Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Alphabetical Tourist: Austria

I bet you were expected a myriad of shots of icy lakes and snow clad mountains to accompany my virtual visit to Austria.  What you didn't bargain for  instead was a a picture of Harry H. Corbett in his role as Harold from Steptoe and Son, who sadly didn't make it to a skiing holiday to the country that is the subject of today's post.

Yes, Harold was due off to the wonderfully named Obergurgl  before, that is, he did himself a mischief and ended up  incapacitated from his endeavours on his makeshift piste. And  those old Brits out there who are familiar with this classic old comedy may have guessed that Albert, his father, ends up heading for the slopes instead.

So what other weird and wonderful facts have I dug up for you about this landlocked country?  Well, the attribute of having no towns with the suffix 'on-Sea' leads me to my first piece of near useless knowledge.  Hands up those out there who thought that references to Austria having a navy were just a  joke.  My mitt is firmly up there in the sky but shock horror! I was wrong.   It shared one with Hungary, a country that also has no coastline and George von Trapp from 'the Sound of Music' was an officer.  So there you go!   I could have included a picture of Julie Andrews here but we've feature one show biz personality already.  So here's instead is the Erzherzog Friedrich, part of the nineteenth century fleet.  It's a screw-driven corvette I'll have you know and I've absolutely no idea what that means.  However, I've included this piece of information as I know that it will cause some out there to wet their pants with excitement.

Photo by Deborah Austin
For a country with a small population Austria seems to have produced more than its fair share of world famous people from all domains of life.  Aside from Adolf Hitler, of course, there's Gustav Klimt, the Strausses, Mozart, Sigmund Freud, Fritz Lang, Franz Ferdinand (the  Archduke and not the band), Erwin Schrodinger, Gregor Mendel, Niki Lauda and Arnie to name just a few.  In amongst these prestigious names lurks Edward Haas III. His legacy to the world was the PEZ dispenser, those strange collectable plastic sweetie containers that deliver confectionery which looks and tastes like a small brick.

So where would I visit in the unlikely event that I'm not here for the skiing, an activity that I think I've covered already.  Well, I'd almost certainly head for the Ars Electronica at Linz.  You'd be forgiven if you thought that this is a modernist sculpture of buttocks.  Instead it's a museum cum installation space though I haven't quite got my head around what exactly I'd find there   There's some weird virtual reality exhibits, a robot tending a flower garden, 3D photocopying and all sorts of mind boggling stuff that seems to deserve a peek much more than a stuffy older style museum or church.  And when all that technology's blown my head away I'll head off out of town and try the calming 2km barefoot trail at Hexenwasser,  an odd 'back to nature' type theme park complete with friendly witches and elves situated halfway up a mountain in the Tyrol!

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