenal.

After we were done (it was a two-hour experience), the guide led us back to the lit area of the restaurant. The staff served us coffee and we talked about what we thought we had eaten, and what we thought the various spices, toys, and textiles were. The guide then gave us pictures of everything that we ate, and this was the most interesting part of the entire evening. In my case, I had eaten an entire lemon’s worth of lemon wedges without having a clue.

I also ate: pea soup with a shrimp skewer, a salad topped with smoked salmon and green beans, salmon with rosemary potatoes and lemon wedges, grilled shrimp and snow peas, and chocolate mousse with cherries and red chili powder. When we left the restaurant satiated and happy, we were given bottles of the restaurant’s house white wine to take home with us.

This was a fantastic evening, though given its price tag (340 Euros for four five-course meals and two bottles of wine) I think it was a once in a lifetime experience. I highly recommend going to this restaurant with some old friends for a fun evening with great food.

for more information:

Mailberg

My in-laws were so interested in our overnight stay at a castle for my daughter’s birthday, that I arranged for us to stay overnight at a different castle during their recent visit. This time we stayed in Mailberg, a village in Austria’s Weinviertel about an hour north of Vienna and very close to the Czech border.

Schloss Mailberg

Schloss Mailberg

There was a decent-size playground a two-minute walk from the castle’s property, which is where we began our visit. After the kids ran out their excess energy, we walked around the town. The town was small and the walk didn’t take long, but it was interesting to see what an old wine-making village looked like. The village was surrounded by vineyards, and between the sunshine and the newly-bloomed flowers it was a beautiful walk.

Mailberg

Mailberg

We had lunch at Weingut Hagn, which served the wine it produced along with some exceptionally delicious food. The outside patio was at the foot of their vineyards, and the kids had fun running through the vineyards and checking out things such as the old wine press. We finished our day by walking on a path that began on the outer perimeter of the castle’s wall, then continued through a small wood and the open fields. It was a great, relaxing day.

That night we ate at the castle’s restaurant, Schlosskeller Mailberg (here is my description of what I had to eat there). The restaurant was located right outside the church, whose door was open for evening mass. We ate delicious food and washed it down with local wine while being serenaded by the boys’ choir. A great way to end the day!

The cost of the overnight stay at the castle included breakfast and a castle tour. When I made the reservations I mentioned that our German wasn’t great, so the staff arranged for us to have a private tour of the castle in English. The tour conveniently ended in the castle’s vinothek, where we could purchase any of the local wines featured on the castle restaurant’s menu.

Vinothek at Schloss Mailberg

Vinothek at Schloss Mailberg

for more information: