Austria off the beaten Path: Linz
Austria off the Beaten Path
Or why Linz is more than a train station
Why Linz is worth a visit - Austria off the beaten Path
When Tourists or Travellers (I'm not going to get into that discussion now) come to visit Austria, they usually visit Vienna and/ or Salzburg. They often take a bus or a train going from one to the other. So when I tell people, I'm from Austria and that it's right between the two cities, the response I often get is: "Oooh, I think I went through there once!" Yes, you probably did. And I'm not blaming you. Both Vienna and Salzburg are beautiful places. But I'm here to tell you that there is so much more to Linz than a niceish train station. So next time, if you do have an extra day or two you might just spend them in this beautiful town that I call home.
Linz is not to be confused with Lienz (which is about 350km south of Linz) or Lindt (sadly, no chocolates were invented in Linz). It is the third-largest city in Austria, the main city of Upper Austria and straddling the Danube River midway between Salzburg and Vienna. If you're still wondering about whether or not to go to Linz, here's a list of things you can do here:
Pöstlingberg & Grottenbahn
The Pöstlingberg is a little hill on the border of the city that allows for amazing views of Linz. One of the steepest trains in the world (the "Pöstlingbergbahn") goes up there right from the city center and one of the best restaurants in the city is located on the Pöstlingberg as well. Also, there's a saying in Upper Austria that says you're not from here if you never rode the Grottenbahn. While it's definitely more of an activity for children, it can be a pretty magical experience for adults as well. You'll be riding around on a dragon, exploring the world of the dwarfs who supposedly live inside the mountains and on your way out there's a miniature version of the main plaza of the city as well as an exhibition of the classic children's tales such as Snow White and Cinderella.
Ars Electronica Center
The Ars Electronica Center is to date one of the most amazing and fascinating museums I have ever visited. Their website says that "The Ars Electronica Center is the architectural expression of what Ars Electronica is all about: a place of inquiry and discovery, experimentation and exploration, a place that has taken the world of tomorrow as its stage, and that assembles and presents influences from many different ways of thinking and of seeing things."
Now, what does this mean for you as a visitor? In the museum, there are always various exhibitions, with "New views of Humankind" being the permanent exhibition. There it is examined how human beings and the world changes, how we influence each other and our environment and what the future might hold for us. All exhibitions in one form or another explore humankind, our life today or future prospects. It's a fascinating place that lets you explore your body, your life, your habits and your possibilities and I highly recommend getting a tour guide to explain the not-always-obvious details of the different exhibitions to you!
While the "Sacher Torte" is definitely the most famous austrian cake, the "Linzer Torte" is considered the oldest known cake in the world with the oldest recipe being from 1653, and that's quite something, too, isn't it? There are different legends of how the cake got it's name - one of which is that it was actually a viennese baker that was called "Linzer". Nobody really knows though and today the city is famous for its delicious cake.
Concentration Camp Mauthausen
The concentration camp Mauthausen is located around 20 km from Linzand was one of the toughest and biggest concentration camps in the German-controlled part of Europe with almost 100 subcamps spread out over Austria and southern Germany. It was nicknamed the "Knochenmühle" - "Bone-Mill" and intended for "incorrigible political enemies of the Reich". The main part of the Camp in Mauthausen is now a museum and while it is always a heartbreaking experience, I think it's incredibly important to visit such historic places. Austria is closely connected to the history of the second world war and facing our past and learning from our mistakes is incredibly important - not just for us as Austrians but for everyone.
Neuer Dom - The new Cathedral
The new cathedral in Linz is actually not overly new - it got finished in 1924 (I guess for a church, that's maybe new-ish?) and is the largest church in Austria. The original plans had it also be the highest, however, the high spire wasn't approved because, at the time of planning, no building in Austria-Hungary could be taller than the St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna - which means that now the New Cathedral in Linz is two meters shorter than St Stephens Cathedral. However, it is also a beautiful cathedral. I particularly love the glass windows that depict the history of the city. And, I promise there'll be barely any tourists there ;)
Gmunden & Traunsee / Traunstein or Sonnstein
Are you craving some lying by the water and taking a refreshing dip? Or want to explore an even smaller, more traditional local town? Or you want to get active and hike a mountain that rewards you with the most amazing views? Either way, Gmunden is the way to go. It's a little town, about half an hour from Linz, with pastel-colored houses, by a beautiful lake and in the middle of the mountains. If you're looking to hike one of the mountains, the Traunstein is for more advanced hikers, while the Sonnenstein, for example, is a more relaxed hike. Both will reward your efforts with beautiful views of the surrounding lakes. Plus, the people you'll encounter on the streets there will be mostly local ;)
Learn Skiing or Snowboarding for cheap
Coming to Linz in the Winter? Why not take the chance to learn the classic Austrian sport? And when I say classic, I really mean classic - my dad to this day likes to tell people I knew how to ski before I knew how to walk. However, learning to Ski can be VERY expensive. Big, famous skiing areas have hefty prices for lift tickets, loads of people and expensive rental gear. While all skiing areas have some beginners slopes, it's just not worth it to go to big and famous skiing areas for your first few hours. Going to Linz over the winter, the perfect solution for this problem is right around the corner: Kirchschlag is a small, local skiing area that has cheap day tickets that are like a fifth of the price of some bigger skiing areas, they offer cheap rental gear, personal & relatively cheap classes and particularly for beginners, the slopes are just as exciting as they would be in a big skiing area.
Make Linz your next stop
I hope this little list of things to do in and around you inspired you to not skip Linz if you're planning on visiting Austria :D It's overall a rather un-touristy place - underserved in my opinion, but all the better for you if you're looking to explore Austria off the beaten path and visit more than Vienna and Salzburg ;)
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