Vienna, Day Three

I ventured out to spend the morning at the Imperial Apartments. Afterwards, I walked about 15 minutes away to the Naschmarkt. Rick Steves calls it the “nibbles” market. In all due respect Rick — it’s NOSH market.

Think Pike Place Market. Only bigger. And more exotic.

I had lunch at an Israeli joint called Neni. Figured I should give THEIR hummus a try. Pretty damn awesome. Maybe on par with mine. Okay, I just took another taste: as good as mine. Just different.

I suspect they don’t use olive oil, garlic or lemon. That is likely the proper way to make it.

But it was the visit to a stand of Mideast goods. I am guessing Turkish but maybe not. Spices. Teas. And, some unusual nuts and snacks. I asked for a little bit — A LITTLE BIT!! – of the cashews banana — seemed to be cashews glazed with some sort of caramelized banana treatment.

Same with these Wasabinuss. That is probably translated as Wasabi nuts though they are not strictly nuts. More like a crunchy carb thing surrounding probably a peanut. “A little bit,” I pleaded. I repeated.

The sack of wasabinuss must weigh a pound.

When I spotted the walnut-stuffed dates, I specifically said – and signaled: 3 – that’s three – 3 dates!

Three became six.

I am pretty sure the word “sucker” was tattooed on my forehead. However – don’t misunderstand. I. Am. Delighted with the snacks. But this guy was playing me like a dope. At the very least, I wanted him to know that I knew that he was scamming me.

Coulda been worse: it could’ve been a pickpocket. At least I ended up with nuts in bags in a bag.

I have this thing where I romanticize the “different tastes” from other countries when I travel. Whether it be “eggs” in every Dutch dish I ate when I first visited in the 90’s.

Or the “acqua con gas” I drank in Rome from a company called Claudius. It was my go-to bottled water. Likely because I imagined it was drawn from the ancient wells of “I, C-C-Claudius”.

My first night in Vienna this summer of 2019, I ate at a Greek restaurant. The meal was fabulous. Beef tasted like real beef. Tomatoes: real (you get the picture).

The water was labeled “prickelnd“.

Though I’d never seen the word before, I could divine the water was sparkling.

Onomatopoetic.

I had this view that the water was naturally extracted from some bubbling spring in the Vienna Woods NOT that it was a bloody Coca Cola product. I mean, where’s the romance in that? I bet those bubbles aren’t even natural.

Bastards.

And corn and zucchini and Kirby cukes and tomatoes and melon and blueberries.

Ahhhh – summer fruits!!

To be clear – the Pope and the Date Lady were only together in my day. Not literally.

I spent an October Wednesday morning at the Papal Audience with Papa Francesco. And a couple thousand other souls. It’s a Happening. It took a long bus ride and about 30 minutes – maybe more – to get through security and into the public pens.

And then, you’re in.

It’s very exciting. Everyone is buzzing. It is a cacophony of tongues. Nuns, priests of course. Families. Large groups of Catholic school teens with their banners. Coveys of seniors following the ubiquitous guys with flags on sticks: tours of tourists who I suspect don’t know that the tickets are gratuito!

The veterans know to sit anywhere around the periphery next to the barriers. Picture thousands of people squeezed around the edges, and hundreds of empty chairs in the center.

You look up at the Jumbotrons, and see his white garb. A Popemobile eye’s view as he climbs aboard. The buzzing gets louder. People craning their necks as they see on the screen that Il Papa is moving.

And then. Then. Arriva! Arriva! He’s here! We all rush to our spots, elbowing the aggressive few, backpacks in our faces, banners in front of our lenses. To Get The Shot.

SNAP SNAP SNAP

At that point, major denouement time. Mind you – he hasn’t even started talking yet. It’s not a mass. Francis welcomes us in Italian. The message is repeated in many languages: French, German, Spanish, English (which oddly covered everywhere from the Dominican Republic to Japan), several others.

The day’s Homily played off the scripture on divorce and “let no man tear asunder…” it was more about integrity of love and commitment – than you damn well better stay married.

First delivered by the Pope – then summarized by the foreign speakers.

At the end – (as forecast and promised) he blesses the crowd. Plus, all of the religious objects we carried. My bag was bulging with wooden crosses, medals and one stunning rosary. Gifts for the folks back home.

THE DATE LADY

The Date Lady

She’s a recurring figure in my stories of Rome. For seventeen years, I have been buying big, succulent Medjool dates from the stand where she works at the Campo dei Fiori. She’s got just a few teeth. And, she’s friendly enough. Date, date, signora.

I held my breath this year that she would still be there. She was. What a delight. Until this one moment:

The Date Lady Turns

Some hapless tourist fails to see the sign on her mushrooms that boldly states DO NOT TOUCH. And she turns!

Date Lady goes full-on funghi fierce.

What a moment.

What a day!

I am smitten with the idea of the life of the person or people behind that window across the rear courtyard here in Roma.

It caught my attention because of the candle. Plus, everything else I could see in the space below was inanimate. This promised a story.

The table was simply, but elegantly, set. It didn’t have the quotidian feel of just another dinner.

I first saw a youngish woman setting something down – maybe she had just finished setting the table. Then a man – her partner, roommate, friend? (Probably not just friend – the candlelight after all) – sat a pan down with something sizzling. Maybe it was veal scallopini – but more likely chicken breasts (unlike Jimmy Stewart – I had no binoculars plus hey!! I wasn’t spying or anything).

I had just finished washing my day’s undergarment- and hanging it out to dry on the little clothesline outside my kitchen window – in time to catch them eating their meal together. He seemed rapt with attention, pouring her sake – and I imagined her elusive. Like maybe they were just courting.

That’s it. I walked away from the window. Watched 007 (Sean Connery) in Italian. Then went to bed.

In the early morning hours, I peeked to see what I could see. I saw shutters. In the awake time of the day, a laptop and papers on the table.

Though it struck me that I had invaded their privacy by looking, I also considered that they could be staring at my window. And seeing my Hanky Panky® on the clothesline.

Just one day in Rome – and I managed to pack in two helpings of gelati, cacio e pepe, countful glasses of vino – and a new word.

Grandini. But that comes later.

My flight from JFK to FCO was, as they say, uneventful. It started a little disappointing but quickly sequed into an unexpected treat. I booked Finnair – hadn’t paid that much attention because I did it months ago and on Expedia. One thing I could never figure out how to do was pick my seat. Until the last day when they wanted to charge me about $150 to choose. Which pretty much negates getting a great deal now doesn’t it!?

I ended up in a middle seat in the third row from the back. I reacted with a groan. The flight attendant heard me and pointed out that the entire row in front of me was open. I quickly moved to the aisle seat. And three hours later when it was time to sleep – I stretched out over four seats and entered into the Land of Nod. Made a big difference for this traveler who doesn’t take altering substances to sleep on overnight flight.

We landed 90 minutes early and within an hour I was settling into my Casa Piccola. The woman who rented to me – the lovely Clotilde who has been renting me a place to lie my head for years here in Rome – described her other place as a “small house” on Via Urbana. First, she meant small apartment. Secondly, it is about the size of a medium-sized Manhattan apartment. It is lovely – with the miniature clothes line out the kitchen window, pots and pans stored in the living room, and the sounds and cooking smells of people living all around me.

Oh – and two flights of f’ing treacherous unevenly-spaced stairs.

Via Urbana is in Monti — known as Suburra in Ancient Rome. It was the red-light district – and home to both the lower class workers, and Julius Caesar. Never really spent that much time here. Lots to explore. It’s a pretty happening strada. Where I got my first helping of cacio e pepe. And gelato at a place that trumpeted some gorgeous macarons (follow nyproducer on Instagram for some of this). And hours later some celestial gelato next to a charming little piazza. I had “avocado, lime and vino bianco” and “apple, almonds and cinnamon”. Uh-maze-ing. think I shall return and try pumpkins with its seeds and cranberry. And call it Thanksgiving in Rome.

Grandini is the Italian word for hail. Not as in “Hail, Caesar” but as in holy shit who knew it was going to storm tonight!?! While finishing my second glass of Primitivo and my little bowl of cheese and salami, a dramatic boom of thunder cracked the night. And the downpour began. First pelting rain. Then grandini. I, of course, had no choice but to order another glass of vino and switched to misto verdure. A dish of caponata, dried tomatoes perfectly softened in olive oil and some treatment of zucchini I am going to have to figure out before I leave.

I made it home, had the veg with my eggs the next morning. And must simply meet who was playing Volare at 4 this morning.

My first 24 hours in Roma.

It is my tradition to share my list of foods from the Fair: what I ate and at the very least: my favorite “new” Fair Food. From the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

Without further ado:

Favorite: The First Kiss®. The most delicious, juicy, and unforgettable APPLE. Yes – a fruit.

Then – what else?

  • Frozen key lime pie on a stick
  • Pronto Pup
  • Smoked ice cream with bourbon cherries
  • Sausage medley
  • Wood-grilled elote (Mexican corn on the cob)
  • Mojito beergarita
  • Flight of dark beer
  • Apple!!!
  • Blueberry rhubarb cobbler with corn meal polenta and yogurt
  • Minneapple pie with vanilla ice cream
  • Minnepumpkin pie with cinnamon ice cream
  • Walleye Cakes
  • Turducken sausage on a bun