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!