Star man gets only the finest Velveeta in Vienna. Oh, and chips with ketchup!
Star Travel guy Adrian Brijbassi files this report from Austria...
VIENNA — Land late and hungry on a cold night in a new city and more times than not you’re headed for a culinary adventure. That’s what happened in Vienna, where I arrived on a windy Tuesday night to find the kitchen in the nearest restaurant closed for the night.
The Altstadt Hotel staff (some of the best front-deskers I’ve encountered, by the way) pointed me to an Irish bar that they were sure was open because a Champions League soccer match was on, but once on the street I was still feeling disoriented and was also with the boss’s kid, who’d also just got into town and was thirsty. With the chill getting to us after a couple of blocks, we decided to duck into the first place that was still serving food.
At the worst they’d have reheated French fries, I figured.
Well, they did have “chips” on the menu, but they were the kind that came out of a bag and they tasted like Lays (and not Baked Lays, either). They came with a dollop of ketchup and accompanied an order of “Country Toast and Cheese” that reminded me of Velveeta and Kraft Singles student days. I’m sure it was a better choice than the “Bread with Grease and Onions” option.
Alte Backerei isn’t going to make any “best of” lists, but it does get kudos for serving real Budweiser (the original stuff from the Czech Republic that’s a lot more flavourful than what comes out of St. Louis), having a good and large pretzel, and tuning the TV to hockey.
And first impressions in this case proved false because Vienna turned out to be a gem of a place, gastronomically and otherwise. After our snack and couple of rounds of brews, Chris Byers and his girlfriend, Kate, went on their way and I wandered on to what turned out to be a great cocktail spot called Bar a.m. with a fantastic chili con carne of all things and a huge prosciutto plate with cheeses, breads, olives and a good amount of ham — even though the bartender, Tim, warned they only served small portions late at night. The food was terrific and, having arrived from Paris, relatively inexpensive at 12.50 euros for the prosciutto plate and 5.50 euros for the chili. The cocktails were around 7 euros, also nearly half the price as you’d find in Paris. Some beers were less than 3 euros.
The Duke, the Irish bar I was directed to by the hotel, turned out to be just another block down and it was open and serving. Never made it there for a meal, but maybe next time. Vienna, to my surprise, became my favourite city in Europe after four days.
BILL OF RIGHTS FOR AIR PASSENGERS...BUT NOT IN CANADA
A pet peeve of mine is how I keep reading stories about how the U.S. is cracking down on unfair airline practices, such as bumping passengers and hiding exorbitant fees. And when was the last time anyone north of the border raised the issue?
We get hosed up here more than the Americans, I think, yet the governments do NOTHING to help. Maybe they don't want to seem elitist by sympathizing with air travelers, I don't know. But it's frustrating to read stories like this one a couple weeks back on cnn.com, which talked about the Airline Bill of Rights for U.S. travelers.
"The Department of Transportation issued a second set of rules Wednesday (April 20) to address a litany of passenger gripes, including the bane of modern air travelers' existence: hidden fees for bags, meals, pillows and reservation changes.
The new rules, which will take effect in 120 days, require airlines to prominently disclose all fees and taxes on their websites. It also increases compensation for passengers who are involuntary bumped, limits "tarmac delays" for international flights to four hours and makes other pro-consumer changes.
"We're trying to look out after passengers who, in some instances, have been treated pretty shabbily," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
Thank goodness someone is.