Servus Austria – Hello Austria
Austria. Neighboring country of Germany. The last country on my road trip from Australia back home.
From the Slovakian border I first drove 70km to Vienna. From there further west to Salzburg and Innsbruck. And finally between Scharnitz (Austria) and Mittenwald (Germany) to the German border.
Austria. One of the favorite vacation destinations for Germans. Most of you will have been there before I guess. In summer for mountain climbing or hiking. And for skiing in winter. Or for a city trip to Vienna – all the year round. That’s why I don’t want to tell you too detailed about Austria here. But limit myself to what I experienced there and what I thought it was great.
In the morning I had downloaded the route to the hotel in Vienna on Google Maps while still in Bratislava. So that I can easily find my way through the city.
Because in Vienna I had a hotel in the middle of the city. Actually, I would have preferred to stay on the outskirts. But then each time I would have had to take public transport to get into the city. So I relied on the hotel’s information that there were parking spaces there. They were there too. But unfortunately only in an underground car park with a height of 2.30m. Too low for the Landcruiser.
So I asked for a parking possibility when I checked in. The friendly ladies gave me the tip to park on a park and ride parking lot at a trainstation. That worked too. However, it had a disadvantage. The parking lot was five kilometers away from the hotel. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the fully packed Landcruiser alone at a train station. But Vienna is a very safe city, I was told. And indeed, four days later I picked it up again in one piece and without any damage.
Vienna – Capital of Austria
I’ve been here once before. 47 years ago – in the spring of 1971. On a school trip. At that time the subway was being built.
Well, it’s finished today and works perfectly! And now I had three full days to look at what interested me. Because at that time we also had to work on some city-related projects in small working groups 😉
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Vienna’s landmark is located in the middle of the city center. The “Cathedral and Metropolitan Church of St. Stephen and All Saints”.
Briefly called St. Stephen’s Cathedral, or – even shorter – Steffl. The first church stood there as early as the 12th century.
The tower in its current form was only completed in 1433 after 74 years of construction. Even since then, changes have been made to the exterior and the interior of St. Stephen’s Cathedral again and again. Quite interesting: In Austria-Hungary, no church was allowed to be higher than the tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
Photographing the cathedral is not that easy. Precisely because it is located in the middle of the city. And other buildings closely around it.
I would have loved to start my drone for a photo. But that’s completely impossible in the city center.
18 wings, 19 courtyards and 2,600 rooms. For almost 700 years, kings and emperors from the House of Habsburg ruled from the city residence. And one woman. Maria Theresa. In the beginning it was a small castle. But each ruler expanded it with new wings and extensions. Until it finally extended over a total area of 240,000 m². And it is the largest (non-religious) building complex in Europe.
You can certainly stay longer than a day just in the Hofburg. To visit there the ballrooms and salons of the emperors. And the ceremonial halls and imperial apartments.
Or the art collections and museums.
But also the Silver Chamber with its collections and the National Library of Austria, the Sissi Museum and the Spanish Riding School.
At the same time, the various architectural styles from the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and the 19th and 20th century periods can be explored.
No wonder the Habsburgs suffered from a chronic lack of money.
Well, no different than many countries and states today…
But I didn’t have the time for visits inside. And so I just walked through the different wings and courtyards. They are connected to each other with gates.
Burgtheater and City Hall
After the long stay at the Hofburg, I first passed the Burgtheater (Imperial Court Theater). This is the most important theater in Austria and with almost 1,200 seats one of the largest theaters in Europe. The current building was opened in 1888.
And it is still today one of the most famous and important theaters for German-language plays.
For actors too, by the way. Anyone who is allowed to perform here and then belongs to the theater ensemble has made it. And he or she also makes mostly an additional career in film or on television. For example the Austrian/German actors and actresses Klaus Maria Brandauer, Christiane Hörbiger, Ulrich Mühe or Peter Simonischek.
Opposite the Burgtheater, on the other side of the Ringstrasse, is the City Hall located. It looks a bit like the City Hall in Brussels. Like many buildings on the Ringstrasse, the City Hall was also built towards the end of the 19th century. With 1,575 rooms and 2,035 windows.
The ballroom on the 1st floor is 71m long and 20m wide. Here, 1,500 couples could dance Viennese waltz at the same time, as the city administration proudly notes. But unfortunately this is not allowed by the fire police 😅
On the City Hall square in front of it, the “Wiener Adventszauber” (Christmas market) had just started.
That’s why I only got the upper part of the town hall on the photo. The rest was covered by the stalls. But at least there were Wiener sausages for lunch here. But in Vienna they are called “Frankfurter sausages”…
The Ankeruhr clock
Then I went back across the old town. Up to the Ankeruhr (anchor clock).
No, it has nothing to do with the Danube. And also not with the Danube Steamship Company either. But with an insurance company. In 1911, the insurance company “Der Anker” had the idea to install a large public clock at its new company headquarters.
On a bridge between two buildings. It took three years to realize it.
Since then, the clock shows 12 figures from the history of Vienna. Each hour a different one. At 12 noon, all the figures one after the other a shown. A nice idea, I think.
Dinner at Figlmüller
A former colleague told me that I absolutely had to eat a Wiener Schnitzel in Vienna. In the best schnitzel restaurant in Vienna.
That fit perfectly, because the restaurant was right near the Ankeruhr.
And I wasn’t satisfied with the Wiener – pardon Frankfurter – sausages at lunchtime anyway.
Because there are no kangaroos in Austria, a delicious kangaroo steak was not available either. I loved to eat them in Australia…
Figlmüller is the most famous schnitzel restaurant in Vienna. But already in the late afternoon it was already fully booked.
I think you can only get a seat there in the evening if you have reserved a table in advance.
But I was lucky and had to wait only half an hour.
And the tip of the colleague was excellent! I have rarely eaten a better schnitzel.
At this point I prefer to remain silent about the price in downtown Vienna.
Only a look in the store window at Demel’s pastry shop
After the schnitzel, I had eaten enough. And even if the K.K. Hofzuckerbäcker Demel had still been open: I couldn’t have eaten anything here today. So there was only one look in the shop window on the way back to the hotel.
Founded in 1786, the pastry store soon became the supplier to the imperial court. Emperor Franz Joseph I and his Sissi had sweet delicacies delivered to the Hofburg.
But the store was also a sweet tooth palace for the bourgeoisie.
And that’s still the case today. Because remember: A typical Viennese café is the Viennese’s extended living room.
Discoveries in the surroundings
But I had to do that by suburban train and subway.
Actually, I planned only two visits: Schönbrunn Palace and the Ferris wheel in the Vienna Prater. In the end, however, I made three visits. In addition, there was a visit to the Vienna Central Cemetery.
So the next morning I took the subway to Schönbrunn Palace. This is about 7km west of the city center and the Hofburg.
And although I had set off quite early, the Japanese were already there when I arrived. Like a few weeks earlier in Greece at the Meteora Monasteries…
The first hunting lodge was built here in 1570 by the Archduke of Austria.
100 years later, a representative new building was needed.
Preferably even more magnificent than the Versailles Palace near Paris. But there was not enough money for that. So it had to be one size smaller.
In the middle of the 18th century, it got its present form as the summer residence of Empress Maria Theresa.
And her successors.
It was the cultural and political center of the Habsburg monarchy until the end of the First World War.
Schönbrunn Palace had 1,441 rooms and halls, enough to represent and accommodate the imperial family and the court.
Today it is mostly a museum and gives an insight into the world of the rich and famous back then.
But if you like, you can rent a 167m² suite in a small part of the castle since 2014 and live like an emperor yourself.
The costs? Only 1,800 – 2,500 euros per night. That price should be worth some of this fun, right? Especially since you can share the costs. Up to four people can stay here for that price. With a view into the park from the window.
By the way, I think that you have the most beautiful view of Schönbrunn Palace and a part of Vienna from the Gloriette.
From Schönbrunn once across Vienna by subway and I was at the Prater. It is located east of the city center on the Danube river. In former times it was an imperial hunting ground. Only in 1766 it was opened to the public as a recreation area.
Even today, the largest part is still a meadow and park landscape with many sports facilities and lawns. There I walked from the subway station on an avenue once crosswise through.
Up to the northern tip and its amusement park, the “Wurstlprater”. Most famous here is the Ferris wheel. Also a landmark of Vienna.
When you speak of the Prater in Vienna, you usually only mean this small part of the fairground. By the way, the name Prater is said to be derived from the Latin word “pratum” (Italian: prato, Spanish: prado). That means meadow or floodplain.
I met a German weekend tourist in the Ferris wheel on the Prater. And she wanted to visit next the funeral museum at the Vienna Central Cemetery. I thought that’s very exciting too and so I joined her.
First of all, it took us 40 minutes to get there by subway. And then, unfortunately, the museum was closed exactly on that very day (closed on Saturdays). So we just took a look around the cemetery. But without a map, it was difficult to find graves of famous people. Beethoven, Udo Jürgens or Franz Schubert, for example.
With around 330,000 grave sites, the Vienna Central Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in Europe. But after the hustle and bustle in the Prater, the walk through the grounds was also quite relaxing.
My last day in the capital of Austria
I had planned two sights on the last day. The Belvedere Palace and the Hundertwasser House. And in the evening a visit to a musical.
Schloss Belvedere (Belvedere Castle)
At first I thought that the Habsburgs had also built this castle just outside the city center. But they didn’t.
It was the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy.
He came to Austria because he couldn’t find the right job in his homeland France. He was supposed to pursue a clerical career, but he preferred to make a career in the military.
Well, that’s what he did in Austria. In the wars against the Turks.
And was payed princely for his successes by the Habsburgs. With money and land. And a few more jobs, for example he worked as President of the War Council at the Court and as a diplomat.
So he could afford this magnificent baroque palace complex.
The complex actually consists of two castles, the Upper and the Lower Belvedere.
The Upper Belvedere is located a little higher on a hill and was used for representation. Prince Eugene himself lived in the Lower Belvedere. In between there is a wonderful large garden. With ponds, fountains and a water cascade.
Today you can see art exhibitions in the castles, from the Middle Ages to the present days. For example by Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka or Gustav Klimt.
And if you like, you can also get married in the Belvedere. Civil and/or ecclesiastical.
Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an Austrian painter and also dealt with architecture.
In 1985 he was able to realize his idea of a terraced, greened building complex in Vienna for the first time.
Green roofs are almost commonplace today, but it was revolutionary back then. And in the meantime, his trees on the roof have grown into a park.
Later, by the way, he designed even more unusual buildings: In Frankfurt am Main and Darmstadt (Germany), in Switzerland and in Japan.
I am from Austria
In the evening I still supported Austrian culture. With an entrance ticket to the Raimund Theater. There was the musical “I am from Austria”. Someone had recommended me that I definitely visit that.
The musical songs are by the Austrian singer-songwriter, actor and presenter Rainhard Fendrich.
And the plot is quickly told: After a career in Hollywood, a young Austrian lady comes back to Vienna with her manager for the Opera Ball.
There she finally realizes where she really belongs…
The play was quite successful; it was played over 450 times in the Raimund Theater until June 2019. And at the end of 2020 it was also shown on German television.
The next morning I drove almost 300km to Salzburg in the north of Austria.
Along the northern edge of the Alps.
When I left Vienna it was snowing. And snow and rain alternated along the way.
But shortly before Salzburg the weather got better again. Perfect for sightseeing the city the next day.
Three features define the city panorama of Salzburg: The river Salzach, the fortress Hohensalzburg and the mountains around the city.
A pretty City
The old town of Salzburg is located directly on the Salzach River.
Here you can stroll through small alleys or take a coffee break at attractive squares.
Every now and then it is also worth taking a look up. To see the many guild signs on the houses.
The best known are the Getreidegasse, the Old Market and the Cathedral Square.
But when strolling through the city, you should also go into the passages between the houses. There are also many discoveries to be made here. Or money to spend 😅
And you can’t miss the birthplace of W.A. Mozart. However, it is advertised a little too conspicuously to my liking.
If you have more time, you can also explore the history of many other houses.
Because of the salt and gold mining, Salzburg had been a pretty rich city in the past. And many houses tell their own stories.
Mirabell Palace and Mirabell Gardens
Opposite the old town on the other bank of the Salzach is the Mirabell Palace with its beautiful Mirabell Gardens located.
Yet the beginnings of the palace are rather tragic. An archbishop built it for his secret wife and called it Altenau Castle.
He also managed to get the emperor to appoint his mistress and his 15(!) children as legal heirs.
But then he was deposed and his successor expelled the family. And renamed the palace Mirabell.
Today the ballroom is said to be one of the most beautiful wedding halls in the world. W. A. Mozart made music there with his father and sister.
Unfortunately, the Mirabell Garden was already in hibernation. The fountains were turned off and at the end of November there was no lush flowers here either.
For almost 1000 years it has been towering high above Salzburg, visible from afar. And is also the landmark of the city.
With all its fortifications, it has over 14,000m² of built-up area, making it Europe’s largest castle complex.
Yet it was never a “real” aristocratic castle. It was always a fortress to which princes and archbishops retreated in case of danger. It was besieged, but it could never be taken.
Only today by tourists. With more than a million visitors a year, it is the most visited attraction in Austria outside of Vienna.
And there’s no need to climb up to the top either anymore. Since 1892, it has been possible to conveniently take a funicular up from the old town.
At the top, you can then visit the old rooms and a museum where you can learn about court life in the Middle Ages. Or simply enjoy the magnificent view of Salzburg and the surrounding area.
Cathedral and DomQuartier (CathedralQuarter)
After the visit to the fortress, I wanted to see the residence in the city.
It is important to know that until 1803 the entire secular and ecclesiastical power was in one hand. In the hands of a prince-archbishop.
In the DomQuartier you can see his magnificent living rooms and residence rooms. There is no trace of ecclesiastical modesty…
So something like a museum later on. However, the princes wanted to impress their competitors with it surely too I guess…
I just realized that I don’t have any pictures of the DomQuartier. Probably it’s not allowed to take pictures inside.
And finally there is the cathedral itself. From 1628. With dome room and ceiling paintings. And seven different organs.
One of them was probably just being tuned during my visit to the cathedral. Anyway, the sounds were a bit annoying.
In any case, the cathedral and the DomQuartier is definitely worth a visit in Salzburg. Especially when the weather isn’t so sunny.
On the northern edge of the Alps through Austria
After two days in Salzburg, I continued the next day. On small federal roads on the northern edge of the Alps.
And slowly I reached the holiday areas of Austria. I guess it should be pretty crowded here during the summer vacation and in wintertime. But now I was pretty much the only stranger here.
That was beneficial when driving. Because there was hardly anything going on on the streets. But I wanted to spend the night in Zell am See and had some problems finding an open hotel there. And almost all other shops were closed too and were just being prepared for the winter season.
Zell am See
It was a bit late that afternoon to walk around the lake.
I don’t know how they do that in Austria. But the tourism website of Zell states that the circular hiking trail only takes one hour and 35 minutes for a distance of 12 km.
Google Maps, on the other hand, said two hours and 20 minutes. I found that quite more realistic. But then I wouldn’t have come back to the hotel until it was dark.
So I only walked halfway around the lake to take a nice picture. And then I rested in the only open café in the afternoon. There I ordered a “Großer Brauner” (coffee with whipped cream) and a piece of Sachertorte 😉
I drove on the next day early in the morning. First of all to Kaprun, close by. From the valley station at an altitude of 900m you can take there a funicular to the Kitzsteinhorn mountain and the glacier at an altitude of 3000m. To an internationally well known skiing area.
On November 11, 2000, the worst disaster in Austria since the Second World War occurred here.
The funicular caught fire in the 3km long tunnel and 155 people died.
They came from Austria, Germany, Japan, the USA, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Great Britain and the Czech Republic. Only 12 people survived this accident.
A memorial was built here for the dead. In which all 155 names and the dates of birth are given.
The funicular was never put into operation again but was replaced by others.
Cascades in Krimmler
On the way, I first passed the Krimml Cascades.
These are the highest waterfalls in Austria. They are located in the Hohe Tauern National Park. Near the village of Krimml.
The water from glacial streams makes its way into the valley over a total of 385m drop.
There is a total of three falls. The top one is the largest with a drop of 145m.
But the walking way there and back into the mountains would have been too long. Also the middle level was too far for me.
And so I only looked at the lowest waterfall. The water from a total of 17 glacier streams meets here.
Kristallwelten (Crystal Worlds)
After the water crystals of nature, in the afternoon, 80km away in the village of Wattens, I looked at crystals that were man-made.
Here is the headquarters of the world-famous Swarovski company. And they opened a museum there in 1995. In other words, it’s actually not a museum at all. Rather, it’s a glittering wonderland of cut glass and gemstones.
That’s why this exhibition is called Crystal Worlds. Actually very worth seeing. But with an entrance fee of around 25 US dollars, it’s not really cheap either. Like almost everything from Swarovski 😅
Well, in the exhibition store in the end I could buy then already a few gifts. Because until Christmas it was still exactly 31 days.
Overnight stay in the village Hall
I stayed the last night in Austria in the small village of Hall close to Innsbruck. The next day I would actually really go on to Germany.
But when I checked in at a cheap hotel in an industrial area next to a shopping center, the employee made me aware that someone outside was taking pictures of the Landcruiser. At first I didn’t take it seriously because it often had happened before on my trip.
But after checking in, I took a look outside, especially to get my valuables out of the car. In a conversation with the “photographer” it turned out that he is an enthusiastic Australia fan. And had already driven himself from Cairns to Cape York in a rented Landcruiser.
Of course he wanted to know everything about my road trip. To do this, his wife and he invited me for a coffee in the mall. And then in the evening for dinner at home in Innsbruck. Actually I didn’t want to drive in the dark because of my “wrong” lighting. But here I just couldn’t say no.
Later his son came to visit and we first pretended that he had bought the Landcruiser. The son believed that too and said his father would be completely crazy now. Well, it turned out to be a long, wonderful evening on my last day in Austria.
The next morning, November 24, 2018, I made my way to the German border. It is only 40km away from Hall. And to my next stop in Garmisch-Partenkirchen it is also only 30km more.
At this point as usual my dash cam video. About Austria (4m 15s, 778 MB; Music: Yellow – Scott Buckley (scottbuckley.com.au) and Winds of Spring – The 126ers (YouTube Audiolibrary).
- Border Austria – Vienna
- Vienna – Salzburg
- Salzburg – Zell am See – Kaprun – Innsbruck
- Towards the German border
In the next post you will find out what else I visited in Germany. And about my return home. There I will provide the link to my YouTube video Austria / Germany made in 2019 too.
Cheers, Ruediger 😎