When you think of Vienna it is hard to not think of vibrant culture. The city has a rich history and this can be seen from the architecture to the food and music. So when work ‘obliges’ one to travel to Austria, it’s time to lift the jaw back from the floor, grab a passport, clear space in the phone’s camera memory, and DO IT. Even for a short visit, we found a great many reasons not to get back on the return flight, but we’ll start with 10.
- History & Architecture. Relatively speaking, the U.S. is a young, adolescent country. We’re energetic and think we have all the answers, but it’s a good idea to sit with an older country and gain some wisdom, particularly over some coffee and their specialty chocolate cake. If you aren’t able to do your homework beforehand, find a quality tour guide to learn about the history of the city, politics, key figures, and architecture. For example, you’ll learn the crypts contain burial remains of members of the Hapsburg family, including Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph. Also, a popular tourist attraction, the Hofburg Imperial Palace, was residence of kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire from as early as the 1400s.
- Culture. Vienna has been a major city throughout the ages and has attracted great thinkers, musicians and artists such as Sigmund Freud, Mozart, and Gustav Klimt. There are a great many museums, parks, and a famous Opera.
- Education here is very affordable, compared with the US and Canada; it is about 400 Euros or about $450 US dollars per semester. Yes, we cried a bit there too.
- Green-space. Taking time to visit a nearby park or explore the gardens of nearby Schönbrunn Palace is a wonderful way to recharge during lunch or after work.
- Safety. With a population of almost 2 million people and a low crime rate, Vienna is one of the safest major cities. A choice on whether to get on the COTA bus or grab a subway in Vienna and we’d choose the subway any day. The public transportation system covers the city and is very inexpensive.
- It’s clean! No bits of gum wrappers or cigarette butts on the sidewalk or street. Even the drinking water is fresh from the Austrian alps so ordering tap at a restaurant saves money and is high quality. This is of particular cause of jealousy right now as Columbus’ has tested positive for carcinogenic chromium-6.
- Think we forgot to talk about the food? Heck no, it’s delicious! Whether you want to try Wiener sausage, Sacher Torte (their signature chocolate cake) or any number of cuisines, they have it all. They are also surprisingly much better about being vegan and vegetarian-friendly with quite a few healthy restaurants.
- Physical activity is highly encouraged – with separate lanes for pedestrians, bicyclists, and then the road for cars. Looking around, excluding tourists, most people are of a normal weight. Another noticeable aspect of their activity, they are relaxedly walking and often enjoying conversation with friends, with or without an ice cream in hand (and they don’t have Fitbits on either). This still bewilders, but hours of being outdoors and people-watching yielded NOT ONE person race-walking through the city or staring down at his or her phone while rapidly typing. Perhaps they hold the secret to the elusive idea of work-life balance.
- Beverages. For enophiles, visit the wine capital of Vienna. Cider is quite good but the beer is best left to Germany to brew. If you visit during the Christmas festivals, have some Glühwein (mixture of hot wine and spices). For non-alcoholic beverages, coffee – in all of its forms – is something for which Austria is famous. Though we usually abstain in America, it was game-on for a week. Coffee with milk, chocolate, ice cream and/or whipped cream? Yes, yes to it all.
- Which reminds us – spend a block of time in a coffeehouse. People used to come to coffeehouses to stay warm, relax and leisurely read the daily newspaper, and to share ideas. One has a sense of history and peace and is expected to not treat the space as a pseudo-workstation by whipping out the laptop or phone. Expect that having a coffee with others may last 2-3 hours, with a waitress checking in rather infrequently. It’s an experience; enjoy it.
If you don’t speak German, no worries. In major European cities, such as Vienna, everyone seems to be at least bi-lingual. If you do speak German, taking an afternoon to explore and talk to locals will challenge your brain and put a bounce in your step.
Enjoy food, comfort, and beauty in this calm city.