In Austria, Follow In The Footsteps Of Mozart, Schwarzenegger And Freud
There's more to Austria than wiener schnitzel and Maria Von Trapp.
Austria may look tiny on a world map, but what it lacks in size, it well and truly makes up for in culture. From the dramatic, forested Alps to the Imperial palaces of Vienna, there’s more to Austria than wiener schnitzel and Maria Von Trapp.
(That said, crumbed meats and Julie Andrews are excellent.)
To explore Austria like a bona fide local, follow in the footsteps of its most-famous faces.
Mozart In Salzburg
Mozart was born in Salzburg, a fairytale-esque Baroque city on the Salzach River. It boasts an incredible view of some seriously formidable mountains and has rung with the sound of church bells every hour, on the hour, for hundreds of years.
With its church spires and clifftop fortresses, it’s almost as if the city hasn’t changed in the 250 years since Mozart himself was walking its cobblestone streets.
Legend has it that, when Mozart wasn’t busy revolutionising the music world or playing the organ at the city cathedral, he was drinking his way across Salzburgerland. He was an equally prolific pianist and party boy. The Stieglkeller was his favourite haunt, with a beer brewing history that dates back over 500 years. Grab a seat, pour a pint and listen to those Magic Flute melodies sing out.
Just across the river, the Mirabell is one of the most decadent music houses in the city, and an evening concert is the best starting point in your classical music education. Dress in your backpacking finest, wander through the immaculate gardens and join the throngs of classical enthusiasts underneath the gold gilded chandeliers for a sonata or two.
While you’re in town, get fitted for a pair of lederhosen or a dirndl (the traditional men’s and women’s costumes popular among travellers to Oktoberfest). To really get in the Mozart state of mind, make a trip to Jahn Markel. Established in 1408, it’s your go-to store for everything classic, leather and aproned.
Schwarzenegger In Graz
The residents of Austria’s culinary capital are very used to seeing The Terminator cruising around town. Born in a village just outside of Graz, Arnie returns regularly to hang out with his family and eat his favourite Bratwurst in Old Town. (It’s delicious, by the way.)
Affectionately dubbed “The Friendly Alien” by locals thanks to its blob-like shape, the Kunsthaus is Graz’s modern art hub. If you really want to investigate the contemporary Austrian psyche, it’s the best gallery in town.
Just behind the Opera House, on Kaiser-Josef-Platz, is the biggest farmer’s market in Graz. If you’ve ever wanted to try Styrian delicacies, it’s the place to do so. Just make sure you set your alarm clock early because the produce — and the farmers, for that matter — don’t wait for anyone. Try runner beans, cured meats and pumpkin seed oil.
A trip to Graz is never complete without a journey up to the medieval Schlossberg fortress. Catch either the crazy-steep incline cable car or ride the underground lift to the top for epic views across the terracotta-roofed city. It’s best to head up in the evening to watch the sun set and then grab a bite to eat at Aiola Upstairs. The Styian fried chicken is perfection.
Freud In Vienna
From Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele to the Von Trapp Family Singers, some of history’s most important figures have walked Vienna’s cobbled streets, but few are as significant as Sigmund Freud. Probably the University of Vienna’s most acclaimed student, the famous neurologist spent almost 80 years of his life in Austria’s capital.
If you’re up for a bit of intellectual stimulation, Vienna boasts an incredible selection of museums. Head to the 300-year-old Museums Quartier for your pick of contemporary art, history and architecture, or drop by Bergasse No. 19 and wander Freud’s old living apartments, impeccably preserved as they were when he was there.
Austrians are classicists at heart, and are super proud of their Strauss Waltz. If you’ve got a free summer evening in Vienna, head to one of the many open air courtyards and join the free-for-all dance groups practicing their steps.
And you can’t travel Austria and not sample their national wine varietal, gruner veltliner. Draped in pine branches, drenched in sunlight and boasting the best wine lists found anywhere in the country, a traditional heurigen (open-air wine garden) is the best place to put your palate to the test.
(Lead image: Jiuguang Wang / Flickr)