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Quirky Historic Pub Restaurants of Vienna

Reichenberger Greichenbeisl Restaurant Vienne photoVienna’s gastronomy is probably best known for its café life, airy restaurants of coffee and sweets, watching the progress of busy passersby from your window or street curb table, but two of Vienna’s most traditional and famous of dining and drinking establishments are underground, or nearly – and boast associations one may find unusual for some of the best food and drinking establishment of old Vienna – the plague and the bible.

Griechenbeisl and Augustin

Liebe Augustin at Greichenbeisl photo “Ach, du Lieber Augustin, Augustin“ may be the first words in German an English speaking child learns, from the nursery rhyme song, which like many connected to darker historic events, comes from the time Vienna suffered the ravages of the Bubonic Plague. The legend of Der Liebe Augustin (Dear Augustine) is that he was a strolling minstrel singer who got drunk and fell asleep on the street. He was mistaken for a plague victim and thrown into a pit with the other dead. Before he could be covered with lime and buried, he awoke from his stupor and climbed out of the grave. He didn’t get the disease despite his being tossed among the infected and his luck became a symbol of hope and Vienna's ultimate triumph and survival over the plague. The little song appeared in 1679 about how Augustin lost everything, and it is still sung by children today.

Mark Twain Room Greichenbeisl Vienna photoThe Griechenbeisl is Vienna’s oldest and most historic restaurant, consisting of cramped small dining rooms underneath a remnant of the former medieval walls of the city topped by a gothic tower first known as a public house as early as 1447. The restaurant serves a wide menu of traditional Viennese cuisine with local wines and the Pilsner beer for which it is well recognized. The atmosphere retains its middle-ages character, but is best known for its Mark Twain Room, where the great personages who have lived in or visited Vienna like Richard Wagner, Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss and Schubert, as well as the great American story teller for whom it is honored, have left their marks on its walls and ceilings.

Augustin Wishing Well pit hotoThe restaurant gets its name from the Griechen Gasse street where it is located, being in the one time slums of the middle-ages where Greek refuges settled in the 1770s, and the poorer section of town where Augustin would have stayed, having lost all his possessions after being dumped in the plague pit – and where he can still be found today! The Greichen Beisl is tucked into a cobblestone alleyway just around the corner from the very busy central Swedenplatz U-Bahn stop, where underneath a metal grate the figure of Augustin looks up from his plague pit in his fool’s costume, granting wishes to those who toss him a coin.

Cellar of the Twelve Apostles

Zwolfapostelkeller bar tavern photoThe Zwolf Apostelkeller (Twelve Apostles’ Cellar) takes up three vaulted Romanesque basements on upper and lower levels which go back as far as the 1100s, underneath a baroque building on Sonnenfelsgasse two blocks north from St. Stephens Cathedral called the Hildebrandthaus, named for its 18th Century builder, Lucas von Hildebrandt. The cellars predate the building above and were reconstructed in the 1300’s in gothic style and again in 1561. They served as public shelters during the Turkish siegesSt Thomas and St Andrew Twelve Apostle pub Vienna of the city in the 1500’s. The cellars became a pub and restaurant in 1952, named for the figures of the twelve apostles who adorn the brick caverns walls, each with their own tables in cozy booths. As you enter down the stairs you are greeted first by a statue of St. Paul, whose availability from a church restoration began the slightly irreverent but fun concept of this unique tavern, but don’t expect him to hand you a menu or show you to a table. He is still a saint after all.

Original Stadtheuriger Apostluhr clock cellear pub Vienna photoThe Twelve Apostles Cellar has been a popular meeting place for artists, poets, painters and musicians of Vienna. The food menu is traditional Viennese for lunch and dinner, and features Austrian wines and beer. Live traditional Viennese music is played some evening and weekends. The Twelve Apostles is more traditional candlelight old world cozy rather than young or hip, but can get a bit rollicking under the watchful apostolic eyes of its namesakes. And check your drinking hours against the ancient Apostelurh clock - the Zwolfapostelkeller is only open until midnight. © Bargain Travel Europe

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