When we left the cafe we still had a ways to go before getting to the city center and so we made our way over leisurely, taking in the sights even as the temperatures dropped so much that Will buttoned his shirt all the way up to try to keep insulated despite being basically choked by his collar.
We were headed to the famous Cafe Central, which Dennis researched extensively and was clearly very excited to visit. There was a line out the door when we arrived and when Kev returned from scoping out the entrance and joked "okay the line only wraps around the inside once," Dennis was 100% unfazed and ready to wait. Luckily, the line moved at a steady pace and we had seats in about 30 minutes. We ordered desserts to share and coffee drinks, took selfies with Will's selfie stick, and the more enthusiastic in our party even got a selfie while sitting on the toilet during a bathroom break.
Returning to the apartment, we hung out in the upstairs living area and watched some tv, reviewed our days' pictures, and tried to decide on dinner before we got too hungry. We landed on Japanese - we'd all been craving Asian I guess, after being away from our usual diets that feature vegetables much more prominently than the cuisines we'd been enjoying in the past several days.
More wine, more games, and bedtime after another long and active day.
Kev and I had the second day in Vienna to ourselves while the rest of the group biked over to Schoenbrunn castle. We started with brunch at Cafe Ulrich, lucking out with a patio table in great weather. (Think passing clouds and sporadic sunshine.) The meal held hints of fall with a pumpkin soup and beet purée.
Afterward we lolled about the city and climbed the tower of the church in the main square. The travel magnet selection at the gift shops in the square was lacking but we scored a simple little blue and white one with "Wien" embossed in gold. I note this detail because after ducking in and out of what seemed like a dozen stores, I tell you it really felt like finding treasure when I finally took the darn thing up to the cashier and checked out.
We'd agreed with the group to turn on wifi after the last scheduled tower climb of the day and link up for dinner. We didn't connect with them for a while and so we waited at a nearby wine bar, using their wifi signal and trying various white wines. Not a bad way to pass the time.
Late afternoon was starting to turn to dusk. The chill was coming back into the air, but we were still warm from our activities so we continued to sit outdoors, finally ordering soup to keep up the warmth and tide us over until dinner. Sitting on that quiet side street sipping wine was another one of those moments like I had in Budapest when time slows just enough to form a more vivid memory than usual. No sky like the sky that afternoon in Vienna - supremely blue, and despite the clouds, where it was clear it was so clear that you could see sunshine filling it up as if the light was suspended in water.
Our return to the Airbnb, a long one as we stayed about a 30 minute walk from the main square, took place as the last of the day was fading and this allowed us to see Vienna's gorgeous, and yes, opulent, architecture made brilliant against the golden light. We walked through gardens, under a couple of arches, across tree lined streets, and by the time we were a few minutes from our apartment I had my camera out in front of me the whole time, snapping the same picture over and over straight down our dingy, anonymous street - that sunset, that sky. That was the few hours' difference by which the city entered my heart.
The others had gotten back a little before us and were out on the roof patio enjoying a bottle of wine. The wind eventually whipped us back indoors and after a little unwinding we set out for our last Vienna meal.
The place we'd had in mind was closed for a private party but the servers gave us a nice little recommendation for a restaurant that Kim now refers to as "cute place," as in our two Vienna dinners were "Japanese and cute place."
Walking up to the front door felt like we were coming upon a tavern like the one in the Beauty and the Beast (original Disney animated version) and inside we found indeed a cute place that was barely populated as the other diners were all seated in the open air garden out back.
These group meals in new places are treasures, I see that now. No memory exists of what we talked about but there is the certainty that we were enjoying ourselves.
The coziness of that dinner and the bright yellow street lights which illuminated our last walk back to the apartment sealed the experience of this city. Vienna: technically beautiful, blazing skied, and for all its autumnal chill, full of moments of warmth.