Posts Tagged ‘Austria’

I took an afternoon trip via train to Melk, Austria to visit the famous Benedictine Melk Abbey (Stift Melk), founded in 1089. The building itself is very impressive and huge, looming over the surrounding landscape and the Danube river on the edge of a cliff. One side of the building literally ends at that edge, providing a little vertigo along with a superb view of the town and the countryside. The Abbey supposedly had some influence on Umberto Eco in his novel The Name of the Rose.

The entrance to Melk Abbey

Beyond this archway is nothing but open air and a view of the surrounding countryside.

Melk is located in the Wachau region of Austria, which seems to be known for its apricot products, especially apricot liqueur. You can buy the liqueur at every store in town; at the Abbey you can buy wines and herbal liqueurs made by the monks.

View from the top of the stairs near the Abbey; the town is on the left and the Abbey is on the right.

The baroque interior of the church at Melk Abbey



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We went on a day trip to Vienna, and in the morning we were invited to visit the Austrian Supreme Court. One of the justices gave us a very interesting presentation on the Austrian judicial system, which gave us a comparative perspective of how a civil law system operates. The court is located on the famous ringstrasse, or “the Ring,” and it has a cafeteria on the top floor with an open-air patio that provides a great view of the Ring and of the Parliament Building, right next door to the Supreme Court.

Statue of Justice in the Austrian Supreme Court building

View of the roof of the Parliament of Austria from the rooftop terrace at the Supreme Court




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We spent our first free afternoon in Linz visiting the Postlingberg Church, located at the top of a hill just outside the city. There is a great panorama view of the city and the Danube winding through it, and it’s definitely worth a visit. I’m even considering going back at night to see the city lights from the hill; this has the potential to be really neat since there are some cool buildings along the river that light up very colorfully at night. The church itself is really beautiful, but frankly every church in Europe is really beautiful and I get a little tired of seeing church after church, so that didn’t excite me very much!

View of the Postlingberg Church spires from the lookout point

This creepy little gnome points the way to a children's ride through a fairy-tale gnome land

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We finally arrived in Linz, where I will be spending about three and a half weeks participating in the Summer Academy in International Commercial Arbitration. Linz is an intriguing city, especially since I have a particular interest in 20th century European history. During my second afternoon here, we went on a tour where we viewed the old rathaus, or city hall, where Adolf Hitler in 1938 announced the anschluss, the annexation of Austria with Germany. Hitler grew up in Linz and apparently held a special affinity toward it. Post-World War II, the Danube marked the division between the different occupation zones, with the side we are staying on under Russian occupation, while the side of the old city hall and hauptplatz (main square) was under U.S. occupation. If you like to go back a little further in history, Mozart stayed in Linz, and you can visit the courtyard of the home of the local count who hosted him here. He also composed his well-known in three days and nights in Linz.

A view of the northern banks of the Danube in Linz

We have encountered a few frustrating practical issues here. I have lived and traveled in Europe before, and I was completely surprised at how few places here accept credit cards. Even Saturn, a very large electronic store similar to Best Buy, won’t take credit cards. I would never have expected this to be such a huge problem here, as this never happened in France, Belgium, Italy or the Czech Republic.  In addition, every single store here closes around 6 or 6:30, including grocery stores! I was absolutely stunned when I found this out. I almost never shop before the evening, so this is about the most inconvenient thing I have ever encountered, and also completely unlike anything I have experienced in other parts of Europe. I would not have been surprised if lots of things were closed on Sunday (which it turns out they are), since this is common even in Paris, but I can’t stop being annoyed that I have to make sure to get to a store early or I am out of luck. Lastly, though not really a problem for me personally, the German speakers in my group have found that they are essentially unable to communicate with the Linzers in German. The dialect here is so strong that the Americans who speak German don’t understand the Linzers, and the Linzers don’t understand the German that the Americans speak, since it is Germany-German and is spoken in their American accents.

A view of the old city hall in the hauptplatz in Linz

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We needed to get from Paris to Linz, Austria for my study program, and the easiest and quickest way to do that ended up being a flight to Vienna and a train to Linz. This provided a great opportunity for an overnight stay in Vienna, so we planned accordingly. The train from the airport into the center-city was quite simple to navigate, and we managed to get to our hotel on public transportation with little trouble. It was quite exciting, and a huge relief, to arrive at our luxurious Vienna hotel after four nights in our extremely expensive, closet-like Paris hotel room. I regretted my decision to rent a hotel room and not an apartment in Paris; I had thought having hotel amenities and the closer proximity to the sights would be worth the notoriously tiny size of hotel rooms, but I’m pretty sure I was wrong. If you go to Paris, rent a private apartment—it’s worth it!

A modern building on St. Stephen's Square reflecting the spires of the gothic cathedral.

Food I recommend to try in Austria based on my initial meal here is anything with asparagus when it is in season (asparagus soup is delicious here), as well as tafelspitz—it’s boiled beef, which sounds unappetizing, but it is actually quite good. Also, if you aren’t a pork eater, this is a good choice, because I have started to notice pork is the default meat here.

The other big highlight of Vienna trip was the morning training session at the Spanish Riding School.

The grandeur of the riding hall at the Spanish Riding School

The sessions take place in their beautiful indoor arena—thought it’s hard to call it that because it is so palatial it can hardly be compared to what we call an indoor arena in the United States! (Think ornate relief statues and molding, and three huge chandeliers.) If you like horses, I highly recommend this experience. Having seen Lippizaner performances in the United States before, I wasn’t too interested in seeing another. As an equestrian myself, they are a little too hokey for me, but watching the riders as they practiced with their stallions was interesting to me. And for the budget-conscious, this is also a much cheaper option than watching the performances. You also don’t have assigned seats so you can move around when better seats become available.

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