Why Austria should be your next dream vacation

Carol Sottili

THE WASHINGTON POST – The next destination you should go for your upcoming vacation should be Austria. With beautiful scenery and friendly locals, it shouldn’t be a question for you and your family why Austria should be on top of your vacation list.

In this article, The Post had list some of the things you should know and do in Austria.

WHERE: Austria.

WHEN TO GO: April-May or September-October to avoid summer crowds.

WHY TO GO: For the gemütlichkeit: an atmosphere of friendliness, good cheer and relaxation that defines the Austrian experience.Outdoor activities abound in the scenic countryside, plus the cities offer top-notch food, museums and shopping.

View of famous Hallstatt mountain village in the Austrian alps
ABOVE & BELOW: Opera house in Vienna at night; and houses with gardens in Vienna

LOGISTICS: From Vienna, the country’s extensive and efficient train system offers transport to most cities and larger towns and to some of the more remote spots, including Bad Ischl and Hallstatt.

Roads are well maintained, although traffic can be an issue, especially in tourist areas. For some of Austria’s western regions, it may be quicker to fly into Zurich or Munich.

MONEY: The currency is the euro. Credit cards are widely accepted, but cash is king in the smaller villages.

It is not uncommon for small mom-and-pop inns to accept only cash, or to offer a substantial discount for paying in cash.

PAPERWORK: United States (US) citizens don’t need a visa when travelling to Austria for up to 90 days for tourism and business purposes. Passports need to be valid for at least three months beyond the travel period.

LANGUAGE: Everyone is taught ‘High German’ in school, but Austrians speak their own dialect, and various regions within the country have their own parochial words and phrases.

Learn a few typically Austrian words or phrases (for example, use the word oida – pronounced oyda – in various inflections to express everything from confusion to happiness). In the major cities, many speak English, but in the countryside, especially outside the tourist areas, very few do.

HEALTH: No special precautions. If you’re visiting the Alps, take notice of the elevation and guard against altitude sickness.

PREVAILING MYTH: Everyone wears dirndls and lederhosen, and they climb every mountain and ford every stream.

Reality check: Most wear jeans and pullovers, not traditional garb, unless there is a festival afoot.

ITINERARY FOR FIRST-TIMER: Spend at least a few days in Vienna hitting the top attractions, including St Stephen’s Cathedral; Schönbrunn Palace, the gilded, 1,440-room former summer palace of the Habsburgs; the Museum Quarter, a huge area on the border of the old city with 10 museums, including several devoted to modern art; and Maria Theresien Square, with its adjacent art history and natural history museums.

Take in a classical music performance at the Vienna State Opera (buy tickets in advance).

Sip a mélange (Austrian specialty coffee) at a traditional cafe. Then take the train through the gorgeous countryside to Salzburg, the city of Mozart, for more palaces, gardens and all that Sound of Music stuff.

Itinerary for repeat visitors: Go back to Vienna for a day or two to catch the sites you missed the first time, such as the Jewish Museum and the Imperial Crypt. Then head to the Lake District (Salzkammergut), with its picturesque villages set on crystal lakes; favourites include Gmunden, Hallstatt and Bad Ischl.

Go a bit out of your way to Zell am See and the adjacent Kaprun High Mountain Reservoirs (open June 6 – October 15).

Depending on time, extend the trip to Graz and Styria, the “green heart of Austria”. All of this can be done via public transport, but it’s easier to rent a car.

EAT THIS: Wiener schnitzel, of course. Apple strudel. Sacher torte. Knödel, the Austrian version of a dumpling. Vienna sausage (they aren’t anything like those tiny things in the cans).

SPECIAL EVENTS: Austria loves its Christmas markets, offered in many towns and cities and generally open from mid-November till the end of the year.

For the best selection amid a gorgeous natural backdrop, head to Innsbruck and the surrounding Tirol region.

READING LIST: The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek; The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth; The Age of Insight by Eric Kandel; The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig.

PLAYLIST: The Marriage of Figaro Overture (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart); Rock Me Amadeus (Falco); Vienna (Billy Joel); Edelweiss (Rodgers & Hammerstein, The Sound of Music – and no, it’s not based on an Austrian folk song, but we like it anyway).

CULTURAL SENSITIVITIES: Speaking of The Sound of Music, don’t ask the locals about it. They’ve never seen the movie or the play and can’t understand Americans’ obsession with it. Never refer to an Austrian as German. And the only kangaroos you will find in Austria are in zoos, hence the cheeky “No Kangaroos in Austria” T-shirts you’ll find in souvenir shops.

SOUVENIRS: A dirndl, lederhosen or traditional Tirolean hat, but be prepared to pay dearly for an authentic version. Budget-friendlier choices include candy Mozart balls, Demmers tea, or how about that No Kangaroos T-shirt?