A Slice of Fried Gold

European Adventures: Austria

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The end is within sight! Round 3 of my European travelogues is here now, with a post following my adventures while in the incomparably beautiful (in every way) Austria.

While it was a huge change of pace from the "go go go!" attitude and opulence of Paris, Austria was a stunning country both in terms of man made structures and the varied landscapes, highlighted by my runs through the Alps. The nightlife was non-existent from what I could gather, but that gave me a bit of time to gather my thoughts and detox from the chaos that comes from Paris. To put it more succinctly, Austria was a beautiful and necessary intermission between France and Austria.

My adventures in Austria took place between April 22nd and April 24th, 2009.

Myself in the backyard of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna

Cities/Areas Visited: Vienna, Innsbruck, Salzburg

Soundtrack: Beirut (but of course), Mozart...and then my iPod died and I was left without music. Sad.

One of the many local gangs of bicyclists in Austria

Best Mode of Transportation: Bicycles

Bikes were ubiquitous throughout Austria, and it was my chosen mode of transportation in my day in Vienna. In fact, I managed to see everything I wanted to see in Vienna in just one day, all thanks to the bike I was riding around. If I was walking, I don't think there would be any chance I would have seen half as much, and I'm really thankful I had the idea and the opportunity to do so.

The cities were all set up perfectly for bike riding, as every city had clear dedicated bike lanes, and where they didn't you were allowed to ride on the road as if you were a car yourself. It was awesome, and I wish more cities were like that.

Most confusing aspect: Navigating streets

While the biking was great, the frequently massively confusing and curving streets were hard to get around on. Plus, the naming conventions seemed to follow absolutely no pattern, and that would lead me to consistently get lost. At one point while in Vienna, I was on my bike and thought I was near a sight I wanted to see, but it turned out I was on the complete opposite of the map, more than ten miles away from where I thought it was. I'm unsurprised I completely got lost in one day in a massive city, but still, it was kind of shocking that I was that lost.

One of the approximately 80 trillion beautiful and peaceful parks in Austria

Best change of pace: Parks, parks, parks

Austria was loaded to the gills with parks. It seemed like every street corner there would be a new and completely gorgeous park for me to explore or relax in. Not only that, but Austrians actually seemed to genuinely enjoy their parks. It was insane - you would go into the parks and they would be loaded with people, all of whom would be sitting and having a chat, or reading, or doing something similarly relaxing. And unlike parks I came across in say, Italy, leaving your trash on the ground was not mandatory. In fact, it looked like they frowned upon that greatly, as there was no trash to be found whatsoever. I miss their beautiful parks.

Best (or at least most readily available) nightlife option: Prostitutes

Vienna was a beautiful city, don't get me wrong, but from what I could tell there was literally nothing to do at night. Well, unless you are interested in paying for sex, in which case you have many options. By walking a couple hundred feet to the left of my hostel's front door, you could find a bevy of ladies of the night, all of whom were quite popular from what I could tell. The trade is highly regulated though, as police officers would come by, at which point the women would simply cross the street and effectively dodge them until the police officers themselves crossed the street. Yes, I actually watched this situation long enough to figure this out. Nights were quite slow in Austria.

The good news for travelers is the fact that like every other woman in Austria, these were quite good looking prostitutes (not that I've seen a lot of them). So there is that.

The best meal I had on my whole trip

Best food (delicious edition): Afro Cafe

This was quite possibly the best meal I had on the entire trip. At this tasty and extremely hip restaurant, I ordered a latte and Ostrich Burger along with fries, and everything was completely and utterly delectable. The latte, unsweetened by my hands, was the single greatest coffee I've ever had. The Ostrich Burger came covered with bacon (real bacon!), cucumbers, a spicy mayo, two types of cheeses, and tomato, and was remarakbly good, and quite well complimented by the crisp and substantial order of fries. Just typing this makes me hungry. It was a nearly impossible to find restaurant that I read about in a Lonely Planet guide, and was worth the wandering and the time spent asking strangers for directions.

The Doner Kebap stand across from my hostel in Vienna

Best Food (value edition): Doner Kebap

Doner Kebap stands are incredibly frequent across Europe, but the best renditions of the incredibly tasty and affordable food I found were in Austria. These stands were evidently required every block or two as well, as they were as frequently found as gas stations are in America. That was great, because I could always find one when I was hungry and the high level of supply kept costs low, meaning I could get a ridiculously delicious and filling lunch for around 3 euro, or about $4.50. I miss them dearly.

Myself and illustrations of my traveling family band

Most hilarious tour: The Sound of Music Tour

After hearing from a friend in Paris that the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg was awesome, I decided I pretty much had to go on it. I knew that the Sound of Music was filmed there, but as I had never seen the movie until two weeks before I left for my trip, it seemed like an unnecessary expenditure until it was recommended to me.

Of course, it ended up being completely ridiculous. The trip was a bus tour that took you along to various sights from the movie, including the Gazebo from the film, up in the Alps, the church where the Von Trapp's got married, and much, much more. They even took you to get Apple Strudel! Delicious, but contrived. Sort of like the whole tour.

An actual Segway store

Best store: Segway shop in Vienna

Really, how often do you get to see a store dedicated entirely to the genius (and hilarity) that is the Segway. It's a machine that "can never fall over", it is Gob Bluth's primary mode of transporation, and it was a colossal failure in terms of sales, and evidently they are big enough in Austria that you can go to a branded store to purchase authentic Segway leather jackets and keychains and what not.

What isn't awesome about that?

These were all too abundant in Austria

Creepiest store: Marionette shop in Salzburg

For some reason, marionette shops were as frequent in Austria as handbag shops were in Italy and crazy expensive and fashionable clothing stores were in France. Of course, the latter two gathered extremely hot and well dressed women to their doors, while the former attracted creepsters and scared the bejeezus out of me. Needless to say, I took a wide berth of these monsters.

The locals do not stand for regulated soccer

Best signs: Soccer or no soccer?

These were signs in one of the many, many parks in Vienna. Evidently the city was tired of ruffians playing futbol within their city parks, and strictly disallowed that. Somewhat predictably, the ruffians revolted by sticking pictures of their favorite futbol players to the signs. Way to stick it to the man Austrians!

The entrance to Augustiner Brau

Best place ever: Augustiner Brau

When I first asked where a good place to eat at would be in Salzburg, a few of the locals suggested that I go to Augustiner Brau. This was the local beer hall, and apparently it was pretty ridiculous in size. It seated over 1,200 people, and near as I could tell from my visit there, if drinking was Austria's national sport, then Augustiner Brau was their Fenway Park.

They only served one type of beer (Augustiner, natch) and somewhat predictably, the beers only came in half a liter or a full liter of freakishly tasty beverage. They served food there as well, and it was a pretty bizarre arrangement of foods. They had wienerschnitzel and a full meats station, pastries and breads, and a radish station.

Wait...what? A radish station. Yes, there was a radish station, and it was seemingly popular as I saw a number of people go up to pair a bag full of radishes with their beer. A bizarre choice, but who am I to question the people who support such a wonderful establishment?

Austria Wrap Up: So Austria was a hell of a time. It was gorgeous (both in the settings and the people - hottest women in Europe from my experience), full of interesting sights and the most consistently peaceful place from my whole trip. It was a great change of pace from the rest of my trip, which was quite city-driven. Plus, I had my best experience traveling, as the train system in Austria was incredibly awesome and I really got a lot of value out of my Eurail Pass while there.

I can't wait to go back on my grand beer hall tour I'm planning for some day, because that day will come!

Mozart Wohnhaus - Mozart's Residence in Salzburg

View of the top of Salzburg - Salzburg Castle

One of the four primary rooms in Augustiner Brau Haus

Intense chess - the showdown

Myself ruining a picture of the Alps


While on the SoM tour - up in the Alps


Yes - that is the Gazebo from the Sound of Music

Mirabelle Gardens in Salzburg - Made famous in the Sound of Music

This house was used as the back of the Von Trapp home in the Sound of Music

This is in Innsbruck - I just thought it was a cool shot


Strauss Memorial in Vienna

I think this was the Vienna City Hall, but I may just be making stuff up

The Hofburg in Vienna

Epic lamp post

More of super imperialistic Vienna

Schonbrunn's backyard

The crazy huge greenhouse at Schonbrunn Palace

View of Vienna from the backyard of Schonbrunn Palace

At Schonbrunn Palace - not even sure what this was, but it was pretty!

Front of Schonbrunn Palace


Patty said...

Fun, fun, fun.

Troy Olson said...

Hmm, I don't remember the prostitutes all over when my wife and I were in Austria...perhaps I just wasn't paying enough attention.

You are correct that there are Doner Kebap stands everywhere in Austria. We actually got sick at one and thus, will never eat a Doner Kebap again.

That Sound of Music tour is silly, agreed, but fun. Good choice to do that.

You did things right by only staying 3 days in Austria, as that's about all that is necessary -- I think we were there a bit longer and got extremely bored.

David Harper said...

They were all over the part of town I stayed at in Vienna. Besides that, just at this random brothel I went to check out (I swear, it wasn't for me to get a lady) in Salzburg where I saw a sporadic lady of the night.

Oh no! No more Doner Kebap?! I miss it so much, I can't imagine not wanting it forever, but getting sick can do that to you.

Sound of Music tour was worth it, but I wish I was with someone during that. Was a bit quiet without a friend to join in.

I can't imagine more than 3 days, but I'm glad I went. I really do wish I had made it to Prague instead though. I was robbed of that. I want Prague in my life!

Kimberly said...

Wow, I love that greenhouse! Did you get to go inside?!

David Harper said...

It was 7 euro to get in. Thanks but no thanks, $10 to get in an uber-greenhouse is not for me. I peaked in though and it looked amazing.

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