One year of Austria – the good, the bad, and the ugly

To be nice, though, we’ll start with the ugly and wind up with the good. In general, it’s harder to write about Austria than Italy, as I know the latter very well, speak the language, and generally feel at home there; enough so that I don’t hesitate to criticize it and feel like I know what I’m talking about, and am not just an outsider with prejudices.


  • Smoking in restaurants. I’m sick, sick, sick of not being able to go anywhere without sucking in other people’s cigarette smoke. The only completely non-smoking establishment we have come across to date is McDonalds, which I wouldn’t classify as a great dining experience.

  • My own German skills. I haven’t learned nearly as much as I should have, although in my defense, I don’t think we’ll be here long term, and I spend most of my days holed up in my home office with my computer, so I don’t get that much interaction.

  • The supermarkets have no shopping baskets. It’s just bizarre. Italy, Germany and Switzerland have them, but few places do here in Innsbruck, at least.

  • “Don’t you wish everyone used Dial”? The less said, the better.


  • The weather. We knew that coming in, but it’s actually worse than we thought. We knew it would be cold in the winter, but that didn’t end up really bothering us that much. It never even snowed much to speak of, to tell the truth (indeed, it was a bit of a letdown). What is distasteful are the rainy gray days, and the summer rains, of which there were altogether too many last summer. Winter’s supposed to be cold and wet, but when that drags out into the summer, it’s depressing.

  • Shop hours: the stores are open less than in Italy – even the supermarkets are only open 9-7 on weekdays, 9-5 on Saturday, and everything closes on Sunday (although there is one supermarket at the train station that stays open really late, and on Sundays, which is a lifesaver sometimes). I wish they’d liberalize this, amongst other things.

  • The mountains. “What?!”, you say, “but they’re beautiful!”? Yes, we do like the mountains (more under “Good”), but sometimes it’s weird to never look out and see an open plain. You feel a bit closed in.


  • The mountains. Yes, they are beautiful, and we very much like them and enjoy going for walks and bike rides. Oregon, where i grew up, certainly has lots of them, but I’ve never lived anywhere where the mountains were right there. The one north of town is more vertical than horizontal, and juts up nearly 2000 meters in about 3 horizontal kilometers.

  • The forests. Being from Oregon, I enjoy being in evergreen forests, and in summer, even downtown the scent of pines and firs wafts in on the breeze.

  • The air. What with the wind and rain, the air is very clean and fresh. In northern Italy, in spring and summer, the air is hot, still, and muggy, as well as rich and full of sweet scents, to the point of being nearly cloying sometimes, with many scents mixing, from sweet flowers, exhaust and smog, food, corn fields and perfume. Here, the wind and mountains keep the air fresh, crisp and clear.

  • Things are efficient. Austria has plenty of bureaucracy – probably as much as Italy in many ways. The difference is that it’s carried out in an efficient and timely manner. I’d prefer someplace with less rules and regulations, but if you’re going to have them, best that they’re carried out quickly.

  • The people are polite, and while not very outgoing, kind in a genuine way that’s pleasant.

  • Innsbruck can be a bit on the quiet side, but I like cities that are roughly this size. It’s not too big – it’s possible to get around by bicycle, or even on foot if you have time, but on the other hand it’s not a small town either. It has a university, hospital, and is still the capital of Tyrol.

I don’t know how long we will end up staying here, as we both feel that it’s not really home, but we’ve certainly enjoyed ourselves during the first year we’ve been here.

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