In the current Weekly Standard you will find my essay on Tafelspitz, that boiled beef specialty of the Habsburg Empire (and in other iterations what is known as a stew) as well as a few reminiscences from my time in Vienna as a student. As a reminder of how long ago that was (18 years ago), I casually told my guide how familiar I was with the city, offhandedly remarking on the club scene in the Bermuda Dreieck. She gave me an almost embarrassing grin (as if I were asking what happened to Studio 54) and explained to me that while the Bermuda Dreieck is a still a place for people to go, it is not a happening place—that would now be across the Donau Kanal, such as at Le Loft, the sky bar at the Sofitel overlooking Vienna.
My accommodations were provided by the Austrian Tourist Board and the Hotel Sacher, the latter of which was my hotel for a few nights—a tremendous gesture considering I didn’t write about it in the Standard. Needless to say, if you can afford staying anywhere in the city, the Sacher is as good as it gets. The staff was friendly and extremely attentive, the breakfasts were exquisite (especially if you’re into those Austro-German breakfasts of Quark, herring in cream, and smoked trout), and my room had a great view of Kärntner Strasse—I could even see Starbucks! Also, the marble floor in the bathroom was heated. That was a nice touch.
At the end of my visit, a young Bulgarian cab driver brought me to the terminal connecting to the airport. He liked Vienna, he told me, except for the traffic. He was young enough not to remember the late Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, though his parents have told him that sure, it was a tough time, but the state provided for your every need, which can’t be said in the West. “Of course,” my driver explained, “you just couldn’t say anything bad about the government—then you’d disappear.” But what a small price to pay!