On my first visits to Europe I was intimidated by the local “Apotheke,” apothecaries. The era of a pharmacy with helpful clinicians is somewhat bygone in the US, or at least near our home. I wouldn’t dream of asking someone in our local pharmacy in the US for “something for a scratchy throat” lest I was in the mood to rummage through the bottom shelf of Aisle 7, between the cat litter and bath tissue, for the item I needed.
Over time I began exploring these European Caves of Wonder, and have truly come to appreciate the professional assistance of the staff to help me select just the right item for whatever ails me or a family member. On a winter trip to Paris one year my sinuses were inflamed; a brief visit to the apothicaire yielded a nasal spray and an herbal tea, a tea which I still seek out when seasonal allergies are bothersome. On a visit to Amsterdam our daughter developed a cold; the magical, herbal elixir suggested by the pharmacist was treasured until the last golden drops were drained from the bottle.
But the apothecaries go beyond “feeling better” to encouraging “well-being.” My favorite Advent calendar last December was a “daily tea” calendar that I found in my local apothecary. There are always new items to sample, as well, from lotions to potions to notions; all I can add is that it is good no one peeks in the burgeoning bottom drawer of my bathroom cabinet too frequently.
Last week I had tea at a friend’s house, a delicious tea she procured outside of Austria. Today I set off to find the tea, and in the process explore some of the prettier apothecaries around the city.
The Old Lion Apothecary was the very first to install gas lighting in the early 1800’s. From what I learned this technology caused such a stir that the good Kaiser Franz Josef I even came to investigate. The interior has all of the traditional lines: dark wood, cabinets labeled with herbs, and so on. The lions in the windows appear dressed and ready for Faschings, the Viennese equivalent of Carnivale, too. (I just hope there won’t be any fireworks.)
The Monastery Pharmacy, Apotheke der Barmherzigen Brüder, is indeed tucked into part of the former monastery. I didn’t get the sense the pharmacists get many requests to photograph the interior, but I am glad they agreed.
The next apothecaries I ventured into did not seem too keen on photographs, so just imagine dark wood and soft lighting at the Apotheke zum goldenen Reichsapfel, the pharmacy of the golden orb;
and beautiful porcelain urns with herbal mixtures at the Alte Leopoldsapotheke.
I never did find the tea, and will probably have greater success at the Naschmarkt. But, Roget & Gallet soaps were on sale at every apothecary I visited, with corresponding Eau de Toilette.
I’m sure there’s space in the bathroom cabinet for my treasures. It’s all about well-being, after all.