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First Impressions of Vienna, and Emergency Recommendations!

I'm waiting for my dinner to be marinated, so in the meantime...

Where to begin? I'm in Krakow now, but I suppose I'll start with Vienna. I quickly realised that my trip was going to be mainly about street food and sweets, because for a person on a budget that's the best thing to do - proper food in restaurants are a little too expensive whilst good quality sweets are reasonably cheap. I covered most of Vienna in my post above, but what came away with me the most was the awesome gelato. After Vienna, Budapest and now, Krakow, I realised gelato/ice cream is BIG in this part of Europe, though those in Vienna/Krakow proved to be the best so far. Vienna has the most creativity, with the best being from Eis Griessler and Tuchlaben or however you spell it. Demel Cafe had extremely good sachertorte and topfenstrudel, though the ones in Aida were also comparable, so I think it's more for the atmosphere. Needless to say, I enjoyed a lot of the sausages, taking turns to try out all of them. I did try tafelspitz and schnitzel, though it didn't leave much of an impression.

That said, I can't recall much of Vienna apart from these...my experience of Budapest started at Bouchon restaurant, which became my one and only really expensive meal. The pork tenderloin stuffed with foie gras was fantastic, of course, and the staff were incredibly friendly, though I expect they must have felt strange with me being a lonely kid eating there myself. I pretty much followed the dining guide on the website by chowhounder John, trying the fried chicken as well as steam tables on the Central Market Hall (goulash and langos were great!). I must say, though, I suppose Europe must have an extremely high standard for bread and pastries because I thought everything smelt awesome and looked tantalising! I guess in Singapore, apart from the ridiculously overpriced Paul and Maison Kayser, we don't have much of this sort of bread available. Ice cream in Budapest was far more shoddy, with the exception of the extremely good Gerbeaud. I must say, I find it quite cute that in Europe, they make it extremely tempting to order more scoops with 1) ridiculously small scoops, 2) extremely cheaply priced scoops and most annoyingly 3) sugar cones if you order a small quantity. In Budapest, some don't even offer waffles, with the exception of Gerbeaud which has an incredible waffle cone which quite honestly makes even their average orange caramel and vanilla taste awesome. I also tried a royal chocolate, which had average tasting layers but worked very well together. I was also fortunate enough to make it for the Budapest Wine Festival, which resulted in lots of tokaji and palinka being downed on a quite empty stomach because the food was overpriced while the alcohol was free flowing and extremely affordable.

However, the best part of Budapest was self-catering. While I still burst my budget overall for the trip so far, I managed to keep it down thanks to cooking my own main meals a lot of the time. In Budapest, this meant lots of foie gras, delicious seared with paprika and quite honestly I stuffed myself. There's no nice way to say this.

And now I'm in Krakow, and while I've only been here one day, it's already my favourite place, and I'm quite willing to bet that it's the place I'm going to spend most of my money. Firstly, the hot chocolate is FANTASTIC. I gave up in Budapest and Vienna after a few tries at places like Zanoni and Zanoni and Aztek Chocolate, but at Krakow every place so far was a hit. I requested it thick, which seemed pretty much just like fondue chocolate. Pretty good, but made a lot better once I learnt my lesson and tried it with milk. I haven't even had those at places known for it like Nowa Prowincja and Wedel, and it's already been awesome (FYI i tried those at Karamello and another speciality shop which I can't recall. Karamello's was too sweet). I pretty much followed your (kukubara's) blogpost for street eats, trying the Bigos and Zapiekanka at Nowa Placy. Yes, sounds like a lot, but I defend myself by saying that breakfast was a small cup of hot chocolate, and I ate nothing until after the salt mines tour. And to top it off, Krakow's ice creams are incredible. I tried those at a place called fantane (I think) and the infamous ones at Starowiƛlna street, which was TOTALLY worth the trek. Incredible vanilla, average chocolate made good by the generous additions of mix ins and the nuts, which was mind-blowing.

Krakow is also my favourite because it's extremely walkable. Friends often ask me how I eat so much, but it's mainly because I walk everywhere, literally. I haven't taken any public transport yet (not even from the Nepliget to my hostel, which took a little more than an hour and 3 scoops of gelato) except for the visit to the salt mines by an organised tour group, and Krakow is far more interesting to walk around. Stary Kleparz is also my favourite market so far, though I'm still not sure if I got scammed by the auntie at the oscypek stall. 1.50 for a small bit of smoked cheese sounds a little steep to me...

Okay, this has been LONG. I suppose if anyone is still reading at this point, they must be a dedicated foodie and interested in Europe, so I will ask some questions here. I have long ago burst my budget by going slightly nuts over the mozart chocolate spirits in Vienna; foie gras, paprika, pick salami and duck, goose and mangalica lard in Budapest. Still, I feel that it's okay, having spent a little under 400 Euros including accommodation and touristy stuff (salt mines!) for 9 days. That said, I'm still tempted to go nuts in Krakow (and I have Prague left!!!) with groceries, and I've seen stuff that's tempting me already. What should I buy, or not buy? Any advice with the mushrooms, sausages and soup thingys (zurek?) I've been seeing in Stary Kleparz? I haven't even been to the Szabelan liquer shop, which is sure to empty my pockets. Of the polish traditional foods, I'm not really inclined to try the bagels (the quantity kind of makes me doubtful of quality) or the pierogi. Yes, because it just resembles cheap Chinese Jiaozi too much for me, which is pretty much a staple used to fill us up after eating the good stuff. So pretty much what's left for me on my 'must try' list are the hot chocolates and the famous kielbaz guy from the food cart. Oh, and I suppose the milk bars, but strangely I haven't seen any of those around. Come to think of it, I never saw any of the cheap Etkezdek places around budapest either. Not sure if I'm not looking hard enough...

Sep 17, 2012
shubashuba in Europe

First Impressions of Vienna, and Emergency Recommendations!

Thanks Sturm! I didnt have the gelato at z&z's, it was at the gelateria called gelateria hohr market about a short way down. I did try the hot chocolate at z&z's, but it was kind of bad, actually. I've tried eis greissler and tuchlauben, both fantastic! What eisgriessler lacks in variety they make up in quality and sheer volume. I've also tried the schnitzel at schilling on your recommendation, and i'm just about convinced that Viennese sweets are more for me than the mains. It seemed big but was pounded rather flat, and while good I didn't quite get the appeal. Topfenstrudel at Aida was awesome; the chain restaurants in Vienna seem fantastic for chains, and I'm looking forward to the other tortes out there. And I didn't realise I was lucky enough to just be in time for Sturm! Quite refreshing but also rather expensive by the glass instead of getting a whole litre. Pity it can't be stored.

Finally, I know I've mentioned this, but Vienna is my first stop, and I'd just like to know if most of the cheeses, cured meats and pickles can be found in other places like Budapest, Krakow and Prague. I'm close to blowing a whole lot of Euros on such groceries because I've never had such an immense variety available to me before! So is it worth it to buy such goods in Vienna? Thanks a lot!!!

Sep 12, 2012
shubashuba in Europe

First Impressions of Vienna, and Emergency Recommendations!

Hi! I've posted a thread before long ago regarding my pre-college foodie jaunt around Europe, and am currently on my first day! I'd just like to share some first impressions, as well as get some advice.

After touching down, I headed to Cafe Pruckel, because it's a name I've heard around here and also wanted the WiFi to do some googling. The pastries looked fantastic but I was famished - I did not have breakfast and it was nearly three by the time I reached the cafe, so I ordered a main instead. Bad choice, and perhaps my hunger affected my first impression - I ordered the tafelspitz and was quite honestly floored by the small size of it. I mean, I do have quite an appetite but there were only two rather small slices of beef and while it was all quite tasty, I had expected more for 10.50 Euros. I had initially thought Europe would be an awesome place for me because I adore my meat...maybe the cafe just wasn't a good place to have a sit down meal.

I tried my luck with sweets instead and struck gold! Adored both iterations of the mini sacher torte at the Aida chains and Cafe Demel- an idea I thought was brilliant, frankly, so that I could stomach more choices. BTW, any other stuff worth trying for someone new to European pastries? Everything at Demel was foreign and looked fantastic. From my search I understand the strudels are also recommended. The many gelaterias seduced me and I went with a triple scoop of chocolate, a cream-rocher blend recommended to me and a rum and raisin at gelateria hohr markt which I remembered reading about here. Incredible! And ridiculously cheap, considering that in Singapore a similar deal would fetch at least twice that. So I was pleasantly surprised that Zanoni and Zanoni just down the corner was even cheaper. Out of interest I tried a roadside stand of the same triple flavours and found the quality quite good as well. Its just a pity they use the sugar cones which aren't quite as good as a waffle. Are there any other gelaterias worth trying, or any flavours recommended? Apart from the common ones I can't even tell what the flavours are, so I just asked for recommendations. I stay near the Naschmarkt and so am going to ty the ones by the Schoko company next.

Lastly, and this may seem strange, but are there any foods or groceries in Vienna that one cant find in London at reasonable prices? I say this because I come from a place where such European products are normally extremely limited at sky high prices. Quite frankly even walking into the supermarket has me excited to no end - I'm tempted to blow all my money on the cheeses, aspiks, sausages and pickles and cart them all in my luggage. Heck, thanks to Singapore's vice tax even alcohol seems extremely cheap here. That said, I'll be based in London for four years so I don't want to bring stuff back just to find them as available there' though I've got half a mind to buy 20 different bars at the Meinl shop.

Forgot about dinner! That was settled by some exotic pickles i bought earlier and a visit to a wurst stand (budget trip) which quite frankly I found more satisfying than lunch at Pruckel. While the weather isn't quite right for hot chocolate, I'm quite the chocolate fiend and will be going out for z&z's hot chocolate after typing this post - must get my fix when I'm still here, and it was highly recommended in a Google search. Any others I should try?

I'll be heading to brunmemarkt tomorrow, followed by the chocolate museum, and then lunch at the Phoenixhof cafe. Hopefully it won't be another disappointing lunch. Thanks in advance!

Sep 10, 2012
shubashuba in Europe

Trip Advice - Self Catering/Occasional Meal out in Vienna-Budapest-Krakow-Prague

Wow that is rather upsetting...I was considering where to spend that precious Saturday (because that seems to be the best day to visit any market) and ultimately Budapest got it. Rather cheesed off now because contrary to what people say easyjet prices do get cheaper as time goes by...maybe I'm just inexperienced with how summer sales work. If I had known I would have changed my itinerary with a cheaper flight price to boot.

Going back to topic, would you then say that the supermarkets are an adequete substitution for the Naschmarkt during weekdays? Is it still worth going for any Austrian specialities or stuff that's unique there? Because if not I'm most likely going to change my hostel...at least that can still be changed.

Thank you very much for the input!

Jun 23, 2012
shubashuba in Europe

Trip Advice - Self Catering/Occasional Meal out in Vienna-Budapest-Krakow-Prague

Wow that...really sucks. Damn, I was trying to decide where I should spend that previous saturday because that generally seems like the best date to go to any market. Feeling rather annoyed now because contrary to what some websites say, apparently easyjet does get cheaper as time goes by...perhaps I was just inexperienced with how they time summer sales...so if I had waited I might have gotten a better date with a cheaper flight price to boot.

Back to topic, in that case is it generally safe to say that during weekdays the supermarkets are an adequate substitution for the Naschmarkt stalls? Is it still worth visiting for any particular local specialities or Austrian foods? Because if so I'll probably change my hostel location...thanks for the input!

Jun 23, 2012
shubashuba in Europe

Trip Advice - Self Catering/Occasional Meal out in Vienna-Budapest-Krakow-Prague

Wow, thanks so much! I haven't heard of Brunnermarkt up to this point, and after a little googling, I became aware of Karmelitermarket as well. Seems like my days in Vienna will be packed indeed...

Sadly I won't be there on a Saturday, I will be there from Monday to Wednesday but hopefully things are still lively enough. Just wondering, though, some websites indicate that haggling is allowed more in Brunnenmarkt than Naschmarkt - but to what extent, exactly? Sorry, it must seem an odd question but I take reference from the street markets of Vietnam/Bangkok/China where the modus is to hack to 10% of the prices and adjust from there...and I'm curious about this for both food and random knick knacks in the market. Thanks!

Jun 20, 2012
shubashuba in Europe

Trip Advice - Self Catering/Occasional Meal out in Vienna-Budapest-Krakow-Prague

Hi!

I realise there are many threads on these forums already and many people such as Sturmi and Kukubura have contributed with their immense wealth of knowledge and experience. However, I'm worried some of the posts might be a little outdated (esp. rgd. prices of cheap eats) and some of the places mentioned might be out of my reach (I'll explain later) and frankly speaking it's quite overwhelming to see a huge list of restaurants and going through all the online menus. I realise this is a little selfish, just that it's quite a lot to take in at the moment. I'm new to chowhound so if this isn't according to the rules please moderate as necessary. Thanks!

Basically, I'm a solo traveller going to the cities mentioned during late September before starting university in London. So essentially I'm cash strapped, staying in hostels and getting by with budget airlines, buses and SparNight discounts. I'm spending 3 days in each city and am mostly interested in food, so my plan is to get by with self catering and messing around with local market fare, trying street food as well as the occasional meal out. While I will be staying in hostels I haven't booked anywhere yet so that's flexible. I'm planning to stay near the markets like the Wombats hostel beside Nashmarkt in Vienna, but if there are better 'hotspots' I can just shift as needed.

I'd like to get advice on street food and the local markets available. I'll be heading to Naschmarkt (Vienna), Central Market Hall (Bp), Stary Kleparz (Krakow) - are there any other places I should look out for? Also, are there things that are really specialities or simply tourist scams like the saffron supposedly is in the budapest central hall? Are there any must tries such as that bridge sausage seller in krakow or foods/ingredients that are far more expensive elsewhere like foie in Bp? I'm from South East Asia and have had extremely little exposure to European/Western fare beyond generic stuff like fish and chips and steak, and reading and seeing stuff like the crazy sausage varieties in Vienna makes me really want to try it for real! That said, I love cooking and am hoping to gather a stash of ingredients to spice up (aheh sorry) my college cooking. I've visited various blogs and websites like budapest.eu and the pictures are honestly mindblowing, which is why I was a little confused when some threads on chowhound say that there aren't really any good foodie souvenirs. Maybe it's because I'm not from the states - stuff like sambal belacan/jaggery/tripe/durian are everyday foods and ingredients while stuff like olives/jalapenos/pate taste completely funky to me. Are there anything that I should use the opportunity to stock up that would be pricer in London? Though I'm not sure if there's any customs issues...

Also, while many of the threads had incredible coverage of restaurants, most are really pricey and out of my league except for maybe the restaurants in Budapest. I do hope I can get, say, 1 or 2 nice restaurant meals per city there though. I'm used to heavier lunches and would rather a heaping pile of meat over dessert so I'm hoping that would be in my favour (I didn't really think meat and dumplings was a bad description of eastern european food). I'm really trying not to blow more than 25-30 euros per nice meal, though 30 is already stretching it in my case. Is this actually a wise decision, or is it better to just spread this 'nice meal' budget out for more budget eats? If I had to pick, I'd rather use the money to buy more ingredients to play around with during college.

Lastly, despite not being much of a fan of desserts I love chocolate and hot chocolate - my Vienna itinerary essentially consists on hitting the Nashmarkt, Meinl emporium, museum and xocolat factory (yea I can while away a whole morning simply at a generic supermarket and looking at local foodstuffs...). I've also read of Gerbeaud/Aztek in Bp, Wedel in Krakow, another museum in Prague..are these also worth visiting and are there any notable local chocolate brands/makers/shops that should not be missed?

For all who have read this post, thank you VERY MUCH! I know I tend to ramble, but I'm frightfully excited about going to these places and starting a new phase of life. As I mentioned, I'm new to these boards and I forsee asking a lot more about London eats in a few months time, or maybe after I know my accommodation details...

Jun 19, 2012
shubashuba in Europe