Tag Archives: Austria

Austria: Impressions

So 10 days in and around Austria led me to the following impressions:

Austria has the reputation of being content to live in its former glory. When we toured the Vienna Opera House, we learned they do 300 shows a year. But because the world’s best opera singers perform there and there are no microphones, it takes a lot out of them. So they never do the same show multiple nights in a row. Which means assembling and unassembling sets every day. And moving them to and from their storage facility 3 kilometers away. Because quality is more important than efficiency. Pretty foreign concept to the USA.

Austrians are orderly and rule followers. The subway in Vienna is basically on the honor system. You don’t need a ticket, there are no gates. You have to have a proper ticket on you if they do a random check, but you walk right on. Could you imagine a major city in the US trusting people to follow the rules? That would work like HOV lanes here.

Drivers drive in an orderly way. They use the left lane only to pass. They slow down when entering towns. Speed limit signs aren’t always posted, we learned from the GPS that the speed limit is 50kph in towns. You slow down when you see the town sign and you speed up when you pass the leaving town sign. Speed limits are fast, generally 100kph even on small and winding roads.

Like most European cities, people bicycle everywhere. We would stay a lot thinner if we had to propel ourselves everywhere. And smaller portion sizes help too. Small food, small drinks, no free refills. You eat slower and savor.

The only unhealthy behavior we observed was smoking. Smoking was very prevalent, and still allowed in many restaurants and cafes.

All in all, I really enjoyed Austria. I could live there. In fact during our Sound of Music tour, we passed through a small town called St. Gilgen. They had an international school that teaches in English and is the world headquarters for Red Bull. Ellen is ready to apply for next school year!


Austria Day 1: Slow Start


After two conferences back to back, I was very glad to have this vacation to look forward to. We had been through Austria in 2005 on a Viking River Boat cruise. I call these cruises samplers, as you get a taste but not much more of the places you visit. We had just a few hours in Vienna and it rained the whole time, so we needed to come back.

We had used points for the flights, so we were in business class in all directions. That meant we had access to the lounge at Dulles before our flight departed at 10pm on Thursday. We taxied for awhile and then stopped. The storms were north of us, which wasn’t a problem to take off but it was our flight path. We sat until 10:55 and then took off on a modified flight path.

The impact of the delay and rerouting was we arrived over an hour late to Paris. We had to get through immigration and change terminals to make our flight in just 30 minutes. After quick walking though a hot airport we made it to our gate in 28 minutes. But the flight had already closed.

We went to customer service and easily got rebooked on the next flight to Vienna. Only problem was it was 5 hours later. But we were able to use he lounge and were given a voucher for a meal. So we lost a chance to wander a little in Vienna on Friday, but also got to relax at de Gaulle and eat a leisurely meal (off a special Air France flight delay menu!)

The flight from Paris to Vienna is scheduled for 2 hours, but got in a little early. Our luggage came quickly, and we bought tickets for €12 each for an express train into the city. I navigated the 15 minute walk from the train station to our hotel, a Radison Blu in the city centre.

We got to the hotel at 8:45pm. The hotel clerk commented on Ellen’s tan, which Ellen said was a benefit of being a teacher. Once we were checked in, the clerk said she upgraded us to a nicer room because Ellen was a teacher. Nice!

The room is nice, queen bed, period furniture and a large bath. It is in a former palace. We dumped our stuff and headed out for a little walk. Ellen got a snack, I had tea, and we strolled the area around the hotel.

We normally would have used the afternoon today to nap and then begin exploring the city. We missed out on that, but didn’t really lose much of the vacation. Just a slow start.

Tomorrow we’ll spend a full in the city, and then we bought tickets tonight for the Schonbrunn Palace for Sunday morning.

We have the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on television in the room. It is a small world.