Taste Full Austria
By Justine Seligson
Most Americans know Austria as the setting of The Sound of Music and the site of major skiing events. But this little landlocked country (it’s surrounded by Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland) has so much more. From its hiking trails to its food to the shopping…wait, let me rewind back to the food which really left an impression on me.
Truth be told, it’s not the most exotic cuisine. But it’s indelible in my memory. There are many Austrian specialties that are completely unpronounceable if you don’t speak German—Käespätzle, Semmelknödel, Kaiserschmarrn—but I learned to take chances by pointing at them on the menu and did not regret it. Not once. My favorite dish of all was Fritattensuppe, which is a beef consomme with strips of pancakes in it. After tasting it in Salzburg, I was hooked and ordered it every time I saw it on the menu. My mother tried to make it once back home and let’s just say, it’s best to have it while IN Austria.
But it’s not just the Austrian food that’s memorable here. There’s great Italian (pasta and pizza like you’ve never had before) in certain parts of the country. Southwestern Austria is glued to the border of Italy and many Italians live there and have brought their cuisine with them. It is like the equivalent of Mexican food in the southern states of America. There are other foreign influences in the country including Japanese and Chinese as well.
Then there are the pastries in Austria. Oh my! Austrian desserts are so to-die-for that in order to truly enjoy them all, you have to work out like crazy (easy to do in this country as people walk everywhere). The two most famous specialties are Sachertorte and Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) but there are many others we sampled including the Apricot Krapfen (a donut-like pastry) which was especially welcome after hiking for two hours. The Austrian chocolates are also amazing. Salzburg is the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and home of the Mozart ball or bon bon (dark chocolate, green pistachio, nougat). Apparently it was created and hand-crafted by by Paul Fürst in 1890 and since has been copied like crazy by many chocolate makers. If you want the original ones, look for the silver foil packaging or go straight to the Fürst Confiserie in Salzburg. The Austrian chocolates really give Hershey a run for its money.
As for drinks in Austria, well…there are regional sodas and such, but the biggest news on the beverage front for me was that Austria is home to the co-founder and CEO of Red Bull! Yes. Dietrich Mateschitz is Austrian born and lives there. In fact, while we were there, the first ever Red Bull shop opened. My mother thought I was out of my mind, but the souvenir I had to get was a Red Bull T-shirt. The shop is the only one in the world currently and so bringing back this Red Bull shirt was like bringing back a sea lion from the Galapagos Islands.
I wonder why Austrian food is not better known to Americans. Many of the desserts especially should be right alongside French Crème Brule or Greek Baklava on menus at home. Maybe it will be in the future. But again, the food is just one of many things this European nation has to offer. It’s also a good excuse to go back.
Photo credits: The pictured potato and sausage dish is called Tiroler Groestl.
Just-Teens Travel is written and photographed by Justine Seligson, a high school student.