A Guide: Austria (Österreich)
Guten Tag (good day) to all you wonderful people! I hope you're enjoying your day, wherever you are and whatever time it is. Today, I will unpack some tips and tricks on traveling through Austria, my previous home for 9 months. I've got loads of information for y'all, so let's get started:
Real quick: at the bottom of this post, I've included an audio file of one of my favorite German songs, called "Auf Uns" by Andreas Bourani. "Auf Uns" means to us in German. This song essentially says "cheers" to life and expresses the need to take advantage of everything life has to offer: in company, experience, and all the in-between moments. As a junior in college who's constantly living in the moment and planning for the future, sometimes struggling to find the right balance of relaxing and working, I really appreciate this song and its meaning. If you have time, give it a listen & I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Back to the basics:
Despite your destination in Austria, there are some things you should know/do wherever you may be:
- Try Austrian foods: Wiener Schnitzel (usually comes with potatoes & cranberry sauce), Rindsuppe (beef soup), Gulasch (goulash), Käsespätzl (like mac-n-cheese; pronounced kay-suh-shpet-zl), Apfelstrudel (apple strudel), Sturm (Austrian wine), Viennese Kaffee (Vienna coffee), Glühwein (Holiday, spiced, mulled wine), and Austrian beer, such as Stiegl or Radlers. If you try goulash, it’s interesting to compare it to goulash from places like Hungary or Czech Republic, as it is traditional in those countries as well. Glühwein is mostly available during the holidays at Christmas Market (Christkindlmarkt) and Sturm is only available in certain areas during the fall.
- Fun Fact = Croissants originate from Vienna, not France. Marie Antoinette loved croissants and brought them to France when marrying Louis XVI.
- Try on a Dirndl or Lederhosen. Dirdnls are traditional, “milk made” type dresses. They’re worn for special events such as prom, weddings, parties, and of course, Oktoberfest. They can be quite expensive actually, so if you want an inexpensive, but fun souvenir, there are always shops such as Forever 18 (a Forever 21 knock off) that sell fun, casual dirndls. Lederhosen means leather pants in German. Lederhosen can be worn by woman and men alike, and the woman’s version is actually really cute. It’s usually worn with some sort of buttoned, checkered shirt and Bavarian, wool hats. Lederhosen means leather pants in German.
- Austrian table manners:
- Leitungswasser – This is how to ask for tap water in a restaurant. It literally translates to line water, but its modern use is in relation to tap water. When ordering water at a restaurant, it is normal to be served bubbly water (Wasser mit Gas) or still water (Stilles Wasser/Wasser ohne Gas). If you don’t want to be charged for water, as is a norm for Americans, then I would order Leitungswasser (pronounced: lie-tungs-voss-er). The waiter/waitress may look at you funny or be surprised, but this is because people don’t normally ask for tap water. Austrian water is very clean and drinkable, even out of the faucet, but originally, tap water was not clean or normal to drink, hence why it is an uncommon request.
- Bezahlen bitte – This is how to ask for the check. (Pronounced: beh-tzah-len-bittuh.) When eating at a restaurant or café, the norm of American dining service is reversed in Europe, generally. It is not expected that the waitress or waiter will continually check on your table because it is considered rude amongst European standards, quickening eating speeds and interrupting conversation. In Europe, meals are an event itself: a gathering of good food and great company. It is an appreciation of food, instead of sustenance, and therefore is not rushed or consumed in transit. Walking and eating are not common occurrences to be dealt with at the same time.
- Loudness – As an American, I find that walking around, observing groups of people in restaurants, cafés, or even in the library, we, Americans, tend to be really loud, or at least a lot louder than we mean to be. We eavesdrop on each others conversations without knowing or even trying because of how loud surround people are. My advice to you on this is to be mindful on your volume and how expressive you, and your friends/family, are in public places.
- Being acquainted with acquaintances – Austrians, generally, are on the more quiet side and tend to stick to themselves, as to be respectful of others. They tend to not reach out to peers or bystanders for help, but rather ask official help. This is just a part of Austrian culture. When my friends and I were first exploring Austria and Germany, in the first couple weeks of being abroad, we were advised to be mindful and respectful of addressing elders in public places, like trains. For example, address people of higher power (adults, teachers, unfamiliar people, acquaintances) by a formal title unless they state otherwise and try to, generally, not start conversations with elders sitting next to you, as to be respectful of space and accommodate Austrian social norms, unless addressed first. An inherent greeting is allowed, but as an American, I find that we tend to be more publicly friendly to people we don’t know well, making friends along the way and expressing curiosity aloud. I always asked for help from others around me if I had a real pressing question, such as a train stop or if there was a free seat; sometimes I started conversations with people around the same age as me because I was curious, as I always am, about foreigners, what they’re doing there, why, etc. This can be seen as nosy to some, but I think I played it off well, as my questions were genuine and not too pushy. To each their own though, so take my advice with a grain of salt and enjoy your travels through Austria.
- Oachkatzlschwoaf: an word specific to the Austrian dialect that means “tale of a squirrel”; (Pronounced oa-chh*-kat-zl-sh-woaff.) *This is a tough sound to write because it's the back-of-the-throat, rusty kind of sound that Germans are so well known for. Learn how to say this word because many (Austrian) locals use this word as a form of entertainment, quizzing tourists, asking them how to pronounce it. It’s actually a very humorous practice in which locals write the word down, usually meeting people at bars, and then those chosen foreigners go on to try, but naturally butcher, to sound out the word, changing it in every way possible causing continuous laughter and an exact definition of ROTFLOL (rolling on the floor, laughing out loud). If you know how to say it, or bring it up, randomly spurt it out, I guarantee you will gain respect, unexpected laughter, and new friends.
- Basic words:
- Hallo = hello (Austrian dialect: Servus [sehr-voos])
- Aufwiedersehen/Tschüss = good-bye (formal/casual; [owf-veeder-sahyin; tch-oos]
- Entschuldigung = excuse me [ent-shool-di-goong]
- Ja = yes (Austrian dialect: jo [yo])
- Nein = no (Austrian dialect: na [nah])
- Ich spreche kein Deutsch; Ich verstehe nicht = I don't speak German; I don't understand [ich-shpreche-kine-doy-tch; ich-ver-shtay-uh-nicht]
- Whenever there is a ch, it is pronounced with a raspy, sort of sound; it does not sound like ch in channel, or ch in change. It is spoken from the back of the throat/roof of the mouth area, and kind of sounds like the beginning of how you would hawk a loogy. Some dialects make ich sound more like eesh, but generally it is a harder sound, without it sounding only like a k. It's sort of a raspy k sound.
- Die Toilette, or WC = the bathroom (WC stands for "water closet"; [dee-toy-lettuh])
- Natürlich = of course; naturally; (This word is put at the end of sentences regularly, but is also just fun to say)
- More words and important phrases can be found here
Anyway, here's a list of the main cities I traveled through, or at least most of them, to give you some background on where I'm pulling information from:
Austria: Hallstatt, Innsbruck, Linz, Mauthausen, Salzburg, Vienna, Wels, Werfen, Zell am See - Kaprun
Hallstatt, a little village nestled in-between the Austrian mountains and a lake, is absolutely amazing. It's incredibly beautiful and looks good during all seasons. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Salzkammergut region and decorated by Alpine style houses, Gothic churches, Brone Age salt mines, and loads of history. There's even an area attached to the large, neo-Gothic Lutheran church, St. Michael's Chapel (Michaelskappelle) which dates back to the 12th century with a graveyard called the Beinhaus, which means "bone house" in English. It's called the "Bone House" because it contains about 1,200 skulls, 600 of which are handpainted, stacked amongst each other. Their origin had to due with the fact that there was little space in graveyards and cremation was illegal, so graves were opened up 10-15 years after the fact and were taken care of (cleaned, naturally bleached, and decorated) to make more room. It soon became a tradition and many skulls and the newest skull in the Beinhaus belongs to a woman who passed away in 1983. Her golden tooth is still in tact with the skull, located at the bottom of a cross.
The surrounding, picturesque lakes and fairytale-like towns can be a treasure chest of special finds such as lace, salt, or traditional Austrian gifts. The buildings are colorful, tastefully simple and decorated in a Baroque, Austrian-style. If you have time and want to check out the surrounding lakes, there is a bus that will take you around all the different "Sees" (pronounced: sz-ays). You can even rent out a boat for an hour or a day and row around the lake. I believe the buses run quite regularly, transporting tourists and locals alike. See is the German word for "sea", or in this case: lake. Don't worry about getting lost, because no matter which way you turn there's no real wrong way to go; everything's beautiful.
Down by the water, near the Bath area of Hallstatt Lahn, near the swans, there is a playground (Playground Hallstatt, Seelände, 4830 Hallstatt) that has some really fun, really unique and interesting playground equipment. There's this structure that two people sit on, across from each other, and spin. I've provided a video of my friends playing on it so that you can get a visual of this odd, but fun contraption.
Innsbruck is lovely; kind of funny, because in German, it directly translates into something like: inner bridge, which is silly to me because it doesn't make sense. Nevertheless, it's an unbelievably cute town filled with colorful buildings, greenery, and delicious food.
There's a wonderful farmers market that is open nearly everyday, all the time. It's called Markthalle, meaning "market hall" in English. It's indoor and has a wide selection of fruits, veggies, home goods, jewelry, and wine. There's a lady who sells homemade glass earrings and such, and they're absolutely beautiful. Swirling colors of glass made into little button earrings, her work is so artistic and wonderful. The fruit at the market is so delicious, I fell in love with the grapes! I bought a whole bag and snacked on them for the rest of the day- even took some home. Just ask my room mate, Clare, how good they were; I couldn't stop raving about them because they were like hybrid grapes or something, tasting a bit like those "cotton candy" California grapes, lychee, and regular grape taste. It was a vibrant mix of flavor. I think there's something special in the grapes in Austria because even the Sturm is amazing. Sturm, an Austrian wine, described as a slightly fermented and unfiltered grape juice is only offered in the fall time and usually only sold in north-eastern and south-eastern parts of Austria. This wine also goes by the name of Heuriger. It's delicious. Coming from someone who doesn't even like wine that much, it's delicious. So if you're here in the fall time, you must grab a bottle of wine, a bag of grapes and enjoy the Austrian sun because it ends all too quickly.
Innsbruck is also a popular destination in the winter time, known especially for its involvement in winter sports, magical Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market), & fun-filled, family-oriented Kristallwalten. Make it a day trip or a week-long vacation, Innsbruck is a wonderful little Austrian town that can't be missed!
Though I've spent little time here, Linz has always proved to be a nice city to walk around and visit. It's mostly been a stepping stone town for me, as I pass through it onto other destinations. For the locals, it's known as a key spot for clubbing and weekend partying. People come in from surrounding smaller towns, as it's considered one of the bigger cities in the area with a population of about 190,000. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area, these little Austrian cities, not that Linz is that little, seemed inherently small to me, but unsurprisingly have a lot going on and a lot to offer.
Clubs: Musikpark A1, Remembar, Der Hafen, Empire (15 min outside Linz), Tischlerei
- Musikpark A1, or A1 for short, is my favorite club because it's fun, has a great variety of music, is poppin' on the weekends (be sure to get there early), and has a great kebab place next door. Also, we all know how good food tastes after a night of clubbing: when it's 2 am, you're tired, hungry, and possibly still drunk - those kebabs will taste like the greatest thing you've ever eaten.
The Landstraße is a really fun street to walk around and go shopping, filled with small shops, cafés, and restaurants. A little outside of Linz is a giant shopping mall called Plus City. It is huge. They have everything from department stores to restaurants, and designer stores to a movie theater.
Also, besides shopping or clubbing, locals come to Linz for fun activities, including: paintball, laser tag, billiard, bowling, gambling, and of course every kind of restaurant you can imagine. Many people flock to Linz for weekend fun, as many of these activities are not offered in their smaller towns.
Though I've only been to the concentration camp in Mauthausen, it was powerful. Before studying in Austria, I feel like I associated WWII and Nazi warfare mostly with Germany, essentially ignoring Austrian participation and forgetting what went on in Austria. Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, located about 12 miles east of Linz, was a working camp, rather than a killing camp like Auschwitz. It was one of the largest working camps in ther German-controlled parts of Europe. As we walked through the camp, we saw the narrow, crammed beds all pushed together to make the amount of space most efficient in hosting Jews, Russian POW, and other political prisoners. The camp was not necessarily focused on detaining Jews, but more for political prisoners. There were separate, almost nicer, living quarters for women who were willing to service Nazis. By willing, I don't mean actually willing, but certain women were chosen or used this "option" as a survival tactic, being fed a little more to keep a somewhat healthy figure, instead of looking as bone-thin as others.
The most jarring part of our tour was when we stood in the "showers", being squished together by fellow classmates, realizing that thousands and thousands were murdered right under our feet, right where we stood. This is a horrifying feeling because it was all too real, physically and emotionally. I, personally, couldn't stand there. I had to leave, and I'm not claustrophobic at all. Another horrifying reality was seeing the Todesstriege. These are these stairs that span from one part of the camp all the way down to another part, very long and very large, tall and wide, spiraling without any type of railing, carved from the earth. Todesstriege means stairs of death in German. They were called this because prisoners were forced to carry giant, granite stones up the stairs no matter the weather condition, either to build something for Hitler or just because- to wear people down. People who didn't make it, or couldn't make it, were thrown over the edge. These are just a few thoughts on my experience at the concentration camp, and though it was a horrifying, tangible experience, it was interesting. Sometimes you need to face the harsh realities of history, learn, get educated, understand where it all went wrong, and make sure we do not repeat these mistakes, in any respect.
The Old Town (Altstadt) of Salzburg has that fairytale-feel with cobble-stone roads, baked bread, and Austrian charm. Since I have so much I want to say, I am going to separate it all in sections: food, shopping, and entertainment & excursion.
- Afro Café: A cute, restaurant/café type eatery with soups, salads, burgers; sit down.
- Alter Fuchs: This is a nice restaurant if you want traditional Austrian food. Nice atmosphere and one of the older restaurants in Salzburg. Located in Altstadt.
- Cafe Alchemie is a nice, indie type café with award winning coffee, with good vibes but limited space as it is pretty small.
- Café Pamina has a nice atmosphere if you're trying to people watch, meet with a friend, or do some work. It's quaint and has nice drinks. The hot chocolate (Heiße Schokolade) is especially good. Located in Altstadt, west side of the river.
- Café Tomaselli is the oldest café in Salzburg and has a quaint, clean, elegant feel to it. They serve delicious breakfast meals and great coffee, which is accompanied by a small glass of water, natürlich. Located by Mozartplatz.
- L'Osteria is the place to go if you crave Italian food. They have amazing, delicious pizzas the size of your torso and tiramisu that could make your heart melt. Since Salzburg is somewhat close to Italy, the Italian restaurants in the area tend to have more traditional-style pizzas, with thin dough and cut with a knife and fork. The first time having pizza abroad, my friends and I were taken by surprise with uncut pizzas, unknowingly expecting our pizza to be cut in 8 triangular slices. L'Osteria also has really great pastas and is a fun place to eat indoors during cold weather, but especially outdoors during the summer/fall time when children are out playing, families taking walks, and tourists exploring. There is also a little fountain that bee-lines down the street next to the restaurant, kind of like a makeshift river starting as a fountain and pooling at the bottom. Kids love playing with the water and families gather while catching up and enjoying the sun.
- Mozartkugeln: If you stop in Salzburg, you most certainly have to stop and try Mozartkugeln. This layered, marzipan, cake-type chocolate ball can be found in many shops and restaurants, but the trick is to find the ones wrapped in silver foil for these are the original recipe ones. Café Konitorei Fürst has a great selection of Mozartkugeln, great and small for that one-time taster tester traveler or for the bring it home for all the relatives and neighbors traveler. In the picture below, the Mozartkuglen are in the middle in the silver foil with the traditional blue Mozart profile on it. Located by Mozartplatz.
- Pommes Boutique: This place was one of my favorite places to eat in Salzburg. Being a big fan of burgers and fries, this fast-casual restaurant was my Abroad In-N-Out. Their burgers were made in front of you, almost home-made tasting, as opposed to a fast-food kind of feel, and had steak fries. The burgers also come with a sauce similar to the special sauce served at In-N-Out. 10/10 would recommend. There are two locations, but the one by Mirabell Gardens is better, in my opinion.
- Reina's: Super great kebab place, tucked away in a little alley way before the river, on the way walking into Old Town. Affordable, fast, and tasty. Located on the east side of the river.
- Gelato: On the east side of the river, walking towards Old town, there is a really tasty gelato shop - a literal a hole-in-the-wall stand hidden in-between restaurants, hidden by purses and belts being sold next door. The gelato is delicious and only 1€. It is near the beginning of the pedestrian walking area, near the Spar (shpar) and antique shop, but a little further down. There is also a really good gelato shop near Mirabell Gardens that sells it for a euro per scoop.
- Pretzels: There are Brezel (pretzel) stands all along Old Town staggered amongst main streets and alley ways. They are delicious and a snack that can't be missed, as it's a huge part of the Austrian culture. During Christmas time, at Christkindlmarkt, there are stands with different kinds of pretzels nicely decorated with chocolate, filled with jam, salted, and devoured. They go quickly and are quite delicious.
- Europark is a fun shopping mall, just a quick 5 minutes train ride away from the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), flooded with over 130 shops, restaurants, and eateries. It is also connected to IKEA and has a theater attached; most of the movies, if not all, are in German, except when a movie first comes out in which case it is usually shown in English for the first couple days or week. There are some really funny stores with poorly written English on "fashionable" shirts. One shirt we found had an outline of a deer on it, surrounded by pink flowers and said: Nature and Wild, great. It was a great shirt indeed.
- Altstadt has many, many shops all along the streets, spanning from H&M and Zara type stores, to expensive designer stores. There are some fun shoe stores on the east and west side and many places to stop and grab a snack in case you get hungry while shopping.
- Kiesel is the shopping center next to the Hauptbahnhof that has the necessities if you will to be a shopping center. It has a Spar (grocery store), a T-Mobile (in case you have any phone problems or need a SIM card), retail stores, and some eateries such as Subway, McDonalds, and the only bagel shop I've ever found in Salzburg. I am a huge fan of eating bagels for breakfast and on the second floor, near where the escalator drops you off, is a bagel shop with a variety of bagels and smears. It was my go-to when I was having some American cravings.
- Fun Fact: I'm not sure how true this is, but one of my teachers told me that bagels aren't that prevalent in Austria as a result of WWII. This is because Jews originally made them in their shops and bakeries, and because of the war, bagels were inadvertently eradicated along with the Jews. They have since then made a come-back and are slowly starting to make their way back into Austrian society.
- Untersberg, most well-known as the mountain the von Trapp family climbs to escape the Nazis, is a beautiful mountain with a short climb of 5 hours... Hah this was actually one of the more challenging, maybe one of the most-challenging, hikes I've ever been on. It was 5 hours of uphill climbing, and I really do mean climbing for certain parts. As Austrian families with their small children, all of whom are dressed in nice clothing, pass me up without a sweat, I am climbing this mountain with my hands firmly gripped to the metal lining bolted to the rock wall in which I clung to, head peaking over my shoulder dreading the edge of the rail-less stone cliff, sweat dripping from my brow, heart beating as loud as drum, hair up in a messy bun, wearing typical American athletic wear, looking like I'm trying to smile but really, and justifiably terrified of heights. So yes, it was an easy hike, as you can imagine. It was actually not this terrifying the entire time. There were parts where it was mild and we even passed a stream with fresh, cold water you could drink. Austria has some of the best, cleanest drinking water. I consider myself a fairly in-shape person, being a student-athlete my entire life, but this hike seemed to really test my abilities, which, naturally, called for celebration once we reached the top. We took a deep breath, took in the view, and slowly sipped down a cold, crisp Stiegl- until we realized the last cable car was leaving down the mountain, and then we downed our beers and ran towards the cable car.
- Kapuzinerberg, is a fun, easy hike/walk spanning across the tops of the mountain range that surrounds Salzburg. You can walk from one side of Salzburg to the other in a matter of hours and end up in Old Town or at Augustinerbrau, a fun brewery in the mountains. More information on this hike and its history can be found here.
- The Salzburger Marionetten Theater is an interesting, historical, fun place for families to watch plays put on. The seating is very old-school with the red velvet and red velvet curtains. The Marionette Dolls are fun to watch and you can't help but think about how special this distinct, specialized craft is. It also reminded me of the play put on in The Sound of Music by Maria and the von Trapp children in their mini theater with the goats and villagers. My friends and I had the pleasure of seeing Mozart's The Magic Flute here. It was so fun, and so different than any other theater experience I've had.
- The Landestheater is a fun place to go to: dress up, go out, and enjoy a night of music put on by the Salzburg Orchestra, ballet, or opera. Sometimes you have to treat yourself, right? It's a nice, semi-formal affair enjoyed by anyone from small children to grandparents.
- Night life:
- One of our favorite, albeit kind of sketch, places to go was Vis Á Vis (vee-suh-vee); We liked this club a lot because, of all the clubs in Salzburg, they had the most amount of throwback, old-school hip-hop music. Filled with people of all ages, but mostly newly turned 16 year-olds and older gentlemen, it was always an interested time, but also always fun. We went for the music and the dancing.
- Our chill, reliable pub was O'Malley's. This fun, karaoke-Thursday, student-discount-Wednesday, safe haven of ours was our go-to. With silly named shots, that are surprisingly really tasty, and a bathroom filled with University of Portland memoirs tagged by #UP, O'Malley's was always a good time. Ask for Werner, he is the greatest bar tender who can provide great stories and a fun conversation. He has become a cherished member of our UP group, year after year. Shamrock is attached to O'Malley's and is also a fun pub to explore. It's more of a sports-bar but offers live music and student discounts as well.
- Take 5, Murphey's Law, Segabar and Soda Club are fun bars, too; Soda club in particular has a fun happy hour to start out the night and then maybe proceed to other bars/clubs. Take 5 is a favored club amongst locals with its music and dancing.
- Steinterasse: This fancy restaurant has a great rooftop bar with amazing views of Salzburg and the Fortress, day and night.
- Be mindful of: your jacket, your belongings, your friends, cigarette smoke (you will smell like cigarette smoke coming into/leaving many, if not all, bars/clubs), and cover charges.
- Though I've never been on the The Sound of Music tour, I've heard it's wonderful and a fun time. While in Austria, I picked up an interesting observation: locals dislike the movie because of its misrepresentation of the von Trapp family, Maria, and historical references.
- Important sites to see:
- Mirabell Gardens - beautiful gardens; also where Julie Andrews danced with the von Trapp children (on the steps) in The Sound of Music; great place to wander around, especially in the summer and fall when the sun is out.
- Hohensalzburg Fortress - the Salzburg castle; tour recommended because the history is very interesting to hear.
- Mozart's Birthplace - though an interesting place, I would say you can skip this historical site if you're tight on time while in Salzburg; that said, it is very interesting and contains mementos of his childhood, like his first violin and fortepiano.
- Salzburg Cathedral - beautiful church; nice to see and walk around in
- St. Peter's Church - one of the oldest churches in Salzburg and designed in Rococo style, this church is beautiful and has a ceiling that you'll want to stare at for hours with your eyes constantly searching and connecting pieces together. There are also beautiful frescos inside.
- If you have time, I would venture to the old salt mines and Celtic town, Hallein. They're both rich in history and interesting in culture. Hallein is the Celtic town I wrote about in a previous post, describing one of the first places I saw when landing in Austria.
Vienna is a wonderful, bustling city about 3 hours east of Salzburg. It is very cosmopolitan in its range of restaurants, night life, and entertainment.
Things to do:
- The Viennese Opera is a well-known spot for fancy outings, enjoying ballet or music with friends or a loved one. We attended a ballet and a fun, fancy night filled with a beautiful production of Swan Lake.
- Nightlife: my friends and I went out clubbing one of the nights to Donau Techno and Viper Room, both of which were really fun, underground scenes. One of the clubs we went to was down by a river, underground. To get to it, you pass an abandoned car that has a giant tree growing in and through it, continue walking and on the right is the entry way which leads you underground and through the concrete halls to the actual entrance. It's really pretty cool and unlike any other club I've been to. If anyone knows where this is or what the club is called, let me know- because it was so much fun. Sometimes it's difficult to recall places you've visited when you're slightly intoxicated and everything is in a foreign language. Though we didn't get a chance to really explore the night life in Vienna, I'm sure there are endless possibilities. Here is a fun website (click here) that shows a couple different options. **If you are going clubbing or to the bars, be mindful of where you are and how to get home. The trains and buses stop running around midnight, I believe, so make sure you have an exit strategy so you don't get stranded... like we did hah.
- Schönbrunn Palace - highly recommend; a beautiful Baroque palace once used as a summer home by the Habsburgs Franz Joseph and Sissi. Also, there is a zoo on the grounds in the "backyard". The gardens are beautiful to walk around and explore, especially on a nice, sunny day. Schönnbrunn means beautiful spring.
- Belvedere - highly recommend visiting this palace as well; it is a beautiful site to walk around, tour, and enjoy on a sunny day. The ceiling work and art in the palace are amazing and the gardens are nice to walk around. With Schönnbrunn and Belvedere, I recommend having a guided tour because the history of both places in respect to the Habsburgs and Austrian history is very interesting and better explained by a person with knowledge rather than a self-guided tour. Try buying tickets in advance, based on the time of the year you're visiting, because the line could be a long wait. Also, many of Klimt's works, including The Kiss, is featured here. The Kiss is amazing in person because you can really see the detail and the reflections of the gold in the art.
- Try Wiener Schnitzel, Viennese Coffee, and/or Würstelstände (hot dog stands) because they are tasty, traditional Austrian snacks, or meals depending on how hungry you are, accommodated by a Semmel roll and sauerkraut. My favorite kind of Wurst is "currywurst". A good place to grab some Wurst is a stand called "Alles Walzer, alles Wurst". More Würstelstände can be found here.
- Go to museums such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum (art history museum), because they have some of the best, most beautiful pieces in the world and lots of history. All very interesting.
- Hundertwasserhaus - one of my favorite places to visit in Vienna. This is the house and museum of Hundertwasser, an artist and dreamer with a unique perspective on art and life. Hundertwasser and Spanish artist, Gaudí, remind me of each other in their beliefs of nature and art. Hundertwasser had this belief of giving back to nature. His work never contained straight lines because he believed that nature never produces "straight lines". His house contains separate space near windows in which he hosted "tree residents". This belief came from his idea that we, humans, take space from original residents of the natural world, like animals and plant life, and because we take this space, we must give back in some way and provide them with a place of residence. He believed that trees and plants should be planted on the roofs of our buildings, as to provide them a home and give back. If you go to his house, I recommend taking a guided tour because there is so much information that you can't really learn or understand without someone who has a deeper understanding of Hundertwasser and his philosophies on life, nature, and art. He's a really inspiring artist.
- Secession - a wonderful museum with many galleries including works from Klimt, like his Beethoven Frieze. Worth seeing as the art is beautiful, a mix of modern and older works.
A small town, Wels is very quaint. The downtown area has nice restaurants to eat at and Wels is an especially fun place during the holidays. With its own Christkindlmarkt, Wels sets up a fun, magical environment filled with booths of seasonal treats and food, such as Glühwein, chocolate covered fruit, candied almonds (Gebrannte Mandeln), and roasted chestnuts. There's also traditional Austrian food and some fun Christmas attractions for kids. It's especially fun when it's snowing and you can walk around and enjoy the Christmas season with tasty food and good company.
Well known for its Eisriesenwelt ice cave, the largest ice cave in the world, and the Hohenwerfen Castle, Werfen is a small, market town within the state of Salzburg that sits next to the Salzach River. It is a nice place to visit on the weekend or to do in a day, as it isn't very big, but a nice side trip if you're making your way through Austria. I don't think this town is too high on most people's travel plans, so it's kind of nice to visit a place that is less well-known to the general public. It's rich in history and beauty and I recommend it as a side-trip if you have the time. Also, a small part of The Sound of Music was filmed hillside of Werfen with some scenes from the "Do-Re-Mi" song featuring the castle in the background. At the castle, there is a bird show you can watch where falcons and other large, unique birds fly around and do tricks. It's pretty fun and interesting to watch these birds fly around, especially if you're traveling with children.
Zell am See - Kaprun
A great town to visit in passing on the way to skiing the Austrian slopes. It sits at the bottom of the ski resorts and is accessible by bus and train. This is where we got to say: "I went skiing in the Alps!" Austrian Alps, that is. The mountains are beautiful, no matter the season and I believe my friends and I decided to ski here partially because of the accessibility of it from Salzburg, and partially because of the price. (More information of the ski resort can be found here.) Some bar-type restaurants are located in the middle of runs, halfway down the mountain. These are fun to stop at, maybe have a drink, and then continue skiing. Be careful with how much alcohol you consume though, because that may make your trip down the mountain a bit more challenging, or interesting depending on how you look at it. It's also fun to stop by these bars because where else are you going to experience something like that. There are definitely no things like it in Tahoe or any ski resort I've been to in America.
Anyway, thank you for reading this very long post. I tend to ramble sometimes when I write so hopefully it doesn't stray too much with my little side stories. I hope you find this helpful and should you have any questions about other towns or more detailed excursions, please feel free to email me. I would be more than happy to clear up any confusion or provide any more advice. German can be a confusing language, especially in pronunciation so let me know if you need help with any words or references.
Thank you so much and I hope you enjoy your trip to Austria, or if you don't have any upcoming plans, I hope this inspires you to take advantage of all that Austria has to offer. More pictures are available in the Österreich album.