by Carol Pastor

Carol Pastor takes a two day break in a fascinating city notable for its extraordinary cultural heritage, a heady mix of shops and wonderful coffee houses you are seriously tempted to stop in every half- hour for 'Kaffee and Kuchen'.

The Turks during the first and second siege of `Vienna and Hapsburg territory in1529 and 1683 left their legacy of mouth-watering arab pastries, as well as the world's most famous beverage, coffee. Legend has it that as the Turkish troops were forced to make a hasty retreat from Vienna by the Habsburg - Polish forces in 1683 they left behind their sacks of coffee beans at the city gates. The story that some of the locals thought it was camel fodder might be open to question but the first coffee house to serve this unusual hot dark brew with a pleasant bitterness was opened in the same year. Vienna's kaffeehauses eventually spread as quickly as mushrooms over the preverbial Black Forest floor where 'Qaweh' Turkish-style coffee was served along with a selection of their Austro-Hungarian traditional pastries.

'Caf'e Demel' is reputed to be Vienna's most famous 'Kaffeehaus', where I'm meeting Head Chef Dietmar Muthenthaler who has promised to show me around Demel's kitchen and gen me up on Viennese pastries. His welcoming smile is as warm as the cosy Demel's interior, wooded panelled rooms, where the rich scents of coffee linger in the air as the waitresses serve breakfast to the early morning punters. Here is everything I dreamed of finding in a Viennese coffee house and I have a distinct feeling of well-being as I look around me. Large chandeliers suspended over heavy marble counters and tall guilded mirrors lining the walls reveal a veritable cornucopia of exquisite pastries like 'Topfenstrudel' (a sweet curd cheese variation on applestrudel), 'Sachertorte' the famous chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam beneath the silky- shiny chocolate coating, and fresh baked breads, the three - star fluted Gugelhupf ( loved by Sigmund Freud , his old apartment in Berggasse, now the Sigmund Freud Museum ), all are products of this beautiful baroque 'Pastry Palace' founded in 1786 and once the purveyor of fine pastries to the to the Imperial court. It is said Empress Elizabeth, seeking new recipes to tickle her fancy, would send the palace courtiers to buy her candied violets still sold in the exact same round little pink and purple boxes. . "Do you know who invented the croissant?" Chef Dietmar asks me with a inquisitive smile. Before I have time to answer he continues: "Like most people you would probably say the French. The croissant, however was derived from the half - moon shaped Viennese Kipferl introduced by the Turks in the fifteenth century and the 'Apfelstrudel' was clearly inspired by the arab tradition of wrapping food in fila pastry". After showing me around the plush Fortnum's style showroom where shelves are stacked high with creations in sugar, marzipan meringue and chocolate and still made in Demel's original antique moulds. Dietmar invites me into the kitchen to see the famous 'Apfelstrudel' in preparation. The fila pastry is stretched by hand until gossamer- thin by two young chefs who working together brush it
with melted butter and add the filling of apples, raisins sugar and cinnamon. . The end result is beautifully crisp and predictably delicious as we eat it warm from the oven. "The fila can be bought
ready made, making this pastry a quick an easy recipe to prepare but it will not taste as good as preparing the fila yourself. Translucent enough to read a love letter through is what we say in Vienna!" grins Dietmar I hear myself laugh as I have visions of my fila with more holes than Rab C. Nesbit's string vest. Apart from their loyal customers , Demel attracts a good deal of celebs from far and wide. Famous visitors have included President Richard Nixon, the actor Bruce Willis, and the odd cookery diva like Jamie Oliver who have all left their signed photographs that are framed and grace the walls of the 12th century vaulted cellars which is now a marzipan museum.

After such an exciting gastronomic experience I am in an excellent mood for some retail therapy and the main traffic-free shopping streets of Kohlmarkt, Graben and Karntnerstrasse ( Vienna's answer
to Bond Street ) make a very attractive destination to fill the rest of my day. As a first-time visitor to
Vienna one of the things I notice is the spectacular shop window displays. They all sport wonderful chandeliers in all sizes and styles, from huge and heavy, dripping with sparkling crystals which mostly feature in the fashion boutiques selling 'arm and a
leg' Armani and' devil wears' Prada that could solve all my dress problems (but not necessarily my budget) to the crazy pink, and silver droplets of the more retro -chic quirky chandeliers of young designer and street- ware fashion of international chains like H&M on Graben. In this street you can
find the most exclusive jewellers in the capital. Rozet and Fischmeister founded in 1770 was a personal jeweller to the Emperor Franz Joseph and the Shullin jewellery store on Kolmarkt designed by Hans Hollein is as remarkable for its Dali-esque frontage as it is for its modern jewels. We also notice a remarkable range of Breitling and Rolex watches suggesting Austria's proximity to Switzerland. I do however find some beautiful hand-painted christmas baubles with the images Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. The Viennese adore Christmas when the shopping streets are lit beautifully with thousands of fairy lights in the shapes of enormous glittering chandeliers which is quite a sight and draws in shoppers and their credit cards like moths to a flame.

The skies begin to look tin-grey and I need to stop for my half - hourly 'Kaffee und Kuchen' so we take a small lane off the bustling boulevard of Karntnerstrasse to find a relaxed retreat.' Kleines' Caf'e sits on the edge of a quiet cobbled square called Franziskanerplatz halfway along Weihburggasse. The whole interior of Kleines is tiny with just a few tables which means we have to get cosy with our neighbours but it makes a charming venue which must be particularly lovely in summer with seating outside overlooking the
beautiful renaissance facade of the Franziskanerkirche. It's the perfect base from which to explore further into the first district of the Inner City , a lovely area with its quaint little cobbled
alleyways and a fistful of attractive shops. 'Cuisinarum' a cookware shop on Singerstrasse and .a cluttered antique book shop next to a a little Alladin's cave of a gift shop near a pretty chocolate shop on Weihburggassebook make our diversion extremely worthwhile.

Vienna served as an imperial capital and residence for over 600 years under the Habsburg's dynasty which brought much of Viienna's rich artistic and architechtural heritage. The Innere Stadt, a warren of cobbled medieval streets and squares has the highest concentration of historical attractions and the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) which shows the original apartments of Emperor Franz Josef and his
beautiful wife Elizabeth make a good place to start our second day. Michaelerplatz the square at the top of Kohlmarkt is the Hofburg's back door close to Herrengasse and Minoritenplatz, all worth exploring and dominated by the shadow of St Stephan's cathedral where for a special treat we take one of the waiting horse-drawn carriages to transport us to the Vienna State Opera House Thus
royally transported we discover the area around The Opera House. There's lots of musicabillia to buy, even the public toilets on the Operning underground pipe lively chords of a Strauss waltz and the ticket vendors kitted out in period costume with white wigs, stockings and velvet breeches help to paint a canvas of a City of the past. But the tourist and traffic congestion of the 'Operning'
(dubbed "Ring" by the locals) feels slightly overbearing so we exit the area in the direction of Getreidemarkt and, passing the strip of galleries in Eschenbachgasse, finally reach the up and coming Gumpendorfer Strasse. A good place to spend a few hours where we discover a slightly different breed of shops in what could only be called the Soho of Vienna. A cluster of hippy bars and cafes
provide the perfect place for a pit stop to enjoy yet another coffee before testing out the preowned collectable sofas and chairs at a shop called Das Mobel. Most are original fifties, sixties and seventies pieces, and are for sale as are other great collectables: books and vinyl. Another shop called Lichterloh displays, 20th century originals, some of them unusually kitsch or very rare interior design pieces, I loved the LeCorbusier lounge chair but a bit tricky to get in the hand luggage on the flight home.

We decide against having lunch at Cafe Sperl one of Vienna's oldest and most popular Kaffeehauses on the Gumendorfer Strasse. (once the
meeting place of the city's litterrati where coffee fuelled every debate from poetry to politics). Indeed it was beautiful and old as we had been promised but the prices were far from old!. Just a
few streets away the Naschmarkt, (Vienna's premier food market) looks more promising with reasonably priced cafes. The Naschmarkt gives me a real sense of Vienna's multicultural make up, where Turkish Arab, Chinese and German stall holders selling anything from juicy dates,' to Bratwurst' call for business. While we enjoy a delicious Thai meal with a bottle of beer for two cost just 14 Euros. On the week-end the market converts into a 'Flohmarkt' (fleamarket) for bric-a-brac and antiques where there are good bargains to be had. It's worth exploring around the Naschmarkt if time isn't too short. The 'Cafe Drechsler, (Wienzeile, Giradigasse opposite the market) first opened in 1919 was recently remodelled by Sir Terence Conran and the shops and bars around the 'Kettenbruckengasse' and
'Schleifmuhlgasse' have transformed this quarter into a lively and attractive area in recent years.

Art Galleries
Vienna is a city of museums and the Museum Quartier is a pleasant mix of art and restaurants and one of the world's largest spaces for contemporary and traditional art and culture.

Hearty Austrian fare-Traditional restaurants reflect the multi ethnic origins of the old empire. Soups are popular- clear beef broths with small strips of pancake. For mains think beef stews, rostis named Tafelspitz traditionally served with a side dish of grated apple and horseradish sauce (apparently Emperor Franz-Joseph never sat down to eat without Tafelspitz on the table (I ate it every night too), or a crispy golden WeinerSchnitzel are typical but save room for the sweet semolina dumplings served warm with plums or sour cherries. To sample the best Tafelspitz and Viennese specialities try Plachutta Wollzeile 38, 1010 Vienna.

Famous Kaffeehauses
Cafe Demel Kohlmarkt 14, 1010, Vienna A royal bakery and confectionist, founded in 1786 The Sacher Hotel in Philharmonikerstrasse (opposite the Opera House) 400 - 800 euro rooms and apartments who successfully promote Vienna's golden age and the famous Sachertorte chocolate cake said to be created in the Sacher kitchens in 1832. Worth a visit if only to sample the delicious cake in the Cafe Sacher or to take a peep at the breath-takingly opulent imperial style interiors.

For more information
Visit the Vienna Tourist Office