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Posts tagged ‘Twain’


Austrians are required to master two skills in life – ski­ing and waltzing. More than 400 balls take place each year in Vienna, and these balls are host to more than 300,000 guests. Balls are sponsored by occupational groups, trade unions, universities, and interest groups — if you’ve got an interest, Vienna’s got the ball.

With Vienna’s long-time love for balls, it’s not surprising that the man responsible for the popularity of the waltz and known during his lifetime as the “The Waltz King,” Johann Strauss II, lived in Vienna. Thankfully, young Johann rebelled against his father’s demands that he become a banker and went on to compose over 500 waltzes, polkas, and quadrilles during his lifetime. At 60 beats per minute, the Viennese Waltz is one of the fastest types of traditional ballroom dance music.

But fast or slow, dancing can be a challenge for those of us who grew up outside Waltzland. Probably during his stint in Vienna, Mark Twain remarked, “Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody is watching.” In other words, take heart and join those Austrians on the dance floor. Even if you don’t know how to 1-2-3, 1-2-3 you can still have a great time with the right attitude. But even Austrians won’t turn a blind eye to one thing that can’t be overlooked for the waltz—and that’s a missing dance partner. Fortunately there’s a fix to that problem as well.

Hallway at Kaffeesiederball during Midnight Show

Hallway at Kaffeesiederball outside main ballroom during the midnight show performance

Taxi Dancer to the rescue! For an hourly fee, you can hire your own personal Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers to help you dance the night away. What first appeared in dance halls in the United States during the early 20th century has gained a revival in Vienna’s ballrooms where the male population can be as depressingly dance-lazy as everywhere else. The Taxi Dancing Darlings are bound by strict codes of behavior but available for all kinds of dance functions. In fact, some of the taxi dancer agen­cies’ best customers are retirement home residents.

My friend and I do a Lifeball selfie

My friend and I at the Lifeball which is sadly postponed a year this season

So no excuses. Put on your dance shoes, and 1-2-3, 1-2-3 the night away.

Post of this year’s ball calendar coming soon…



Eating and sleeping are the only activities that should be allowed to interrupt a man’s enjoyment of his cigar. – Mark Twain

Print This Post Nestled amongst the cobblestones of the Vienna’s 1st district, beside the beautifully orange- and gold-tiled Greek Orthodox Church, is Vienna’s oldest tavern. 1350 (a whopping 665 years ago!) is the first documented date that the building is mentioned in Vienna city records when the place belonged to a knight commoner (yep – even knight status apparently has its hierarchies) by the name of Lienhart Poll. As early as 1447, the building was first used as a tavern which was named “Zum Gelben Adler” (To the Yellow Eagle).

Now let’s just stop here for a moment to appreciate the age of this place. The good old US of A is a

A look into the Griechenbeisl from outside

A look into the Griechenbeisl from outside

mere bubbling 239 years old. This place is almost 3 times older than that. Imagine! I know I’m a sucker for nostalgic tales but how can anyone resist wondering about the musings, confessions, sweet nothings, inspirations, gripes and debates these walls have witnessed while sheltering those who have passed through its doors from the harsh elements of fires, plagues, wars, and weather. Isn’t it cool to imagine?

Translated, the name “Griechenbeisl” means “Greek Tavern” but the Zwiebelrostbraten, Wiener Schnitzel and Tafelspitz you’ll find on the menu are all true Viennese specialties and have nothing to do with Greek food. The Greek in the tavern name refers to the Greek traders and merchants who liked to dine here in the 1800s.

The house came under attack twice when Turkish invaders attempted to seize Vienna (1529 and 1683). A remnant is still visible inside the tavern  — a cannonball from 1529 which was unearthed during renovation work in 1960 and remains stuck in the wall near the stairway at the entrance.

Former Guests of Griechenbeisl

Former guests of Griechenbeisl – Mozart’s signature is above the red label

Over the centuries, the tavern has expanded and along with it, the amount of rooms. Today there are eight dining rooms, each preserved in a different era and style. My personal favorite is the Twain room which you can request when making reservations (always make reservations before coming) but can be difficult to score since it is often reserved for private parties. The room is considered a historical monument and the ceiling is filled with the signatures of all the famous folks who have dined and drank within the walls. If you don’t land a lucky table in this amazing room, kindly ask your waiter if it is possible to have a look in. The waiters have long sticks that they can use to point out some of the better known guests. Historic guests include Beethoven, Mark Twain, Schubert, Wagner, Strauss, Count Zeppelin, Mozart, and Brahms to name a few. Then you have the more recent “promis” and these include, amongst others, Johnny Cash, Pavarotti, Barry Manilow, and Phil Colins.

Griechenbeisl Signatures in Mark Twain room

Griechenbeisl signatures in Mark Twain room

The guy who seems to be sleeping off his hangover in a cage in the floor at the entrance isn’t some sorry sap who failed to pay his beer tab. Well, then again, maybe he is.  But if you pause and listen, you might hear him whistling the song written in his honor and since sung by beer-mug-swinging admirers for decades– “Oh du lieber Augustin.” Supposedly he (Marx Augustin) sang and drank here in 1679. But he became famous because he was so intoxicated that when he fell into the pit dug out for the city’s plague victims, he simply made himself cozy and slept off his hangover (and you thought you woke up in some shocking places the morning after). We all know the amazing clensing powers inherent in an Austrian apricot Schnapps, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that good old Marx climbed out of the grave the next day and was fit for another round (and I’m not talking about the row-row-row-your-boat musical kind).

A dining room in the Griechenbeisl

A dining room in the Griechenbeisl

A meal in the Griechenbeisl will set you back — just for the main course — anywhere between 17 and 28 € depending on what you order. Granted, not cheap but this is no fast food joint and they do take plastic. Waiters decked out in suits and bow ties who can switch languages in a blink of an eye and actually correctly serve your Zweigelt in a decanter are bound to send your date’s heart aflutter. The menu is in German and English and you might even get some live music accompaniment from a zither for your meal (if you really want to show what a good guy you are, discreetly tip the zither player as you leave). The wine cellar is currently being renovated and sometime later this year, the restaurant plans to host wine tasting events. This isn’t Applebees or The Cheesecake Factory so leave your shorts and tennis shoes at home. Dressy casual is fine here but don’t expect to eat and run. Have an appetizer, have a Grüner Veltliner or Zweigelt, a Melange, a Schnapps and some very good Viennese food and then sit back and listen to the rustic tales of history and whisper to the walls some new ones of your own.

“Street” scene from a recent visit to the Griechenbeisl:
Conversation at a neighboring table filled with no less than ten older refined gentlemen and not one single lady.
Waiter: Ah! A round of just gentlemen!
One of the guests from the table: laughing Indeed! Tonight we left the ladies at home.
Waiter: I don’t believe a word of it. Tell the truth. You guys all got kicked out. Print This Post

Griechenbeisl: Fleischmarkt 11, 1010 Vienna (subway: U4 or U1 to Schwedenplatz)
Open daily from 11 am – 1 am (food service: 11:30 am – 11:30 pm)
Definitely call and reserve a table and try to score the Mark Twain room: +43 1 533 19 77

Griechenbeisl Wikipedia Entry



The Language of Toothache Sufferers

In his Notebook # 14 written from November 1877 – July 1878, Mark Twain has several references to the trials and tribulations he endures while learning German. He claims that the person who invented the German language was “… some sufferer who had to sit up with a toothache.” Nevertheless, the language enlightens Twain to the purpose of eternity. He writes, “ eternity was made … to give some of us a chance to learn German.” Though I have not been immune to similar stints of exasperation in tackling this challenging language, I have enjoyed becoming acquainted with a language exceptionally apt in combining words in such a way as to render a new term particularly adept in describing various ills and afflictions.

In German, Frühlingsmüdigkeit – Spring tiredness – could be gnawing at your ribs – particularly if you’ve been slaving too long for a Hungerlohn – a hunger income (wage so low it keeps you hungry). But things could be far more dire. Young couples might be struck by Eifersucht – fanatic addiction (jealousy). Unmarried women in their late twenties, for example, are prone to attacks of Torschlusspanik – the fear of being left on the shelf – to the Schadenfreude of all their married female co-workers.

But guys are not immune either.

European students and artists who hang out in the cafes by day and pubs by night are particularly predisposed to bouts of Weltschmerz – world pain (a gloomy, romanticized state of suffering along with the pain of the world). Oh what a Katzenjammer – cat wail – (depressing state) life can be when all loss of Lebenslust – life desire (happiness and joy of life) drags you down. Those too Lebensmüde “life tired” help support Austria’s suicide rate by electing a Freitod – free death – and plunging into the Danube. They join the hundreds of Viennese who are eternally resting in their Holzpyjama “wooden pjs” looking at the potatoes from underneath in the Friedhof der Namenlosen “The Peace Courtyard of the Nameless.” (Cemetery of the Unknowns).

Personally, I seem to suffer from a chronic case of Fernweh – distance pain – (longing to travel some place far away).

What’s your ailment?

Suffering Torschlusspanik? Plan your wedding in Vienna at one of the ultimate Vienna wedding locations.

Information on and Map to the Friedhof der Namenlosen in Vienna Print This Post

More Words of the Week

Beuschlreißer: Lung Ripper

Blechtrottel: Tin Idiot


Eierbär: Eggsbear

Eifersucht, Frühlingsmüdigkeit, Hungerlohn, Torschlusspanik, Schadenfreude, Weltschmerz, Katzenjammer, Freitod, Holzpyjama, Lebensmüde, Fernweh

Fetzenschädel: Rags Skull

Geistesvernichtungsanstalt: Spirit Annihilation Asylum


Häuslpapierfladerer: House Paper Thief


Krautwacher: Cabbage Guard

Putzgretl: Cleaning Gretl

Saubär: Pig Bear

Treppenwitz: Stair Joke