We are back from Europe after two weeks of adventure, laughs, relaxation, and revived perspective. The food was outstanding and the weather was a great combination of sunny hot days with a few rainy ones here and there. We started and ended the trip in Vienna, touring Italy and Switzerland for a few days in the middle. Austria is a great place to travel, especially in summer because of the unlimited outdoor activities and amazing landscape. Extra measures are taken to preserve architecture, as well as, maintain it’s beautiful clean mountains and streams. We saw lakes that are as clear as I’ve ever seen and air so fresh it rivals even my home state of Montana. Their approach to recycling is impressive to say the least. Austria boasts the highest recycling rate at 63 percent, while the US recycles at only 34 percent, for total trash produced. In Austria, each type of recyclable has it’s own bin – glass, plastic, paper and bio. Yes biodegradables, you can actually put your kitchen scraps into the biodegradable bins and go and pick up compost at the city run center. Compost that is left over is added to city parks and landscaped areas.
In Vienna and nearby villages, there are vineyards and beautiful trails around the foothills of the Alps(also called the Viennese Woods or Vienna Woods depending on the source). All of these trails are well maintained and open to the public. It is very apparent that physical activity and outdoor living are a core part of Austrian culture. There are local Heurigens (family run wineries open to the public), which serve their own wines and offer a daily menu of made from scratch entrees.
Our first weekend was spent hiking the trails around Guntramsdorf, followed with a delicious dinner with Markus’ parents at a local heurigen. Most of these heurigens have great big front doors, left open to encourage visitors. There is a pole over the front entryway that is the true indication if a heurigen is open. When open, they hang a branch or wine bottle above the door. These family run business are open for several weeks, then close for several weeks. The local heurigens coordinate schedules so that business is good for each and that they aren’t all closed at the same time. The food is traditional Austrian fare like potato salad, schnitzel, minced meat patty, quiches, ham & bowtie pasta and various spaetzle dishes. Everything is made from scratch daily and super delicious. Over the last few years I have tried venison lasagna, chanterelle mushroom stew, schpatzel, schnitzel, quiche and the life altering potato salad and warm sour kraut. This trip I stuck to the vegetarian options and found good selections regardless of venue. It is interesting to see that vegan eating is gaining popularity worldwide. I even stumbled upon a vegan fast food restaurant, Swing Kitchen, in a shopping mall outside of Vienna. It turns out that there are 68 vegan and or vegetarian restaurants in Vienna – impressive. The Dallas Fort Worth area has 37 vegan or vegetarian options, but outweighs the Vienna 1.8M population by nearly 6M additional people. Then consider the 26 permanent year round farmers markets, and additional 52 stores selling vegan and vegatarian items, it’s no wonder that Vienna was awarded the best worldwide quality of living the last 7 consecutive years (by Mercer International Consulting group). It would be next to impossible to avoid vegetables here. All in all, Austria is a great destination for the healthy traveler with unlimited opportunities to experience fresh food and nature any time of year.
I’ve included a few photos below of our hike and heurigen dinner. We passed by a sundial that day (pic below), the passage was written by Joseph Weinheber, an Austrian author circa 1920.
It beats the heart
The shadow moves
What went wrong yesterday today succeeds
What is successful today is tomorrow’s appearance
Defeat the time to be human