10 Things I Wish People Knew About Austria

In January Envy from "Lost In Translation" wrote a post about 10 things she wished people knew about the Netherlands. The Netherlands are a smaller country that do not enjoy the fame and glory that the UK once did, so I read it with gusto.

At the same time, this Austrian country girl, lives in a country where people claim that either it does not exist at all or is Australia. When they know about Austria people tend to think all of it is like Vienna or, even worse, like it is pictured The Sound of Music - we'll get to that.

Since I know that there is more to this beautiful country than just Vienna (yuk) and that it is not one cliché piled onto another (sigh) I set out to share my own list of what I wish people knew about Austria:

skyline of Vienna ; Wiener skyline
ironically, the Viennese skyline

Not all of Austria is alps

While it is true that the majority of Austria is filled with alps, a staggering part of Austria is not.

Most notably is Lower Austria, the name already tells you that it is quite low in comparison to the other Bundesländer. Then comes Burgenland - which is as flat as it can get. Furthermore, Lower Austria is one of the biggest Bundesländer. Thus it is more than just a small part of Austria that happens to not be made up out of alps.

However, Lower Austria is not all that low

While this might sound like a contradiction, Lower Austria is not flat. In fact, when heading West it is the beginnings of the Guntensteiner Alpen, which are alpine foothills. There is also the Ötscher which is part of the Northern Limestone Alps. In fact, the western part of Lower Austria marks the beginnings of the alps. 

Blick auf den Schneeberg, Kalte Kuchl

We have one of the finest driving roads in the world

This might be arguable but the Großglockner Hochalpenstraße is one of the finest driving roads in existence. It has a beautiful winding road, that leads you to the top of Austria. The view is amazing, and the experience of climbing up is one of a kind.

It does not matter if you crawl up in your crummy diesel hatchback or your fine tuned Alfa the experience remains unique and always magical. 

In fact, the high alpine road was specifically constructed as a fun driving road and not just as a road that happened to go over a mountain. Due to the weather and winter, it is opens only from May until late September. While it lies hidden from any mayor driving routes, the detour is always worth it! 

Großglockner Hochalpenstraße
Großglockner Hochalpenstraße
Großglockner Hochalpenstraße
While the Großglockner Hochalpenstraße has a special place in my heart. there are even more high alpine roads to pick from in Austria: the Nockalmstraße, Silvretta Hochalpenstraße, Kaunertaler Gletscherstraße, and Gerlos Alpenstraße are only the beginning.

We "greet god"

While there are various ways to say "hello" and "good day" one of them is "Grüß Gott" which literally translates to "greet god". Atheist or not, you don't put a lot of thought into it when you use it and over the decades it has lost the religious meaning it might have had.

However, when you find yourself with little to do and start to think about "greet god," it suddenly becomes one of the weirdest greetings in usage. I always feel like this is the catch-phrase someone would use before shooting their arch-enemy in the head. "Greet God, motherfucker."

Maybe that's just me .... 

Coffee has special names here 

Coffee has special names everywhere but generally these are the same: a latte is a coffee with milk, an espresso is just black coffee in a tiny cup - strong but it does what it is meant to do - and so on ...

In Austria, the coffees come with even better names!

Here we have a "großer Brauner" - a big brown - and its little brother the "kleiner Brauner" - a small brown. The big one being a coffee with milk, and the small one is an espresso with milk.

This seems easy enough, however, the name mystery goes on with a Machicatto - milk and whipped cream -, a Melange - which is coffee with milk froth - a Verlängerter - espresso mixed with hot water -, and a Mokka - which is just an espresso. A double espresso is known as a big Mokka: großer Mokka versus kleiner Mokka.

Armed with that knowledge you should be able to navigate half of the traditional cafés.

There is a town called Fucking

... and feelings about it are mixed 

Austria has the dubious honour of having a small and picturesque town called "Fucking." It sits in Upper Austria, not too far from Salzburg and the boarder to Germany. Only a mere 93 people lived there in 2001

It is pronounced in such a way that it rhymes with "booking" but this has not stopped people from associating it with sexual intercourse.

Thus sending a tiny but dedicated group of road trippers and tourists to the place:

two German tourists 

You can drink the water that comes from the pipes

I was not quite aware that there were European countries where you could not drink water from the pipes until I had been in Spain. Unless it is stated otherwise, you can drink the water that comes from the taps. Enjoy not buying bottled water!

"Dinner For One" Is Part Of New Year's Tradition

In Austria it is traditional to watch "Dinner For One" on New Year. Always on the 31st of December the national television shows this old film, and people sit down for it while they are waiting for the clock to strike midnight.

"Dinner For One" floats everyone's boat. Thus New Year would not be New Year unless you get a glimpse of it.

Literally no Austrian has watched "The Sound of Music"

From a sketch that everyone knows to one that nobody does: it may be the film for which Austria is best known from, however, I am yet to meet a single Austrian who has seen "The Sound of Music."

We don't know what is happening in there, we have no idea what the plot is about or who the characters are supposed to be. The only thing that is known about "The Sound of Music" is that it created the stereotypes that we wear a Dirndl all the time (no) and that all of Austria is just alps (again, it is not). The film was not written by an Austrian, and I am in doubt if the person has ever seen the country. If he ever had been here, he made a terrible hash out of it.

Just a word of the wise, "The Sound of Music" is collectively hated in Austria.

The Unwritten Escalator Law 

Escalators are magical moving stairs on which you stand and they carry you up and down the floors. It is wonderful! It is used in tube stations, on train station, even in shopping centres because they make life easier and the world is a better place because of them!

Unless someone neglects the unwritten escalator law. The law is quite simple:

An escalator can carry two people standing next to each other. Thus, on the right side, people stand. Here you are when you are still scrolling through Instagram or stalk your ex on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the left side is the fast lane: Here people walk past you. Maybe they are in a hurry, or they just get bored having to stand and watch the same cheap advertisement each morning.

Either way, it is important that the left side is kept clear. You do not stand on the left, you stand on the right. If you happen to end up standing on the left, nobody is going to say anything. They are just going to hold a grudge against you for the rest of all their lives.

The Autobahn is restricted

Word got around that the Autobahn is unrestricted. While this is true in parts of Germany just a word of the wise, in Austria there is a speed limit of 130kph on the Autobahn.

At the moment, there is talk to change the limit to 140kph instead, which is mostly due to the fact that people do that already.

Even so, depending on which part you are on, you can already tell if the speed limit is abided or if it can be re-interpreted a bit by watching your fellow drivers. "Feeling" the Autobahn speed is something that comes naturally to you after a bit.

Here we are: Austria is this tiny country in the the centre of Europe, part alps and part flat and now you know 10 more things about it!


  1. I loved reading this post. Possibly your best one to date. I'll be honest and say that I'm the cliched foreigner whose understanding of Austria is limited to Vienna, Salzburg and the Sound of Music so this was so much fun to read and bust my myths.

    1. Thank you so much! I am glad that you enjoyed reading it, and that it helped to bust some myths :)

  2. Wow, what a fascinating post, I learned so much! I always associate Austria with the Sound of Music and the Spanish Riding School but this has really opened my eyes, thank you so much for sharing! x

    Lisa | www.lisasnotebook.com

    1. Fun fact is that I used to walk past the Spanish Riding school on a daily basis when I went to Uni 😅 I am glad you enjoyed the post and learned a bit more about Austria!

  3. Thanks for this post! There’s a lot I didn’t know!
    My old lecturer is from Austria and he used to tell us facts and stuff about his country! He was from Vienna though 😂😂!!
    I also never associated the sound of music with it!


    1. One good soul who doesn't think of Sound of Music when the word "Austria" pop up. I like you already.


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