So, real quick--here's an addendum to my pervious post.
St. Patrick's Day at the Prater: one of the great things about Europe, friends, is that you are allowed to consume alcohol in public. St. Patrick's Day happened to be the first Saturday of a string of gorgeous sunny springtime days here in Vienna, so our group decided to take snacks, books, wine and blankets to the Prater and have a picnic in the sunshine. It was a lovely afternoon and we all enjoyed just laying around, reading, chatting, eating, drinking and, in one case, smoking a pipe. :) I returned home feeling quite bohemian and European...and a bit sunburnt. :) tee hee
Bratislava: A recent NY Times article cited the city as a hidden getaway destination from Vienna. Well, it might be hidden to Americans (we might not consider Slovakia as a top travel destination in Europe), but based on the amount of German I heard in Bratislava on Saturday when we were there, its not as 'hidden' to the Austrians! Nevertheless, its true: its a gem of a city, only 1 hour away from Vienna. For a roundtrip ticket of only 15 Euros (incl. transportation in Brastilava once you're there), its an incredibly cheap day trip. So on another beautiful sunny day, my friend Jeff and I hopped a train and traveled across the border to Slovakia. Since Jeff had been there before, we easily found our way into the city and spent the majority of the day wandering through it. We climbed to the top of the Michael's gate, hiked up to the castle, had lunch in the pedestrian zone, shopped a bit, ate ice cream and people watched by the opera and ended the trip with dinner. I found Bratislava to be really charming--it has cute, winding cobblestone roads and pretty city squares. At the same time, though, you can see traces from the Soviet era in architecture, which makes it even more interesting. The city isn't all that big, so a day trip was plenty of time to get to see a good portion of it.
The only downside to the whole day was that we forgot to check the departure times for evening trains and ended up spending 1.5 hours waiting at the train station--but during that time Jeff helped me discover the addiction of "Angry Birds" which I (gasp!) had never played before. :)
Sachertorte Baking Extravaganza: For those of you who know me, I do not bake. I cook. But I have always admired friends (and my mother!) who can bake really well. So when my friend Katie invited Ann and me to have a baking party at her apartment on Sunday, I was excited to get in on the fun and hopefully learn some useful pointers on how to bake. I had quite a steep learning curve because we decided to start by baking Sachertorte!! Its a very labor intensive process, and we were all happy that there were three of us on the job so that we could all pitch in at various stages (I think the original Torte has something like 37 steps to it! The recipe is, of course, secret, but the one we used comes from an original Sacher baking book, so its as close as we could get to the original). I am not sure if I could ever make this on my own, but it seemed to have turned out quite well! One thing I was not aware of is that the Marillenmarmelade is spread all over the outside of the cake, beneath the icing. Also, the icing was probably the trickiest part of the whole procedure--it has to be just the right consistency and temperature to get its signature glossy sheen. Aside from the Sachertorte, we also made chocolate chunk cookies and hot cross buns, which, in comparison to the Torte, were much easier (however, Katie and I both confessed our aversion to using yeast recipes... luckily Ann showed us that its not that scary to use!). All in all it was a great day! Maybe I will be brave enough to keep baking once I return to the States....???