Postcard perfect Austria is awesome

Gugu Sibiya

Gugu Sibiya

Besides the medieval wars, the Hohenzollern aristocracy and the snow-capped mountains that are a brrr . my knowledge of Austria has always been limited to the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra.

When we drove into Austria, I was not prepared to be greeted by a Spar supermarket.

So you can imagine the excitement I felt! It really reminded me of home and, for some reason, I knew I was going to like this country.

We kick-started the tour by visiting a Roman Catholic church that dated back to the middle ages. It was not only well preserved, I was surprised by its opulence.

The stained glass, which forms part of the backdrop, is where the Virgin Mary has timelessly and regally stood, holding baby Jesus.

The masons from that era made sure they draped her with genuine gold which, by its looks, has stood the test of time.

The whole church reminded me of how the clergy were held in high esteem in that bygone era.

The many hymn books and candles that are lit by tourists and locals as they implore God to intervene in many perceived and real life crises tell you that Mass is still held there.

Outside the church are the graves of the town's many dead parishioners. The only testament that they ever graced this land are the numerous tombstones surrounding the church.

I was still mulling over the manner in which people go to great lengths to preserve their heritage when I was further impressed by the ancient town of Salzburg.

Still looking like it was in the middle ages, it takes you back to the ingenious methods the Austrians employed to survive.

The old town still consists of the shops that formed part of the market. The interesting thing about this is that instead of writing the names of the shops, dealers used symbols to indicate what they were trading in.

As a result, a butcher's shop still has a sign of a cow, a fishmonger's has a drawing of a fish while a dairy depicts butter and cheese. The village still has cobbled courtyards.

There is only one entrance to the village and the market. The castle-like village is surrounded by a moat and drawbridge, which made it impossible for intruders to get in, especially the bloodthirsty Vikings.

The rear part of the town is carved from the rock, making it thoroughly impenetrable.

What really excited me is that within this very small village is Mozart's home. Who would have thought that this world-renowned classical musician was born in this small, sleepy village?

I have always thought he was German but clearly the sleepy village has embraced its most famous son.

There is a huge statue in his honour, a stone's throw from a restaurant he used to frequent. Mozart's home is so humble you cannot help but feel inspired by his determination to succeed.

To this day, orchestra lovers revere his name.

As I left the village, I was drawn to a stunning fare of beautiful, coloured flowers that formed a pattern that was so pleasing to the eye.

It's the kind of huge garden that pleases the soul.

My last stop in this beautiful, historical area was at notorious Adolf Hitler's hide-out.

Nestled at the top of a mountain, the hideaway was chosen carefully for its difficult and almost impenetrable nature.

When you get to the top, the view is breathtaking, but then you close your eyes and immediately see the German leader's moustache alongside the pretty and curvaceous Eva Braun.

Braun was apparently the only woman privileged enough to know his tender and romantic side.

I might not have graced any opera house but the music was all over the place.

It was refreshing to watch the snow-capped mountains and know that I would not have to break my ankles trying to ski.

Equally fascinating was the Austrian women's traditional costume which comprised a doek and a pinafore.

Would I go back? Of course I would! I believe there are so many hidden treasures still to be discovered.

Also, the fact that I spoke English and was still understood makes a return to the country a must.