“If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?”
Favourites… most of us have a favourite something – flavour ice cream (Strawberry and dark chocolate gelato), pizza (Quatro Staggioni), book (Francine Rivers – Mark of the Lion). So I suppose we can have a favourite country too, right? I know I haven’t visited enough countries to make a completely accurate comparison, but I have been to enough to decide what my favourite country is SO FAR 🙂 . Those of you who know me will probably know what mine is, and may be rolling your eyes as you read this., but here it is for those who don’t know (DRUM ROLL)… AUSTRIA!
Just to be clear though, there are 2 different kinds of favourite countries. You can have a favourite country that you would love to vacation to every year, but not live – mine would probably be Italy at the moment (because of pizza, pasta and gelato). And then there is the favourite country you would LOVE to live in. For me, Austria (Vienna to be specific) is my ultimate “I want to live there” favourite country. And that is what this blog is going to be about!
So how do you decide?
There are just so many beautiful countries out there and there are so many factors to consider. Some of the important ones – for me – are: great food to eat (yes, this comes first), amazing natural landscape (lakes, mountains, parks etc.), safety, a city filled with history but still moving forward, lots of things to do and see (museums, parks etc.) and great transport systems. There is also a kind of “feeling” of being in the right place when you are there that I can’t really describe.
But Why Austria?
Austria has it all (well all except an ocean, but that’s why you go on vacation, right?). Where to start??? With so much rich history stretching back hundreds of years, to a beautiful landscape with countless activities for anyone and everyone, like hiking in the mountains, crazy amounts of skiing in the winter, swimming in crisp lakes in the summer, and cities buzzing with people from all walks of life. And that doesn’t even cover half of it!
It’s not just the amazing amount of sights that the country has to offer or the fact that it is perfectly situated for a quick trip to OTHER wonderful countries, or even the mouth-watering schnitzels! Stew is taking me to try one with spaghetti on it in September #FatGabiIsExcited. It is the feeling that Austria gives you. A feeling of home when you have never even been there before. That so many amazing things happened and are still happening there, that you are part of a bigger picture. Basically… Austria is my zing (you will have to watch Hotel Transylvania to understand this reference #getonthat).
Where our romance started
I have a FABULOUS jet-setting aunt who lives in Vienna, and so I’ve been lucky enough to visit Vienna a few times. The first time was with my family in my first year of varsity – 2 days after Stew asked me to be his girlfriend hehe. The first family vacation overseas where I was old enough to remember it haha. We went in June, so we got to enjoy a whole month of the perfect European summer.
It was unbelievably awesome! Austria is so green and lush in the summer. We stayed in Vienna for a bit and explored the magnificent city. We visited the museums, Schönbrunn Palace (which is so breathtakingly beautiful), the Prater (the amusement park where my sister Serena forced me to do the ridiculous slingshot with her – still considering whether I should share that video or not) and all the other good stuff Vienna has to offer (more on this in part 2 of my Austria Blog).
Our summer road trip…
We road tripped to the dreamy countryside where we stayed in a STUNNING cabin in the woods (my happy place :)). I can’t explain how amazing it is to just embrace the fresh forest air, go for walks in the bright green forests or swim in cool, clear lakes to cool down. It is incredible!
Our road trip also took us to Salzburg, which was spectacular! I mean, it’s where The Sound of Music came to life! The Altstadt is something out of a book, with beautifully unique architecture and stunning gardens. You can take a stroll in the beautiful and vibrant gardens of the Mirabell Palace and get your socks knocked off by the most beautiful wedding hall in the world (yes, it is a fact!). And of course, you wouldn’t dare miss the Salzburg Cathedral… WOW is all that I can muster!
We took the funicular up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which is the largest fully preserved castle in Central Europe! Feel free to take the walkway up as well, the climb really isn’t so bad, or so Stew says… I say it’s not for the faint-hearted. The views on top are absolutely out of this world and again, it is such an awesome feeling to stroll through a piece of history and just “feel” it! So all in all…. Another must!
Also, if you are a fan of crystals, then don’t skip a trip to Swarovski Crystal World near Innsbruck! Beautiful gardens and all the sparkles!
Another great place…
We visited is a stunning Monastery called Melk Abbey / Stift Melk. The Benedictine monks have been living and working in Melk Abbey, following the works of St. Benedict, since it was first constructed (Check this online – reads better this way). There is also a well-known Apricot Liqueur famous to Melk Abbey, which we bought a few bottles of-of course!
Like I said before, Austria is so close to other amazing countries, so with a car, the road trip opportunities are endless! Even without a car, the transport is so easy you can have a weekend away all year round and still have more places to go! With this in mind, we went to visit some family in Italy. They stay in a small town called Piove Di Sacco and it is just a short train ride from Venice (so, of course, that meant another sneaky day trip)!
We also enjoyed a trip to the beautiful Ljubljana in Slovenia. We weren’t there long, but we managed to go up to the beautiful Castle that overlooks the entire city! It also has a steep climb, so maybe take the funicular! There was a lovely market just below the castle hill that we walked through and bought some stunning hand painted candle holders. It is a stunning city, a place I would very much like to go back to!
And then again…
After this trip I knew it, I had been bitten by not only the travel bug, but I caught the Austria fever as well. So yup, I planned another trip to visit my aunt in Vienna… but this time in winter. I think I was determined to experience Vienna in every way possible… and see snow. That was also a bonus! “Don’t go in winter”, “you will have to stay indoors because of the cold” – they said. Um NO! Sure you need an extra dozen layers, but winter in Austria is just as beautiful and has its own kind of fun! This time I had the pleasure of my elder sister to accompany me and Stew flew over to join for a week as well. Somehow we packed 5 adults and 3 kids into a 3 bedroom apartment.
Vienna has the most incredibly beautiful Christmas markets that seem straight out of a fairytale! These Christmas markets attack all of your senses at once! The smell of Glühwein (be warned, it’s a knocker) and roasted chestnuts, the sounds of traditional music and laughter and merriment and the general sights of a buzzing marketplace full of handcrafted gifts and little treats all combine to put a massive grin on your face and fill you with that “Christmas Spirit”… it is the place to be! The town also sets up this really cool ice-skating rink in front of the Rathaus where you can skate between the trees and around the small park. It’s a winter wonderland!
Snowy winter = Skiing
And then, of course, Austria is known for its epic skiing opportunities. We rented an apartment in a wooden house in Lienz, a town close to the Italian border. My sister, Stew and I travelled there by train (a 6-hour epic journey I must add) and we were met by my Aunt and her family. The apartment was owned by a very friendly old Austrian lady – and her creepy son. There was a thick fresh layer of snow waiting for us and delicious cakes served with fruit tea daily at 4 pm.
Stew took it upon himself to tackle me into the snow as often as the opportunity presented itself. It had the perfect simple slope where I learned to ski – which is an experience everyone should try might I add. Although I was a bit crushed when 5-year-olds went skiing past me at lightning speed, we all start somewhere right!
While there, we also decided to take a short train ride to Italy for the day. When the craving for pizza hits, you might as well go get some authentic Italian pizza right?
On a serious note
It may seem like I am just going on about a great travel destination, but it is so much more! It just has so much to offer as a tourist or as a resident. A wonderful way of living, raising a family, easy to travel to and from. Just perfect… well to me at least. Especially when you are in Vienna… which is a whole other blog on its own – COMING SOON!