Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Observations of Austria...from someone else

I stopped into our neighborhood library the other day when I had some time to kill before the next tram and just grabbed the first book that caught my eye. It's called Neither here Nor there and it's about an American journalist's travels through Europe.

I immediately flipped to the chapter on Austria and some parts had me laughing, while many had me nodding my head saying, "totally". The book is from 1991, but so many of the author's observations still hold true, of course. I'm gonna share some excerpts with you. It's nice to have someone else do the writing...someone who is an actual writer...and who has been to more places in Austria.

At times he can be harsh, and in my opinion, sometimes tries too hard to get a laugh (believe me, I know about this) but he is honest about what he experiences (all over Europe...not just in Austria).

And, by the way, I love going to the library. We have sort of abandoned this idea in America...at least I had in favor of a trip to Barnes and Nobles and a stop inside the Starbucks. This is budget-friendly and there's a certain fun and sense of nostalgia in going to the library. The building's pretty too:


So here we go. In the words of Bill Bryson:

"Innsbruck really is an ideal little city, with solid baroque buildings and a roofscape of bulbous towers. It is carefully preserved without having the managed feel of an open-air museum, and its setting is as near to perfection as could be imagined. At the end of every street you are confronted by a towering backdrop of mountains, muscular and snow-peaked beneath intensely clear skies."

Innsbruck {photo from here}

"..one of my first vivid impressions of Europe was a Walt Disney movie I saw as a boy..The Trouble with Angels. ...what made a lasting indent on me was the Europeanness of the background - the cobbled streets, the toytown cars, the corner shops with a tinkling bell above the door, the modest, lived-in homyness of each boy's familial flat. It all seemed so engaging and agreeably old-fashioned compared with the sleek and modern world I knew, and it left me with the unshakable impression that Austria was somehow more European than the rest of Europe....for the first time in a long while, and even on this trip, I felt a palpable sense of wonder to find myself here, on these streets, in this body, at this time. I was in Europe now."

"This is the down-side of Austria. The same impulse that leads people to preserve the past in their cities leads them also to preserve it in their hearts. No one clings to former glories as the Austrians do, and since these former glories include one of the most distasteful interludes in history, this is not their most attractive feature."

Salzburg {Photo from here}

"I travelled the next day to Salzburg. I found it hard to warm to, which surprised me because I had fond, if somewhat hazy, memories of the place. It was full of tourists and, worse still, full of shops sellings things that only a tourist could want: Tyrolean crap and Alpine crap and crap crap and, above all, Mozart crap - Mozart chocolates, Mozart marzipan, Mozart busts, Mozart playing-cards, Mozart ashtrays, Mozart liqueurs."

"...The streets of the old town, crammed into a compact space between the River Salzach and the perpendicular walls of the Mönchsberg mountain, are undeniably quaint and attractive, but so overbearingly twee as to bring on frequent bouts of dry heaving...When I crossed the river to the more modern right bank, I found I liked Salzburg much better. A long, quiet street of big houses stood overlooking the Salzach and the views across to the old town were splendid: the ancient roofs, the three domed spires of the cathedral and the vast, immensely heavy-looking Hohensalzburg fortress sinking into the low mountaintop at its back. I had a coffee in a Konditorei where every entering customer got a "Grüss Gott!" from every member of the staff. It was like on Cheers when Norm comes in, only they did it for everybody, including me, which I thought was wonderful."

There is actually more I want to share, but I'll stop with the long paragraphs for now and come back later.


Myla said...

it was nice of google to take me to you blog... i enjoyed reading your posts!

i am also an expat living in graz. i know you are a happily unemployed but just in case you want something to do, the learning center where i work is looking for ESL teachers. maybe you are interested? not sure but if you are, you're welcome to visit helendoron.at, click on lernzentren tab, then click on 'graz' and you'll see the details of the person you should contact.

juliette said...

oh, i got that book last yr for a gift - it's hilarious, no?! =)

Kimberly said...

I read the Bill Bryson "In a Sunburned Country" before I moved to Oz!
PS- Marc wishes to know what kind of reseach your hubby does.

Emily said...

I have to agree about Salzburg. It is full of tourists and tourist tat. It amazes me how anyone who lives there can manage because the shops are rubbish. It is our nearest big city and we've been in a few times trying to shop, with great difficulty. Our local town is actually better.
Salzburg looks pretty run down and grubby in a lot of areas. I'm always happy to get back to our lovely little village after a day out!

VictoriaArt said...

Wie geht es Dir?
You know: I love your blog.... every time I come to visit I find something delightful...
I love Bill Bryson's books. He is funny, observant and smart! His sarcasm kills me every time! Just read A Walk In The Woods...

Hope you are all better now! ( Auge und so...)

I am so in love with spring this year!

Eine nette Woche wuensche ich Dir!

Gruss und Kuss!

Kim Preston said...

I LOVE that everyone (even the customers!) says Gruss Gott when you enter a store here! I went back to Canada over Christmas and found myself saying Hello to everyone as I walked into shops. As I received only blank stares or mumbled greetings in return, I quickly got out of the habit. :( And they say Canadians are polite!

BETH said...

I love that he used the word 'bulbous'...reminds me of the lovely man from London with his bulbous nose...I believe we loved his phrase, "London is history!" :)

Anonymous said...

I read through the blogs yesterday, its very tastefully done.

Anonymous said...

@Kim Preston: Yeah, Canadian SUCK!! U-S-A, U-S-A, YOOUUUU - ESSS - AYYYY!!!!

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