Lunch, fudz, cats, birds

October 13, 2012 • 10:48 pm

My lunch yesterday was at a Beisl—a traditional Viennese restaurant (the name comes from Yiddish)—serving inexpensive but local food, wine, and beer.  The one I went to is Beim Czaak, which is full of locals eating, drinking, and smoking (yes, Austria is one of the few countries in Europe where you can smoke in cafés and restaurants). But the food is good and filling, and the beer came in large mugs.

I had the Austrian equivalent of fried chicken, the very traditional dish of Backhendl. It came with a salad, and, unaccountably, the chicken sat on a bed of popcorn. With a couple of mugs of cold Bier from the keg, it was a tasty and filling Mittagessen (click all photos to enlarge):

Some other gastronomic treats I saw on the way to lunch. First, a display of cakes in a local coffee house:

Some sweets at a Confiserie:

And a teaser from a cafe I went to: the Neko Cafe, the only cat café in Vienna. Modelled on the Japanese neko (cat) cafés, it’s a place where one can loll about, drink coffee, eat pastries or Japanese sweets, and play with the five cats who roam freely. I’ll have moar photos and videos later:

And not to neglect biology, here’s a lovely Hooded crow (Corvus cornix) that I photographed in the gardens of the Schloss Belvedere, home of many great paintings by Klimt and Schiele. The crow is the subject of a famous evolutionary tale, in which two species form a hybrid zone running from north to south in eastern Europe.

More on the Beleveder later.

27 thoughts on “Lunch, fudz, cats, birds

    1. Indeed! Shows what I know about birds. I’ve corrected it. But that makes it even more interesting, since it’s one of two species that form a hybrid zone.

  1. Glad you made it to the Belvedere – definitely my favorite amongst the many visited. If you have a bit more time, you might want to wander the Naturhistorisches Museum, the mirror of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Amazing collection of minerals, decent biological,geological and anthropological specimens, typical biology but with a nice presentation of evolution, and a couple of surprises such as a dinosaur exhibit and fascinating display on karst water. http://www.karstwaters.org/

    1. I myself would recommend the Ethnology Museum nearby, if nothing else to see the splendid Aztec feather headdress, afaik the best preserved one of its kind anywhere in the world. It gives a good idea of what was wiped out by the conquista.

  2. Though I delight in French pâtisseries, Viennese tortes leave me breathless.

    The French, inspired by the egg/butter/cream-rich way of Viennese pastry chefs, created their own breakfast pastries called viennoiseries (things of Vienna), that is, pain au chocolat, croissants, brioche, chausson au pommes, etc. And I am glad they did!

    My surname supposedly is derived from the German word to ‘bite.’ 🙂

  3. Prof. Steve Jones has a page or so on the hooded crow/carrion crow hybrid boundary in his book ‘Almost Like a Whale’. The book is excellent, by the way.

  4. I wouldn’t want the smoking in bars, cafes and eateries issue to put people off coming here, so let me clarify. While it is legal to smoke in such establishments, a few are entirely non-smoking and those that do allow smoking, have to provide a section of at least equal size for non-smokers, protected by dividing doors, although these tend to be left open a lot of the time. Most places offer al-fresco dining and drinking until the weather turns cold.

    I hope that your salad wasn’t too drenched in sugar-water, an annoying habit they have here. A lot of the time, they do drain it off well, but allto often, one’s salad arrives drenched in the stuff.

    And vegetarians beware. This is a nation of meat-eaters on a professional scale. Vegetarianism, although increasingly less rare, is a bizarre concept to most Viennese. Even in those restaurants that offer dishes dishes that you might think suitable, even if you point out your preference, it is generally still thought to be meat-free if cooked in bacon fat, unless you are in one of the few vegetarian restaurants. Vegans stand little chance.

    The hooded crows seem to be less vocal than the carrion crows (Corvus corone) more common back in the UK, but they do seem to take a delight in making a racket by dancing on your roof tiles as soon as the sun comes up.

    1. Vegetarianism, although increasingly less rare, is a bizarre concept to most Viennese. Even in those restaurants that offer dishes dishes that you might think suitable, even if you point out your preference, it is generally still thought to be meat-free if cooked in bacon fat, unless you are in one of the few vegetarian restaurants. Vegans stand little chance.

      In the 1990s when I was in Assen (Netherlands) for some work, I was in the canteen looking for something vegetarian for lunch. So I asked. The closest idea they could come up with was “we’ve got sausage soup, and you can pick the lumps of sausage out of that?”
      Sounds like mainland Europe hasn’t changed that much.

  5. I went to Europe last month and saw hooded crows and magpies for the first time in Oslo. After Googling, I could recall reading about them long ago.

    Is it just me or are the pigeons in Paris larger than elsewhere? We had a long layover in Paris so we marched around the sights before heading on to Oslo. I thought the pigeons were the largest I had ever seen and wondered if it was jet lag. But the pigeons in Oslo looked like all the pigeons I had seen in the US and Canada. When we went back to Paris for a few days, those pigeons still looked big to me.

    Perhaps the French bred larger pigeons so the birds could carry longer letters tied to their leg.

    I was eating at a sidewalk cafe on Champs-Élysées when I noticed a pigeon sitting on the edge of the front of a hamburger restaurant. He was watching the people walk by under his perched. Then he noticed me watching, focused his gaze and flew directly at my head. I put my hand up and touched his feathers as he took evasive action.

    Be warned. Pigeons consider it rude when you watch them.

    1. The pigeons are only rude in Paris. If you politely ask them – en français bien sur – if you may stare at them, they may be less likely to perform some Alfred Hitchcock moves on you. Things are quite different out in the country, where pigeons take much less offense if you gawk at them.

    2. Hi Greg, any chance the bigger pigeons were actually a different species? Coming from Australia myself, I was very impressed by the size of woodpigeons (Columba palumbus) when I first saw them in England (we have some big pigeons over in Oz too, but you don’t generally see them in city parks)

      And if not woodpigeons, C. livia has been bred for size as well as a lot of other traits that have affected urban populations.

      1. They looked like rock pigeons, within the variabilty anywhere else, but bigger. This guy had the same impression I did, that they are half again as big as other pigeons. Perhaps they are bred more for food so the domesticated escapees bring genes for size to the feral population there.

    3. Perhaps the French bred larger pigeons so the birds could carry longer letters tied to their leg.

      I blame Voltaire, starting this French habit of not taking the time to write a shorter letter.

  6. There’s also a north-south (or more accurately, northwest/southeast) split among the crows here in the British Isles. Carrion crows across England, Wales and southern Scotland, hooded crows in the Highlands of Scotland and all over Ireland. I’m not sure whether they hybridize where they meet in the Scottish borders, but as far as I know the geographic split is pretty stable.

    I have hoodies where I live. Lovely birds with lots of personality!

    1. Hoodies around here too.
      My impression, over the last 30-odd years of travelling between the plains of central Englandshire and the mountains of the barbarian north, is that the Hoodies are moving south. I even see them down on the sweltering plains occasionally these days.
      Then again, maybe they’re just following the motorways. They do seem to be extraordinarily insouciant about eating roadkill within centimetres of the screaming wheels of 38-tonne lorries.

  7. I walked through the Scottish part of the Carrion/Hooded hybrid zone earlier this year (specifically, the West Highland Way from Glasgow to Fort William). I saw a crow near Tyndrum which looked rather like a hybrid — but it was raining a fair amount that day and I didn’t get out my binoculars to check it out in more detail.

      1. We did have a camera, actually. Which is regularly used for bird photography. However due to the aforesaid rain, it wasn’t going to be brought out and have the lens changed and so on. Especially since this was our 21-mile day.

        However next time I’m in the area I will be sure to check out the crows. Assuming it isn’t raining too much, that is.

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