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Welcome to the second episode of the Loved & Learned series where we share our favorite and least favorite things about being immersed in another culture for a full month!
Loved & Learned Episode 1: Living in France - What We Loved and Learned
Today we’re sharing our perspective on month 2...our stay in Vienna, Austria in Aug-Sept. If you're short on time, here's the link to the abridged, video version on YouTube.
What We Loved
The architecture in the city is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Even residential buildings further outside the city center could pass for being part of the Hofburg palace estate. The intricate detail is incredible. Austrians build to last, which is quite refreshing coming from a US “suburb” where we have near limitless land to build.
Our Airbnb in Vienna! It was roughly equal parts kitchen, shower room, living room, and bedroom. The entire place felt bright and airy and very comfortable.
Most people in Vienna speak English and didn’t seem bothered by the fact that we only knew a few words in German. Of course we always make an attempt to learn more of the local language, but sometimes it’s nice to know whether asking “are there nuts in this dish?” at a restaurant is going to be understood perfectly.
Vienna is a very clean city. Rarely did we find debris in the roads or on the sidewalks. We also saw many street cleaning machines being used during our month in Vienna.
Public transportation is affordable, clean, and reliable. Since our visit spanned two calendar months we couldn’t buy monthly passes (or would have had to buy 2) so we opted for 4 weekly passes. For unlimited rides for both of us for four weeks cost only $150 (or only $2.50 per day per person!). Rarely did we walk more than 5 minutes to a tram, subway, or bus stop nor did we wait more than 5 minutes once there.
Wiener schnitzel and apple strudel are quite delicious and are served in every traditional restaurant. We preferred a “gasthaus” when we were in the mood for authentic food. They were also budget-friendly and had good service.
RELATED: Vienna Restaurants: The Gasthaus
What We Learned
Most everything is closed on Sundays. The most touristy areas like City Center usually have plenty of restaurants open so you can eat, but no shops or grocery stores are open.
Grocery shopping in Austria ought to be considered an Olympic sport! No really. You have to bag your own groceries, pay, and get out of the way ASAP so the next customer can be rung up. We felt so rushed every time! The fix? Smaller, more frequent trips.
Vienna mostly operates in cash. There were several restaurants that did not accept a credit card. The first night in Vienna, after traveling all day, we went to a small pizza restaurant around the corner from our Airbnb. After receiving our food, I asked as more a formality if they took credit cards. The waiter gave a little chuckle, shrugged his shoulders, and said “cash only”. Eddie had to take a quick jog to the nearest ATM before dinner was over. (Megan’s glad he didn’t leave her to do the dishes…)
At restaurants, they don’t hire hosts or hostesses. The assumption is that you’re an adult and can manage to find a table you like just fine! (haha)
In general, the house wine at restaurants costs less than beer. Megan loved this!
Austrian’s love apple cider vinegar and pickled everything! German potato salad actually has no mayo or mustard...just the good stuff.
The German language is not nearly as harsh-sounding when you hear it day in and day out in person. And when a child speaks German? It’s just as cute as if they were speaking any other language.
Plenty of public transportation options were available, but there weren’t nearly as many bikers or scooterists as there were in France.
Apparently people not from Austria commonly confuse it with Australia. We’re so glad we know the difference.
People around the world are fascinated by American politics (for better or worse), but Austrian politics rarely make the global news. Their whole government was forced to resign due to corruption and we didn’t hear a peep about it! The next elections will be held September 29th and you can bet we’ll be watching the news for the outcome.
What surprises you the most about our list? Please share in the comments below!
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