An afternoon at Naschmarkt
Ah, the Naschmarkt. One of Vienna’s crown jewels not in the Hofburg.
After sorting out where the heck the Metro entrance was near my hotel, I arrived at the far end of the market, expelled from the train like the others, right into the nest of tents filled with scarves, hats, and other clothing. Since I live in the land of plentiful markets in Asia, I forwent these items and dug deeper into the market, looking for … food.
Food. The hallmark of a local culture. What is there to eat? What dishes are the best? I wanted lunch, and I wanted to sample the treats being hawked along the way. There were many nut and dried fruit stands interspersed with those selling shopping baskets and fresh fruit and veg. It was difficult to ignore the tiramisu almonds, dried watermelon, or no-sugar dehydrated pineapple. I was told that a large bag of nuts was “just enough for two hours in Vienna” by the vendor, and what the heck, I was sold. I brought that and some dried fruit, haggling a bit to bring down the high price, and walked off with a heavy bag of nuts and fruit.
The crowds thickened like good gravy as I made into the buildings in the centre of the market – the heart of the operation, if you will. The scents were rich here – Turkish spices, meat turning on spits, various dips and salads of peppers and cheese, and overripe tropical fruit. People were trying to get at the counters for kebabs, pitas, salads, and other cheese and veg-stuffed pastries. When I finally got to counter, my mouth was watering. I ordered a spinach and feta Börek, which was flaky, hot – this day was cold, so hot was wonderful – and delicious. It was the perfectly filling lunch treat as I browsed yet more stalls.
However, don’t just be delighted by the jewel-like dried fruits, earthy blends of nuts, and the bright tie-dyes on skirts – look around the Naschmarkt to view some beautiful Viennese architecture. Here are some examples, just to whet your appetite for stunning European architecture.
But rest not at the Naschmarkt. It’s worth taking a detour down the side streets as well. Small foodie shops are nestled on these streets, especially Mühlgasse and the euphoniously-named Kettenbrückengasse. A curious soul can find flavoured honeys, jams, and cordials in the Helene shop. I was worried a bit too much about glass bottles in my luggage, so unfortunately, I didn’t buy anything there. It all looked so fantastic that I might have cried a little inside.
Down the road, look for Henzls Ernte, a place that grinds its own spice blends, flavoured salts, and a few other tasty bits. The couple that runs it is incredibly friendly, and I got a chance to chat with one of them about different spice blends and salts and how to use them in cooking.
Some of the scents are so unfamiliar – like ground-up pine needles. I’m planning on using it with poultry stuffing – it gives off that sort of warm, cozy feeling like rubbed sage. Cranberry salts sounds like something I’d use in a Christmas meal. These little packets are perfect for flights – luggage and all. She gave me a receipt just in case any searcher of my suitcase at the airport wouldn’t question white powdery substances in tiny satchels.
Yeah, that could end badly.