Austria Essay, Research Paper
For centuries the heart of an empire which played a pivotal role in the political and cultural destiny of Europe, Austria underwent several decades of change and uncertainty in the twentieth century. The interwar state, shorn of its empire and racked by economic problems and political strife, fell prey to the promise of a greater Germany. But postwar stability has seen the growth of a genuine patriotism, while the end of the Cold War has put the country, and its capital, Vienna, back at the heart of Europe.
The ethos of Austrian society is solidly bourgeois, although the Socialist party has been the strongest influence in government over past decades; and despite endless scandals, and the deep divisions created by the Waldheim controversy, an almost Scandinavian emphasis on social policy continues to be the guiding principle of national life.
Austria is primarily known for two contrasting attractions – the fading Imperial glories of Vienna, and the variety of its Alpine hinterland. Vienna is the gateway to much of central Europe and a good place to soak up the culture of Mitteleuropa before heading towards the Magyar and Slav lands over which the city once held sway. Less renowned provincial capitals like Graz and Linz provide a similar level of culture and vitality. The most dramatic of Austria’s Alpine scenery is west of here, in and around the Tirol, whose capital, Innsbruck, provides the best base for exploration. Salzburg, however, between Innsbruck and Vienna, represents urban Austria at its most picturesque, an intoxicating Baroque city within easy striking distance of the mountains and lakes of the Salzkammergut to the east.
Despite profiteering in tourist centres like Vienna and Salzburg, accommodation need not be expensive, and, although it can be a scramble in July and August, finding a room doesn’t present too many problems. Most tourist offices book accommodation with little fuss, usually for a fee (around S35) and deposit.
Hotels, pensions and private rooms A high standard of cleanliness and comfort can usually be taken for granted in Austrian hotels, although in resorts and larger towns prices can be high. Expect to pay S700-800 for a double with bathroom, slightly less for rooms without private facilities. Good-value bed and breakfast accommodation is usually available in the many small family-run hotels known as Gasth fe and Gastha ser, with prices starting at S500-600 for a double. In the larger towns and cities pensions situated in large apartment blocks offer similar prices. Most (though not all) tourist offices also have a stock of private rooms, although in well-travelled rural areas where the locals depend a great deal on tourism, roadside signs offering Zimmer Frei are fairly ubiquitous anyway. Prices hover around the S400-600 mark for double rooms.
Food and drink Foodstuffs in Austria are expensive, which makes eating out marginally cheaper than self-catering. Drinking, while never cheap, is affordable, and the country’s bars and caf s are among its real joys.
For ready-made snacks, try a Konditorei or confectioner’s, which sell sweet pastries and cakes, as well as sandwiches. Street food centres around the ubiquitous W rstelstand, which sells hot dogs, Bratwurst (grilled sausage), K sekrainer (spicy sausage with cheese), Bosna (spicy, thin Balkan sausage) or Currywurst, usually chopped up and served with a Semmel or bread roll, along with a dollop of Senf (mustard) and Dose (can) of beer. Schnell-Imbiss or Bufet establishments serve similar fare, augmented by hamburgers and simple grills.
It’s difficult to make hard distinctions between places to eat and places to drink – most establishments offer snacks and meals of some kind. Similarly, it’s possible just to have a drink in most restaurants. Town-centre Kaffeeh user or caf s tend to be the most expensive places to eat, while food served in bars can be great value. Light meals and snacks include pizzas from about S70; all restaurant and caf menus have filling central European standbys such as spicy Serbische Bohnensuppe (Serbian bean soup) and Gulaschsuppe (goulash soup) for around S50. Main dishes (Hauptspeisen) are dominated by veal – Schnitzel – often accompanied by potatoes and a vegetable or salad: Wienerschnitzel is fried in breadcrumbs, Pariser in batter, Natur served on its own or with a creamy sauce. In general you can expect to pay S80-140 for a standard main course, though set lunchtime menus (Mittagsmen ), even in more costly establishments, always offer a wide range of cheaper dishes. Desserts (Mehlspeisen) include a wide range of sweets and pastries: various types of Torte (including the famous rich chocolate Sachertorte); strudel, cheesecake; and Palatschinken (or pancake, with various nut or jam fillings) are all common.