is a country of startling contrasts, from the Alps in the west to the Danube Basin
in the east. One of the world's premier skiing regions, it is also noted for
its historical buildings, world-class museums and galleries, and breathtaking
The country's glorious architectural riches include reminders of the once-powerful Hapsburgs, who dominated central Europe for seven centuries. The capital, Vienna, is magnificent with its ornate Opera House and the imperial Hofburg. Austria's other cities are similarly infused with historical magic, notably Mozart's birthplace, Salzburg, with stunning baroque churches set before a backdrop of snow-covered peaks, and Innsbruck, in the centre of Austria's Alps.
Austria has produced and inspired a catalogue of cultural figures. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Austria - and, in particular, Vienna - became a focal point of the cultural renaissance. Remnants of Mozart's legacy are everywhere. However, Austria has also yielded people such as artists Klimt and Schiele, composers Mahler and Schubert, psychologists Freud and Rank, and philosophers such as Husserl and Wittgenstein.
Austria is a hothouse of striking contemporary architecture and is at the forefront of engineering, invention and design. It enjoys an enduring reputation for music, literature and the arts; visitors are just as likely to find Alpine New Wave punk-rock as they are yodelling. Gourmet culture is evident in the cafes where coffee-drinking has been raised to a high art. Nightlife is versatile, offering laid-back taverns, beer gardens and excellent après-ski, trendy clubs and dance venues.
With thanks to World Travel Guide
Österreich is the German word for Austria. It can be translated as "the eastern empire" or "the empire to the east" (Öst = east, reich = empire).
Austria has a culture steeped in tradition. Every Austrian over the age of 17 can dance the waltz (among other ballroom styles), and most Exchange students in austria learn to do the same at some stage.
Austrian culture varies from region to region, and from cities to rural areas, but the overwhleming impression one gets is of incredible politeness, almost imperial manners, and never-wavering charm.
Remember, not so long ago Austria once controlled the better part of Europe as the Austo-Hungarian Empire. Austria 1871 - 1914 - (in yellow) They know this, and they are very proud of it, especially the older generations.
I want to say...I never
thought I could have experienced and seen so much in my life! I have been
skiing in the Austrian alps, travelled
around 13 European countries in 3 weeks, hiked the Austrian alps, experienced
what some people spend their entire lives attempting to do and all in
10mths...and I still have 2 more to go!!!!
imagine...waking up every day to a new and exciting adventure, experiencing something only you will later be able to attempt to describe, making not only friends but solid friendships with kids your own age from around the world, learning another culture, language and way of life, becoming apart of a new family network, stepping out of your comfort zone and doing things you never dreamed of doing! Stop imagining and apply for Rotary Youth Exchange!
Imagine...traveling 3 weeks on a bus with 95 of your newest best friends and waking up in a new European country everyday and seeing the sites up front! All you probably can do is imagine, but I can say I've done it! Anyone can backpack around Europe but with Rotary opportunities are handed to you on a silver platter!
An exchange student friend of mine from Gympie, Queensland, on exchange in Austria has a rather unusual club councillor. Her club councillor was born as European roaylty. The former Princess, however, decided to give up her title because she wanted to live in Austria. As a result she is (merely) a Duchess in northern Austria. So my good friend Phoebe was lucky enough to be able to stay for three months in a palace getting to know her host mum and club councillor
Moreover, in August (the middle of summer), while she was living with her host family, Phoebe turned 18 and was allowed to have a birthday party in the palace, to which I was invited. About fifteen of us turned up, enjoyed the pool, extensive gardens and did the tour of the castle for free, and then later on slept in the same house as Franz Ferdinand used to live. No, not the Aussie rock artist Franz Ferdinand but rather the one whose assassination sparked World War one. The next day we had a long lunch with the former princess, and were free to quiz her about anything we pleased. To actually meet European royalty and find out that they (or this one, at least) was actually a really nice, down-to-earth, lovely person was an experience that I think you could only have on exchange. Not to mention staying in a palace for the night.
What I learned was that the memories we take back will be all about the people we meet. Schoolmates, host family, other Exchange students (and not only Rotary Exchange students), sport friends, and any other people that you randomly meet. It really doesn’t take long to build a meaningful friendship if you click with the other person.
I have been on exchange for three and a half months so far, and out of all the things I have done in Austria the standout so far is ANZAC day.
Currently on Rotary exchange in Austria are eighteen Australians and one New Zealander, and as I suppose a lot of groups of exchange students do, we have become amazingly close to each other in a very short period of time. The youth exchange program in Austria offers a few chances for us all to get together, such as a language camp for two weeks and a ski camp for one week. It was at one of these camps that someone brought up the question: what were we going to do for ANZAC day?
The first thing we had to do was explain what ANZAC day was to the non-Australians/New Zealanders in the room. It seemed very strange to be explaining something as normal to us as ANZAC day, but when we thought about it, it made perfect sense. After some discussion about what each of us usually do at home on this special day, it was decided that the best thing to do was to make contact with the Australian embassy here in Vienna and see what they were doing. James Holden offered to be the one to contact the embassy, and soon afterwards contacted us all and told us that the embassy was already holding a service in the Karlskirche, and that we were invited to join in. Needless to say, we said yes.
For those who are not so familiar with Vienna, the Karlskirche is, second to the Stephansdom, the most famous church in the city. Despite being not as famous, the Karlskirche is believed by many (myself
included) to be a more beautiful church than the Stephansdom. It is situated very close to the centre of the city, and only about 200 metres from the Australian embassy. So on the 25th of April seventeen Australians and one New Zealander made their way to Vienna from all over the country, and dressed in our Rotary best (including that fabled Rotary smile, which on the 25th of April came without much
effort) fronted up to the church for the 11am service. To be in the presence of so many other Australians and New Zealanders in the heart of Vienna on this special day was truly exciting, but as soon as the service started the mood of the room became more somber. Every year on ANZAC day I feel proud to be an Australian, but there was something special about this ceremony. For a start it was the first time I (and most of the other exchange students as well) had ever experienced a ceremony that included both Australians and New Zealanders, which created a slightly different meaning of the day, putting more emphasis on the camaraderie between those on either side of the Tasman. In the service we were all treated to addresses from the Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors, Peter Shannon and Jennifer Macmillan respectively, an address from Father George Elsbett and some background on the church itself from Mag Stefan Lakonig.
However the real highlights of the service were the wreath laying, the ode and the last post. It is very hard to explain, but when two of the exchange students laid their flowers on behalf of the Rotary Youth Exchange group, my chest was puffed up with pride, and I am sure I wasn´t the only one. While our flowers may have been dwarfed in size by the wreaths laid by the embassies, there was no corresponding lack of feeling, of that I am certain.
Then to hear the ode and the last post in the beautiful Karlskirche immediately afterwards was an experience that can only be described as mind-numbing. It was something about being so far from home, in what was the heart of enemy territory when the ANZAC legend was formed, and still being able to come together as a group to celebrate this day like no other. In the minutes´ silence afterwards, all of the minds in the church were fixed solidly on the ANZACS; their bravery and their many sacrifices. Those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who returned with terrible injuries, and those who will always be haunted by what they had seen and done in times of war had all done so out of love for that great brown land down under, which we call home. Their actions not only gave us a free country to live in and a life comparatively devoid of hardship, but also went a long way towards forming the identity of the two partaking countries, in the eyes of the rest of the world and those at home.
In some way I had known all of this before, but it struck a deeper chord this year. Exchange has made me more proud of my country, mainly by helping me to realise and appreciate the many things that I had always taken for granted in Australia.
Needless to say, during the singing of the national anthems as the service drew to a close, we all sang loudly and proudly, never prouder to Australians and New Zealanders, never prouder to be part of the ANZAC tradition, and never prouder to have been a part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program that can bring about such things.
Since the ceremony the group of Australians and the New Zealander have become even closer. Perhaps we have realised that despite our small differences, we all have some very important things in common, that anyone outside our little corner of the world can never fully understand.
Written by Ian, on behalf of the Australians and New Zealanders on Rotary Youth Exchange in Austria - 2008.