Compact Austria

Two-thirds of the country sits over 500m above sea level and the highest point is the mountain of Grossglockner at 3,798 metres This doesn’t make travel in Austria easy; through deep valleys, along roads and railways cut out of the rocks and around cute little lakes. But often the landscape is simply too rough and hiking, skiing/snowboarding, cable cars, chair lifts and mountain biking become the best way to reach isolated alpine secrets.

Architecturally Austria is best known for its sugar-cake baroque church interiors and Gothic masterpieces but in the last decade or so the big cities have done their best to catch up with modern fashion. It’s small, but the landscape changes quickly and the cities make a dramatic contrast with the forests and meadows, and the world’s favourite musical takes place here– Austria’s tourist industry certainly plays up to the clichés.

I’ve spent a lot of time in this country over the years, mostly when it looked like the stunning white wonderland that it becomes in winter, and have fallen totally in love with it’s endless views and warm people. If you get a chance, visit Austria!

Top things to see and do in Austria:

  • Melk Abbey

    A Baroque masterpiece, this Benedictine abbey sits above the town of Melk, on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube river and Wachau valley. The tour is worth it just to see the astonishing library. Amazing views!

  • Vienna state opera

    Pure classicistic building, surrounded by statues, fountains, the structure is immenselly beautiful, especially by night. In the summer they broadcast live outside on a large screen, worth a visit even if you’re not into classical music!

  • Alpenpark Karwendel

    Walk through forests, along streams, through gorges and rocky slopes, admire rare plants, eagles circling in the air, wild goats come close to take a look and birds perform especially for you.

  • Zell am See

    Located at a sparkling lake and surrounded by mountains covered with green meadows, close to a snow-covered glacier and plenty of winter and summer outdoor fun to be had in a lot of forms.

  • Innsbruck Altstadt

    Mega charming old town, cafes and boutiques lining the streets, car-free center with cobble stones, elegant views of the surrounding mountains and compact enough to walk everything.

  • Grossglockner Alpine Road

    Most scenic road in Europe if you ask me. Breathtaking mountain views, your chance to visit a glacier and it leads directly to the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park.

  • Dachstein Salzkammergut and the giant ice cave

    Not for the faint-hearted! The viewing platform reaches out like a hand over the 400 m drop. And there’s a mystical cave of ice and rock with spectacular ice sculptures, gigantic ice curtains and impressive giant icicles.

Accommodation

From stylish design hotels in the cities to rustic chalets in the Alps, you will find a wide choice of accommodation in this country. Every town has a tourist office that keeps track of details, so that’s always a safe bet. The big cities have decent affordable hostels with dorm-rooms and even in the mountains, if you book in time, you will be able to find a decent place to sleep that doesn’t cost too much. Count on 35EUR or more though, but expect good beds, clean rooms and wonderfully comfy duvets.

Food

Austria was once the center of a huge empire stretching from France to Russia and from the Baltic Sea to Turkey, so having a wildly varying cuisine is no surprise. Modern Austria borders Italy, Hungary and Germany, among others, and their culinary influences are the strongest, although the capital city of Vienna claims its own cuisine as if it were a separate country. From apple strudel and weinerschnitzel to gulash and käse nocken, Austrian food is rich and filling, I personally love it, especially when it’s cold outside. I recommend going to the supermarket to buy your own breakfast, take sandwiches for a picnic when you’re going for an outside activity and eat a big daily menu for dinner. Spend about 30EUR in total.

Transport

Transportation costs in Austria tend to be high due to the unique geographic placement of many touristed towns since mountains cover three quarters of the country. Trains are good and on time, cities have great public transport and obviously lift-passes to get on top of mountains are expensive. VORTEILScard gets you 45-55% reduction on any domestic rail ticket and 25% off on cross-border trains in Europe (RailPlus discount) and cost about 100EUR if you are over 26 years old. If you decide to rent a car, know that for using highways you need a vignette, or tax sticke. Costs are approx €70 for one year, €20 for 8 weeks, or about €8.50 for 10 days.

Activities

This is obviously a country to spend most of your time outside. The outdoor-adventure options are endless: from skiing and snowboarding to rafting, climbing, hiking, paragliding and everything in between. That being said, some of the cities have quite nice museums and there are chocolate and Swarovski factories too.

Language

The national official language of Austria is German, with a rather distinct accent. Most Austriacisms are loanwords from Austro-Bavarian, even though languages of the neighbouring countries have influenced as well. Most Austrians speak at least some basic English and you will get around with this language pretty well.

Money

Austria has the euro as its sole currency since 2002 like most countries in the EU, before which it was Schillings. The Austrian coins illustrate flowers, architecture and famous people from its history. The prices are comparable with other Western European countries and ATMs [called Bankomat] are wide-spread and you will find them even in smaller, rural villages. Many shops (and some restaurants too) offer the service to pay directly with an ATM card, so most people don’t carry around a lot of cash. Tipping isn’t a custom here but people do tend to round up when paying at a bar or restaurant.

Visa

Austria is a member of the Schengen Agreement. There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty. So a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed it and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union so it can be quite confusing. But for travel, any non-EU foreigner can travel for up to 90 days without any problems.

Overall conclusion

Austria is a country that has not forgotten the elegance of a time gone by. People great eachother on the street, the mountains are full of cozy little huts and romance is a big thing being surrounded by this beautiful nature. I have to admit that Austrians can be a bit hard to get to know, but once they let you into their lives, they are immensely warm and friendly. I’ve spent a lot of time in this little country because it has the mountains that I miss so much in my homeland, so I think I can truely say that this is my second home.

2 thoughts on “Compact Austria

  1. I blog frequently and I truly appreciate your content! This article has really peaked my interest, well done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *