The Travelogue You’ve All Been Waiting For: Austria

Okay, okay. I know travelogues aren’t really the most fun types of posts to read, and they often come across as, “I’ve been to this really cool place and you haven’t.”  However, despite my awareness of this, I’m going to do just that today. I went to Vienna, Austria, a few weeks ago to present my research on the female inventor of the dishwasher at the European Social Science History Conference. While I was there, I did a lot of sightseeing and eating. This post is mostly about those two things.

Our first day there (I went with my Dad and his partner), we walked around Vienna and oriented ourselves to the city. We rode one of those tacky and gigantic tourist buses that go around in a circle with headphones telling you all about the major landmarks. After that, we got off at the Stephen’s Dome Cathedral and planned to climb some 300 stairs to the top of the tower. Just as we were getting ready to do so, my dad realized that he no longer had his camera!

The camera was still on the sightseeing bus, so I suggested that we run and meet it at the next major stop, which was at the Opera House. I ran there with my dad not far behind. I kept telling him to let me go alone and that I wouldn’t get lost. But he kept up. We got there, caught the bus, and found the camera. And then we walked all the way back to the cathedral, climbed all 300 stairs up and down, and then almost died of exhaustion. European vacations usually require a lot of walking and not much laying on the beach and sipping limonadas, so we had used up our week’s worth of energy in that morning. The next day, we were sore and tired. My knee hurt and I started walking with a limp.  But I got to rest it later in the week, and it started to feel better.

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But we saw so much in the city, even as out-of-shape Americans. We visited Freud’s house, Mozart’s house, the Museum Quartier, Schönbrunn Palace, Belvedere Palace, the Naschmarkt, Vienna University (where I presented my paper), the Rathaus, the Jewish Quarter, The Hofburg Palace Complex, the Royal Treasury, the Spanish Riding School, and every single café and pastry shop along the way.

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No, I’m exaggerating about visiting every café and pastry shop. There were too many to choose from, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that we ate dessert twice a day. It was hard to resist having it with lunch and dinner since it stares you in the face from a glass case at the front of every café. You walk in and the first thing you see are Mozart bombes, truffle tortes, apple strudels, Sachertortes, etc. etc.  On the last day, I decided that we should’ve planned a month-long trip just so we could have a chance to try every kind of dessert before we left the country.

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My favorite meal was Tafelspitz. It is boiled beef with garnishes of chives, pureed spinach, and applesauce with fresh horseradish mixed in. There were also potatoes and carrots. I can’t even describe how good it is, and we ended up going back to Café Mozart to have it again the night before we left. My dad and I loved it. He’s planning to figure out how to recreate the recipe at home, and when he does, he has strict instructions to fly to my house and teach me how to make it as well. My dad and I also developed a taste for himbeer (raspberry) soda. My dad texted me the day after I got home, saying: “I want Tafelspitz, himbeer soda, and Mozart torte, now!”  Here is a picture of Tafelspitz and some of the various foods we ate.

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In the middle of the week, we rented a car and drove to Salzburg. There, we wandered around the city square, ate more delicious food (I had Salzburg schnitzel, which was a thin breaded pork cutlet stuffed with mushrooms, onions, and bacon, among other delicious things), and took The Sound of Music Tour.

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Yes, the tour was cheesy, but it was the most efficient and easy way to see Salzburg and the surrounding areas without getting lost. When we first arrived in the city, we missed our exit and got a little lost (but it wasn’t a situation that our GPS system couldn’t fix), and we went down a one-way street the wrong way. A kind older gentleman calmly motioned to us to turn around, and we did before causing any head-on accidents. So, we took the tour in a van with a guide who told us all about the history of Austria, the Von Trapp family, the making of the film, and the area itself. We drove into the Alps and saw Lake Wolfgang, named after Mozart because his mother was born in the town on its shores. There, I posed for a non-cliched picture of spinning with my arms extended and the towering green hills surrounding me.  The hills are alive!

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We also visited the cathedral in Mondsee where the wedding scene of the movie took place. There, I bought a CD of The Sound of Music soundtrack. The lederhosen-clad guide, of course, had it playing in the van strategically as we toured around, but nobody felt comfortable enough to belt it out. We were with a couple from Colorado. I felt like singing, but I couldn’t; I’m too shy. So my dad and I sang the entire soundtrack on the three-hour drive back to Vienna that night. We looked at mustard fields and castles in the countryside while singing, “Doe, a deer, a female deer…”


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On Thursday, I presented at the conference. It was held at Vienna University, which is gorgeous and old and has a wonderful courtyard in the middle of the building for sunning one’s self. In the center of the courtyard is a statue of Eve, fitting given that she was the first human being to seek for knowledge. I loved the symbolism of it.

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My presentation went exceptionally well. My panel was called Nineteenth Century Technologies @ Home. I went last of five presenters and shared my research on and stories about Josephine Garis Cochran, the female inventor of the dishwasher. I got most of the questions at the end during the question and answer session, and a few people stayed afterward to talk with me. I had a great time; it was a confidence-building experience.

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We had a great time and learned a lot about the history of the country. Apparently, it was settled by Celts, while Germany was settled by Saxons. The tour guide in Salzburg explained that the difference between Germans and Austrians is similar to the difference between the British and the Irish. Many of the old Celtic ruins are visible in Salzburg, and there’s a place in the center of Austria where archaeologists have dug up some of the old city walls from earlier centuries.

We also learned about the royal families of Austria. Franz Joseph was a much-loved emperor who, in one tour, was described as living a simple and frugal life. While, I admit that his small iron bed seemed spare, the room and palace in which it stood were not. This description rankled me somewhat, but it seemed that the people of Austria loved him and his wife Elizabeth, better known as “the famous” Princess Sisi. Franz Joseph did have the distinction of waiting to put down his knife and fork until all of his guests had finished dining, for the rule was that when the emperor finished eating, all of the plates were immediately cleared, no matter if the guests were finished eating or not.

Sisi liked ice cream. So do I. It’s inevitable.

austria ice cream

I learned a few German words. My favorite? Schlagobers. What does it mean? Well, it’s my favorite “food:” whipped cream.

I haven’t been able to stop singing The Sound of Music songs since I got home.  These are interspersed with the Frozen songs, as my children can’t stop singing those or watching the movie.  I want you to know that I hummed The Sound of Music songs the entire time I prepared this post.  I hope you enjoyed it!


67 thoughts on “The Travelogue You’ve All Been Waiting For: Austria

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  1. Great post, Emily! I love that country and would love to go back sometime. Clearly, you saw some amazing things. I WAS gratified to read, however, that your dad, who always seems to be so “together,” left his camera on the bus! 🙂 That made ME feel better somehow since I’m such a scatterbrain. It’s a beautiful place, isn’t it? The trip of a lifetime, and how nice that you got to spend it with your dad.

    1. Stephanie, I was SHOCKED that my dad lost his camera! I had to keep an eye on him after that. 🙂 Yes, it was beautiful. I had daydreams of never coming home and just picking up my life there!

    2. Your description of running up and down the stairs reminded me of the time I took Stacey to France, and we walked/ran our way to the top of Mont St. Michel, the island monastery on the coast. 385 steps to the top, if I remember right, and when we got there, we looked right beside the steps and there was the elevator! 🙂 The view was tremendous, but I was definitely weak in the knees for a while.

  2. Wow, what a trip and what a blessing to take a trip like that with your dad. It appears you saw and a did a lot and now have memories to last a lifetime!

  3. Wow! As per usual, Emily, you have put a lot of work into this post. A veritable blend of travelog happy snaps and some real history and culture. Some meaningful moments for you as well. I felt an uncomfortable moment at your description of racing down (and back up again!) the tower with your Dad to collect his camera! It reminded me of a few years ago when I panicked in the tower of York Minster in York (UK) and rushed too fast down the many steps. My legs cried out for mercy that afternoon. I’m a bit of a sook with heights!
    We hope many appreciated your presentation at the conference. I’m sure your Dad loved the father-daughter time.
    Thanks again for another interesting and enjoyable post. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Simon. Yes, those tower stairs are brutal, especially after having run across the city! I don’t like heights or small space, so I had a few moments of panic. But it is just something you have to do! The view was worth it.

  4. Vienna is such a cool place. I was there a few years ago, right before Christmas. They hang real Swarovski crystal chandeliers in the street for Christmas. I’m not kidding. Also, we saw that there was a Christmas organ concert in St. Stephens so we went to that in the evening, two nights before Christmas. It was wonderful, although cold, as they do not heat the cathedrals. What cool experiences you’re having with your studies!

    1. How awesome, Kay! We wanted to attend a concert at St. Stephen’s but we were in Salzburg the night it was playing. Real crystal chandeliers? I believe it!

  5. It looks like you had an amazing trip! Thanks for including all the food pictures! I don’t know which I liked more- the scenery or the food. 🙂

  6. Emily, I am going to reread this, as it such fun to see the country. Several top of mind comments – I love your animated face to accent several of the pictures, especially the Wien Berlin picture. Plus. your presentation face was very professional, so you could tell when you were relaxed and when you were working. The architecture is wonderful as well as the vistas. I kept thinking you were singing “Edelweiss” under your breath. Finally, you probably said these words at some point “Dad, stop taking pictures of me eating!” Thanks for sharing. It looks very inviting, BTG

    1. LOL! It did feel like my dad was my personal photographer! I couldn’t have gotten more or better pictures if I had hired a professional to follow me around. 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed the pictures. We learned that edelweiss is rare and only grows at high elevations, so we didn’t actually get to see any of it.

  7. Emily, I hummed with you as I read. I forced John to go on the Sound of Music tour with me. It was fun. What a wonderful time with your dad, as well. Congratulations on the presentation. Fabulous experience.

  8. Congratulations to you on presenting your paper in Vienna!!!!! My dearly departed uncle, did many years of research in Vienna and wrote scholarly books on something to do with the Hapsburg Empire.

  9. I’m so glad you had a wonderful time and that your presentation went really well. The photos are lovely! I love the one of you spinning around. And now I have songs from The Sound of Music going around my brain too. 🙂

    I am just a little (okay, more than a little 😉 ) envious that you got to try all those lovely coffee shops and restaurants. I know that Austrian cuisine has a long-standing tradition of serving all kinds of wonderful desserts. I don’t eat meat so that part of Austrian cooking wouldn’t suit me very well! But I would certainly be happy with the desserts. 😀

    1. You would’ve found plenty to fill you up with desserts and pastries! I’m glad the songs have rubbed off on you through this post. I really want to watch the movie again! During parts of the tour, I didn’t remember the movie details, so that made it hard to relate to. I loved hearing stories about the real Von Trapped family though.

  10. Nice! I’m glad you had such a good time on your trip and that your presentation went so well. I loved reading your travelogue and all the pictures are great. This gets me all excited to travel as well. Perhaps I should nudge Austria up a bit on my wanderlust list.

    1. I’m sure wherever you go it will be nice. You just have to jump in and enjoy what’s there. Do you have any fabulous destinations planned soon? I hope so!

      1. Yes! I’m doing a cruise to Alaska with my Mom this year. I’m looking forward to taking hundreds of pictures. I love vacation pictures. Thanks again for sharing yours.

  11. Your trip looks like the perfect blend of work and play, and you have captured all of it so well. The scenic beauty panorama, the various exotic Austrian foods and cafes, the University of Vienna ofc, the playful sound of music journey yet the so much you picked up from it, and your words weave the pictures together so beautifully, Emily! God bless! And I hope you do get your hands on a great Tafelspitz recipe! 🙂

    1. Yum, me too! Thanks for your kind words. I am glad that the huge amount of time it took to upload all of these pictures made the post work! 🙂

  12. I loved your article and found it very entertaining. Definitely gave it a ‘like.’ If you want to read another blog full of silliness, try

  13. You and your poor dad huffing and puffing up and down those stairs! I am so glad you found his camera. I once left my guidebook and my umbrella on a bench outside the Notre Dame de Paris, went back not more than 3 minutes later and they were gone. I rather enjoy reading travelogues as they give me a taste of the wider world and places I may not get to physically any time soon, if ever. I appreciate your abundance of photos of everything, and of course, of the food. Are those carrots on your plate? They are huge! Glad to hear your conference went well, and I also learned in this post that a woman invented the dishwasher. Thanks!

    1. Three minutes and they were gone!?! Noooo! That is so unfair. I was surprised we found the camera, but we got lucky. So, there are carrots with the Tafelspitz that are normal sized. The huge things on a plate with mustard and horseradish are sausage of some sort. A hot dog, really. I don’t normally like or even attempt to eat hot dogs, but these were pretty good. Thanks for reading! I’m glad it wasn’t overly annoying.

  14. I love this post! It sounds as though you had a wonderful time. I have to confess, though. If my siblings and I had been on that tour bus, there is little chance we could have been stopped from singing along with the Sound of Music soundtrack. We’re shameless thatway. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your awesome experience!

  15. Well I for one love travelogue posts! I suppose it is bragging in a way, but I like living vicariously through other people’s travels when I can’t go myself. Loved all of the pictures—it sounds like the three of you had an absolutely fabulous time. I went to Munich a couple of years ago to do research at the International Youth Library, and also did a mini-trip to Salzburg over the weekend. Salzburg is so incredibly beautiful! And yes, the food. The FOOD. I must have gained 5 pounds, and I was only there for a week and a half!

  16. What an awesome post! The awesome looking food made me quite hungry and I may have to go to lunch in a minute hahaha.
    I love the treble clef garden, I want one!
    I had a big smile on my face reading about the Sound of Music tour, because I absolutely would have gone on it… possibly but not definitely may have sang on the bus and would have insisted on car karaoke all the way home 🙂
    Sounds like you had a great time!

    1. It was definitely fun! I would’ve loved to have you on the tour singing away. The treble clef garden is in front of a statue of Mozart, so it was fitting! 🙂

  17. This is great! I studied abroad in Austria a few years ago and wish I had spent more time in Vienna! Unfortunealty I was only there for about two days in a total of FOUR months lol. I did, however, love spending time in Salzburg 🙂 You look like you really soaked it all in! So glad you enjoyed your trip!

    1. What a great opportunity that must’ve been! One of my regrets is that I never did a study abroad. That is so cool. I bet you learned German as well.

  18. Oh, this is just lovely — thanks for sharing your gorgeous photos — I’m so envious!! A few years ago, my wife and I took a train trip from Germany to Istanbul and went through Austria — so gorgeous. Salzburg is like a tiny little doll town — I’m dying to visit and spend time there — and your photos have me even more eager.

    1. That sounds like an awesome trip, Audra! Because we were so close to many major cities, I kept wanting to leave Vienna and drive to Prague or Munich, but I’ll save that for another time.

  19. What a great trip! Thanks for sharing your story and all your photos. Oh, the food is to die for…I have never been to Austria but I really am amazed at the desserts that you can find in other countries. Do they also taste less sugary than the ones you find here in the US? What a wonderful opportunity you had to do your presentation here. By the way, we’ve talked a lot about our overly youthful looks but I thought you looked very authoritative and mature in your presentation photo!

    1. Thank you, Cecilia! You just made my day. 🙂 Yes, the desserts are less sugary now that I think about it. The whipped cream was just cream, no sugar, and the hot chocolate needed sugar. They don’t put it in everything willy nilly. They left that to me!

  20. I like travelogue posts, too! Gives ideas for places to see that I might not have considered. Vienna sounds wonderful for food, architecture and history. The streetscapes looked very clean (well, the rural scenery did too, but you’d expect that!)

  21. Nice to see that Austria finally gets noticed in the land over the big sea 🙂
    I’m from Austria and I really enjoyed reading your post. It’s fun to see your own country through the eyes of a stranger. It lets you see so many things you don’t even notice anymore.
    I’m glad you liked it here and hope that many more will follow your footsteps. It’s time that our little country gets some attention 🙂

    1. Your country definitely deserves the attention! I was worried that somebody from Austria would read this an disapprove, but I guess did okay! Do you have a Tafelspitz recipe by chance? 🙂

  22. That’s so cool that you were able to visit! I live here in Vienna and wish I would have known you were in town. It would have been nice to meet you! I’m happy to see that you clearly enjoyed it 🙂

  23. Thank you Emily for this post I wish I could have been there .How beautiful it all seems. And I would have loved the food. And also the music!!!

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