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Dr Georg Wieselthaler and his wife Elizabeth fly in every February from San Francisco to Vienna to attend the annual ball at the Vienna Opera House. It is a magical event that harks back to Imperial Austria. Debutantes in white ball gowns and sparkling tiaras, men in tuxedos and women in jeweled gowns waltz to the hypnotic music. The Who’s Who of Austria can be seen hobnobbing with the glitterati. Tickets sell out quickly.

This year however Georg and Elizabeth are in Austria to attend a wedding. 

Julia and Michael’s wedding is at a spectacular ski resort of  Maria Alms, in the lap of the Alps. Julia grew up in Mountain View, California and went to university in Vienna. Michael grew up in Austria and works in San Francisco. Their wedding party traverses both countries. 

The groomsmen. (Photo by Lisa Eschelback)

She studied close to the attractive Museumsquartier, a quadrangle of museums where the young hang out in cafes and lunch rooms. Art galleries and lounge chairs compete for the weary traveler’s attention. “You must go there even if you don’t go to the museums, ” says Julia. 

Vienna is a city where you can walk to the main tourist attractions but a Vienna card comes in handy. 

Perched on top of a hill overlooking Schönbrunn Palace, the view from Gloriette Café. (Photo credit: worldwalkerz)

Naschmarkt, is an old market area with amazing food stands and restaurants. Austrians come to the market to enjoy products from many different cultures. An Israeli food place called Neni’s is a favorite. “Food here is just like in Tel Aviv but be aware they only take cash,”  says Julia’s note to her wedding guests. 

Julia and Michael’s romance blossomed as they picnicked in the gardens of ​​Schönbrunn, Europe’s largest palace. The hike up the hill to the Cafe Gloriette made a glorious setting for their romance. 

The wedding party. (photo by Lisa Eschelbeck)

Every bite into the chocolate dense Sachertorte with its sweet apricot filling fills their heart with joy. 

The wedding’s rehearsal dinner suggests guests wear the traditional Austrian dress. The bride and groom are wearing their traditional dress of lederhosen and dirndl

Gorging on Viennese cakes and breads laden with salmon and other delicacies, sipping Gruner Veltliner, as well as its excellent Riesling, the wedding guests bask in the warm mountain sun. 

Georg leans in and whispers the story of the Turkish siege of 1683. “In the summer of 1683, the main army of the Ottoman Empire, a large and well-equipped force, besieged Vienna. The town was nearing the end of its ability to resist. But just as the capture of Vienna was becoming only a matter of time – not more than a week away, at most – an army came to its rescue. On September 12th, in an open battle before Vienna, the Ottoman army was defeated. 500 bags of Turkish coffee abandoned by the enemy camp were found.”

The wedding party bite into the cookies baked by the groom’s mother. 

“The country had never ever  tasted coffee.,” says Georg to the coffee sipping wedding guests.  “The story goes that Kulczycki, the war hero, was the only person to recognize that the sacks of dark-brown beans left behind by the invading Ottoman Turks were coffee beans and not camel feed, and he used these spoils to open up a coffeehouse. 

Guess what he called the coffeehouse?

The Blue Bottle coffee house!

This unexpected largesse from the Turkish defeat hooked Austrians on coffee forever.

The wedding is not far from Salzburg where Sound of Music was filmed.  Mozart was born and grew up in Salzburg. The Salzach river, on its way to meet the Danube, meanders past the old Abbey: the Abbey where Maria of the Sound of Music interned as a nun. Tucked into the hill is a 15th Century monastery. A cafe perched above it gives a bird’s eye view of the city. Salzburg is a magical place. A perfect setting for a fairytale wedding. 

The Sound of Music tour bus. (Photo by Lisa Eschelbeck)

The wedding party scrambles up the mountain near the Maria Alm ski lift. The cool lake looks very inviting on the way to the wedding chapel. The sky painted in its myriad colors looks like a backdrop painted for the pictures. Julia keeps an eye askance at the sky. Does it threaten to rain? 

The sun smiled down from a sapphire blue sky. 

Michael and Julia cut the wedding cake that was  baked by Julia’s aunt. Champagne bubbled to the surface Thousands of bubbles floated into the wind blown from tiny wands by the wedding guests. 

The hills were alive with the sound of music. The groom’s family sang a lilting tune. 

Klimit’s Kiss  embraced the guests in a halo of gold. 

Where to Stay in Austria

Vienna 

25hours Hotel beim Museumsquartier

Lerchenfelder Straße 1-3

1070 Wien

Salzburg

Sheraton Grand Salzburg

Auerspergstrasse 4, Salzburg, Austria, 5020

Tel: +43 662-889990

Julia’s Notes On Where To Eat 

Vienna

Café Central for a traditional Austrian coffee and “Viennese Sachertorte” 

Traditional Austrian Plachutta 

Figlmueller for a Wiener Schnitzel

Glacis Beisl for Austrian Fusion (a bit more modern that traditional food)

Steirereck For Upscale (Michelin Star and World’s 50 best restaurants) 

Le Loft Dinner with a View, Upscale. 

Ulrich/Erich – two of the most popular brunch places in Vienna, and they are around the corner from each other

@Ulrich – make sure to make a reservation they tend to get very full

@Erich – Walk-in no reservation possible

Motto am Fluss – a docked boat on the Danube channel that has a very nice sundeck and fantastic food

Bites and Bits – a really small place (so make a reservation) – believe in the concept of slow kitchen so make sure you have enough time, but the food is spectacular 

Salzburg

KOWALSKI café & bistro panorama bar for a spectacular view. Take the lift up. 

Indian Palace for great Indian foodThe Heart of Joy for Vegan food

Ritu Marwah

Ritu Marwah is an award-winning author ✍️ and a recognized Bay Area leader in the field of 🏛 art and literature. A California reporting and engagement fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center for Health...