Wow. I can’t believe I’ve been away from the blog for so long. What have I been up to in the past month, you might ask? Well, let’s see: There was that week spent in Prague and Vienna in mid-December. Then I jetted off to Italy for work and promptly came down with a cold. Another week later I flew home in the middle of a snowstorm and hurtled full-force into Christmas and all the family-visiting, meat-eating it requires. Since New Year’s I’ve just been…recovering. I’ve cooked a few meals and seen a few movies, that’s about it. But I’ve missed my little blog and I hope to get back on a regular posting schedule now that the holidays are firmly behind us.
I guess the appropriate place for me to pick up my blogging is back in Eastern Europe. Oh, Prague and Vienna. I loved them both, Prague with its weathered town squares and grey skies, and Vienna with its overwhelming, magnificent grandeur. Jim and I passed the week walking, talking, and looking.
But eating? I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of Czech or Austrian cuisine. Simply put, I missed my vegetables and I quickly grew tired of meat. But I really shouldn’t complain. Each city had its bright spots along the way, so here’s a quick tour:
You can’t visit Prague without trying the Czech sausages known as klobasy. Here’s Jim with one of our lunches from the Christmas market in Old Town Square. Served with thick slices of bread, these bright red sausages exploded upon first bite, their juices dripping down onto the plate.
After finishing my klobasa I strolled through the Christmas market in search of dessert. Because of the sheer number of stalls offering them, a Czech pastry called trdlo was the obvious choice. For this snack, dough is wrapped around a rotating pin and baked over an open flame. When it has finished cooking, it’s rolled in a mixture of sugar and nuts, creating a simple and comforting treat. We asked the vendor about the origin of the word trdlo, but she said it was complicated; we think it might mean “horse collar.” In any case, don’t I look happy eating one in that photo below (right)?
A few other culinary highlights in Prague included a lovely dinner in the romantic cellars of Vinárna U Maltézských rytíru (Restaurant of the Knights of Malta), where I enjoyed duck breast, a red cabbage-stuffed apple, potato gnocchi, and a sumptuous apple strudel; a festive evening of singing, beer, and goulash at historic beer hall U Flekù; and sweet, decadent “pancakes” decked out with whipped cream, sour cream, honey, and blackberries at the well-known Cafe Slavia. Here, take a look at this breakfast of champions:
When we finally made it to Vienna, we had little more than a day to see the city. Jim and I walked almost every inch of that town in seven hours, taking in the ornate architecture, museums, and never-ending stream of Christmas markets. (As you can tell, we certainly got our fill of holiday cheer on this trip.)
We made sure to stroll through the Nachtmarkt, Vienna’s sprawling open-air food market. It offered everything from produce and pastries to fish and poultry, with small restaurants peeking out from between the food stalls. I would have loved to stop for a snack, but we were pressed for time and had to keep moving. We contented ourselves with the sights and sounds of the vendors selling their wares on a busy afternoon.
We rested our feet and filled our stomachs with an Austrian meal at Zum Weissen Rauchfankehrer, a traditional restaurant in the center of the city whose name translates to “The White Chimney Sweep.” The meal was a little ornate for our tastes, with several courses and a more formal atmosphere than we desired, but it was wonderful to relax and enjoy a glass of wine after our intense day of sight-seeing.
With all this travel and activity, I’m sure you understand why it’s taken me a little while to return to the blog. But I assure you that I am done resting my tired feet, and I am ready to blog in 2009. I can’t wait to see what the year has in store for us!