“Almost an Austrian,” said I, handing my Australian passport across the counter to the immigration officer at Vienna Airport last Friday night before the long flight home.
Huge mistake. He didn’t say a word. Just gave me a death stare and as everyone knows, a death-stare from a person of Germanic stock is impressive. Perhaps the best death-stare on the planet.
What I was trying to suggest was that Austria and Australia sound sort of similar.
The two countries are separated by just one syllable, two letters and of course a mere 13,367 kilometres as the crow flies. But this bloke wasn’t in any mood for frivolity. Anyway he has probably heard it all before.
Forgetting the death stare, many people have mistaken Austria for Australia over the years.
Austrians became tired of American tourists asking inane questions like; “Hey man, where do we find your kangaroos?”
So they produced tee-shirts and other souvenirs clearly pointing out that there are no kangaroos in Austria.
Unfortunately, the poor old Americans still don’t get it.
Just last week CNN reported Australia was building a security fence between it and Slovenia to slow the refugees coming into the country. That’s one helluva fence.
Remember when Julia Gillard was prime minister and the hosts of the G20 Summit in Seoul had prepared a model of her dressed as an Austrian dairy maid? Caused a few diplomatic conniptions at the time.
And who could forget George Bush sincerely thanking John Howard for visiting the Austrian troops in Iraq.
Pounding the cobbled pavements of Vienna we were surprised to see the town crawling with Russian tourists, so I did some checking to see why.
My very first source was an online Russian travel magazine which ran a glowing story about the increase of Russian tourists visiting Austria this year.
I kid you not, the photograph accompanying the Russian story about Austria was of a glistening Sydney Harbour and the Opera House. I just hope the Ruskies never decide to bomb Vienna. We could be in deep trouble back in Oz if they don't fix their old maps before then.
So what do we have in common with Austria, apart from sounding sort of similar?
Austria is landlocked, whilst Australia is an island, but we both love coffee and schnitzels.
Unlike Australia, Austria's list of well-known sportspeople is unremarkable, although they do produce a lot of chess grand masters, downhill skiers, car drivers, figure skaters and yodelers.
Mind you, the Austrian national anthem occasionally gets an airing by mistake when an Aussie wins an event in a strange country.
One big difference between our two countries is attitudes to public nudity. In Austria it is not unusual for people to sunbake naked in public parks, beside rivers, anywhere really, and nobody blinks an eye. Office workers strip off in the park to catch some sun while having lunch. Could you imagine popping into Leighton Gardens, Lake Alexandra or Corbett Gardens for lunch with work colleagues and tossing off all your clothes for an hour while eating your sandwiches in the nuddy?
Which brings us to Dudley’s stunningly beautiful daughter Georgina.
Walking between villages in the Austrian mountains, on a glorious sunny day, a good looking young man turned a corner and was pleasantly surprised to see the lovely Georgina, sunbaking stark naked beside the road. Birds were chirping, not a cloud in the sky and not a worry in the world. Her mountain bike was laying in the gutter and her clothing was draped over a nearby bush.
“Guten morgan,” muttered the young Austrian lad nervously. “Absolutely stunning.”
“Thank you, that’s a sweet thing to say,” said a blushing Georgina.
“In fact, I think you’re quite handsome yourself,” she added, smiling at him with one of those come-and-get-me twinkles in her eye.
“If you like you can have anything you want.”
“Gee, thanks so much,” said the handsome young Austrian. “That is very kind of you.”
So he jumped on her mountain bike and rode off to the next village.