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Graz

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One of the first things I ate when I got to Graz was a wiener schnitzel from a fairly well-regarded restaurant, and it was fine, but the meat was a little bit dry.  I’ve had better back in Toronto.  And it’s like, what the hell?  I’m in Austria. This should be the best wiener schnitzel of my life.

So I figured, okay, I’ll try again when I get to Vienna.

Figlmuller

There’s a place in Vienna called Figlmüller that’s quite famous for their schnitzel — I went at around 4:00 on a Sunday, at there was a half-hour line just to get in, so I figured this was going to be the mind-blowing wiener schnitzel I was hoping for.

wiener schnitzel

It was definitely better than the one from Graz, I’ll give it that.  The seasoning was outstanding and the outside was perfectly crispy, but again, it was a bit dry.

I wasn’t planning on eating this much wiener schnitzel, but just on principle, I had to try again.  It shouldn’t be this hard to find amazing wiener schnitzel in Austria.

I did some googling and found myself at a place called Cafe Rüdigerhof.  I had a good feeling about this one.  And…

wiener schnitzel

It was the worst of the bunch. The meat was, yet again, fairly dry, and this one wasn’t even particularly well seasoned. I had to add a very liberal spritzing of lemon just to give it any kind of flavour.

That’s it, I give up.  I’m not eating a fourth wiener schnitzel.  Thanks for nothing, Austria.

I had some flat-out awful meals at McDonald’s in Spain and Italy — meals that were so bad, they made me look at my life and think “am I doing this right?”  Well, here comes the land of Arnold Schwarzenegger to hold out a hand and let me know I’m doing just fine.  Because McDonald’s in Austria knows how to do it.

I had a few things: a McCountry sandwich, waffle fries, and a beer.

McDonald's Austria

Yeah, that’s right, McDonald’s serves beer here.

The McCountry sandwich was kind of like a McRib, only with red onions instead of regular onions, and curry sauce and mustard instead of BBQ sauce.  So… not at all like a McRib, actually.  But it’s made out of pork!

This was surprisingly decent.  The pork patty was dried out and nothing particularly special, but the combination of the sweet curry sauce and the mustard was satisfying.  I’m not a fan of raw onions, but even those were fine — the sauces were strong enough that they really only added crunch.

McCountry sandwich

The waffle fries were pretty good as well.  They were nice and crispy, and whatever they seasoned them with worked fairly well.  I ordered the “Hot Devil” dipping sauce to go with these, and oh man — that sauce is not kidding around.  There’s no way in hell a fast food joint back home would serve something even close to that spicy.  Legit hot.

The beer (!) was good too.  It was a pretty run-of-the-mill lager, but still… beer at McDonald’s!

Fried!

The meal was such a pleasant surprise, I figured I may as well get a dessert.  I got the raspberry cream cheese pie, and first of all, it was fried, so it’s automatically amazing.  The day McDonald’s at home started baking instead of frying their pies was the day that joy died.  Fried is so much better, it’s ridiculous.  I mean, look at that crispy, crackly exterior!

Pie!

The inside was pretty good, too — satisfyingly tart and not too sweet.  A solid ending to a surprisingly decent meal.

 

Tasty Treat Number One: I had a pork dish called schweinsbraten at Gasthaus zur Alten Press, and if that sounds extremely Austrian: yeah.  The whole restaurant was extremely Austrian.

Restaurant

When you’re in a place like that, you have to wonder how much of the design/decor is earnest, and how much is just them playing up the stereotypes to appeal to tourists.

(Not that they get many tourists in Graz — even my Airbnb host was a little puzzled as to why I was there, so I explained that I was visiting for the Arnold Schwarzenegger museum, and he feigned interest, like “oh, I was thinking about going there…”  You’re clearly not interested, Airbnb guy.  We don’t need to play this game; I know I’m a weirdo.)

Either way, the food was delicious; it was a great example of a really simple, comforting meal, with fork-tender pork, semmelknödel (which tastes kind of like an Austrian version of the stuffing you might eat on Thanksgiving), and cabbage, all topped with a rich gravy.

Bakery

Tasty Treat Number Two: Hofbäckerei Edegger-Tax has been around for almost 500 years — since 1569. Coming from Canada, where there was a pretty huge deal made about our recent 150th birthday, going to a bakery that’s more than three times older than that feels a bit strange.

The lady behind the counter spoke perfect English (which is delightfully common here), so I asked her what she recommended, and she suggested the Mozartkugel.

Delicious

This consists of a marzipan centre, surrounded by what basically tasted like thick chocolate buttercream frosting, a cakey pastry, and more marzipan, with the whole thing covered in a generous coating of good quality dark chocolate.

Marzipan is one of those ingredients that can magically make pretty much anything more delicious, so I enjoyed this quite a bit.

I think everyone can agree that Austria’s greatest gift to the world is the fact that it’s the birthplace of the greatest movie star of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  They’ve converted his childhood home into a museum; as soon as I found this out, I knew a stop in Austria was a must.

(Yeah that’s right, literally the only reason I’m visiting Austria is to see the Arnold Schwarzenegger museum.  I am, however, going to go to Vienna while I’m here and see all the usual touristy stuff — I’m a weirdo, but I’m not that much of a weirdo.)

Middle of nowhere

I’m staying in Graz, but the museum is actually in Thal, a small village that’s close enough that you can get there by city bus.  It actually requires two different buses — and then you finally get there and you’re kind of in the middle of nowhere and you’re wondering if you’re in the right place.  Then you see this and you realize that yeah, it’s definitely the right place.

Arnie boat

So you walk a bit, and when you finally get to the house, you absolutely can’t miss it.  There’s this:

Flexing

Not to mention a big statue of Arnie flexing in front of the house.

Statue flexing

The “museum” (it’s really just a few rooms that you can see in about 15 minutes) is small and kind of underwhelming, but as an Arnie fan, it’s still absolutely worth a visit.  There’s something special about being in Schwarzenegger’s actual childhood home.

You can see the bed he slept in.

Arnie's bed

Some of his first bodybuilding equipment.

Bodybuilding equipment

Props and costumes from his movies.

Motorcycle from T2

Not to mention a painting that I absolutely need to hang up in my house.

Greatest painting ever?

You can probably give the museum a pass if you’re not an Arnold Schwarzenegger superfan, but then aren’t we all Arnold Schwarzenegger superfans?

Thought Number One: After the bewildering nightmare of trying to get anywhere via bus or subway in Italy, taking public transit here is an absolute pleasure.  Everything is clearly labeled, there are maps everywhere, and when you’re on the bus, all of the stops are spelled out and called out, so it’s always absolutely clear where you are. It’s pretty much the polar opposite of Italy, and it’s amazing.

(And this is somewhat unrelated, but there’s litter everywhere in Italy.  Things are so much cleaner here.  So that’s nice too.)

Patience

Thought Number Two: No one jaywalks here.  Everywhere I’ve been in Europe so far (and especially in Italy), people really don’t care whether the little crosswalk guy says to go or to stop.  If there aren’t any cars coming (and, sometimes, even if there are) people just go for it.  Here, on the other hand, everyone waits very patiently, even if the roads are completely deserted.