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8 Austrian TV series to watch to improve your (Austrian) German

To celebrate Netflix's release of the trailer for its long-awaited German-language biopic on Empress Elizabeth of Austria, Sisi, we've rounded up some other very watchable Austrian TV series that showcase Austrian dialects.

8 Austrian TV series to watch to improve your (Austrian) German
The educational Austrian TV shows you won't want to switch off. (Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash)

But first, The Empress. This period drama is rumoured to be Austria’s answer to UK hit The Crown.

It tells the story of the impossibly glamorous Austrian-Hungarian empress – better known as Sisi – whose life entranced the public.

It’s due out on September 29, but if you can’t wait that long, try these other Austrian TV series on for size and get a feel for Austria’s different dialects – and its stunning scenery.

We’ve put together a real mixed bag, with some cult golden oldies, as well as some new hits doing the rounds.

Vier Frauen und ein Todesfall (Four Women and a Fatality)
This Austrian crime-comedy series centres on four friends living in an idyllic mountain village. But it’s not quite so idyllic as it seems because people keep on dying. And the four titular heroines – and self-styled hobby detectives – always suspect a crime and are immediately on the scene to solve it with their unorthodox methods.

Look out for the classic line that accompanies every suspicious death: “I glaub’ ned, dass des a Unfoi woar!” (I don’t think that that was an accident). Humour runs through the show – there’s lots of witty dialogue and puns – and it does a great job of showcasing Austria’s beautiful landscapes. 

Watch it on ORF 1.

Ein echter Wiener geht nicht unter (A true Viennese person never gives up)
If you want to get yourself accustomed to heavy Viennese dialect, this comedy is a great cult watch. Set in a working-class estate in Vienna, it revolves around the Sackbauer family, especially the rather shouty head of the household Edmund ‘Mundl’ Sackbauer, and how they deal (or don’t) with the chaos of life at that time (it ran from 1975 – 1979), It became a must-see show, even for its detractors, and its popularity led to two movie spin-offs about the Sackbauer family.

Watch it on Daily Motion

Kommissar Rex
Austria has a serious predilection for Krimis or crime stories, so there are a lot to choose from, but we love this 90s Turner and Hooch-esque spin on the genre. Rex, a ridiculously clever German Shepherd police dog is the star of the crime-comedy, helping his partners and the Vienna murder squad to solve crimes.

The early seasons are all set in Austria, so expect lots of Austrian dialect, but filming moved to Italy in 2008.

Watch it on YouTube

Altes Geld (Old Money)
David Schalko’s 2015 dark satire revolves around a dysfunctional Viennese family with pots of money. Although the eight-episode series is set in Vienna, the lead role of the patriarch, Ralf Rauchensteiner, is played by German heavyweight Udo Kier.

He’s going to die if he doesn’t get a new liver sharpish and as he’s going to leave all his money to whoever finds him one, the race is, quite literally, on. It’s essentially “Dallas for psychos”, according to its creator.

Austrian actor Gert Voss was intended for the part of Rauchensteiner, but he died suddenly. The other leads are all Austrian, though, and, like Voss, are alumni of Vienna’s renowned Burgtheater.

Watch it on Prime

Der Pass (The Pass)
Another day, another Krimi, but here, the police are dealing with a serial killer who styles himself as a demon and is paying back society for all its evils by eliminating people. As you do. This 2019 Austrian-German Sky production was inspired by Danish-Swedish hit The Bridge although it’s a completely new story.  

It’s a dark, gripping watch and it’s a winner from a linguistic perspective, too: it teams up a sensible German police officer with a cynical Austrian one, and is a nice contrast of the differences between the German spoken in the two countries. 

Watch it on Sky

Soko Donau (Vienna Crime Squad)
Guess what, it’s another crime series! Soko stands for Sonderkommission, and the special investigation team in question here is part of Vienna’s water police. The long-running seres is a great immersion course in the dialects and cheeky charm of Vienna.

Watch it on YouTube/Prime

Tatort (Crime Scene)
This long-running wildly popular crime series (yes, another one) started out in West Germany in the 70s. Since then, it’s expanded into a cross-country production between Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with episodes moving around different locations. The Austrian episodes are well worth digging out. Chief inspector Eisner has been solving crimes around the country – Vienna, Innsbruck, Linz, the Tirol, Carinthia and Styria – since 1999 and he’s often joined by his alcohol-dependent sidekick Bibi Fellner.

Watch it on ORF or ARD

Bergdoktor (Mountain Medic)
Moving away from crime, this light-hearted medical drama is filmed in the village of Elmau in the gorgeous Wilder Kaiser region. It centres on the professional and personal trials and tribulations of Dr Martin Gruber who gives up a surgical post in New York to take over a GP practice in the Tyrolean mountains.

The gentle, family-friendly show (think a schmaltzier Doc Martin – the TV soundtrack is Take That’s ‘Patience’, after all) might not win any Oscars any time soon, but it’s a nice easy watch and a great way to explore Austria’s Alpine villages without leaving the sofa – the locations are spectacular.

Plus, despite being set in the mountains, the roles are played by a mix of German and Austrian actors, so whilst it may be less authentic, it’s also less dialect-heavy than some other Austrian TV options. 

Watch it on ZDF

For more Austrian TV inspiration, have a look at this list of TV shows to watch to learn about Austrian culture.

Have we missed any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments!


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Austria returns looted Indigenous remains to New Zealand

The remains of scores of Indigenous Maori and Moriori people began a journey home to New Zealand on Tuesday, officials said, most of them stolen by a notorious 19th-century Austrian graverobber.

Austria returns looted Indigenous remains to New Zealand

The bones of about 64 Maori and Moriori — the Indigenous people of mainland New Zealand and the Chatham Islands, respectively — are being returned by the Natural History Museum Vienna.

They will be received at Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand in Wellington, on Sunday as part of a government-funded programme to bring Indigenous remains back to the Pacific nation.

The remains, including skulls, were housed for decades in Austria’s capital after being plundered from New Zealand’s “iwi” (tribes) more than 130 years ago, officials from the two countries said.

READ ALSO: ‘Love in midst of horror’: Austria hosts The Wedding of Auschwitz exhibition

Records show that most of the bones were collected by Austrian taxidermist and graverobber Andreas Reischek, who toured New Zealand for 12 years until 1889.

Reischek’s diaries recount how he looted graves without permission in several locations including the Chatham Islands, Christchurch and Auckland.

“These ancestors were stolen by those with no regard for the Maori communities they belonged to,” said William “Pou” Temara, chairman of Te Papa’s Repatriation Advisory Panel, in a statement Tuesday.

“In his diary entries, Reischek boasts of eluding Maori surveillance, looting sacred places and breaking ‘tapu’ (sacred rules) — he knew exactly what he was doing.

“His actions were wrong and dishonest.”

77 years of negotiations

The remains began their long journey home on Tuesday at a ceremony attended by New Zealand’s ambassador to Austria.

On Sunday a Maori welcoming ceremony, the Powhiri, will mark the repatriation in Wellington — the biggest so far from Austria.

It will conclude 77 years of negotiations between New Zealand and Austria, which began in 1945 when Maori leaders sought the remains’ return.

The remains will be kept at Te Papa’s “wahi tapu” (sacred space) while the museum consults with Maori and Moriori iwi to determine the final resting place.

Te Papa’s Maori co-leader Arapata Hakiwai said the repatriation was the result of lengthy discussions.

“This historic repatriation helps to reconcile the colonial past and opens a new chapter in relationships between Maori, Moriori, and the New Zealand and Austrian governments,” he said.

READ ALSO: Vienna Nazi art show seeks to address Austria’s WWII legacy

Katrin Vohland, the director of Vienna’s natural history museum, said the process was “driven by the wish for reconciliation”.

“I am happy we can contribute to the healing process,” she said. 

Sunday’s ceremony is the latest return of Indigenous remains since New Zealand created a government-funded repatriation programme in 2003.

In July, the Natural History Museum in London returned the ancestral remains of 111 Moriori and two Maori ancestors to Wellington.

Washington’s Smithsonian Institution returned the remains of 54 Maori people, including four mummified heads, as part of another significant repatriation in 2016.