I AM sitting in Sigmund Freud’s favourite cafe in Vienna – and thinking about my mother.
Er, no, not like that.
Nothing to get the famous psychoanalyst all worked up.
I am debating what to buy her for Christmas and it isn’t easy.
Siggy’s old watering hole, Cafe Landtmann, is opposite the City Hall Christmas market — Vienna’s biggest — and my wife and I have given up searching for the right gift and gone for a drink.
We’ve bought presents for everyone else — but what to get Mum?
A novelty snow globe? The Viennese claim to have invented them.
But, no, not her thing.
A battery- operated, light-up Santa railway?
Hmm, too kitsch maybe.
A 2ft model of a polar bear?
I think she may already have one.
Some of Austria’s very good cheese, perhaps.
Nope, doesn’t eat it.
Vienna’s award-winning wine?
She’d only worry about the fire risk.
You see how difficult this is?
Anyway, the markets are running until Christmas Eve so there is still time for you to do a bit of last- minute shopping in this magical city.
The Austrian capital, less than two hours away by air, is amazing at any time of year but it comes into its own right about now.
The Christmas lights are on, Mozart and Strauss are being played in almost every street and you can glug gluhwein and wolf down a wiener at one of the many food stalls.
It is usually snowing, too, although, typically, it had just melted when we arrived there last Monday.
The markets are open all day but wait until dark for the full effect.
I would recommend the City Hall, complete with choir and ice rink.
But check out the one in Maria-Theresien-Platz (good for novel decorations) or the stalls next to the stunning gothic St Stephen’s Cathedral (great for local delicacies).
We stayed in Vienna for three nights — enough to see loads and whet your appetite for coming back.
To get the most out of the many attractions, download the Vienna Pass for discounted entry.
Most sights are walkable but a trip on a hop-on, hop-off bus will help you get your bearings in this bustling city that’s a mix of imperial grandness and cosmopolitan cutting-edge lifestyle.
Public transport is cheap and frequent, too, particularly the clanking trams, some of which date back to the city’s early 20th-century heyday.
Amazingly, Vienna’s baroque buildings survived World War Two.
You can see the best in the Museumsquartier, a collection of beautiful palaces that has been turned into the city’s cultural centre.
The pick is the splendid Kunsthistorisches gallery containing works by big hitters such as Caravaggio, Brueghel and Rubens.
The famous Spanish Riding School is nearby as is the gobsmacking Hofburg Palace, once seat of the Habsburg rulers.
If old buildings aren’t your thing, head north to the outskirts and climb the Danube Tower, Vienna’s tallest structure at 827ft.
There you can sit in the revolving restaurant, have a meal and take in the amazing 360-degree views over the city and the Danube river and onwards in to neighbouring Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
And make sure you ride on the giant Ferris wheel in the Prater park as seen in movie classic The Third Man.
If you can’t find what you want at the markets, don’t worry.
Vienna’s Old Town shops have everything from high-end names to cheapish, quality chains and trendy boutiques.
But the best thing in Vienna is the wonderful cafe culture.
Back in the day, these ornate, slightly stuffy-looking establishments were where intellectuals came to write, argue and try to change the world.
At one point in 1913, Freud, Hitler, Stalin and Trotsky were all regulars at the SAME cafe.
Order a coffee or beer and try Viennese delicacies such as boiled beef or Wiener schnitzel (veal pan- fried in breadcrumbs).
You can linger all day over one drink while the unbelievably polite waiters make sure you are OK.
Cafe Landtmann is good as are Cafe Schwartzenberg and Cafe Diglas.
But the one you must visit is Cafe Sacher, home of the famous Sachertorte — a delicious chocolate cake with apricot filling that is unlike any other dessert I have ever tasted.
You can even take it away in a tin to eat at home.
The perfect present for my mum, then.
You’d think so.
But she doesn’t eat chocolate.
GETTING/STAYING THERE: easyJet Holidays has three nights’ B&B at 4H Erzherzog Rainer Hotel, including return flights from Luton departing December 18, 2018, for £292pp or departing April 22, 2019, for £271pp.
Visit easyjet.com/holidays or call 020 3499 5232.
Price excludes transfers.
You can also fly from Gatwick, Manchester and Bristol.
OUT & ABOUT: Vienna Pass allows entry to more than 60 attractions, museums and tours.
Available as card pass or app.
Prices from £52 per adult or £26 per child (aged six-18) for one day.
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