Reactions From Austria

“Austria, Switzerland and parts of Belgium speak a different sort of German.” -Colum Joyce

I just got back from my trip to Vienna and Linz. The “vacation” was nice. I managed to read four books and let my Google Reader get completely swamped. I have to be honest, however, I wasn’t especially impressed with the country.

I thought I would love it. Anthony Bourdain went and he had a great time, despite not liking Austria before his visit. There’s the Vienna Circle! Popper! Wittgenstein! It’s the home of Gustav Klimt, whose artwork I like. Beethoven wrote some of his great works there.

And yet I described it as “Austria is to Germany what Canada is to the US.”

I LOVED Germany. Before traveling there, everyone said that I would hate German food. I LOVED German food. People said the cities were ugly and “Soviet looking.” I thought the architecture was fabulous, both the old and the new.

Austria, on the other hand, was kinda meh. There were some cool buildings, in particular several churches which were really neat looking. Most of the buildings were extremely bland, crammed together with very narrow sidewalks in front. The food was also meh. I ate several times at highly regarded Austrian restaurants and was rather unimpressed. The food wasn’t bad per se, just boring. The best meal I had was at an off-the-beaten-path Italian place which served some amazing gnocchi. The only Austrian “meal” I was impressed with was lunch at the Nashmarkt, which consists of dozens of little stalls where you can purchase all sorts of snacks.

I was unimpressed by the culture. The cafes were dull, with similar menus and very little atmosphere. The fashion was… well… it looked like Wal-Mart had taken over as the major supplier of clothing. (I’m attributing some of that to the endless supply of Italian tourists.) I actually saw more than one older (by which I mean 70+) woman in some sort of stretchy animal print. Tee shirts with rhinestone writing were also especially popular with the older ladies. Austrians seemed very, very pushy, especially on public transit. I actually got elbowed by an eleven-year-old girl getting onto a not very crowded train.

On some positive notes, the country landscape is beautiful. The view from the mountain top above Linz was breathtaking. The Ars Electronica museum in Linz was a lot of fun and I’d highly recommend it, especially if you have kids. As I said before, the Nashmarkt in Vienna was a lot of fun as well.

The only other redeeming quality? Lots of Starbucks. I totally got my iced chai latte fix.

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