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how austrians handle americans
By Dennis Batchelder 9 January 1999

I don't know what the big deal about Austria is - as far as I can tell, it's just a big, dark country. Just some town and city lights zipping by at incredible speeds.

Well, there was some light. We pulled off at Stift Melk, a 1,000 year old Benedictine Monastary. The parking lot was empty, but the building, right along the Danube window, was all lit up. So we parked, and made our way to the building.

We didn't know it was a monastary. We thought it was some castle. The huge doors leading to the courtyard were closed, so I peeked through the crack in between them.

You know how some really large doors have these small, inner doors built into them? As I leaned up against the big door, I tested the small door, and it opened.

So what did I do? Well, I am an American, right? Of course I stepped in. Dan followed. We looked around, and saw nobody. So we started snooping around.

All of a sudden this lady appears, and asks us what we're doing. Looking around, I say. What is the place, anyway? She says it's closed. Oh, I say. What is this place, anyway? She says come back tomorrow. Oh, I say. What is this place, anyway? She rolls her eyes, and explains that it's a monastary, but now it's closed. Oh. What is a lady doing at a monastary, anyway? Do you work in Public Relations? No, Information.

Ah. May we have some information in English, please? And that is how we learned all about Stift Melk - how helpful the Austrians are!

The waitress tonight was also helpful. Since we're only here for the night, we asked her what she would eat if she could have only one more meal in Vienna. So what did she choose? Wiener Schnitzel! I asked her if there was something more "traditional", as you could get that anywhere. Oh, she said, but not like in Vienna. They use more than eggs, they also use.... Dan fell for it. I never did hear what else they use. He ordered the Wiener Schnitzel, but it tasted the same as the Wiener Schnitzel I ate in German, and the Wiener Schnitzel I've eaten in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, I persisted, and finally she told me to get this beef goulash, served with a half-cooked egg and a pickle. Not bad. And the ApfelStrudel for dessert was just incredible.

Tomorrow morning we get up really early, and head out to spend the day in Bratislava, Slovakia. Then on Sunday, head south to Budapest. Monday is the High Tatras on the border of Slovakia and Poland, and Tuesday in Prague, Czech Republic. We'll write again when we get a connection...


how austrians handle americans - austria