Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A beautiful and prosperous city on the Danube (137Cong.Rec.)

Concerned that Vienna might be too uptight, I decided to split my time in Austria. After some touring in the capital, I headed down the Danube to Linz. I chose the city because it was a short train ride from Vienna, it had accessible bike paths along the river, and it was a European Capital of Culture in 2009. The city received the designation because of its educational, music, and arts centers. I, however, kicked off my visit with some drinking culture.

After checking into my hotel, I wandered around downtown and stumbled upon Chelsea Pub, an Irish bar with a good craft-beer collection, including local Rieder Brewery's IPA (top left). It was opening night of Bundesliga, so I joined the locals watching some matches (top right). A majority of pub-goers appeared to be more interested in supporting Bayern than cheering on the hometown team, the Blue and White, in a lesser league. Unfortunately, the drinking choices went downhill from there. The next day, I had mediocre lagers at both macrobrewery outlet Klosterhof (bottom left) and Beer Buddies Brewing Company purveyor Leopoldistuberl. At least at the latter they gave me some free chips with my Tragweiner Bernstein (bottom right).
But the dearth of beer options didn't bother me too much because I had come to bike. The next morning, after checking out a rental cycle, I headed to K.U.K. Hofbackerei, one of the oldest bakeries in the city (left). Not to be outdone by the city downstream, Linz has its own sugary specialty: Linzertorte, which I enjoyed with an energy-inducing cappuccino (right).
 
Clouds were rolling in and rain threatening, so I took a short spin through the Hauptplatz, where a Saturday flea market was in full swing (top left), before heading down to the Danube River, where I joined the waterside path (top right). I rode in a light rain until I was so far that I could barely see the UNESCO City of Media Arts through the mist (middle left). Then I turned around and headed back to a bridge, where I crossed to investigate the Mural Harbor. Apparently, the best works are viewed by boat, but even the more amateur pieces on the port warehouses were impressive to me (middle right). The night before, I didn't investigate the professional works inside, but just the Lentos Art Museum building itself looked like a work of art (bottom).
After the harbor, I circled around the outskirts of the city until I reached Freinberg Park, home of Franz-Josef's Tower (top left). True to the city's name, even the structure's stairs looked like a work of art (top right). But of course, the real stunner was the view from the top (bottom left). Luckily, the rain let up enough that I could not only look down on the city but also survey the surrounding countryside (bottom right).
As I walked back to where I had parked my bike, I passed Barbara-Kapelle, where people pray to the Virgin Mary (top left). The peace of the chapel was oddly juxtaposed with a very warlike presence, a three-foot shell acting as a memorial to World War I artillery soldiers (top right). Back on my bike, I coasted downhill to the somewhat hidden and definitely not crowded site of Johannes Kepler's telescope (bottom left). The day before, I blinked and almost missed the house of the native son who proved elliptical planetary orbits (bottom right). On perhaps a less proud note, Hitler also claimed Linz as his hometown, but the city has reclaimed the narrative by using buildings he ordered constructed to house a university.
By this time, the rain was really coming down, so I decided to give up the ghost and return my bike, so I could seek shelter indoors. Unfortunately, the city's piece de resistance, the Ars Electronica Center, was unexpectedly closed, with little explanation (top). I decided to drown my sorrows with food, so I headed to Wirt am Graben (bottom left), where I had a traditional dish of dumplings with chanterelle-cream sauce (bottom right).
Despite the intermittent then ongoing onslaught of bad weather, I decided to do a bit of a self-guided walking tour -- after donning some rain gear and grabbing an umbrella. On my way downtown, I passed by the city's main church, Mariendom, then snaked down the pedestrian Promenade. My final destination was city hall, where I met a guide for an official walking tour. The weather must've scared everyone else away, and I ended up being her only customer.

Nonetheless, wet set out in the rain together, and she showed me some of the city's lesser-known sites. First up was the city's shortest, smallest alley (bottom left), which used to lead to its castle, which has now been converted into a history museum. A few alleys away, we ducked into "Mozart's house" (bottom right), named as such not because he lived there but because he wrote a symphony during a short visit there. In the passageway to the courtyard, you can push a button to hear "Symphony No. 36 in C Major."

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Pay $3.25 for a slice of Viennese torte (141Cong.Rec. E637)

The last time I was in Vienna, I was in junior high, and before returning there recently, my recollection was of a city with long boulevards of imposing buildings. As TJ and I wandered around the Austrian capital, my memories seemed not too far off. As the seat of a former empire, beautiful facades are everywhere, such as along the downtown ring in the Museums Quarter (top left), home of the Leopold Museum, with Austrian art, and Mumok, with modern art. In the inner city, St. Stephen's Cathedral stands out among the many historical structures (top right). And certainly, city hall, or Rathaus, puts others to shame, even when it is all decked out for an annual Film Festival (bottom). 
Almost just as lovely are the spaces in between, such as the plaza that is shouldered by the Natural History Museum and the Art History Museum (top). And of course, within the old city, you can get lost in its many cobbled streets as you gawk at their charm (bottom left). Just keep enough wits about you that you don't get run over by tourist-laden horse-driven carriages (bottom right).
But if you go even just a bit beyond the tourist cluster, Vienna's grungy edges start to show. The footpaths along the Danube Canal, for example, are filled with some off-color official artworks and some equally risque unofficial graffiti (top). The pomp of the typical Viennese circumstances faded away at some canalside establishments, including the Badeschiff, which features a floating pool (bottom left). The umbrella-covered picnic tables on the boat's top deck provided some shelter with a view, and some refreshment, during a spot of rain (bottom right).
We weren't the only ones imbibing on a drizzly Friday afternoon. Although perhaps not as blatant as Germany's, Austria has its own brand of beer culture. You can let it all hang out with friends, downing multiple pints in wood-paneled dens like Hawidere (left), or you can adopt a more sophisticated air, sipping refined beverages on the outdoor terraces of hipster joints like Mel's Craft Beers and Diner (right). 
If you are of the truly cultivated class, or among the many sweet-toothed tourists, you can head to Cafe Sperl for a different kind of drinking (left). Many Viennese coffee houses have longer java menus than bars' lager lists, due to all the variations in espresso orders. I can't remember exactly which combination I opted for, but I know I offset my bitter brew with some saccharine sachertorte (right). 
Despite my belief that it is a well-balanced meal, chocolate cake was not my only nourishment of the day. We circled around the blocks-long Naschmarkt a couple times in order to find a good late breakfast. It wasn't quite time for Zur Eisernen Zeit, or "At the Iron Time," because it wasn't open yet (bottom left), so we chose some seafood snacks at Fischviertel (bottom right). 
For linner, we sought out a traditional beisl, or bistro. For once, the guidebook was spot-on when it recommended the quaint courtyard of Amerling Beisl (left). TJ had a very generous meat-and-cheese platter, and I stuffed myself with a vegetarian version of Rindsgulasch (right). 
After a detour down the Danube, I met some friends for lunch before my flight home. They took me to Cafe Prueckel, which expertly presents the ritual of traditional Tafelspitz, or boiled beef (top left). Before I caught a train to the airport, I took one last look at the outdoor and indoor wonders of the city, strolling along the paths of the Stadtpark (top right) and straining my neck at the Museum of Applied Arts, which reminded me in construction and collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (bottom). It was a last -- and lasting -- reminder that Vienna is a true place of beauty, even behind the surfaces of its edifices.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Cycling activities are gathering tourists for organized rides (150Cong.Rec.H8063)

People have various ways they recharge during R&R. Me, I like to ride dozens of miles over a period of weeks, interspersing beer along the way. It's particularly restful when someone else plans your route and carries your crap. This year, I became a Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (GOBA) "veteran" by doing the ride for a second time. In my opinion, I earned my stripes by suffering tent, bike, and weather (blinding fog and rain) malfunctions -- all of which I somehow managed to luckily avoid the year before (well, there was some rain). 

This year was more relaxing for a lot of reasons, but most of all, I was just more laid-back, not feeling like I had to prove my mettle. I wasn't worried that I would be the last one out on the course, so I wasn't afraid to linger at sights along the right, such as Mill Creek Covered Bridge (top left) and Deer Creek Lake (top right). I took my time at the rest stops. The unofficial snack pit by Buckeye Lake (bottom) was a particular respite, considering I somehow missed the official lunch location that day. 
Other stops were easier to find because they were at known tourist destinations, such as Smeck Historical Farm and Park (top left) and Dawes Arboretum (top right). I also felt no guilt about opting out of the optional rides on overnight stops. I spent a lot of my time "rehydrating" in local establishments, such as Staas Brewing Company in Delaware and Double Edge Brewing Co. in Lancaster, but in the latter town, I also took a stroll on the trail up to Mount Pleasant (bottom left), where I could look back on Fairfield County Fairgrounds, where we stayed for the night (bottom right), and think about the suckers who were likely getting rained on out on the route.
Fully recuperated from that organized ride, I charted my own courses during a short trip to Cincinnati. After setting up camp for the night, I took my car, not my bike, to Brink Brewing Co., where I sampled Gabe's Northside Rye and Debbie Jean Cherry Lemonade blonde ale (left). It was a Monday night, so I mostly had the place to myself, except for what appeared to be my kind of Mommy and Me group (right). I was about to head to Fretboard Brewing Company, but the bartender told me that Foreigner was playing there that night, and I wouldn't be able to get in without tickets.
So I ended up at March First Brewing instead (top), where I had a flight of Denali IPA, Mosaic Pale AleSwiss Chocolate Stout, and Maple Red Ale (middle left). Again, most of the place, including the vat-viewing tables, was empty (middle right). I can only assume that the better-informed beer drinkers in town were enjoying an acoustic version of "Jukebox Hero." I also had relatively few neighbors at my waterside site at Winton Woods Campground as well (bottom left). As it is with camping, I tucked myself as the sun went down (bottom right), so I would be well-rested for my first beer-biking loop the next day.
 
Upon waking up, I realized my route might be ambitious, considering I didn't calculate the fact that breweries don't tend to open in the morning. With some time to kill, I took a nice walk along the Kingfisher Trail (top left) before fueling up with a late breakfast of goetta tacos Foster's at the Troubadour (top right). Then I drove to the start of my loop, Listermann Brewing, which blessfully opened at 11 a.m. (middle). I unloaded my bike just their doors opened, then christened the day with a flight of Yacht Rock milkshake IPA, Stoppage Time cream ale, Freat wheat beer, and house cider (bottom left). The bartender was intermittently engaged in bottling beer (bottom right), but during a break, I told her what I was doing; she wished me well and sent me on my way with a Cincinnati Brewery Passport
It was mostly a downhill ride to downtown, where I crossed the Purple People Bridge into Kentucky (top left). To delay an early arrival at my next stop, I snapped some shots of the Queen City skyline (top right). I reached Braxton Brewing Company and Labs just after it opened, and it was pretty dead due to it being a mid-Tuesday (middle left). While some employees cut an industrial-size bucket of limes behind me, the bartender happily commiserated with me and offered some sudsy suggestions: a Brut IPA and the appropriately-named Cycle Coffee Stout 002 (middle right). She also recommended I get lunch at McK's Chicks, just down the road from the brewery's nearby main location (bottom left). Indeed, McK's ghost pepper mac 'n' cheese was washed down real nicely with a Haven hefeweizen (bottom right). 
 
 
It started to sprinkle as I finished my pork sandwich, but nonetheless, I decided to risk the quick ride to Wooden Cask Brewing Company. The downpour was just beginning as I ran into the brewery (left). The law-student bartender was a gracious host, letting me in a few minutes before opening time and suggesting that I bring in my bike as well. I didn't bother as it was already soaked by the precipitation onslaught. Instead, as I sipped a 7th Street Runoff brown ale (right), I considered the karmic consequences of my being smug about avoiding most of the rain during GOBA.
 
It was coming down so bad that I considered calling a taxi, but then I saw a ray of light (or thought I did), so I made a run for the border, back to Ohio. Not going to lie, I got drenched on my way to Rhinegeist Brewery, but nobody seemed to mind that I was sopping wet in the old Christian Moerlein bottling plant, which is big enough to accommodate both extensive brewing (top left) and cornhole (top right) equipment. (Incidentally, I was unable to visit Moerlein's current operations, as they were closed the day I was in the area.) It was a difficult choice at the bar (middle left), but in the end, I had a flight of Pia pale ale, Bubbles rose ale (a kind of cider), Flamingo IPA, and Spike witbier (middle right). By the time I left, the sun had come out, which was good because I had a long climb out of downtown (full disclosure: when I stopped to walk, a dad with his daughter in a kid's seat passed me) to Woodburn Brewery (bottom left). There, I only had one drink, a Marzenbier, because my appearance -- and odor -- weren't mixing well with the swank ambiance (bottom right). I returned to Listermann, where they rewarded my feat with some free sips.
 
The second day, I was awakened quite early by some woodpeckers (top left). So I had some time to reconsider my plan based on my newfound understanding of opening hours, and ultimately, I trimmed down my brewery list. I parked at my starting point and set off immediately on the Little Miami Scenic Trail toward Fifty West Brewing Company (top right). The brewpub offered six-pack flights, so I selected Coast to Coast IPA, Tastee Whip cream ale, Samba blonde ale, Pop Top pale ale, Straight 8 pale ale, and Main Street amber ale (bottom left). Sure in the fact that I didn't need to rush, I lingered over my beer, enjoying the pubby atmosphere and singing along to some good tunes with the bartender (bottom right). 
My next stop, MadTree Brewing Company, was almost the exact opposite of a warm, wood-filled brewpub; it was more of an industrial, steel-built loft (top left). But the numerous taps were certainly welcoming. I struggled with narrowing down my choices, but finally went with Between the Spreadsheets saison, Heifer Weizen wheat beer, Rubus Cacao chocolate raspberry stout, and Yes! Cuban B! American imperial (top right). Before I left, I talked myself into a free sample of PsycHOPathy IPA, then visited the more sad than mad tree in the brewery's outdoor pavilion (bottom). 
I headed on to Streetside Brewery, which clearly wasn't taking itself as seriously, what with the Lite-Brite panels attached to the walls (top left). The brewery has lots of whimsical beer flavors, including the dangerously tasty Cereal Milk milkshake IPA, which was seriously reminiscent of Fruity Pebbles remnants. Besides that brilliant creation, I filled out my flight with Key Lime Pie Goes? goze, Many Hills oud bruin, and S'more Fun Together imperial brown (top right). I took advantage of the equally creative on-site food truck, Street Chef Brigade (bottom left), to nosh on a snack: a flatbread with Mexican-style toppings (bottom right).
 
With a peaceful ride by the river, I was back at my car, parked at Little Miami Brewing Company (top left). I had already finished an Earth Cookie brown ale and Magpie Rye (top right) before I realized there was some spectacular seating overlooking the Little Miami (middle). But I didn't have time to linger, and I soon headed home to Mansfield. A few days later, after I put the bike back in the basement there, I unwound by watching a dragon float over nearby Ashland during Balloonfest (bottom left). It was a good way to bookend my R&R, considering I had started the trip by taking my dad to the city's Uniontown Brewing Company for Father's Day (bottom right).