Austria is a vibrant country with a vivid history. It was home to some of the most famous artists, musicians and historians for multiple centuries. Politics has brought this country through tumultuous times, especially in the 20th century. The kleindeutsch vs. grossdeutsch debate embarked on a century struggle between Germans in Germany and Germans in various parts of Europe such as Austria. Here are the top 10 places one must go to see when in Austria.
1. Linz: Hartheim Euthanasia Centre
Built in 16th century, this castle belonged to the Princes of Starhemberg. For centuries it provided a home for the physically and mentally disabled. With Anschluss and the incorporation of Austria into the Third Reich, came dire consequences. The Nazis were fundamental believers in survival of the fittest and eugenics. Between 1939 and 1940, they turned the castle into a euthanasia centre where they implemented Aktion T4 and built gas chambers and crematoriums. Before using Zyklon B to exterminate Jews and other prisoners of war, they experimented the mentally and physically ill using Zyklon B in asylums such as the Hartheim Euthanasia Centre. This centre went on to exterminate various Jewish people, opposing Catholics and clergy as well as prisoners of war throughout most of WWII. Approximately 18,000 individuals lost their lives at Hartheim. It now has a built-in memorial which remembers victims who died during the Holocaust.
2. Upper Austria: Mauthausen Memorial
The memorial stands on the former grounds of a concentration camp where approximately 37,000 were murdered and exterminated. This visit provides a sombre reminder of a baffled past in Austrian history. Your heart will drop as you look up the Death Stairs. Most of the concentration camp is non-existent as the grounds are used to build neighbourhoods.
3. Salzburg: Mirabel Palace and Gardens
This baroque style palace is built surrounding gardens. It is made famous by the movie Sound of Music. If you a fan of Sound of Music, this place is for you. You can walk in the shoes of Maria and other children as they sang “Do Re Mi” and used the steps as musical scales. The botanical gardens are astounding. You can sit, relax and enjoy a beautiful day surrounded by blossoming flowers, if you are there in the summer.
4. Salzburg: Mozart’s Birth House
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is famous for being a child prodigy. He spent most of his writing and composing music and operas. By the time he was 35 he had composed 600 works in total. When others are being schooled and take life easy, Mozart was writing symphonies and performing for royalty at age 5. When you go to Salzburg, you need to go to the Birth House. It is well kept and is preserved in memory of this great composer. Some of the furniture and instruments are still from Mozart’s time.
5. Vienna: Schönbrunn Imperial Palace
This summer palace once belonged to Habsburg Monarchs, who were imperial and colonial rulers until 1918. Individuals visited the imperial palace can view the French gardens, see the Sun Fountain and take a tour of the former residence of the monarchs. You can also relive history where John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev met to discuss the Cold War in 1961. If you are tired and want a snack, you can take part in a cooking class which teaches you how to make a strudel. You then can sample the strudel yourself.
6. Vienna: Prater Park
This public amusement park is good for the whole family, especially those with little children. It was a gift by Frederick I to a noble family, de Prato. There is a planetarium and a museum on site which tourists could visit to learn more about the history of Austria.
7. Deutsch-Wagram Marchfelderhof Restaurant
In this country style and historic town where Napoleonic battles were fought, a famous restaurant is located. A red carpet is literally rolled for guests who enter this restaurant. All guests are greeted with a band and a welcome sign. They are then seated in chairs where famous people like John Lennon, Elton John and Pope John Paul II once sat. The food is traditional and will have you mouth-watering with satisfaction.
8. Innsbruck: Swarowski Crystal Worlds
This magical and breathtaking world is a must see in Austria. This attraction was designed in honour of Daniel Swarowski, the leading designer of Crystal. The hill that you arrive on is actually a head from which a waterfall runs from. The whole park consists of 7 linked halls with breathtaking sceneries. There is also a children`s playground where your offspring can play. At the end of your tour, you can visit the gift shop to buy crystal art work.
9. Vienna: Reisenrad Ferris Wheel
If you love amusement parks and are traveling with children, the Reisenrad is an excellent attraction. It was a golden jubilee gift to Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1897. Although it was burned down in 1944 by the Nazis, it was rebuilt in the post-war era. The view of Austria is spectacular as it provides tourists with a 360 angle of Vienna. It is close to the city centre and is just 10 minutes away by bus.
10. Vienna State Opera:
Vienna is famous for talented classic, baroque and romantic composers. From Hayden to Strauss, music defined Vienna in the 1700s and 1800s. If you have time in the evening, buy tickets to hear an opera or see a concert. Tickets are only sold last minute and tourists should take advantage of hearing the famous Viennese Philharmonics.