Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Lunch with a View

What fun it is to discover something hidden...

For example, yesterday, one of my Vienna colleagues took me to a tremendously amusing and utterly unannounced spot for lunch: the cafeteria of one of Austria's ministries.  It's a strenuously contemporary pavilion perched on top of one of the Ringstrasse's Franz Josef wedding cake buildings, and while it's open to the public, there is no effort at all put to making that evident to random passers-by.

We went through security that is I suppose daunting by European standards, although nothing to anyone used to the smallest municipal building in the Midwest, and on into the building's modest little atrium:

Not ones to do things by half, those Austro-Hungarians...

Then up in a tiny elevator, down a faceless corridor, around a corner and up a few stairs, and so into an aggressively cheerful glass-walled room where we chose our lunches from a window staffed by a gruff-but-lovable character type whom I half-suspect was supplied by Central Casting, then out onto the roof terrace and the view above.

Seen from above, or at least from the height of half-a-dozen stories or so, Vienna becomes even more of a fairy tale, with its elaborate roofscape of mansards and chimneys, steeples and clocktowers, and in the distance the occasional incongruous modern glass skyscraper.  We could see the Ferris wheel over in the Prater, of course the august Gothic spire that tops St. Stephan's Cathedral.

After the obligatory schnitzel and an excellent coffee, we descended again in the tiny elevator and out (again through the security, which involved a kind of scanner new to me, essentially a StarTreksiche tube in which one side whooshes shut, some sort of scan takes place, and then a door on the other side whooshes open) and onto the Ring.  I felt quite inordinately pleased, as if I'd had an adventure quite out of proportion for having simply had lunch in a government cafeteria, however glam.

That aside, I'm afraid, it's not been the most diverting of trips, and the class itself about as grim as I feared (although it turns out I can tap-dance around things about which I am wholly ignorant with surprising dexterity).  At least tonight I should be able to head out on my own and have a decent dinner.  Tomorrow comes the endless process of throwing myself back across the Atlantic in entirely the wrong part of too many flights.  Only the prospect of returning home to husband and dogs makes that slog an appealing thing.

But at least I've seen Vienna from a truly Imperial roost...


  1. You've just whirled me back into a memory of the early 80s where the most splendid view of DC (along with a reasonably appetizing luncheon) was to be found in the employee cafeteria on top of the National Geographic building. Thank you dear!

  2. I aim to please.

    And it does strike me that these kinds of serendipitous places, once a feature even in American cities, are increasingly few and far between...

  3. I adore cafeterias and don't understand why they're a dying breed here just when things like Chipotle's, where you stand in line to have your grub shoved at you, is on the rise.

    1. Indeed! I do hope that someday someone will resurrect the good old-fashioned Respectable Cafeteria, that haven for harrassed office workers and ladies taking a break from their shopping downtown - not as fancy as a department store dining room (another species that's dead as the dodo), but distinctly not fast food, either. Home to half-forgotten delicacies like chicken croquettes, ham-salad plates (with, of course, German potato salad), and, to top it off, a nice slice of Lady Baltimore cake. I mean really, what is/ the matter with kids today?