I just got word of where I’ll be bunking during my upcoming trip to Austria, thanks to the Vienna Tourist Board: The Harmonie Vienna.
As a travel writer, I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some of the world’s top hotels and resorts. But I can’t recall a place that was a better fit for me, personally, since…well, ever.
1. Location, Location, Location
The Harmonie is in the 9th district, or Alsergrund, which is slightly off the beaten tourist path–and exactly the path I want to beat. It’s where Sigmund Freud, as well as his butcher, my great uncle, and many other members of my family lived and worked and studied at the University of Vienna.
It also adjoins the 1st district, Vienna’s sightseeing heart–very convenient for when I want to be a regular tourist.
And the American Embassy is in Alsergrund. Not that I’m planning to get into trouble, but you never know.
2. Art and Architecture
As I’ve mentioned, I’m not especially interested in Mozart, opera, or any of the other great music for which Vienna is known. Before you brand me a complete Philistine–can Jews be Philistines or is that a Freud-worthy internal conflict?–I hasten to assure you that I’m very interested in modern art and architecture, and especially of the Jugendstil period (Viennese Art Nouveau). Perhaps the most important architect of this era is Otto Wagner; there’s even a tourist map guiding visitors to his work. So imagine how excited I was to discover that Wagner built the two homes that were converted into the Hotel Harmonie.
Then there’s the contemporary art in the hotel lobby and rooms by Luis Casanova Sorolla, who creates his pieces by dancing on canvas; think Jackson Pollack meets Mikhail Baryshnikov. You can see a video of the process on the hotel’s site.
“From the region,” “organic,” “fresh”–those adjectives are music to the ears of a food writer, as is the noun “buffet.” The following are just a few of the items noted on the hotel’s generous breakfast spread:
- Harmonie Vienna organic cereal
- Ham, cheese and sausage from the region
- Organic eggs
- A selection of jams and marmalade
- Fresh fruit
Spot quiz: Which item on this list is not like the others? Talk about kickstarting your day!
But wait, there’s more. According to the website:
We serve free Meinl tea and homemade cake, Strudel or Kipferl between 3.00 pm and 6.00 pm. Coffee-lovers can also enjoy traditional Viennese coffee.
I had never heard of Kipferl but if it’s sweet, I’m interested. According to Wikipedia:
The Kipferl, ancestor of the croissant, has been documented in Austria going back at least as far as the 13th century, in various shapes. The Kipferl can be made plain or with nut or other fillings (some consider the rugelach a form of Kipferl).
They are said to have been created in the shape of the Turkish crescent moon symbolizing the celebration of the victory of the Hungarian army over the Turkish in one of the many wars between the nations.
I may have to try a few different kinds. For research purposes.
4. Modern Comforts–Plus
I like my buildings with historic character, my hotel rooms with modern amenities. So I was pleased to see free wireless internet and a flatscreen TV on the list of in-room features. But there was also this on the list: “hot water bottle service.” I hope it’s not so cold in Vienna that I need it, but how comforting to know that it’s there.
5. Gift Shop
Yes, the gift shop is small but it’s open 24/7 and sells Viennese chocolate. You never know when you’re going to have a chocolate emergency.
6. It’s a Best Western
I’m not going to lie. When I first saw the Best Western Premium imprimatur, I was a bit put off by the idea of an American hotel, even though this is an individually owned franchise. And then I thought… wait, I’m an American (see #4, Modern Comforts–Plus), and one who, stereotypically enough, doesn’t speak German. I am not as likely to feel ashamed to use English here as I would in another hotel.
And as it happens, Best Western has an interesting history, which I discovered when I was writing a guide to my adopted home state, Arizona. It was founded as an informal referral service for participating motels in 1946, a time when accommodations in the west could be, well, wild. One of the first members–and still loaded with character–was the Coronado Motel in Yuma, which spurred the geeky hotel research tangent that I just hauled out.
And the hotel group is headquartered in Phoenix.
Yep, I’ll be right at home.
7. Fitness Center
I’m actually not sure about this one. Hotel exercise rooms tend to reproach me if I don’t use them. But, like the hot water bottle service, it’s nice to know it’s there.