Austrian desserts vie for world heritage status

Austria wants its famed cake and pastry culture to be included on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Austrian desserts vie for world heritage status
Could Tyrol's 'white Sachertorte' be ranked alongside its better known rival from the east? Photo: APA/Robert Jaeger

"Pastries are as synonymous with Austria as the mountains and the Viennese Waltz," Alfred Fiedler, chairman of the Friends of Austrian Pastry Culture, said at a press conference in Linz.

Famous desserts such as Sachertorte and Kaiserschmarrn (a shredded pancake dish) are already recognised, but this is not enough, and fails to represent the breadth of Austria’s sweet treats, Fiedler added.

The plan is to create a nationwide registry of Austrian desserts which will only include dishes which have a long tradition – so no brownies or American doughnuts.

“That would be like putting a burger alongside a Wiener Schnitzel,” Upper Austrian restaurateur Robert Seeber said.

A recent survey from the IMAS institute showed that 86 percent of Austrians listed Sachertorte as their favourite dessert, closely followed by Kaiserschmarrn. Fiedler wants to bring lesser known desserts back into the public's hearts. 

The Friends of Austrian Pastry Culture includes industry representatives from catering, bakery and confectionery, as well as representatives from federal and state governments.

"Honorary Ambassadors" include Economics Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner, President of the Austrian Economic Chamber Christoph Leitl and Upper Austrian Governor Josef Pühringer who said: "I realise every morning when I weigh myself that I must be a friend of pastry culture."

UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage focusses on living traditions such as dance, music, theatre and craftsmanship.

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Grüß Gott vs. Guten Tag: What’s the difference in Austria?

In Austria there are several different ways to greet someone. But a debate has erupted over the use of “Grüß Gott” instead of "Guten Tag". Here's what you need to know.

Grüß Gott vs. Guten Tag: What's the difference in Austria?

What’s happening?

A greeting from a politician in Vienna has sparked a fierce debate in the Austrian parliament.

On Wednesday, the Lower Austrian ÖVP regional manager Bernhard Ebner took his turn as a respondent during the parliamentary inquiry committee investigating alleged corruption allegations against his centre-right party. 

Ebner had begun his appearance with a “Grüß Gott”, to which SPÖ parliamentary group leader Kai Jan Krainer is said to have “briskly replicated”: “In Vienna, it’s not Grüß Gott, but Guten Tag.” The ÖVP was quick to comment that “Whoever says ‘Grüß Gott’ is now verbally attacked by the SPÖ.” 

READ MORE: All churned up: Austrian oat milk ad draws farmers’ ire

What’s the difference between these greetings?

‘Grüß Got’ is widespread in the Catholic German-speaking area: in Austria, in the German states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, and in South Tyrol. Strictly speaking, it means: “God greets you”. It is similar to “Pfiat di Gott”, which comes from “Behüt dich Gott” or the Swiss “Grüezi”. Initially, these phrases meant a blessing.

The spiritual background leads to the fact that “Grüß Gott” is still used today primarily by religiously influenced, more conservative people. On the other hand, more secular, left-oriented people tend to use different formulations such as “Begrüße Sie” (Greetings) or  “Guten Tag” (Good day).

However, the way of greeting currently gives less clear information about worldview and political affiliation. “Grüß Gott” often has as little to do with religion as “Gott sei Dank” (thank God). 

READ ALSO: ‘Bad-tempered locals’: Vienna ranked the world’s ‘unfriendliest city’

Additionally, less formal forms of address, such as the more friendly “Hallo” or its English counterpart “Hi”, are steadily finding their way into everyday speech. Amicable greeting idioms such as “Griaß di/eich” or “Servus” also remain popular. 

So what does this have to do with Austrian politics?

The “Grüß Gott”-“Guten Tag” debate is about more than a greeting. It’s a reflection of the current strained relationship between two of the main political parties in Austria, according to Der Standard.

It also reflects the difference in attitudes (and politics) between the cities and more rural areas in Austria. Plus, how a simple greeting can be viewed as a symbol of ideology.