Saturday, June 8, 2013

Asking for Directions in the Cinque Terre

At the Cinque Terre we stayed in a room rented out by an idiosyncratic Sardinian, Pierpaolo Paradisi, in a tiny hamlet called Prevo which has only a handful of inhabitants.

Prevo is not reachable by public transport, so we planned to go there by hiking along the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Trail) from Vernazza. But Pierpaolo's house has no number, so I asked him how we would find it. These were his directions:
Our house is right on the blue trail between Vernazza and Corniglia.
The house is located in a hamlet called Prevo, in half way.
When you reach a small tunnel you walk in, our house is on the left when you exit the tunnel.
The door is green, generally is open, with a small bamboo gate, and you listen to opera music.
Addresses are conciser, but directions are nicer.

Long-time readers may recall another much older post with a title of the form Asking for Directions in [Place], and there is at least one other post which involves me asking for directions. Maybe one day there will be enough posts in the series to justify a new label.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sachertorte

"There is only one Original. Since 1832."

So declares the pamphlet at Vienna's Café Sacher, purveyors of "Original" sachertorte. The rest of the pamphlet gives you the history of the sachertorte, tells you how the secret recipe with its "exact sequence of the 36 individual steps" is jealously guarded by the café, and instructs you in the 6 ways to identify "Original" sachertorte.

Between 1954 and 1963, Café Sacher and the nearby Demel bakery were involved in a complex legal dispute over the use of the "Original" label. Having finally won the right to use the label, it is as if Café Sacher will let no opportunity slip to remind their customers that theirs is the one and only "Original" sachertorte. If I am biased against Café Sacher, it is because of this tedious insistence on originality doled out without a trace of humour (surely I am not the only person who finds it amusing that a nine-year legal battle was waged over "the dessert's specific characteristics, including the [...] second layer of jam in the middle of the cake"), and the fact that I thought sachertorte itself is hugely overrated.

Nor does their branding stop at sachertorte. Nearly every item on the Café Sacher menu, from truffle ham to ice-cream cake, is prefaced by "Original Sacher", or some variant thereof. The trend degenerates into farce when, in the "Viennese Classics" section, they appear to serve portions of their founding father's anatomy.