Country 13: Austria – 1st visit, May 2006

23 May 23 – Vienna
Accommodation: Hotel Kuntner, Vienna

Back on the road again and time to enter another country. We knew when we hit Austria because off in the distance were tall jagged mountain peaks and they looked spectacular. Our first stop over the border was a roadhouse surrounded by beautiful peaks, and as we got inside attempting to speak German for the first time the food servers spoke English back to us and joked around with us so that made us feel more comfortable. The range of food was unbelievable for a roadhouse, or for most places really.
I scored this unbelievable beef goulash and braised beef in a light gravy, and that was definitely the best meal I’d had on my whole trip. The flavours were so strong, and I never could’ve picked that a service station could have some of the best food I’d have in Europe. It filled me up but I wanted to go back and have more! A few people got caught out buying fizzy water when they wanted still bottled water. We came to realise that a blue cap on the bottle meant still water and a red cap meant fizzy, but that still didn’t mean it was straight forward. I bought some apple and blackcurrant juice and THAT was fizzy. It was a strange taste.
On we travelled a bit longer before we arrived in Austria. It was a very pretty and clean city and was surrounded by greenery with a nice canal running along the road towards our hotel. We got excited seeing the sign ‘schnapsmuseum’. We went straight to our hotel which was our first time in a place all tour that wasn’t a campsite or a cabin. The rooms were basic and the beds were all doubles and no singles which some of us guys felt a bit weird about, but you deal with what you have to.
After a little while we got back into the bus while Ben and Tash gave us a quick rundown of the sights of Vienna then stopped outside a large square inside a fenced off area looking out onto a huge mansion-like building which had previously been owned centuries ago by a ruling family which may have been the Hapsburgs but my memory is bad. However this was a significant stop for me as the cafe there sold German beer, so I scored my first ever German bottle of beer in Europe, a Schneider Weisse, and it tasted divine. I had a couple more and felt very satisfied.
We then all got dropped off in the city while a few people took the Mozart concert optional. There was no way you could drag me to a classical music concert, especially not for the price Contiki quoted. Anyway we wandered around the main streets of Vienna getting our bearings and found a nice looking and reasonably priced restaurant in the mall. We saw Vienna Schnitzel on the menu and thought we’re in Vienna so we just have to try it. When it came out it looked just like the schnitzel I could get at home, but it was so smooth and it melted in your mouth. I ordered the pork version as I’d only ever had chicken before and it was definitely worth the wait.
That was pretty much our night. There was no bar near the hotel so there was no temptation to drink so for once we actually all went to bed sober. I suppose we could’ve stayed in town and caught a taxi back but it wasn’t that sort of night, and we were having another big walking day tomorrow.

24 May – Vienna
Accommodation: Hotel Kuntner, Vienna

So after breakfast Tash took us on a walking tour of Vienna. By this point a lot of sights were starting to either look the same or not feel as special, almost as if seeing them all in such a short time period devalued the experience. Still, it was impressive. A lot of buildings were highly influenced by the Roman Empire with sculptures of Romans in battle poses around everywhere, and we passed through a lot of public squares surrounded by buildings on all four sides and I enjoyed our little walk. I probably could’ve organised by day a bit better and seen more sights but I had somewhere to be at 12pm as I was meeting a few of the Aussies on tour at an Irish pub. Strangely enough we found an Aussie pub in Vienna but it wasn’t showing any sport and when we arrived to have a good Aussie beer we were ignored and generally disrespected, and when we went to the bar to order a beer we were told we had to sit down first so we could have our orders taken which we thought was ridiculous, so we walked out pretty unhappy by how we were treated.
We may not have been in Australia but that didn’t mean we couldn’t watch a rugby league match between New South Wales and Queensland, the State Of Origin. Gradually we all trickled into this pub and in the end there were 7 of us from NSW, 2 from Queensland, and 1 Canadian, Heather, who came to observe and try to find out what all the fuss was about. So Chloe took it upon herself to try to explain the basics of the game to her, and did a pretty good job. Anyway, rather than go into too much detail about the match, it was fun cheering and shouting at the TV screen and having a fun rivalry between those of us from NSW and Qld, and in the end NSW kicked a field goal in extra time to clinch the win so I was happy, not to mention the fact I was pretty tipsy after 4 or 5 pints of yummy local beer.
After the match we headd back to our meeting point to be picked up just in time by the bus to get to the Schnaps Museum by 4pm which a lot of us were excited about. Upon arrival the guide inside greeted us and gave us a history and background about schnaps and the different types he had there. He showed us schnaps of all different colours, flavours, and alcohol contents, and the things he had to say were very interesting. I just wish I could remember them. Eventually we went out to a back room where lots of different schnaps were laid out on a bench. We were told the way to drink schnaps is not to shot it and get it down as quickly as possible, but to drink it slowly to really take in the flavour. It’s not about how much alcohol is in it, it’s about the taste. We had fruity ones, coffee and butterscotch ones, we even tried their version of absinthe (not made in the traditional way with the hallucinogenic ingredient wormwood as this was illegal) but the two most memorable schnaps had to be a yellow-coloured schnaps which had tiny little golden flakes in it, and their signature piece the bright red Vienna Blood. This one was 56% alcohol but it went down really smoothly for something of such high alcohol content and had a nice aftertaste, so I souvenired a bottle of it.
After all that we headed back to our hotel to have a bit of a rest and get ready for dinner. When we were ready the bus took us to I was pretty damn tipsy by this point and probably shouldn’t have had anything else to drink, but they were selling Jagermeister for only 2 Euro a shot and I couldn’t resist such a good deal! Tim decided he’d join in with me so I had some support there. Thanks to this good deal I don’t remember too much else about the night and I know I had at least 5 Jagers but it could’ve been 10 shots for all I know. I do remember after dinner that people were getting up to dance and sing and different things, but I don’t remember much of that at all let alone getting back on the bus and going to bed. I’d say this was probably the most drunk I’d been on my whole trip away from Australia. I would’ve liked to remember more from this night and luckily over my whole trip I only had about 4 or 5 really huge drinking nights so thankfully I still have a memory of most of my nights out.

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