I was born in Vienna, but I have been living in Toronto for more than 20 years. I left Austria early, by myself, at the age of 20, and found a permanent home in Canada’s largest, most multicultural city. However, I never forgot that I was originally from a beautiful country and I love to travel in Austria.
In my first 10 years of living in Canada, I used to travel in Austria once a year to visit my family: my father, my grandma, and my brother. Sadly, my mother died just a few months after I settled in Canada. And around a decade later, my father and grandma died within half a year of each other.
This profoundly influenced me for a very long time, particularly because I had a very small family to begin with: no uncles, no aunts, no other grandparents. This is why I took a hiatus of almost nine years. During that time, I didn’t travel home at all. I eventually chose to travel in Austria again for the 20th anniversary of my high school graduation. Then, three years later, I went back to my hometown for my brother’s 50th birthday.
He is my only brother so it was an event I really couldn’t skip. In addition, I wanted to travel in Austria and see the country through the lens of a travel writer. I wanted to really take advantage of the sights and experiences that my hometown and its surrounding regions have to offer.
Traveling to Austria by plane
On a Thursday, I boarded a plane to fly from Toronto to Vienna. About an hour later, I learned that we were also making a stop in Montreal, adding another two hours to the trip.
As an astute traveler, I’ve always tried to save money on flights, and Air Transat was about $500 less expensive than Air Canada or Austrian Airlines. Unfortunately, I found out too late that Air Transat planes are packed very closely, with very little room between the rows of seats. As a matter of fact, when the lady in front of me reclined her seat, I almost thought she was going to knock out my teeth!
But never mind all that, I knew from the start that I’d have to compromise a bit in order to save $500. All in all, the flight to Vienna was a good one. Plus, I suppose I’m fortunate because I’m one of those people who can sleep on the plane.
Travel in Austria by car
I arrived good and early at Vienna Airport, in Lower Austria. Before leaving home, I made extensive searches on the Internet for cheap car rental and found an affordable rental car company. Service was easy, and a few minutes later I had my little Volkswagen Polo! It’s an inexpensive little car, but it’s ideal for driving around the foothills of the Austrian Alps. While driving in Europe, fuel efficiency is important to keep in mind, so a small car that is good for gas is a great choice!
Driving to my hometown
I headed south on the A2, the highway that links Vienna to Graz, the capital of my home province of Styria. Once you leave the outskirts of Vienna, you’ll find that it’s a breathtaking drive to enjoy when you travel in Austria. It takes you through the Wechsel mountains to the Eastern Styria region. Along the way, I saw numerous signs pointing to a series of theater festivals in the province of Burgenland that take place in various castles and fortresses. I think that’s an amazing way to take advantage of some of the old medieval buildings that are scattered all over Austria.
The weather was sunny and very dry, and although my car was air-conditioned, I had a window open to feel the warm wind blowing in. I switched off the Hartberg highway in East Styria and drove through the rolling hills past small scenic villages all the way to my hometown, Weiz.
I have to confess that driving along the highways that we went on when I was a child gave me the strange feeling that time had stood still. I could still see the same fields worked by Austrians, and towns, mountains, and valleys, although most of the houses were beautifully restored. Every small town was clean and the architecture was almost ideal. No peeling paint, no run-down buildings, and no litter anywhere – everything appeared to be in tip-top condition! That’s how you’d see my home country, too, if you chose to travel in Austria now.
Finally in Weiz
When I arrived in Weiz, my brother, Tobias, was still at work. However, my sister-in-law, Anna, was there to welcome me. She took me for a little stroll in Weiz, and I had a chance to see some of the modern structures that had been raised since the last time I came to travel in Austria. After a wonderful reunion with my brother, I enjoyed a restful night to overcome my jet lag.
Sunday trips near Weiz
The next day, Tobias had his birthday dinner. He takes cooking seriously, so the three of us left early in the morning to get to the farmers’ markets in Gleisdorf and Weiz. Local produce, meat, and baked goods were making my mouth water while my brother picked up the ingredients he needed.
While he was preparing the feast, he sent Anna and me on a short hike through the Raab River Gorge, a popular hiking and recreation area near Weiz. I added a little tour to travel in Austria and see the Goller Mountains and a short visit to the old mining town of Arzberg.
When we returned, we spent the entire evening savoring the multi-course gourmet meal, admiring the cooking skills of my brother.
Join me tomorrow to discover more things to see when you travel in Austria! I’ll be your travel guide and show you around for a week.
Sarah Grossman was born in Austria but moved to Canada after college. She is an avid and savvy planner and organizer of worldwide travel and enjoys sharing her personal stories to encourage, inspire, and help other travelers.
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Best things to do and places to visit in Vienna
Wonderful day trip from Salzburg to visit Hallstatt, Austria