Austria in 6 (or More) Cakes: The Pistachio Problem

Mozart torte at Cafe Aida by Pam Mandel

Mozart torte at Cafe Aida by Pam Mandel

For reasons that are hard to track down, the Mozart Kugel – Austria’s famous Mozart Ball chocolate – is filled with pistachio marzipan. Theory: Mozart made several journeys to Italy as a young man and while there, he became fond of pistachios which were commonly used in Italian desserts.

But.

The pistachio has been in trade since biblical times; it was a highly valued crop. So it’s also possible that pistachio is more random choice that relies on the nut’s identity as a luxury item – we’ll use pistachio because it’s fancy! Mozart is fancy! So, Mozart equals pistachio!

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s not just about chocolates, it’s also about cake. There are two front runners in the Mozart-something cakes race, the Mozarttorte and …

Austria in 6 Cakes: Gingerbread Translated, Twice

“Lebkuchen” gets translated from German as “gingerbread,” but that’s not quite right. The word “gingerbread” sets expectations for it being the kind of stuff you’d build a house out of, though that variety does get used in edible architecture.

There are also those ubiquitous gingerbread hearts, decorated in icing sugar with your sweetheart’s name and a swooping script that says “Ich liebe dich” — I love you —  or maybe just “Greetings from this twee Germanic town.”

The stuff used to deliver messages or act as culinary sheetrock is all fine and well. But more interesting is a cakey sort of cookie packed with honey and spices and baked on top of what’s essentially a communion wafer — in much earlier days, …

Austria in 6 Cakes: The Kaiser’s Favorite Guglhupf

The Kaiser's Villa, Bad Ishcl

The Kaiser's Villa, Bad Ishcl

The Austrian town of Bad Ischl hit the spa scene in the early 19th century, but it became the Next Big Destination when Kaiser Franz Josef started using the location as his summer retreat. When Vienna’s weather became too oppressive in the summer time, the Kaiser and all his hangers on would pull up stakes for the cooler alpine climes of Austria’s Salzkammergut. The Kaiser’s entourage included his companion, the actress Katharina Schratt.

It’s said there was a secret path between the Kaiser’s summer place and Villa Schratt, the country home the Kaiser purchased for his lady friend. It can’t have been so secret if morning Kaiser sightings made the phrase, “Oh, the Kaiser’s had his guglhupf!” part of the vernacular. …

Discover Something New at Home this Holiday Season

Traveling “home” this holiday season? Don’t fall into your old routine. Your high school hangout may be an easy go-to, but if you don’t live there anymore there’s a good chance you’re missing out on some great new local spots. (Plus, be honest: you already know what all your classmates are up to from Facebook.)

AOL Travel turned to local writers to help you rediscover your hometown over the winter holidays. Each city guide features a great new restaurant to try while you’re in town, a cool neighborhood that wasn’t on the radar last year or a store where you can pick up a keepsake to bring your old home back to your new home. AOL Travel also will catch you up to speed on the hot topics of conversation in each city, so you’ll come back savvy enough to join the local sports banter or eat your holiday weight in Cronuts.

Click your city below to learn what’s new since the last time you went home:

Boston fans celebrate world series win

Chicago skyline

Detroit skyline

NYC skyline

Philadelphia City Hall

Portland Oregon signGolden Gate Bridge

St. Louis Arch

US Capitol


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Vineyard and Zipline Trends Collide at the Pinot Express

Chris Leschinsky

Vineyards and ziplines have long been used to attract tourist dollars for destinations that, well, could use a little help:

  • Regardless of the area’s suitability for growing grapes, plop down a vineyard or winery and travelers will come for a taste and buy a sympathy bottle (pro tip: go for the ice wine as it’s harder to mess up)
  • Ski resorts looking to attract off-season dollars or stale attractions looking to draw media coverage and visitors hook up a zipline

So really, the 1,800-foot Pinot Express zipline at Margarita Adventures, which debuted recently at the Santa Margarita Ranch in the Paso Robles wine country on California’s Central Coast, is the travel industry’s destiny.The zipline begins atop a mountainside forest, 125 feet above the ground, then sends swoops low over pinot noir vines. It’s the highest, longest and fastest of Margarita Adventures’s four ziplines. A zipline tour costs $99

“Tours conclude with an optional tasting at the affiliated Ancient Peaks Winery, which specializes in artisan wines grown on the ranch’s estate Margarita Vineyard. Tour guests receive 20 percent off wine purchases, and the tasting fee is waived with a purchase of one bottle or more,” according to the press release.

“You can taste wines from vines that you just zipped over,” said proprietor Karl Wittstrom said. “It’s a fitting reward for your adventure.”