alexander grill header


Alexander Grill

researcher at imec, Leuven, Belgium

Alexander Grill
“In the big picture, cultures aren’t entirely distinct; it’s the subtle nuances that make them unique, and that’s what you witness in Austria.”
vienna - hundertwasser house
Vienna - Hundertwasser House

An allure of secret wonders

Alexander Grill was born and raised in Burgenland, a relatively flat region in the east of Austria. The area is full of firm lands and wineries. Both his parents were teachers working in different schools around his home village. He went to a technical high school for electrical engineering. After that, he moved to Vienna to get his master’s degree in Nanoelectronics and PhD in the same field at Technische Universität Wien. In 2018, Alexander joined imec in Leuven, Belgium, as a postdoc employee.

Roots and tastes

Alexander’s childhood was a time before mobile phones. He fondly recalls his teenage years in Austria, where he and his friends would spend weekends biking aimlessly for hours, ending up in random places to rest, eat, and have a good time, only to bike back home again. This was their typical 9 to 5 weekend routine.

He values the fact that his parents didn’t always know where he was, but they trusted him enough to give him that freedom. Looking back, he realizes that this blend of freedom and responsibility played a crucial role in shaping his life in the years that followed.

Along with nostalgic memories, Alexander pines for authentic Austrian food, especially sweets. Living in Vienna for years afforded him the opportunity to experience Bohemian-style desserts that have carried traditions of taste for the last hundred and fifty years. Sweets like Marillenknödel, essentially apricot dumplings fried with sugary breadcrumbs, and Buchty, sweet bread rolls traditionally filled with fruit spread, are common in Vienna. However, snacks like Škubánky and Kolache may not be as readily available. Škubánky are made from potato dough (like Gnocchi) and tossed in butter, sugar, and poppy seeds, whereas Kolache is a pastry filled with fruit or fresh cheese. Alexander shared that local bakeries or cafes that specialize in Central European or Eastern Kolache - An Austrian Bohemian dessert European cuisine are usually the spot to find such delectable delicacies.

kolache - an austrian bohemian dessert
Kolache - An Austrian Bohemian dessert
marillenknodel - a traditional austrian dessert
Marillenknödel - A traditional Austrian dessert

World of the morbid charm

Vienna is a city close to Alexander’s heart. He’s drawn to the city for its culture and heritage and what lies beneath its streets. Hidden below are crypts, archaeological sites, and old basements, each with a story. These basements once served various purposes, from storage to secret gatherings. Today, some have become museums, offering a glimpse into the past. There are tales of hidden tunnels and passages, shrouded in mystery. While some remain off-limits to the public, they add intrigue to Vienna’s underground appeal. For Alexander, exploring this hidden world unveils a different side of Vienna’s rich history and culture. Vienna is scattered with sites and places celebrating the peculiar and unusual. For instance the city contains museums depicting the themes of funeral, chimney sweep, and crime! In this vibrant city, there is never a shortage of intriguing and offbeat experiences to enjoy.

Must see

The Gloriette is a magnificent structure located in the Schönbrunn Palace Gardens in Vienna. This is the perfect viewpoint to enjoy the panoramic views of Vienna, including the city’s skyline.

vienna - habsburg imperial crypt - alternatief
Vienna - Habsburg Imperial Crypt
vienna - gloriette pavilion
Vienna - Gloriette Pavilion
traditional brass band
Traditional brass band

Culture, nature, and curiosity

Austria’s hidden gems come alive during local festivals and traditions. Local traditions vary, from Easter bonfires to traditional clothing called Trachten, adding vibrancy to Austria’s heritage. Austria’s cultural richness is evident in its different dialects, which can even pinpoint someone’s region, from the wealthy west to the distinctive east. Austria promises a multifaceted experience, leaving travelers enchanted by its landscapes and cultural diversity.

The stunning alpine lakes like Traunsee, Attersee, and Millstätter See are surrounded by rugged mountains. The Burgenland wine region offers unique sweet and sour grape varieties that are a true delight as well as the Neusiedler See and its surrounding villages, a true bird paradise and world heritage region. One can explore an ancient alpine glacier at Dachstein, to witness the grandeur of ice formations that have endured for centuries or roam around at the magnificent Nockberge region by foot, bike, or ski. Delving deep into the Austrian countryside may lead to finding lesser-known castles and palaces, each with its own captivating history. These architectural wonders may not be as grand as their famous counterparts, but their stories are just as compelling.

attersee - aerial view
Attersee - Aerial view (picture by Alexander)

Alexander especially recommends Vienna’s Central Cemetery, a city within a city that reveals secrets of the past, where famous figures rest in peace, and art adorns the tombs. Meanwhile, a ‘Dritte Mann’ tour is a journey inspired by the same-titled iconic 1949 movie, offering a unique perspective on Vienna’s underground.

Whether drawn by nature, culture, or mysteries, Austria adds a unique and unforgettable chapter to any travel adventure.