Monday, January 19, 2015

Shall We Dance? - It's Ball Season In Vienna

 

 Its ball season here and everybody is in excitement.
If you have ever dreamed of dancing the Waltz  at one of Vienna's famous balls this is the time for it.
It sounds unbelievable but over 400 balls are staged here every year with nearly 300.000 dance crazy assistants.
There are the very fancy and elegant balls like the ball of the Wiener Philharmoniker, one of the world's finest orchestras.

Poster announcing  the ball of the Vienna Philharmonics

And there is of course the glamorous Opera ball.

Here a picture of the legendary entrance of the debutants and the exquisitely decorated opera house.


The flower arrangements are fantastic and the whole atmosphere is elegant and festive.
Images of the Opera ball are broadcasted each year around the whole world.
Another beautiful event is the Hunters ball where all assistants dress in National costume ( Dirndl for the ladies and Steirer for Gentlemen)

Opening ceremony at the Hunters Ball.

And then there are of course the balls for nearly every imaginable profession:
Police, lawyers, technicians, owners of cafés , doctors,confectioners ... you name it.

Poster announcing the police ball.

Carnival masks made of chocolate.


 

The dress code for the most elegant balls is quite formal:
White tie and decorations ( if you own one , if not - rumor has it that some of them are bought at the flea market :) )  for gentlemen and evening gown for ladies.

For a prime loge at the opera ball you will be charged the bargain of about US$ 21.000.-!

Couples made of marcipan dancing on a sugar cloud displayed at the famous Demel pastry shop and cafe.
 By the end of carnival (Ash Wednesday) the city life returns back to normality but sometimes it seems that the whole town is just waiting for next year's carnival to come back to life again.
See you soon with new adventures,until then....I have to get dressed for the next ball :)







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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hearty Hungarian Goulash Soup






I don't know about you, but here in Vienna it's freezing cold and after walking a while through the city we were longing for some warm comfort food.
For tomorrow temeratures below -6C are expected, but despite of the weather we will be visting the New Years Trail. Now you might ask - what's the New Year's Trail?
For the last night of 2014 and following a 25 year old tradition, the Vienna News Year's trail offers
12 hours of entertainment - a great way to begin the New Year.
The programe starts at 2pm with children activities and continues  from the late afternoon on with everything from live bands and DJs to free for all waltzing clases and a live broadcast from the Vienna State Opera where traditionally "Die Fledermaus" is performed.
Apart from that, countless stalls around the city offer all kinds of treats from sparkling wine to toast to the New Year to hot goulash soup, sausages and sweets to keep the visitors warm.
Every year there is a beautiful firework at one of the big squares in down town, the Heldenplatz.
At midnight, the big bell of St. Stephen's Cathedral, called the Pummerin will ring to announce 2015.
For the ones who prefere to dance into the New Year, the glittering New Year's Eve Ball in the Imperial Palace "Hofburg" will be the place to be and to enjoy a unique experience.
To keep you warm during walking through the city, Gulaschsoup is the classic  soul warmer from the Austrian-Hungarian cuisine.
Spicy, hearty and restorative, it's the star during the ball season when nights are short and people are dancing and celebrating until dawn.
Before going home, it's tradition that everybody tastes this amazing soup.
It's Hungarian roots makes it spicy and passionate and the Austrian background adds a touch of harmony and perfect balance between the different flavors, light and charming as a Viennese Waltz.
There is a "student version" of Gulash soup - lots of gravy and less meat for a small Budget and the Fiaker (carriage driver) version, adding a hearty sausage.
This dish is easy to cook, can be prepare at least 1 day in advance and is a crowd pleaser on cold Winter days.
This is what you need:

2 yellow onions, chopped
1 clove garlic,crushed
200g bacon, chopped
2 spoonful olive oil
1/2 kg stew beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 spoonful flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 spoonful sweet (Hungarian) paprika 
1/2 spoonful spicy (Hungarian) paprika 
1 spoonful tomato paste
2 beef stock homemade or low sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar 
3-4 medium size potatoes, quartered
Salt, pepper
Sour cream and freshly chopped parsley for garnish

Method:
Toss beef with salt, pepper and flour.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan over high heat

Add onion and crushed garlic and fry gently until it softens and starts to turn Golden.
Add bacon, fry until golden brown, add beef, sear on all sides.

add beef, sear on all sides.

Add both paprikas, mix well until blended with the other ingredients, add tomato paste, beef stock and vinegar.

Stir thoroughly , leave covered to simmer gently for about 1 hour or until meat is soft.

Add potatoes and continue simmering until soft.
Check seasoning.
Serve warm and top with sour cream and chopped parsley.


Enjoy! Serves 8P.

Happy New Year to everybody!

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Warm Apricot Punch For Cold Winter Days




Sorry, I've been late for this post.
We traveled to Vienna to spend Christmas  with our family.
Until everything is settled, luggage is unpacked and Internet is reinstalled it takes time.
I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving, missed you all.
It's already very cold here and for Tuesday the first snow is expected.


People crowd at the beautiful Weihnachtsmaerkte (Christmas  markets) where all kind of sweets, hot chocolate, mulled wine and different kinds of punch are served.

 
At least one stall at every market sells for charity.
Many charity organizations, usually with voluntary helpers, are reliant on these donations. 


There are as well live concerts with Christmas music and the ambiance is beautiful and festive.


Christmas wouldn't be complete without the annual "Christmas in Vienna" in the Konzerthaus a great classical music event hosting international singing stars. This concert is broadcast on TV every year.
But before rushing to the next musical event, I would like to share with you one of my favorite punch recipes,  a highlite for every Christmas or winter party.
Apricots add a wonderful, aromatic flavor to this hot drink.


This is what you need:

750 ml apricot juice
750 ml white wine
2 star anise
4 cardamom pods, cracked
1 vainilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
75 g brown sugar
zest of 1 untreated lemon
3 table spoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 
150 ml apricot liqueur

Bring all ingredients except for the apricot liqueur to a boil, then let simmer for about 10 minutes.
Remove spices and lemon zest and add apricot liqueur.
Serve hot and top with a spooon full of whipped cream ( optional)
Serves 8 
Enjoy!

 
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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Will be back next week

Dear all,
Sorry for being late with my post.
Hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Will be back next week.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cartagena - Colombia's Caribbean Crown Jewel



After spending a week in the splendid capital Bogota we continued our journey to Colombia's Caribbean coast.
Cartagena de India is literally worlds away  from the Capital - climate, landscape, mentality, even Spanish is pronounced here in quite different.
The city was founded in 1533 by the Spaniards and become soon wealthy and powerful and turned therefor into an attractive plunder for pirates and corsairs.
For defense purposes, mighty walls and forts were built around the city and are still well preserved today.
The infamous Sir Francis Drake, a pirate in the service of  Queen Elizabeth the I. managed to conquer the city for a short time and marauded the place with his cronies.
Contemporary Cartagena is actually like two cities in one. There is the historic center, dating from colonial times and perfectly preserved and the modern part of the city with construction sites everywhere and a Skyline that resembles Miami.
Skyscrapers are pushing forward, setting limits to urban planning and the tropical way of life.
However, the rhythm of life seems relaxed, people are friendly and time is relative. You master it and don't allow time be your master.
Music is omnipresent in the streets. Caribbean sounds in one corner, Cuban Salsa in another one.
I was surprised by the Cuban presence here: Salsa, Cuban Cigars, Cuban restaurants everywhere until someone explained to me that most of Cubans here where immigrants who came via Venezuela to the nearby Cartagena.
The city's colonial heritage is charming and very much alive and we had lots of fun discovering sounds and sights.
 

Pegasus horses overlooking the harbour

A glimpse over the walls

Unspoiled beaches

For the romantics: a drink at the patio of the Monasterio Santa Claro Hotel at night.

 
Do not disturb: taking a nap in the middle of nowhere

Snow white sand and turquoise water

Taking a sunset drink at Café del Mar, on the walls of the old city

Strolling through beautiful colonial streets

The perfect balcony for Romeo & Julia

Jazzing up the evening

A building dedicated to the National Beauty Pageant. The whole week of competition  is a holiday and Cartagena comes to a standstill for a few days every November.


 
 View from our hotel pool over the harbor

Modern Cartagena
 

For the romantics: Dinner at Club the Pesca restaurant


Enjoying a gorgeous seafood risotto


A city of contrasts: beautiful old patio from colonial times


Cuban live music at a restaurant

A piece of heaven at Manzanillo beach
 
Cheers, hope you enjoyed the visit

 
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Friday, October 31, 2014

Bogota-Colombia's Vibrant Capital






Arriving at the vibrant capital of Colombia leaves you virtually breathless.
The city is situated at about 2700m above sea level and boy - you gasp for oxygen when you arrive.
The local advice to avoid altitude sickness is "Caminar despacito, comer poquito y dormer solito" which means "walk slowly, eat little and sleep alone"
We took the advice, rested a bit after our arrival and then plunged ourselves fully into discovering Bogota.
Traffic is chaotic and sometimes it seems that all of the over 7 million inhabitants of Bogota agree at driving their cars all at the same time in the same street-then you have what people refer to as a "trancon" or traffic jam.
The climate is quite unpredictable and most days you have all 4 stations in one day which means radiant sunshine in the morning, heavy rain or thunder storm at midday and variations of the former in the afternoon.
The cultural life of the city is amazing: Gorgeous museums (the newest addition is the Fernando Botero Museum), theatre, live  music peformances from classic to Cumbia and Vallenato and the extraordinary puppet theatre of Jaime Manzur which features from the month of November on the Nutcracker and other classic master pieces.
Colombians have a reputation of being very friendly, well-educated and speaking a beautiful Spanish.
They continue to battle against the image of drug and crime problems of their country which certainly exist, but there are as well the millions of ordinary Colombians who work hard for their living and live a decent life.
We had a wonderful time rediscovering this exciting country, visiting Bogota and the beautiful Caribbean town of Cartagena de Indias.



A recreation spot near down town.  



Bell tower of the Cathedral of Santa Fe de Bogotá

Writing on the wall: Remembering Colombian literature Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whom Colombians called affectionously "Gabo"

The newest addition to Bogota's cultural life : Gorgeous museo Botero

Mona Lisa with a twist as seen by maestro Botero

The museum is situated in an old colonial style house with a beautiful patio

The "al agua patos" café where we enjoyed a delicious brunch

And nice ambience

Best tropical fruit granola I ever tried

Amazing sandwhiches - this one with a Mediterranean flavour

The classical versión with ham and eggs

Local flavor with shredded meat and tasty onions

A colorful small house cheering up a rainy day


Visting the studio of our dear friend maestro Armando Villegas,a great Peruvian- Colombian painter who recently passed away

Live music show at a restaurant owned by the King of Cumbia and Vallenato music and Grammy award winner Carlos Vives

A sign at the entrance that reminds you to better not bring your personal weapons with you :)

"The "place to be for the young,rich and beautiful- Harry's Sasson, listed among the 50 best restaurants in Latinamerica.

A more traditional ambiance for private dinners

The open kitchen

And the stylish bar

Street musicians at a fleamarket in Santa Barbara




Thank you for joining me at this visit to Bogota, see you soon. 


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