Culturally Cool Austria – Europe’s Meeting Place

Ars Electronica Center & Urfahr Church Linz (c) ÖW_Peter Burgstaller

From its geographical status as a landlocked country surrounded by eight European neighbours, the Austria of today reflects its unique position at the centre of the continent where influences meet and a centuries-long history and tradition are celebrated and respected. There is a strong sense of identity - or culture if you prefer – in Austria, and, as visitors will soon experience, one that is showcased naturally and inclusively. See and hear it in the finest of music and the arts, admire it in the most splendid architecture, step into it on a mountain adventure, taste it at tables across the country, and be embraced by it in the most charming of hospitality.

 

In Tune
The fine sounds of music can be heard throughout Austria, whether in the setting of a grand opera house, modern concert hall, mountain venue or festival stage. Music is an art form that crosses borders, with beloved compositions able to transcend language, gender and ethnicity. Mozart, Haydn, Liszt and Mahler are just a few of the names having composed melodies recognised globally, and while their origins may be Austrian, their influence is international. Come and see where some of these composers got their start. In Salzburg, the home that Mozart was born in is open to visitors, as is the Haydnhaus in Vienna in which Haydn composed the majority of his works over his 12 years in residence. From chords to canvas, Austria also holds a strong reputation in the world of visual art, with pieces by Austrian painters in galleries around the world. Even for those not so well-versed in art, The Kiss created by Austrian-born Gustav Klimt in 1908/09 in an eye-catching gilded style – and today hanging in Vienna’s Belvedere Gallery – is almost at once recognisable.

 

Hungerburg Station Nordkettenbahnen Innsbruck (c) ÖW_Andreas HoferAn Architectural Arch through the Ages
Think you’ll see lovely baroque architecture and picture-perfect alpine chalets adorned with flower-bedecked balconies on your visit to Austria? Yes, quite likely. But look a bit closer, stand back a bit, and you’ll also get amazing views of an Austria that you perhaps weren’t expecting. In the past few decades, there have been many developments in Austria’s architectural identity, most notably, a blending of the old and new. For a futuristic feel, let your gaze wander up the fluorescently lit sides of the Kunsthaus Graz (Graz Art Museum), dubbed ‘the friendly alien’ with its bulbous shape and shiny blue plexi-glass panes that reflect Graz’s Old Town within them. The sky’s the limit in the former imperial town of Innsbruck, where London-based architect Zaha Hadid has left her mark on the city’s Bergisel Ski Jump as well as its Nordkettenbahnen cable car stations, a series of structural modern marvels with fluid lines inspired by natural ice formations. Need more evidence for this old-meets-new trend? The province of Vorarlberg has become somewhat of a hotbed of building innovation, catching the attention not only of those in the architectural world, but also visitors to the region. The traditional wood architecture is complemented by amazing glass constructs that proudly take a place alongside their more long-standing neighbours. This blending of building styles has become a real hallmark of Austria’s westernmost province.

 

Lofty Alpine Traditions
While Austria’s geographic position alone ensures its alpine designation, it’s the observances and evidence of this association with the mountains throughout the centuries that make it part of the cultural landscape. In 1991, the well-preserved body of a pre-historic man was discovered on a glacier in the Ötztal Alps at an elevation of 2300m. Nicknamed ‘Ötzi the Iceman’, he is thought to have lived some 5,300 years ago and perhaps been a trader in this region of criss-crossing alpine routes. Plenty of evidence of this centuries-upon-centuries-long trade and movement across Austria’s alpine region remains. The landmark protected Berliner Hütte at 2044m in the Zillertal opened in 1879 and still welcomes guest today. The 46km Grossglockner High Alpine Road connecting the federal provinces of Salzburg and Carinthia was constructed in the 1930s and remains one of the most famous roads in the Alps.

 

Viennese Schnitzel (c) ÖW_SchardtGetting a Taste of Things
While Austrian chefs are quite happy to be associated with beloved favourites such as crisp Apfelstrudel and Wiener Schnitzel, there is a fresh and innovative culinary trend evident in a lot of Austria’s kitchens. An Austrian menu nowadays reflects wide cultural influences in the re-invention of many traditional dishes. An old adage reworked as ‘The way to a visitor’s heart is through his/her stomach’ may succinctly sum up why visitors to Austria can’t wait to take their place at the table, be it at a Michelin-starred restaurant or cosy family-owned hut serving up local specialities. Not to forget the ever-important wine, of course! Austria’s reds and whites have a long tradition in the country’s wine regions which consistently produce many award-winning varieties worthy of global attention.

 

Do Stay Awhile
For most Austrians, a strong passion for tradition and a respect for the past that is so clearly reflected in contemporary culture, characterise a way of life. As a consequence, visitors to Austria can’t help but feel the authenticity of their interactions with local hosts who help bring destination Austria to life in a real and unedited way. From the concierge at a luxury 5* hotel to the vendor at a farmer’s market, from the city tour guide to the friendly face at the ski hire shop, and from the moment you arrive until the time you depart, you can be sure of a charming tradition of hospitality unmatched throughout the world.



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 Anna Blum on 16.12.2014  |   No comments

Treasures of the Salzkammergut

by Susanne Stiegler

Gmunden at Lake Traunsee

Gmunden at Lake Traunsee

When people holiday in the Salzkammergut they mostly visit the major attractions like the Salt Trail, the Ice Cave at Dachstein or the Imperial Villa in Bad Ischl, but there is more to experience!

Lake Attersee and Lake Traunsee offer exciting activities as well, which are well worth giving a try.

When staying at Lake Attersee, one must-do is a cruise with the Attersee shipping company, which offers different tours of the lake. I would recommend going on board of the southern route, which takes about 2.5 hours. The special thing about this route is that you cannot only enjoy the beautiful landscape and feel the fresh lake air, but also view magnificent villas of Austrian and international celebrities. Maybe you are lucky and spot the two times Austrian Olympic champion in alpine skiing Hermann Maier sunbathing in his garden – who knows? Read More



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 Anna Blum on 17.07.2014  |   No comments

An Irish Storyteller visits Austria – Part 2

From Vienna I moved on to Graz, the second largest city in Austria, and the capital of the federal state of Styria. The train journey from Vienna to Graz was as beautiful as I’d hoped it would be. We went through lush green valleys, with views of mountain pastures and picturesque villages.

 

Arriving in Graz in the evening as a lone traveller, I found the tram system easy to use and quickly found my hotel. The Amedia is modern and friendly, and just the place for a business or leisure trip. For me high speed wifi is always an added bonus. The longer I stayed in Austria the more friendly I found the local people. I always seek advice on places to eat and was directed to a Chinese restaurant just a five minute walk away and I was not disappointed. It is worth pointing out that food & drink is much cheaper in Austria than in Switzerland or even in Germany. There is a good buzz around Graz, so walking round the streets by myself in the dark I felt perfectly safe.

 

The following morning I moved to the Hotel Erzherzog Johann, which is just the place for anyone wanting to give themselves a real treat. With its central location, the hotel has an old world charm, friendly courteous staff, and a welcoming atmosphere. I recommend the Wanda Sacher Masoch suite with its fairytale four poster bed. It provides a touch of luxury and quite a contrast to the usual streamlined modern hotel room. The winter garden in the hotel is a relaxing place to sit and enjoy a coffee or glass of wine.

 

Just around the corner is the Sporgasse, a winding street which has a history dating back to Roman times. Buildings from the baroque period now provide a modern shopping mecca, with a fine range of boutiques cheek by jowl with coffee shops. One place that should not be missed is the Styrian Heimatwerk, a shop dedicated to raising awareness of local culture, stocking examples of the very best in local crafts, including colourful traditional costumes. There is nothing tacky or touristy there, the shop stocks products of the finest quality.

 

The Schlossberg  is probably the most noticeable tourist attraction in Graz . With its distinctive clock tower, this hill topped by a castle affords great views of the city. There is even a lift for those not able to make the climb. But here’s another tip – one excellent  way to have a bird’s eye view of Graz is go up to the roof terrace of the K&O store.

 

And of course, as you would expect, I made a point of finding an excellent coffee shop. Café Fotter is tucked away on a quiet street at Attemgasse 6. It was a perfect autumn day as I strolled there through the park with chestnuts dropping off the trees. Dating back to 1936, Café Fotter has a charming garden at the back. Sitting there in the sunshine, sampling a piece of delicious Apfelstrudel, it was hard to believe I was so close to a city centre – a hidden gem.

 

There are very pleasant walks down by the river Mur, which winds its way through the city. The smell of roasted chestnuts was irresistible for me and I sat and ate them on the Murinsel (literally Mur Island) in the middle of the river. It is not so much an island as a floating platform built back in 2003 when Graz was the European capital of culture. I found it very relaxing to sit there with the fast flowing river rushing by on either side of me. As I walked back over the bridge I was intrigued to see lots of padlocks attached to the chain link fence. On closer inspection I saw many were adorned by initials or messages. I was told these were “love locks”, placed there by romantic couples.

 

Whenever I travel, I love to find farmers markets, and just behind the Opera House in Graz is one where you can sample local produce every day on Kaiser-Josef-Platz.  Apart from wonderful bread, vegetables and flowers, this is the place to buy a local delicacy called Volkskultur Steiermark GmbH Kürbiskernöl. This is pumpkin seed oil, a bottle of which made it safely back to Northern Ireland in my checked luggage to help me savour my memories of Graz. An amazing city I know I will re-visit.

 

LIZ WEIR is a professional storyteller who works with all age groups promoting the traditional art for which Ireland is world famous. A children’s librarian by training, she now travels the world telling stories to adults and children, organising workshops on storytelling, and speaking at courses for parents, teachers and librarians. Her wealth of stories is drawn from both the oral and written traditions.
Find out more about Liz’s work at: www.lizweir.net



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 Anna Blum on 30.10.2012  |   No comments

Get A-Fled of the Games

The Olympics are fast approaching, bringing road and public transport chaos galore. Instead of seeking alternative routes, why not pack your bags and head to a destination where the only means of transport you need are your legs, fuelled by fresh mountain air and hearty Austrian cuisine? Introducing the Eagle’s Walk in Tirol.

 

I got to know this neck of the woods as part of an Austrian road trip, filming footage for Matt Carroll’s Hidden Austria. We were running slightly behind schedule as the van pulled into a parking lot at the base of a rather steep, pine-tree dotted incline of the Alpine landscape. According to the itinerary, the Eagle’s Walk section was to involve a short hike up to a mountain hut where we would meet our guide and later lay our heads to rest. The changeover was to be “schnell, schnell, schnell” and, travelling with Austrian time efficiency and three men, there was no room for rearranging bags. My suitcase was thrust open, out came the PJs and, lacking headspace to decide what potions a city girl might need to look halfway respectable after a night in the hills, the entire vanity case was taken in tow.

 

Now, I might have put myself out there for the ridiculing remarks that followed, but ladies, take my advice: leave the cosmetics at home. For as soon as you have left that last memory of your constantly trackable lifestyle – a laptop – on the backseat in a car-park, the Eagle’s Walk opens up a whole new world of natural beauty in which a blotchy face no longer feels like the end of the world. 126 stages covering some 1480km of scenic, high-altitude hiking trails came within reach as we began our ascent. What struck me was the complete calm, broken only by birdsong and the rustles of wildlife going about their day from the surrounding greenery, plus the air glorious air, filling your lungs and driving you effortlessly onwards against the warmth of the afternoon sun. Inspiring stuff, for when else does a Londoner get to walk up a route to eternity other than the steps of a broken down escalator?!

 

A common way to experience the Eagle’s Walk is on a multi-day hike, broken up by overnight stays at mountain huts and chalets. These are located at regular intervals along the trails, making it easy to plan your trip in advance, and there are even accommodation-to-accommodation luggage transfer options. For those looking for additional incentive to get those hiking boots down from the loft, there is an Eagle’s Walk reward system with many of the inns offering stamping stations. Collect the stamps to receive hiking badges, souvenirs and the chance to win your next holiday.

 

As we found out on our overnight stay at the Hämmermoosalm in Leutasch, despite being at 1417m altitude in basic, wood-beamed accommodation, the Tirolean mountains work their magic and you wake up feeling more uplifted than after a night at a 5* resort. The pillow feels fluffier, the people seem friendlier and the food tastes scrummier. Only one element could leave you feeling like you didn’t manage to Get A-Head of the Games: the queue for the shower. But then, us Londoners do love a good queue. And with homemade bread wafting up from the breakfast room below and the sun gaining ground on the majestic Alps outside the window, this is one Olympic jam that I am quite happy to be caught up in.



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 Anna Blum on 18.05.2012  |   No comments

Matt Carroll's Hidden Austria: Episode 5 – Alpbachtal

The Alpbach valley – a refreshing antidote to modern life stress – where life is relaxed, traditional lifestyles still prevail, and the people are incredibly friendly.  At lest this is what Matt experienced. But what does Sarah – LiveShareTravel.com – think of the Alpbach valley?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZntCKWh9Ww&feature=player_embeded

“We loved the hiker’s haven of Alpbachtal higher up in the Tirol. We found blissful pastures emblazoned with buttercup-filled meadows and the quaintest alpine architecture. It’s the sort of views that make you want to breathe it all in, take a mental picture, and freeze frame them forever. “

More adventures on Sarah’s and Terry’s Austrian summer adventure you will find here.



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 Martina Jamnig on 29.07.2011  |   No comments

Matt Carroll's Hidden Austria: Episode 9 – Zell am See-Kaprun

There’s much more to Zell am See-Kaprun than the gorgeous lake and pretty town. Take the cable car up to Gipfelwelt 3000 (and beyond), to the Hohe Tauern National Park, and you’re in for a real treat – as Matt finds out. National Park ranger Andrea gives him an insights into the mystic world inside the mountain.  

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrT5taRsg5c&feature=player_embeded

But what are Sarah and Terry – LiveShareTravel.com – thinking of Zell am See-Kaprun. Find out below.  

“It’s impossible not to be hugely impressed by Zell Am See and the spectacular Lake Zell. Just a few kilometres away Kitzsteinhorn’s peak presides over some of the most delectable vistas in the Alps. At its summit we were thrilled by Peakworld 3000, for us one of the best mountain attractions in the world.”

If you are interested whatelse Sarah and Terry experienced in Austria click here.



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 Martina Jamnig on 26.07.2011  |   No comments

Matt Carroll's Hidden Austria: Episode 10 – Lake Constance

“A city laced with modern art, culture and quick escapes into nature (plus a charismatic Old Town it seems to overlook.)” Abigail – Inside the Travel Lab – visitied the region of Lake Constance in Vorarlberg. What does she think about it!? Below you will find her view on the region.

“With a dagger deep in his chest, he leans back, eyelids closed, a staircase eating into his cheek. Crowds gather beneath to take photos as his hand clasps a slab of writing and the lights of Switzerland begin to come on in the distance.

 He is this year’s setting for the Bregenz summer festival, a floating stage that rises out of the calm Lake Bodensee (Lake Constance), ready to depict the drama of the opera Andre Chénier. Previous years have seen La Bohème, Aida and of course, Tosca performed here, where Daniel Craig scrambled across a colossal burning iris as James Bond in Quantum of Solace.

This is Bregenz, the capital of the Voralrberg region in western Austria. On the one hand a calm, quiet slice of urban mountain life with lakeside beaches, cycling, quiet cafes and hiking routes. On the other, a haven for daring, provocative, contemporary art.

The opaque cube of the KUB challenges the waterfront, its letters standing for Kunsthaus Bregenz, which roughly translates into art house. The exhibits inside range from press mash-ups about body-image to DVD cases of Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Last year, the art escaped the confines of the KUB to straddle the mountains in the guise of 100 bronze figures of Antony Gormley .

Fresh, modern and innovative, Bregenz wants to say. We don’t just have stages, we have floating stages. We don’t just have a lake, we have a lake with two names (Lake Constance and Bodensee), a lake that borders Germany and Switzerland, with Liechtenstein not far away.

We have fun, we have fashion – and we still have an atmospheric Old Town that we’re almost too cool to tell you about.

The posters and publicity point to the future but Bregenz shouldn’t be in such a hurry to brush off its past. Old Town Bregenz still oozes with charm with its cobbled streets, painted shutters, stone fountains and traditional murals. Deep peach and soaked turquoise facades provide a thoroughly lived-in, Austrian look.

There’s even a whisper that the restaurants here serve Wiener Schnitzel. But I might not sound cool enough if I told you about that…”

 

Abigail King is a freelance writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. She has circled the globe twice, camped in the snows of Kilimanjaro and Patagonia and tracked down tigers, turtles and panda bears. She’s then had a hot shower and embraced the city life of New York, Rio, Paris and Tokyo.

She blogs about unusual journeys at Inside the Travel Lab



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 Martina Jamnig on 22.07.2011  |   No comments

Montafon – Vorarlberg’s Outdoor Playground

Our next video is online: The Montafon in Vorarlberg! Abigail King Inside the Travel Lab visited the region for us. Find out what she experienced there.  

“Part of me knows that people are waving at me – and part of me smiles in response. On the other hand, the people waving are a good fifty metres below me on solid ground, whereas only a metal cable about as thick as my thumb separates me from clear, thin air.

This is via ferrata, or klettersteig as it’s called around here. It’s a modified kind of rock climbing whose origins date back to World War One, when soldiers unused to snowy peaks had to fight to the death on the mountains. Nearly 100 years have passed since then and I’m really, seriously hoping that death won’t be involved here.

Lukas, my guide, was incredibly cautious. At least at the beginning. “Are you sure you want to go?” he asked, looking at the scheming clouds overhead. “After all, I mean. It is raining.” Lukas, my dear, I’m British. If I never did anything because of the rain, I’d never do anything.

And so, moments later I found myself stepping into a flimsy harness, strapping on a hat, fumbling for gloves and re-examining both the metal carabiner-like clips and my own sanity.

I’d done this once before, sure, and it was exhilarating in that kind of “wow, that-was-great-but-would-I-really-want-to-do-it-again-kind-of-way.”

Turns out, the answer is a wobbly yes.

Montafon, the quieter area of Vorarlberg in west Austria, loves its outdoors. In winter there’s skiing and snowboarding, naturally, and summer sees the usual hiking, climbing and mountain biking you’d expect to find in the Alps. Yet there are new kinds of adventures available, like this purpose-built klettersteig route and an indoor climbing centre for when the weather moves from unpleasant to downright vile.

When that happens, there’s also käsespätzle, the local cheesy dish to warm you from the inside. I had my first taste of käsespätzle in Schruns, a village so small the receptionist refused to give me a map.

“It’s Schruns,” she told me. “Cross the river and walk past the church and you’ll find anything you want.”

She was right. Despite its size, Schruns does have a lot. Babbling stream, check. Characterful church with domed roof, check. Wellness spa, cafe and museum of local culture, check, check, check.

It also has, as I discover a short while later, clinging on for dear life, a purpose-built klettersteig within driving reach of the town.

Actually, klettersteig has that perfect blend of adventure. The harness and clips should save you from serious harm should the worst arise. Yet most of the time it gives those untrained in mountain climbing (aka me) a taste of scrambling up that slippery rock. A foothold here, a reach there, a mind over matter exercise all the way through.

“Look down,” says Lukas at a certain point. Two words I try to ignore. “Look how high you are and how far you’ve come.” Knuckles whitening, I do look down. That’s when I see the people waving. “Want to really give them something to look at?” he asks. “Abseil down from here.”

It’s Montafon. Why on earth not.

 

Abigail King is a freelance writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. She has circled the globe twice, camped in the snows of Kilimanjaro and Patagonia and tracked down tigers, turtles and panda bears. She’s then had a hot shower and embraced the city life of New York, Rio, Paris and Tokyo.

She blogs about unusual journeys at Inside the Travel Lab



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 Martina Jamnig on 19.07.2011  |   No comments

One day on the Eagle Walk in Tirol

The Eagle Walk in Tirol is one of the simplest ways to enjoy nature and the mountains. (watch our video here:  Matt Carroll’s Hidden Austria – Episode 4: Eagle Walk in Tirol ) But let’s see what Andy – www.501places.com -says about it.

Whether visitors arrive in Tirol in western Austria by air or overland it doesn’t take long for them to recognise that they have arrived in an outdoor paradise. Although well known for its winter sports Tirol also offers some of Europe’s best hiking terrain; I was here to sample the delights of one of the region’s most spectacular trails.

Andy Jarosz

As part of the Tirol Tourist Board’s efforts to attract summer visitors to the region, the Adlerweg, (Eagle Walk) was set up in 2005. It connects a series of routes from a pre-existing network of paths that criss-cross the region. While the main route is 280km long and broken neatly into 23 stages, there are 1480 km of trails to choose from.  In this way the Eagle Walk can accommodate both the serious hiker who is looking for a challenging long-distance trail, as well as the casual day tripper who is looking for a gentle walk in beautiful surroundings.

I fell into the day tripping category (I would have loved to stay longer but will just have to return another time). I met the Project Coordinator and my guide for the day, Georg Pawlata, in Innsbruck and we set off for the start point of section 16 of the Eagle Walk, some 30 km north-west of the city. We walked around 8km along a relatively flat path and having been blessed with unbroken sunshine I was able to enjoy the Alpine scenery at its most spectacular along this short section of the walk.

Many different species of wildlife can be spotted along the Eagle trail. Eagles are often seen, although mainly on those sections that are over 1500m above sea level. Equally spectacular is the sight of one of the 60 native pairs of alpine bearded vultures. Marmots are a common sight, while mountain goats and capricorns are also seen along the path. Lynx also wander through the higher regions, although a hiker is unlikely to have a big cat encounter here. Sadly on this occasion I left the Eagle Walk without a sighting of anything, large or small.

So was the trail named so because of the sight of eagles flying above the path? Not so, explains Georg. “We wanted to connect together the most beautiful points of the region. We had to think very carefully where the trail went. Once a route was created we thought hard about the name. At one point one of our team stood back from thGaistalalm_Andy Jarosze map, looked again at the line we’d drawn and said “Wow! It looks like an eagle!” From that point the name of the trail was obvious.”

We stopped for a break at the Gaistal-Alm alpine hut. There are many of these huts along the route, offering hikers accommodation (often including a shower) and a hot meal. We enjoyed a hearty home cooked lunch while looking out over the magnificent valley with its soaring peaks; if only I didn’t have a flight to catch that day, I could have lingered here all afternoon.

The Tirol Tourist Board have followed the lead of other long distance trails and created a reward system, where walkers can collect stamps in a booklet for each stage of the Eagle Walk that they complete. Prizes range from a bronze medal for 5 stages completed to a gold medal, T-shirt and a chance to win a Tirol weekend for two for those who complete all 23 stages.

The full Eagle Walk can only be attempted in the summer months, as the high elevation of some of the sections means that the winter snow does not clear until the end of June. Most visitors however will choose to walk one section of the walk and stay in a hotel nearby. Whichever way you choose to experience the Eagle Walk, you are guaranteed to be treated to some of the best Alpine landscapes along the route.



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 Martina Jamnig on 13.07.2011  |   No comments

Three cities, three stories to tell – Salzburg

If you have already watched our video Matt Carroll’s Hidden Treasures: Episode 2 – Graz, Innsbruck, Salzburg
you probably know that Matt’s favourte city is Salzburg.

But also Heather seemed to have enjoyed her stay there. She visited the city in April with her family. You will find her stories on her blog.

ANTO MJ

ANTO MJ

More things to see in Salzburg
Riding the Unicorns in the Mirabell Gardens
Podcast from Salzburg and Lake Wolfgang in Austria

Cars, Planes and Smart Food at Hangar 7 in Austria



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 Martina Jamnig on 12.07.2011  |   No comments