Everyone has a bucket list, and for many, this may include a visit to a beautiful Renaissance era city such as Vienna. A Viennese Ball may even make it to the list. But a Vegan Ball in Vienna?
When I learned about this event organised by the Vegan Society of Austria (VGÖ) in February 2015, I had to add it to my bucket list. Not only did the dancing appeal to me, but the five course gourmet vegan dinner sounded irresistible. And so it was that my 2016 Valentine's Day came one week early.
Arriving like fugitives from darkest winter (aka the UK), the stunning blue skies and relatively mild temperatures lifted our spirits. We discovered an amazing ice rink in front of the Town Hall, on which we struggled to perfect our dance moves and stay upright at the same time. The main rink was connected to two others by ice pathways, and we glided along them between trees and Christmas lights. Festivities clearly lasted longer, in this wonderful city. I wondered if they ever really stopped.
In this beautiful city, new vegan restaurants and cafes seem to be appearing all the time, along with vegan options in veggie and omnivorous places. We loved the plate by weight vegan dishes at Yamm, and particularly the passion fruit cake. At the ice rink's 'après skate' street food stalls, we enjoyed a gourmet vegan sandwich with pumpkin and sweet and sour red cabbage, followed by mulled apple cider. Then we dined at Swing Kitchen, which is the newest vegan fast food chain with high quality (and quantity!) burgers, salads and cakes.
The 2016 Vegan Ball was being held for the fourth time. It sells out earlier each year. Of course, the Viennese are used to Balls, and February is Ball season, but to come together and share a dance with someone who doesn't wear leather, wool or feathers, and who equally enjoys a compassionate vegan lifestyle, is pretty special. The national TV channel ORF even produced a news video about the event.
The Arcotel chefs, trained in gourmet vegan cuisine, prepared a lovely vegan terrine, followed by 'three types of Carrot puree pumpernickel-mushroom-earth with drops of sweet pepper and baby salad'. The "Consommé Double" clear soup, made with vegetable stock interestingly contained spinach rolls. The main dish consisted of marinated homemade seitan in a vegan cheese crust, Mediterranean vegetables and red quinoa. The dessert was a delicious Schwarzwälder cherry cake in a sorbet glass.
The evening was livened up by the presence of famous vegan bodybuilder Karl Ess, and performances of professional dancers, who demonstrated various classical styles, including Rumba, Tango, Waltz and Paso Doble. At midnight there was a variety show of more talented dancers, and a line dance for all. We had to learn the Waltz on the spot, which was much faster than I remembered from the time I last practiced it, about 25 years ago. But my partner and I particularly enjoyed Jive and Salsa, as he has been taking classes for nearly two years. I even forgot about my hideous pink dress. It was the only one I could find in my size; when shopping in January, Ball dresses are hard to find in the UK. And even this dress wasn't completely the right size, which matters when you're doing lots of spins... So I gained a new mission (to find a different dress), and a new resolve to add another vegan dance adventure to my bucket list.
Last year I discovered that Mallorca has also become a number one vegan holiday destination. Following days of being fed 5-7 course gourmet vegan meals, we participated in an Olympic distance triathlon in St Jordi. Thanks to the lure of more delicious Mediterranean vegan food, we've once again enrolled in the April triathlon. After that, I'll have to find a new vegan bucket list idea; perhaps one involving music.