Aston student blogger reporting from Austria

Christmas is everywhere! Birmingham is not the only place that can be proud of its beautiful Christmas market. Linz, the third-largest city in Austria, can also make you feel like Christmas was just a few days away. Beatrice from England has just had the chance to experience that first hand, enjoying Bauernkrapfen, berry punch and beautiful Christmas lights.

She is currently on her year abroad and has been blogging and vlogging about her experiences as a teaching assistant in Austria:

“Österreich ist frei!” – Celebrating the end of Allied governance

According to persistent legend, the last Soviet soldier left Austria on the 25th of October, 1955, ending the 10-year Allied occupation of Austria following the end of World War II. In reality, the Soviets had left in September, and while the British forces officially handed over the last occupied barracks on the 25th, a number of soldiers actually stayed on for some time. Still, October 26th has since been the country’s “Nationalfeiertag”, commemorating the culmination of Austria’s negotiations for self-governance. These talks had carried on for years until, on May 15th, 1955, the Foreign Ministers of Britain, France, the US and the Soviet Union officially signed the Staatsvertrag treaty. Afterwards, Austrian Foreign Minister Leopold Figl stood on the balcony of Belvedere palace, showed the signed treaty to the assembled masses and proclaimed, “Österreich ist frei!” (Austria is free!).

If you feel like celebrating this momentous day, you might want to seek out one of the Austrian cafés and restaurants run by ex-pats and fans of the “Alpenrepublik”. One such place is Kipferl, a café-restaurant in London, styled after the famous Viennese Kaffeehaus. With its delicious coffee, served properly with a glass of tap water, its selection of authentic savoury dishes and delectable cakes and German-speaking waiting staff, this lovely spot in Camden Passage in Islington really is ‘a little slice of home’ for Austrians abroad.

Right here in Birmingham, you can get your Austrian ‘fix’ at Franzls Restaurant, situated in leafy Bearwood. The menu includes Austrian classics and traditional dishes with a twist, some of which are testament to Austria’s imperial past, such as Cevapcici and Gulaschsuppe.


Know of any other Austrian culinary havens around the country? Leave a comment and we’ll be happy to showcase them!

Austrian German and Bundesdeutsch – the Threat of Standardisation

©dpa (via Süddeutsche Zeitung)

There are many different varieties of the German language. This is important for the German speaking countries outside of Germany where the differences in vocabulary and grammar form part of a distinct national identity. This is particularly true in the case of Austria. The small neighbouring country often sees Germany as an arrogant force with little respect for Austrian sensibilities. And expecting everything to be in standard German without wanting to learn about differences is regarded as a typical “Piefke” (i.e. arrogant German) attitude.

Indeed, many Germans in the northern regions of the country are unaware of Austrian German and, if they they ever cross the border, soon find themselves struggling with the linguisitic differences, particularly in the culinary field. Austrian German knows a wealth of words and expressions connected to food that are completely different from the standard German terms and can easily cause confusion.

But it seems that some of this distinct “Austrianness” is now being lost as the influence of modern media brings about a shift towards a more prevalent use of the previously rejected “Bundesdeutsch” (i.e. the language spoken in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland). It seems that the heavenly “Paradeiser” for instance might soon be replaced with the much more prosaic “Tomate”.

Find out more about this – and about the German entrepreneur who scandalised Austrians by securing the marketing rights to the – for many – quintessentially Austrian greeting “Griaß di!” on our Facebook page and in an article by the Süddeutsche Zeitung. For more information on the often difficult relationship between Germans and Austrians, read one of our previous blog posts.


“Alles Walzer” – 56th Viennese Opera Ball

Guests arrive for the opening of the Vienna Opera Ball at the 'Wiener Staatsoper' in Vienna.

Once a year, the Vienna Opera House is transformed into the most glamorous ballroom in the world: In little over two weeks, on February 16, 2012, the Oper will once again play host to Austria’s high society – mix of politicians, enterpreneurs, society VIPs and their international guests will float from their limos and show off their best party frocks and tails.

The “Wiener Opernball” is the high point of carneval festivities in Vienna and attracts huge media interest, with hours of TV broadcasts before, during and after the ball itself. With tickets at €250 and fees of up to €18,500 for the larger boxes, attending the ball is an expensive pleasure, and yet hundreds of hopefuls are left without tickets each year. The list of celebrities who have visited the Opernball includes Bob Geldof, Sophia Loren, Larry Hagman, Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton and Katie Price.

The Opernball is generally organised according to a set structure: This year, the ball opens with 186 couples dancing the traditional polonaise, usually followed by a performance by the Opera’s corps de ballet. Musical highlights of years past include performances by international opera stars such as Anna Netrebko, Elina Garanca, Ildikó Raimondi and José Carreras. Afterwards, the official “Alles Walzer” opens the dance floor to all guests for a night of dancing, mingling and networking.

Every year, the Opernball also attracts protesters holding up banners and decrying the wasteful excess of the glamorous event; some of these protests ended in violent confrontations with the police, but generally they stay peaceful.

Over the years, a number of alternative balls and parties have been organised alongside or in protest of the Opernball, including the Rosenball by and for Vienna’s GLBT community, and the Opferball (ball of the victims), organised by and for Vienna’s homeless.

The Vienna Opera Ball has also been exported to other cities around the world, such as New York, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Prague.


Europe’s biggest Aids charity event in Vienna

On Saturday, Europe’s largest AIDS charity event, the Life Ball, took place for the 19th time in Vienna’s Rathaus. It is one of the highlights of the city’s social calendar and attracts Austria’s leading politicians and entertainers as well as international stars and a host of fantastically-made up partygoers.

However, all this glamour should not distract from the serious purpose of the event, which is to raise awareness and funds for the fight against HIV/AIDS. Since the inception of the Life Ball, more than $20m have gone to national and international programmes and organisations supporting people living with HIV/AIDS, such as Aidshilfe Österreich, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, UNAids and amfAR.

Organiser Gery Kessler and amfAR ambassador Janet Jackson

The event, hosted by Vienna’s mayor Michael Häupl in Vienna’s city hall, traditionally begins with a music and fashion show infront of the Rathaus – this year’s designers were Canadian twins DSquared2 -, followed by a night of music and dancing inside the landmark building. This year’s Life Ball also included a retrospective of significant events in the 30 years since the new disease was first given a name in 1981. The spectacular event was attended, among others, by former US president Bill Clinton, UNAids director Michel Sidibé, amfAR ambassadors Brooke Shields and Janet Jackson, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, and featured performances by Holly Hohnson, Natalie Kills, Natasha Bedingfield. Cheyenne Jackson, well-known star of Broadway, 30 Rock and Glee, performed this year’s Life Ball song, “Ask the Universe”.

To learn more about the event go to the Life Ball homepage.

For more pictures, go here.

If you want to watch the official opening of the Life Ball, including musical performances and fashion show, go to the ORF catch-up service TVthek.



An entertainment giant leaves the stage: RIP Peter Alexander

Few names are as iconic in German and Austrian TV as that of Peter Alexander. After making a name of himself as a comedic actor in the 1950s and 1960s, he became a hugely successful TV host and entertainer. He also had a successful career as a recording artist. Alexander died at the age of 86, but he will remain an iconic figure to successive generations of Austrian and German audiences.

Peter Alexander was born in Vienna in 1926. During World War II, he served as Luftwaffenhelfer and in the Reichsarbeitsdienst until 1945, when he was captured by British troops and became a prisoner of war. After his release, Alexander studied acting at Vienna’s Max Reinhardt Seminar and soon started a career on the screen. Musical comedies like Liebe, Tanz und 1000 Schlager and, famously, Im Weißen Rössl were among his early successes, and in 1951 he launched a concurrent career as a pop crooner, with multiple hits in Germany and Austria, among them “Das machen nur die Beine von Dolores”, “Die süßesten Früchte“, “Delilah”, “Ich zähle täglich meine Sorgen“, “Der letzte Walzer”, “Hier ist ein Mensch”, and “Komm und bedien dich”, The “Graf Bobby” series elevated Alexander to even greater fame during the 1960s, and in 1972 he launched Die Peter Alexander Show, the television programme that remained his primary vehicle until it ended production in 1995. Following the 2003 death of his wife Hilde, Alexander withdrew from the public arena, completely retiring from performing.

To learn more about Peter Alexander and his entertainment legacy, follow these links:

short clip recapping Alexander’s career:

Der Standard: Nachruf

Süddeutsche Zeitung: Ein Mann des Idylls Nachruf

Die Welt: Gefangen im Klischee des “Weißen Rössl”

Austria celebrates its Nationalfeiertag!

Since 1955, Austria has celebrated its national holiday on the 26th of October.

This holiday commemorates the last Allied soldier leaving a country which – like Germany – had been split into four sectors occupied and ruled by Allied forces.

On May 15, 1955, after 10 years of negotiations with representatives of the US, UK, French and Soviet forces, foreign minister Leopold Figl stepped onto the balcony of Schloss Belvedere in Vienna to proclaim: “Österreich ist frei!” (Austria is free). Minutes earlier, the Staatsvertrag, the State Treaty granting the 2nd Austrian republic full souvereignty, had been signed by all five foreign secretaries.

To hear the address given by Leopold Figl on May 15 at Schloss Belvedere, click on the pic:

To see how the capital Vienna celebrates the country’s national holiday, click here.

26-year-old Muhamed Mesic speaks 56 languages. Impressed yet?

Muhamed Mesic

Muhamed Mesic, who grew up in Tuzla in Bosnia and has lived in Vienna since 2002, learns languages like other people read books. Greek on vacation at age 5, Swedish from UN peacekeepers during the Bosnian War, and Portuguese because of the mellifluous song titles Portugal contributed to the Eurovision Song Contest.

In an interview with the Austrian newspaper “Der Standard”, Muhamed explains why he is fascinated by languages, what motivates him to keep learning new ones, and what he sees as the biggest benefits of being multilingual.


“ Warum lernen Sie so viele Sprachen?

Mesic: Weil es mich glücklich macht. Manche spielen Computer-Spiele, andere gehen Fußball-Spielen, andere ins Theater, ich lerne Sprachen.”

To read the full interview, click here.

To check out Muhamed’s trilingual blog, click here.

New biography: “Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends”

Wiesenthal Bio“Survival is a privilege which entails obligations. I am forever asking myself what I can do for those who have not survived.” Simon Wiesenthal

Israeli journalist and historian Tom Segev has written the latest biography of Simon Wiesenthal, an Austrian Holocaust survivor who after the war became the most famous “Nazi hunter” in history. His meticulous and indefatigable search for war criminals involved in the atrocities of WW2 led to the capture and trial of infamous figures such as Alfred Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution, Franz Stangl, the commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor death camps, and Karl Silberbauer, the Gestapo officer responsible for the arrest of Anne Frank.

Wiesenthal died on September 20, 2005, but his work continues in the activities of the Jewish Documentation Centre in Vienna, which he founded in 1961, and in the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

Watch a short video clip about the book launch in Vienna

Read an interview with biographer Tom Segev in Der Standard (Ö)

Read a review of the book in the NYTimes

Natascha Kampusch describes her ordeal in new book


This week, Natascha Kampusch released her autobiography, “3096 Tage”. The Austrian woman was kidnapped at age 10 and spent the next 8.5 years locked in a cellar before she managed to escape her jailor in 2006. Her story caused an international media storm, and her book is expected to become an instant bestseller. The English translation will be released on September 13.

Click here to watch a short video clip and read an account of her first public reading from the book in Vienna.

Click here to watch a short video clip on

Natascha will be coming to the UK next week to discuss her life story. If you want to catch her live, here are some of the dates in her book tour calendar:

Tuesday, 14 September:

Radio 4: Woman’s Hour (10-10.45am) – Interview with Natascha Kampusch – click here to listen to the interview.

Radio 5: Victoria Derbyshire talks to Natascha about her new book (from 10am)

An excerpt of Natascha Kampusch’s first British TV interview on BBC Breakfast can be found here, and journalist Jon Ronson talks about Austria’s (frankly, somewhat disturbing) reaction to her is here.


To read more about Natascha and her autobiography, go to BBC News or to The Guardian website.