Thursday, October 20, 2011

Return-to-home reality, or a case of amnesia?

The return home after an extended period of travel is often marked as a difficult period – people feel that they have changed, yet everything else seems to have remained the same.

For me, my 14 months in Europe was not my first ‘big trip’ – that happened when I was a rather green 19 year old, and boy did I do a lot of growing up and soul searching during that adventure. I spent close to six months in the US working at a summer camp. After camp I bought a car with a couple of friends and ended up driving around the north-east of the country. When I came home from my trip, I was dismayed that while I had changed and grown, no-one seemed to recognise this, and I struggled a bit with the way I perceived myself versus the perception of others.

Thankfully this time around, none of that happened. These days I’m comfortable with myself, satisfied with my life and save a few minor things, happy to be home. It seems, however, that it is Melbourne that has changed and grown…

Melbourne: isn't she pretty? source
The return to Melbourne has signalled a return to work: paid employment, hallelujah!
Income really makes a difference to one’s life. After surviving 14 months without a pay-cheque, having money in the bank has made me frivolous. In the five weeks I’ve been back, the following establishments have thanked me for my patronage:
  •  Hutong
  • Dimitri’s Feast
  • City Wine Store
  • Porgie & Mr Jones
  • DOC
  • EARL Canteen
  • The Langham Hotel (for tiffin!)
  • Spice Temple
  • North Cafeteria
  • Café Esc.
  • Lilo Café
  • Get Down Dog Pizza
  • The French Quarter (in spirit, thanks to a VERY good friend who has brought me TWO almond croissants since being back!); and
  • Haigh’s (does this count?)
Spoilt! I have been absolutely spoilt. Prior to my departure, I had been budget girl: I brought my lunch to work every day and treated myself to a takeaway coffee once a week.

Even in Berlin, it was all about getting the most for the least: EU2.90 kebabs and currywurst, and occasionally a meal at our favourite Indian place, creatively called India, where we received entrees, mains, a batura bread and 500ml beer for EU15 each.

But back in the homeland, I’m glad I have a job and am no-longer on a budget, because Melbourne is expensive! Is this a recent development, or has my mind simply erased all my Melbourne dining experiences as a series of traumatic events?

After settling back in, I think I’m ready to start bringing out the camera at meal times and recording some of the great food this city of mine has to offer. Of course, Chin Chin is high on the list of places to visit, in addition to Pony Fish, Coin Laundry, Grace Darling, Union Dining, St Katherines…oh my, when’s my next pay-cheque?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

We have now officially been back in Melbourne for a month, and I cannot believe that I’m STILL going on the dregs of our road trip around Germany (and Austria).

I promised a glimpse at the bier halls of Munich, and a glimpse you will get!

See? That there is the Augustine Bier Hall in Munich. Mr von S ate Schweine Haxe (pork knuckle) and I had Maul Taschen (like giant ravioli). Bier was consumed – some more than others. As the sole driver on the tour de Deutschland, I was responsible (read: freaking out about driving on the wrong side of the road in what should be the passenger seat, going 140 km/h). It seemed like there were actually very few tourists, as the bier halle is actually not in the city centre, but rather a part of the factory in the suburbs. Groups of older gentleman sat with their Mass glasses along wooden benches, ‘prost’ing and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Our stop in Munich was brief – we had actually been to Munich twice before for Oktoberfest in September last year. With our grand total of visits to Munich totalling three, I still can’t say I’ve seen anything except the inside of a bier halle/bier tent. Although many would say that’s all there is to see in the city.

From Munich we left Germany and headed for Austria, a country that I could not return to Melbourne without seeing. For me, Austria had two main draw cards: The Sound of Music and The Spanish Riding School.

In Salzburg, we boarded a big old tour bus and became the type of tourists we despise –I had the best time (cannot speak for Mr von S). As a child, I watched The Sound of Music as often as I could. I knew almost every song and whole paragraphs of dialogue. At one stage, I even found old scraps of fabric and created bandanas as Fraulein Maria had for the children.

On the Sound of Music Tour I saw the green hills – alive with the sound of music – the bluer than blue skies, the abbey, the gardens, the von Trapp family home, I saw it all. I was one very happy von Strudel (and there wasn’t even food involved!). The area around Salzburg is the prettiest I have ever seen. Even when The Sound of Music was brought out in technicolour, it couldn’t prepare you for the stunning natural beauty of ice-blue glacial lakes, grass so green it hurts your eyes and little towns of gingerbread houses.

Salzburg: birth place of Wolfgang Amadeus von Mozart and his confectionary namesake, the Mozartkugel These little suckers are sold seemingly everywhere in Austria, and are even readily available in Germany too. Pistachio marzipan covered in chocolate nougat – remember the Schneeballen from Heidelberg?

On to Vienna. Oh Vienna, you gorgeous city, you. Remnants of the city’s history as a centre of culture and enlightenment are evident throughout the city. The well-maintained and grand buildings speak of bygone eras when philosophers and intellects sat in coffee houses for hours, where the first steps of its namesake waltz were taken, and where Princess Sisi won the hearts of the people (even if she didn’t return the love).

Top of the list in Vienna, apart from visiting the Spanish Riding School – I had the best time (cannot speak for Mr von S) – was to sit and have coffee and consume some Sachertorte. We walked for a while before coming across a Konditerei that offered the tort. Strangely, for a cake which originates in the city, it was a bit difficult to find. The search paid off handsomely and deliciously. If only the service at Gerstner could be described so glowingly.

The Sachertorte consists of two layers of dense, not overly sweet chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle and is covered in a dark chocolate ganache. According to tradition, it should be served with whipped cream as apparently most Viennese consider the Sachertorte too ‘dry’ to be eaten on its own. I just think that the Austrians, much like Germans, just really like cream.

In addition to the Sachertorte, we also tried a Haustorte – an almond cake with chocolate cream. Given I don’t really like cream, this one didn’t go down so well. The cream to cake ratio definitely favoured the former, so much so I was surprised the cake managed to hold its shape.

Of the two cakes, the Sacher was our favourite – while apricot jam is not what I usually spread on my toast, I think in future I shall certainly be spreading it upon my cakes.

xo Fifi
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...