VISITING AUSTRIA 

The Austrians get lumped together with the Germans because of language, similarities in behavior and historical history, but they are more different than you would think.

While the German provinces were flailing away as independent areas with no central organization, the Austrians had already had an established Dynasty and empire that ran for 640 years.

 

Like the Germans, they are hard working and like rules and structure.  You need to be punctual and polite; using handshakes and formal titles until invited not to.

They have a high standard of living, and are responsible for lots of fine music, dance, literature, architecture, medicine and science.

 

Homes are meticulous and very clean and tidy, but they do like knick knacks and small decorative items on their polished table tops.  This makes their homes feel lived in and cozy.  The home is regarded as their second skin.

 

Cars are status symbols– BMW, Mercedes and Audi are the most popular.  They do not like anyone to get in their way when racing down the motorways, and have a special aversion to any vehicle with foreign plates, tourist coaches or Dutch pulling caravans.  They make this known by barrelling up your bumper while honking and fist waving.

 

When it comes to women, Austrian men are not known for gallantry or manners, with no holding the door open or complimenting their lady.  It is more of an equal relationship with definite gender roles.

 

Austrian food is similar to German food, even though they have been fighting over who made the first wiener for over 200 years now.

Brot and wurst (bread and sausage) is part of the staple diet, with there being a lovely array of well made, pulverized meat shoved into skin casings of all types and sizes. If you order a bratwurst and sausage from a food stall, eat it like it is served to you.  If they put the sausage in the bread, then eat it that way.  If they hand you a bun, and a sausage separately, then eat them separately to avoid looking like a tourist.

Austrian cakes and tortes are outstanding, never too rich or too sweet.  They use a lot of fruit and cream and are best eaten along side a cup of coffee. Cake and coffee is a national institution, with coffee culture being the rage since 1685.  I recommend you find a good coffee shop with polished wood tables, chandeliers and jacketed waiters.  Order a coffee from the long list of types and select a sweet to go with it.  It is a uniquely Austrian experience and meant to be savoured and enjoyed.

Another common food is the knodel, which is to Austria what rice is to Asia.  They come sweet or savoury and is basically a big round dumpling.  Never cut into it with your knife.  Hold it in place with your knife and cut it apart with your fork.  Otherwise you will insult the chef by saying his knodel is tough, and nobody wants to admit to a tough knodel.

 

If you like mild soft drinks, order an Almdudler, which is water, sugar and herbs and can also be mixed with white wine.  If you buy a bottled drink in a shop, you usually have to pay a deposit for the glass bottle, which you will get back if you return the bottle when done.

Beer is very pure due to the beer purity law from 1516.  It states that the only ingredients that can go into brewing are water, hops barley and yeast. Pure alpine water means that 73 breweries put out 400 brand. Most alcohol never exported due to healthy market in Austria

Wines are mainly dry whites or sweet wines.  Heurigen means wine from this year and you can find a Heurigen bar if you see a lit-up fir branch or tree, beside the door.  Vienna has 700 hectares of vineyards & 320 vinters.

Schnapps means ‘to swallow’ and is a digestive at the end of a meal.  These are normally harsh liquids which rate at least 32% or 64 proof. When you see the Schnapps displayed in a shop, be aware that they don’t add sugar to them, so that lovely round peach on the label is going to taste like peach lighter fluid.  To find sweet Schnapps like we are used to, they are technically liqueurs.

 

When travelling through Austria, you will see they have it all. Beautiful cities full of art deco and fine shops and cafes; accessible hills and mountains, and friendly people.  But don’t forget to stop for coffee and cake.