Austria: Trip Summary

Well, our 2018 trip to Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary ends today and we have to head back home, but not before one last moment of indulgence. We woke up early so that we could partake in the included breakfast at the hotel. As with everything else at the Aria Hotel, the breakfast was incredible! There was a full buffet of items, and we also were able to order some eggs. We each got an egg white omelette with some vegetables, had a couple breads, and ordered coffee / tea. I really enjoyed my croissant with some local fruit jams (especially the Apricot jam).

Vegetarian omelette at the Hotel Aria's complimentary breakfast
Vegetarian omelette at the Hotel Aria’s complimentary breakfast

The staff at the Aria brought up the car from the valet parking lot, brought down our bags from the room, and loaded them for us. The whole experience there made it the very best hotel that I have ever had the pleasure of staying at!

We checked out, and drove back to Budapest airport. Despite the bit of traffic leaving the city centre, it was quite easy to get to the airport, and everything was clearly marked for returning the rental car. We got through security and on the flight without any problems at all.

So, what were the Top 3s of the trip (in my opinion)?

FOOD (okay, so I had to have 4 for this category)

  1. Our main dish at Zum Kaiser von Österrich in the Wachau
  2. The salad with seeds and roasted walnuts at Weinhaus Attwenger in Bad Ischl
  3. The spinach dumplings at Sixta in Vienna
  4. The mushroom tartare at Kirchenwirt an der Weinstraße in Ehrenhausen

 
 
WINE

  1. Domäne Wachau’s Pinot Noir
  2. Domäne Wachau’s Kellerberg Riesling
  3. Weingut Tement’s Vinothek Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

 
 
EXPERIENCES

  1. The winery tours (Domäne Wachau, Schloss Gobelsburg, and Tement were amazing)
  2. Going up into the mountains of Hallstatt
  3. The entire experience that was the Aria Hotel Budapest—a music lover’s dream and simply the most amazing hotel I’ve ever seen!

Austria Day 12: Taking in the city sites of Budapest on our last day

As in Südstiermark and many other places on this trip, we unfortunately only had one full day in the great city of Budapest. I had come up with a list of activities for us, and we sat down to figure out which ones we wanted to do (since there was absolutely no way to do everything in a mere 24 hours). We ended up spending much of the day just walking around and taking photos of the area. Our first spot for photos was right outside of our hotel at St. Stephen’s Basilica.

Budapest - St. Stephen's Basilica right outside of the Aria Hotel
Budapest – St. Stephen’s Basilica adjacent to the Aria Hotel

From there, we ventured across the Széchenyi Bridge to see an area known as The Fisherman’s Bastion (or Halászbástya in Hungarian). It’s a terrace near Matthias Church that is steeped in history and culture, and it also provides some beautiful views of the city. Down closer to the river, I think that I got some great shots of the Hungarian Parliament Building from a nice location on the western bank of the Danube.

Budapest - beautiful view of the Hungarian Parliament Building from west of the Danube
Budapest – beautiful view of the Hungarian Parliament Building from west of the Danube

We also wanted to “live it up” on the last night of our trip, so we asked the concierge for a recommendation of a bakery for cakes and treats. Café Gerbeaud came with the highest praises, so we walked to the neighbouring square to check it out. There were many stunning desserts to satisfy just about any type of sweet tooth! We couldn’t decide, so we ended up each getting a slice of three different cakes. Talk about a splurge!

Enjoying our desserts (The Dobos, Esterházy, and Émile cakes) from Café Gerbeaud
Our numerous desserts (The Dobos, Esterházy, and Émile cakes) from Café Gerbeaud

Right about that time, I received an email from one of the restaurants that I had contacted, and they were asking me to confirm our reservations. It was the first time that I had heard from them, so I didn’t think that my reservations had actually gone through. We now had a decision to make between the two restaurants, and I think that I chose poorly. More on that in just a little bit.

We wanted to walk to Városliget Park (the City Park) in order to just take some more photos and enjoy the day, but soon realised that we wouldn’t have the time necessary to get there and not feel rushed. So we ended up just looking in some of the shops along Andrássy street. Boggi had a storefront there, and I really like that Milanese designer, so we went in. I didn’t expect to, but I ended up purchasing a gorgeous sport shirt because it fit me like a glove! A bit impulsive, but sometimes things like that have to be done when on holiday.

We made it back to the Aria Hotel in time to experience the afternoon wine and piano reception (that we missed yesterday due to the travel problems). It was lovely to just sit in the music parlour and listen to the performance. We didn’t partake in any of the food because we had dinner reservations soon thereafter.

The afternoon reception in the music garden at the Aria Hotel
The afternoon reception in the music garden at the Aria Hotel

After that incredibly relaxing reception, we got ready and walked to dinner at Caviar & Bull. The food was over-the-top delicious, but we shared quite a few starters and just left without ordering any mains. If the food was that great, why would we leave without ordering entrées? Well, in my opinion, the prices were exorbitant for the portion size. We added it up, and the four starters came out to 10 bites per person. That being said, the food that we had was extremely creative and fun—like the molecular spheres:

Budapest - molecular sphere starter at Caviar & Bull
Budapest – molecular sphere starter at Caviar & Bull

On our walk back to the hotel, we realised that we needed some actual food, so we went to this little Japanese place called Wasabi Extra, which was directly across from our hotel. It was a conveyor belt sushi joint (all-you-can-eat), but we opted to just get some Japanese curry dishes. They were mediocre at best, but at least provided some sustenance.

We wandered back up to the room, and the hotel staff had delivered the wines they had been chilling for us in their walk-in. They also delivered the wine glasses and an ice bucket. Which wines did we choose for the last evening of our trip? Of course they had to be special, so we went with the 1995 vintage of the Domäne Wachau Kellerberg Riesling. We also opened a bottle of the 2017 vintage for comparison. It was a great experience, and one that we likely won’t be able to ever have again. That particular Riesling is my favourite of theirs, and arguably my favourite expression of the grape outside of Alsace and Germany. Having one with such bottle age transformed it into a golden yellow colour with aromas of overly ripe tropical fruits and petrol, along with the creamy mouthfeel that softens the typical blinding acidity of Riesling; it was a truly remarkable wine!

The perfect ending to a trip - enjoying Domäne Wachau's 1995 Ried Kellerberg Riesling and desserts from Café Gerbeaud
The perfect ending to a trip – enjoying Domäne Wachau’s 1995 Ried Kellerberg Riesling and desserts from Café Gerbeaud

We also had our desserts from Café Gerbeaud. They were all good, but I think that we agreed that the Émile was undoubtedly our favourite. That’s the one that Deb lovingly calls “the Pringle dessert” because of the chocolate garnish on the top that looks a bit like a Pringles crisp. A pretty darn good way to end a trip, if I do say so myself… and I do!

Austria Day 11: Weingut Tement tour and pure luxury in Budapest

We woke up a bit early to check out of Weingut Tement, but before doing so had a tour of the facility with Monika Tement (the wife of Armin Tement, who, with his brother Stefan, is the current winemaker and proprietor of the estate). It was rainy and damp outside, so we couldn’t go through the vineyards. Thankfully I was able to get some photos of the beautiful Zieregg vineyard yesterday when the weather was nicer.

Südsteiermark - The stunning panorama of Ried Zieregg at Weingut Tement
Südsteiermark – The stunning panorama of Ried Zieregg at Weingut Tement

Even though we weren’t able to go through the vineyards together due to the rains, Monika improvised and shared so much incredible information about their land and winemaking practices. In their cellar, there is a portion where there isn’t a concrete wall, and one can see the open soil that comprises the Zeiregg STK Grand Cru vineyard site (so… very… cool!).

Südsteiermark - inside Weingut Tement's cellar with the wall exposing the soils of Ried Zieregg
Südsteiermark – inside Weingut Tement’s cellar with the wall exposing the soils of Ried Zieregg

Before leaving the cellar, we were fortunate enough to see brothers Armin and Stefan Tement checking the status of fermentation of many of the wines that were in-barrel. They were testing the sugar content, alcohol content, and various other components of the wine using instruments designed specifically for the tasks. Monika also told us about the story of the Cellar Cat that, according to lore, will choose the best barrel of wine and sit atop it. In this case, it chose wisely (or, truthfully, whomever placed this cat statue on the barrel chose wisely) by selecting a lovely barrel of Zieregg Grosse Lage STK Sauvignon Blanc.

Südsteiermark - the cellar cat chooses his barrel of Ried Zieregg Sauvignon Blanc at Weingut Tement
Südsteiermark – the cellar cat chooses his barrel of Ried Zieregg Sauvignon Blanc at Weingut Tement

We got in the car and headed out for what was the longest drive of the trip. Going from Südstiermark back to Budapest was supposed to be about 3.5 hours, but yet again, the GPS that we rented with the car was TERRIBLE. That problem, coupled with traffic, road construction, poor road conditions, and nearly running out of fuel resulted in the trip taking nearly 5.5 hours. We missed the afternoon wine and piano reception at the Aria Hotel, but at least didn’t miss out on the massage that I had scheduled. We had to cut it a little short as to not interfere with our dinner plans, but we still got to enjoy it.

Budapest - The custom-built grand piano in the music garden at the Hotel Aria
Budapest – The custom-built grand piano in the music garden at the Hotel Aria

After the massage, we freshened up and walked to our dinner reservations at Aszu, which was just two blocks over from the hotel. We started our meal by sharing a summer salad with carrots, and radishes, along with a Hungarian chicken pancake dish called Hortobágyi. We then decided to order three mains and just share them as well. We went with: 1) fresh pasta with mascarpone and spinach mousse, garlic, and dried tomatoes; 2) a farmhouse chicken breast with corn variations (including popcorn) and truffle pesto; 3) a pork shoulder with cauliflower cream, apricots, and yoghurt. After trying each of them, it so happened that Deb really liked the pork shoulder, and I preferred the pasta dish. So, we didn’t share those two, but only the farmhouse chicken. I had wanted to try one of their desserts, but we didn’t have time (the service was impeccable, but a bit slow) before our reservations back at the hotel’s rooftop Sky Bar.

I had arranged for a private violin soloist performance (since the Aria is known for its complete music theme), and it was absolutely astonishing! After that show, we had our own little table inside the High Note Sky Bar. It was cosy, and our waiter brought out our wines along with some complimentary baggies of popcorn. As I believe that one should always have the wines of the region, Deb had the 2016 Demeter Zoltán Szerelmi Hárslevelú, and I had the 2016 St. Andrea Áldás Egri Bikavér, which translates to “Bulls Blood”. It’s a mix of a lot of different grapes (in this case, Kékfrankos, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kadarka, and Turán), and it was very interesting. I hope to never encounter it in a blind tasting, though, because it would be essentially impossible to identify. 😛 After that bottle, we each wanted one additional glass. Deb had a the 2016 István Szepsy Dry Furmint, and I went with the 2016 Etyeki Kúria Pinot Noir. Both were lovely, and I was surprised to find yet another gorgeous representation of cool climate Pinot!

We headed back downstairs to our beautiful room, but stopped to take one more look at the lovely terraces and music garden below.

Budapest - Hotel Aria's stunning music garden courtyard
Budapest – Hotel Aria’s stunning music garden courtyard