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Austria was the first country I visited “on the continent”. My first glimpse into European life after a few short months of living and working in London. (To me, as a New Zealander, London definitely doesn’t feel like Europe. London is more like some grown-up version of home.) Thanks to the multitude of bank holidays (long weekends) in the UK and some cheap, Ryan Air flights after only two months of living in London I was off to Europe.


Why Austria?

I spent three days visiting a friend from New Zealand, who had married a gorgeous Austrian boy and followed him to the other side of the world. They lived in Graz, a University town, very much off the tourist trail for the typical European backpacker.

While not the most obvious city for a first visit foray into Europe, most people would find themselves starting in Paris or Rome, Graz was perfectly European in every way. Small cobblestone streets, wonderful old buildings that ooze a sense of history and effortlessly attractive people lounging around enjoying the Summer sun.

My First Euros

Sitting Out in a Beer Garden with Friends

The View Over Graz

Climbing a Tower in Graz


Getting a local perspective in Graz

The best part about Graz was visiting with a local’s perspective. No effort was required to work out what to do, how to get around and where to eat.

The food I ate in Austria was fantastic. Dark rye breads, wonderful cheeses, fresh vegetables and walnut oil, the local specialty, on everything. I was a lacto-vegetarian while visiting Graz so having a vegan guide to Graz would have been very helpful. While in beergardens or bars, it felt cool knowing what locals typically drank on a hot Summer day – Radler (beer topped with Fanta or any other kind of soda) or Spritzer (wine topped with soda water).

We visited my friends parents who had a wonderfully interesting life. The had livedabroad in Bolivia and raised some of their children there before returning to Austria. We shared a cheese plate for dinner which again felt so effortless, sophisticated and European. On the clear Summer night you could see Slovenia from the balcony of their apartment.

Towering Churches in Vienna

Palace Gardens, Vienna



A quick day trip to Vienna

My friends wanted to show me Vienna which was only a few hours drive away thanks to the speed at which you can thunder down an Austrian Autobahn. I was firmly back on the tourist trail, if only for a few hours. Learning about Mozart, traipsing through churches, wandering the manicured grounds of a palace and eating cheap pizza on the sidewalk for lunch.

If you are staying longer in Vienna then definitely check out this post on getting cheap Vienna opera tickets.


There’s so much more to Austria left to be discovered

Austria would be a great European base for us. I’d love to go back and get a better feel from Vienna and it’s local neighbourhoods, not just the tourist hotspots. I must go to Salzburg and indulge my inner child by going on the Sound of Music Tour. I wouldn’t say no to a visit to Linz to take in the lovely blue Danube river. With borders to Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic it would make a great hub for a foray into Eastern Europe – something that is high on my to-do list.

As I sit here at home in New Zealand, I definitely hear Europe calling my name.


What was the first country you visited in Europe? Why did you choose it?




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Showing 9 comments
  • Lou

    Cool, Austria sounds fun…. I’m yet to get over to Europe…. I’d really love to check out Germany – have you been? I recognise that Villa face 😉

    • Bethaney

      I went to Munich for a long weekend to visit another friend who lives there. It’s great. I actually really liked Germany. I think I’d fit in there. It’s stylish and modern but a bit geeky… which is kind of like me.

  • DJ Yabis

    I am so ashamed of myself as I haven’t been to Austria yet! Great post!

    • Bethaney

      Thanks DJ. You should definitely try to make it there.

  • fotoeins | Henry

    It’s true – the first European country I ever visited was also England (London). This was followed very quickly with Wales (Cardiff). Then, when I moved to Germany for a couple of years, the country simply took hold of me – I’ve been in her clutches ever since. 🙂 A friend used to work in Vienna, and I made trips out to Vienna three times in the two-year span.

    There aren’t many I know who’re willing to admit to a “Sound of Music” tour in Salzburg! But while you’re there, don’t forget to consider the rivalry between Salzburg and Vienna when it comes to Mozart : he was born in Salzburg, but became most famous in Vienna. As Austrian musician Falco once sang: “Rock me, Amadeus!”

    Come to think of it, I should consider going back to Austria this fall … 😉

    Thanks for your post!

    • Bethaney

      Thanks for stopping by Henry! I’m glad you love Germany. We’re hoping to spend a bit of time there in the future. I sense it would be a great place to live as a family in Europe. Let me know how your trip back to Vienna goes.

  • Reply

    Dropping by from the Carnival of Europe! I regret I only went to Vienna during my Euro trip. The Austrian countryside is so beautiful. I would have loved to take the Sound of Music tour too! (Though I definitely won’t sing haha)

  • Bram

    I’ve been to Austria two times with my parents when I was a kid. That’s about 15 years ago now, but I do remember the fantastic landscapes. We never made it to any of the bigger cities though. I’m definitely going back there sooner or later!

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