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GERMANY

How to speak Austrian: These are the major differences between Austrian and High German

Austrians and Germans speak the same language - in theory. But there are a number of small differences which you need to master if you want to truly feel at home in Germany's neighbouring Alpine state. 

The Opera Ball in Vienna, Austria
JOE KLAMAR / AFP

There is a famous saying that what separates Austrians and Germans is their common tongue. Or in German: “Was Deutschland und Österreich trennt, ist die gemeinsame Sprache.” 

We’ve summarised the key differences for any German speakers who plan to visit Austria. 

Austrians are more formal

Austrian German is often more polite and indirect than German spoken in Germany. 

For example while in Germany, people say Guten Tag (good day) or simply Hallo, in Austria Grüß Gott (God bless you) is a more standard way to greet someone.

Younger people in Austria and Bavaria may use the greeting Servus, which is common throughout central Europe. It comes from the Latin servus, and means “I am your servant” or “at your service”.

In Austria it is not considered polite to say succinctly to your waiter in a cafe: “Noch einen Kaffee, bitte!“ (Another coffee please!).

One should use  subjunctive forms, modal verbs and questions, asking instead “Entschuldigen Sie, könnte ich bitte noch einen Kaffee haben?“  (Excuse me, could I have another coffee, please?)

Some see this formality as charming, others find it a bit of a waste of time. 

Most common differences

The best known differences in vocabulary between Austrian German and German German are the following. 

  • Tüte (German) vs Sackerl (Austrian)

If you ask for a Tüte (shopping bag)  to take your goods home from the supermarket in Austria, you will be met with a blank stare. In Austria a Tüte is an ice cream cone. What you want is a Sackerl. 

  •  Treppe (German) instead of Stiege (Austrian)

When taking the stairs, Germans use the word Treppe, while Austrians say Stiege.

  • Kissen or Polster

Germans call a cushion a Kissen, Austrians go for a Polster

Food 

In addition, there are lots of different words for food in Austria compared to Germany. When Austria joined the EU in 1995, a list of 23 typical Austrian expressions for food were registered.

These included cauliflower, which is Karfiol in Austria and  Blumenkohl in Germany; apricots, which are Marille in Austria and Aprikose in Germany; and mince which is Faschiertes in Austria and Hackfleisch in Germany. 

Poetically, rather than the humble Kartoffel (potato), Austria has the Erdapfel (earth apple). And the prosaic Tomaten (tomatoes) become romantic Paradeiser in Austria. 

There are so many words for bread in Austria, that would require another article.

Beer

In Austria, you are more likely to be drinking a beer down your local Beisl (a Yiddish word for pub) than in the German Kneipe. If someone offers you a Jause in Austria, they are offering you a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.

When you stagger home on the Straßenbahn (tram) in Vienna, remember to call it a Bim (a word which recalls the sound the tram makes as it winds its way through the city).

What to avoid saying in Austria

You will not be popular if you ask for Sahne (cream) in your coffee in an Austrian cafe, the correct term is Obers or Schlagobers (whipped cream). 

Likewise, when you finish eating in Austria, please do not describe the food as lecker (tasty). Many Austrians do not like this word. The Austrian way is to say Es hat mir gut geschmeckt (it tasted good to me)

Goodbye

If you feel like a change from the German Auf Wiedersehen or Tschüss (goodbye), try the Austrian Bussi Baba, which translates to “kisses, bye”. Maybe not one to try out on your boss. 

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DISCOVER AUSTRIA

The best Austrian wineries to visit this summer

Sampling wine in beautiful surroundings is a great way to spend a summer afternoon in Austria. Here are the best places to add to your wine tasting wish list.

The best Austrian wineries to visit this summer

Austria is on the same latitude as the Burgundy wine region in France, so it’s no surprise that the Alpine country produces some of the best wines in the world.

But simply drinking Austrian wine and actually visiting a winery are two very different experiences, with the latter often transforming newbie wine connoisseurs into life-long oenophiles.

So, for anyone visiting Austria this summer – or for any burgeoning wine geeks out there – here’s a guide to the best wineries to visit to get an authentic taste of Austrian wine.

Where are Austria’s wine regions?

Grapes for winemaking are grown in every federal state in Austria, but the east of the country is best known as Austria’s wine region.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Austria’s wine industry

Lower Austria, Vienna, Burgenland and Styria are the most prominent wine producing areas in Austria, and Vienna is one of the few capital cities in the world that can boast a wine industry within the city limits.

In these regions, the land is less mountainous than in the west of Austria and the climate is slightly warmer, especially in summer and autumn. This is important for growing grapes, although Austria is still considered as a “cold climate” country when it comes to winemaking.

Wine-growing regions in Austria (© ÖWM / ÖWM)

Today, Vienna is considered as one of the world’s classic wine regions, and wine making is so embedded in the city that there is one wine producer for every 2,500 residents.

Austria is mostly known for producing white wine, such as Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Chardonnay, as well as a wide selection of light red wines, such as Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt. 

Additionally, Austrian winemakers produce some famous cuvée, such as Vienna’s Gemischter Satz (a blend of at least three grapes from the same vineyard).

Mayer am Nussberg, Vienna

A favourite with locals in Vienna is Mayer am Nussberg, which is technically a Heuriger (a wine tavern).

Mayer am Nussberg is located in the middle of a vineyard with views overlooking Vienna and is only open on good weather days from Thursday to Sunday (as well as public holidays).

READ ALSO: Five of the best things to do in Vienna this summer

Guests can sample a variety of wines by the glass or the bottle, including the Mayer am Nussberg classic house red and white wines. Snacks and regional delicacies are also available to order alongside the wine.

Visitors can make their way to the winery with the Heurigen Express (which runs from Vienna between April and October), by a hiking trail from the Kahlenberg Station or via tram line D.

Grafen Bergerin, Carinthia

Recommended by Carinthia resident Wyn Owen, Grafen Bergerin is the province’s highest vineyard, located at 880 metres above sea level in Flattach.

Grafen Bergerin is a fairly new vineyard – planted in 2012 – but already boasts 1,600 vines growing Regent, Zweigelt, Merlot and Rösler varieties.

Not only is Grafen Bergerin open to visitors for tastings, but owner Ernestine Berger also organises vineyard hikes from September to October, which ends with a wine tasting at the Weingut (winery).

Austria’s wineyards by the Wachau valley (Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Harald Eisenberger)

Domäne Wachau, Lower Austria

This is one of Austria’s top wineries that was voted number one in Europe and third in the world in the 2020 World’s Best Vineyards rankings.

It is located on the banks of the Danube River where winemaker Heinz Frischengruber works with vintner families from across the Wachau Valley to produce a range of white, red and rose wines.

Visitors to Domäne Wachau can explore the Baroque cellars and sample a selection of the wines every Saturday at 11am from June to October. The price is €15 per person and includes a tasting a four different wines.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Austria this summer

Tastings outside of the scheduled times can be organised by request, and they can also be facilitated in Czech or Slovak.

Additionally, Domäne Wachau runs special activities throughout the summer months, such as yoga and wine, music and street food events.

Hirtzberger, Wachau, Lower Austria

Wine buffs highly recommend Weingut Franz Hirtzberger in the Wachau for sampling Austrian white wines.

The Wachau Valley is an internationally-renowned wine region and UNESCO world heritage site, and the vines at Hirtzberger have been growing at the site since the 13th century. 

READ ALSO: Which Austrian cheeses are protected foods and why?

The winery has also been in the Hirtzberger family for five generations and is still run as a small family business today.

As a result, the website advises visitors to book in advance to make an appointment for a tasting. They are closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Weingut Knoll, Wachau, Lower Austria

Another winery well-known for its white wines (and grand, distinctive labels) is Knoll, which has been in operation since the 1950s.

Riesling and Grüner Veltliner are the most famous Knoll wines to taste during a visit to the Dürnstein-based winery, but the family also produces highly-rated Gelber Muskateller.

The website advises guests to book an appointment for tastings in advance.

austria village BURGENLAND

The village Donnerskirchen in the region of the Neusiedler See in Burgenland (Österreich Werbung, Photographer: Andreas Tischler)

Umathum, Burgenland

For red wines, look no further than Umathum in Frauenkirchen in Neusiedl am See – another prime location for wine touring in Austria that is easy to reach from Vienna.

Umathum has 30 hectares of vines on both sides of Lake Neusiedl with around 85 percent dedicated to the Austrian red varieties of Zweigelt, St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch.

READ ALSO: Discover Austria: Five beautiful hikes and destinations south of Vienna

Umathum has also been consistently ranked as a top wine grower in Austria since the 1990s, which further adds to its appeal.

The wine estate is open to visitors from Monday to Saturday and is closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Stift Klosterneuburg, Lower Austria

The architecturally-stunning Klosterneuburg Abbey in Lower Austria is home to one of Austria’s oldest wineries, boasting a blend of traditional and modern winemaking practices and centuries of history.

Wine tours take visitors through the Baroque cellar complex down to a depth of 36 metres to learn about the background to the estate and how it operates today. There is then an optional wine tasting at the end.

READ ALSO: Tips: How to buy wine in an Austrian supermarket

At the top of the tasting list should be the award-winning Wiener Gemischter Satz and the Pinot Noir, but all Klosterneuburg wines are regularly awarded high points by judges.

Tickets for the wine tour costs €11 and includes admission to the abbey. Wine tasting is an additional cost. 

Klosterneuburg is easy to reach from Vienna by bus, train or car.

Useful vocabulary

Wein – wine

Weingut – winery

Weißwein – white wine

Rotwein – red wine

Heuriger – wine tavern

Vinothek – wine shop

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