Recently I had the opportunity to go to Vienna, Austria to DJ an event for the Austria WCS Spectacle. The event was so much fun, and I got to know a lot of fantastic dancers from all over Europe. Since I was going over there anyway, I decided that it would be a great opportunity to explore Austria. It was my first time to the country, so I was really excited to learn about their culture and experience a different perspective.
(A Photography Note: Unfortunately, the memory card for my DSLR got corrupted, so the photos you find here are from my iPhone. I was really impressed with how nice the phone photos came out!)
Europe is Old.. Obviously.
Probably the most cliche statement from any Americans coming back from Europe is that Europe is old. Obviously right? What you don’t hear as much though is the impact that that has.
Being in a country where many buildings and man made structures predate the founding of our country has a profound effect on your perspective. My friends there were kind enough to introduce me to a restaurant where the basement (where we ate) was built atop old roman structures. There were pieces of architecture and statues that dated to the Roman Empire. Wandering the city, there are also other ruins visible that date back to the Romans.
The freaking ROMANS!
Much of the architecture in the country was built using techniques long discarded for modern building techniques that are more efficient and less costly. In one part of Vienna, I stood in a square and marveled at a sign on the side of a building telling how Mozart held his first recital in this very building. It was an attractive building, but otherwise unremarkable. Reading that sign however gave me chills. The idea that one of the worlds most influential composers got his start in this very place was absolutely mind blowing.
Can you imagine roman warriors or architects, being in the same spot you are? Being in the building where Mozart played his first recital? It really does stretch the imagination.
Vienna was magnificent. From the stone paved roads, to the elaborate architecture, the city was a marvel of modern and ancient fused together. The shopping district was glamorous and vibrant with the energy of locals and tourists. Every road and alley was flush with the sense of history. Even the doors to the buildings were beautiful works of art. As much as I loved the tourist attractions and historical buildings, I think I liked the apartments and office buildings more… just the regular buildings in some of the older districts The fact that it was just part of life there… and has been for a long time really sank in when viewing the every day lives of the people.
I did really enjoy seeing the horse carriages carrying tourists around the city however. Vienna is a romantic town, full of small shops and restaurants, and plenty for couples to do together. Just walking around the city is a very nice way to spend a day.
Walking around the center of the old city was an experience I would recommend for anyone. The senses are bombarded. From the smell of fresh baked bread, to the ringing of the bells, it’s a sensory delight. I especially liked it around dusk as the crowds began to thin. People in Austria keep very early hours. Once evening hit, the city quieted very quickly.
My Love Affair with Austria’s Public Transportation
During my stay in Vienna, I navigated by train, subway, and bus. I was able to get anywhere in the city I needed to without worrying about being late or held up by traffic. The transportation was safe, on time and convenient. It was also much cheaper than hiring a taxi.
I think my favorite part about the transportation system though was the people watching. So many different people on the trains. Students, elderly, business people, artists.. a huge variety of people of all ages and walks of life use the public transit. We even passed a stop where a play had recently finished, and all the actors and actresses boarded the subway in full costume.
I think it really gave me a unique snapshot of life in Austria.
I must say that as much as I loved Vienna, the Alps were truly the highlight of the trip for me. I rented a little Suzuki Swift. It was a tiny little car, as most of them are in Austria, and started driving west. The further west I went, the more mountainous it became. I remember how excited I was when I saw my first snow peaked mountain.
Keep in mind that I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Ohio is a very flat place with no real topography to speak of. In my early thirties, I moved to Clearwater Florida. Also a very flat place. I’ve visited places with mountains in the past, but nowhere have I been where the mountains were so… present.
Its hard to explain really. Being in a place where the mountains surround you and tower over you… in a land largely unspoiled by commerce and human expansion. Don’t get me wrong, there were towns and roads and human life, but it was very different. The general feeling was that the villages were small and very integrated into the landscape… nestled into the valleys at the base of the mountains. It was really remarkable.
Gastronomic Glee…Austrian Food is Awesome
So I do have a weakness for good food, and Austria has plenty of it. The food wasn’t that odd as cultural fare goes. It was more in the ingredients and preparation that really won me over. The food all felt very natural. Less processed, packaged and preserved. For breakfast, fresh baked rolls, fruit, and meats and cheeses were par for the course. Of course there was schnitzel and turkish kebap.
The highlight however was in Altmunster. I had the opportunity to eat fresh smoked fish from a roadside shack, that had been caught in the lake. It tasted like a cross between trout and salmon. It was honestly, the best fish I’ve ever had. Also, we stopped at a small restaurant, where they served the same fish breaded and preserved meat of the local mountain goats. Truly delicious fare.
General Advice for Travelling in Austria
- Check into your hotel EARLY.
Many hotels and gasthauses close by 8pm once you’re out of Vienna. There were a few nights where we were scrambling to find a place to sleep.
- Drink the Beer and Coffee.
I don’t like domestic beer here in the states. Many of the imports also just aren’t that good. The Beer in Austria was fantastic. Every beer I tried had amazing flavor. Also, since beer is very cheap in Austria, there is really no excuse not to! The coffee in Austria was also remarkable. Here in the states, the coffee tends to either have a sour note, or a bitter note. You have to really look hard to find excellent coffee. In Austria, the coffee had a dark chocolate like mouth texture. It was fantastic just about everywhere I had it.
- Rent a Car if you’re going to travel the countryside.
Initially we planned to take a train to Salzburg from Vienna, but we realized that for 2 people, renting a car was cheaper. It allowed us to travel to small towns that would have been difficult to see by train, and the freedom to explore on our timetable. Once we got back to Vienna, we gave up the car for public transportation. I’m really glad we got off the beaten path. I highly recommend it.
- Buy Power Adapters.
I didn’t need the voltage converter I bought for any of my gadgets. The adapters worked just fine. Make sure you check that your devices can do 240v, but my cellphone, laptop, and tablet all functioned fine . I used these: Power Adapters
- Having internet is very nice.
I use T-mobile, so I had free 3G internet and texting. It was a huge help there. Internet is painfully slow in Austria at the hotels. I found only one hotel in the 5 that I stayed at where the internet was stable and of a decent speed. The other hotels were unusable.
- Plan your bathroom trips.
Bathrooms are not plentiful in Austria. The few public restrooms we ran across required payment to access. Be aware of this and plan accordingly.
- Eat breakfast at the Hotel.
Many hotels and gasthauses have breakfast included with your stay. Most of them consist of fresh fruit and bread, butter, jellies and various meats and cheeses. Overall the quality was good, and the prices very reasonable.
- Bring good walking shoes.
Plan to walk a lot. There is a lot of public transportation, but if you really want to see Austria, walking is the best way. Between trains, subways, and generally getting around to sight see, I walked on average 5-6 miles a day.
About Mineh Ishida
My name is Mineh Ishida. I am passionate about marketing, design, photography and traveling. This is my blog where I share my thoughts about the world I live in and tips that I’ve found useful.