After our visit to Innsbruck, we had a quick stop off in Vienna for a few days but my opportunities to discover Austrian culture continued. First, I learned that although we might be officially in summer, Austrian weather can be unpredictable, as out of nowhere the temperature dove into fall and alternated between summer and fall days for a few weeks. I’m not sure how but after a week of hiding inside, I was persuaded to make a visit to Gasometer City which was utterly fascinating.
Originally built in 1896 to store Kohlengas (gas derived from coal) which was distributed throughout Vienna, the four huge containers were converted in 1999 into apartment buildings, student dormitory, office space, a music hall, a pretty good-sized entertainment center – complete with shopping, restaurants, movie theater, etc – and the municipal archives. My fascination with the place stems from the restoration, reuse, & conservation of the original red-brick facade. Today, Gasometer City is a community within it’s own right, complete with residential pride.
After a walk-around, we caught a film (in German – yah me!) and then ventured off to Cafe Benno. I’m not sure of the age of the establishment or whether there is any historical relevance to it; but it was the teenage hangout of hubby and he was proud to show it off. Like many spots frequented by Austrians, Benno is spartan but cool. Offering a pretty decent but traditional Speisekarte (menu), one can can enjoy authentic Austrian cuisine and drinks at reasonable prices. It’s main call to fame however, is the variety of boardgames offered. Imagine my surprise to learn that there is an Austrian version of Monopoly! It’s called Risiko (risk) and everything is in German, including the Anweisungen (instructions), and in place of well-known options like ‘Boardwalk’ and ‘Railroad’, one purchases ‘Gasometer City’ (ironic, lol) and ‘U-Bahn’. All in all, the goal of the game remains the same and I was able to win!
My love of cooking, especially old, traditional dishes made from natural produce have become pretty well-known amongst the family of my husband. Thus, we were invited by my FIL (father-in-law) to assist in the late summer preservation of Paprika (sweet or bell peppers) and Tomaten (tomatoes). As previously mentioned, the weather wavered between summer and fall temperatures but on that particular day, we were blessed with enough warmth for me to endure working in the garden.
The paprika were first roasted on a wood-fire, sweated in a covered container (which assists in the removal of the very thin skin) and finally preserved in garlic and herb-infused olive oil. The tomatoes met their fate by being converted into tomato sauce – rough chopped and cooked on a low temperature, they were then pureed with salt and herbs. These simple procedures created the most delicious and authentic Gebratene Paparika (roasted peppers) and Tomatensoße (tomato sauce) I have ever tasted and I can not wait to plant my garden again next summer so that I can preserve my own produce.
By no means a quick process, as there were many baskets of produce to process; it certainly was fun. While snipping fresh Basilikum (Basil) & Oregano, I conversed with my FIL’s neighbor in German and while the sauce cooked, we all shared homemade Schnapps, and Pate from Ungarn (Hungary) with fresh bread. It was specifically delightful as my German had progressed well enough that I could actually join general conversation (as long as it wasn’t in dialect) and also be easily understood.
Of course, the next day I just had to make spaghetti with some of my portions of the sauce and hubby & I both agree – it was the best spaghetti I have ever made. Not because of anything I specifically did, but rather the spectacular sauce that we are lucky enough to have. Course, we didn’t get much opportunity to do any damage to our ‘winter’ storage as we were on the road again – Salzburg here we come!