It’s impossible to tell if cheesemaker Sepp Hechenberger is angelic or angry when entering his timber cabin and dairy farm, about a mile up the Wilder Kaiser mountain in the Austrian alps. He’s throwing 50-pound wheels of his award-winning “Bergkäse” (mountain cheese, which runs nearly 600 euros a pop back in town) across his cellar while demanding — or maybe yelling? — that you drink more schnapps, eat up, and like it, damnit.
Not a hardcore Sound of Music fan? Come to Austria anyway; there’s arguably no better blend of meat, cheese, and outdoor adventure being served in Europe. Where else can you hike through the Alps on a literal “cheese road”? Where else can you devour countless Wiener würstchens and Wiener schnitzels? Wieners of all kinds, really — except people born in Vienna, who are also called Wieners. Confusing, I know.
Skiers can schuss down the world-class slopes in Streif or Innsbruck; gearheads can drive the 36-curve road up Austria’s highest peak; weirdos can learn how to yodel and paraglide in Schmittenhöhe. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the world-famous Salzburg Festival, a Very Big Deal for culture hounds. Over in Vienna, they’re rockin’ out Bill and Ted-style for the 250th birthday of Beethoven, with nightly concerts all year long. Or why not kick off the decade in Stanglwirt, at the annual raucous event known as the Weißwurstfest, where you’ll eat obscene amounts of sausage and party with Arnold Schwarzenegger and skiers named Günther and Klaus. — Tom Burson
Portland’s been one of those “hidden treasure” dream towns since before “hidden treasure” was a cliché, drawing people in with its maritime vibes, red brick facades, cobblestone alleys, cable-knit sweaters, funky accents, and incredibly warm locals. And while those things are all present, a closer look at Maine’s biggest city (67,000 strong!) reveals a city in transition.
Portland is trendy. Weed is legal, the food scene is nationally beloved, and it’s single-handedly diversifying an older-skewing state known for a relative lack of diversity. Millennials and Gen Xers make up the largest share of the population, which has seen the number of foreign-born residents doubled to 11% since 2000. Today, you’ll hear dozens of languages commingling with lobstermens’ gruff drawl, while some of the world’s best seafood restaurants coexist alongside international cuisine representing Thai, Chinese, Somalian, Sudanese, and even El Salvadorian influences.
Old Portland and new are currently on an even keel. At some point, the scales could tip. A brand-new real estate project, 58 Fore, is set for construction along the waterfront. The Quincy Market-esque setup will include shops, hotels, an outdoor plaza, and office buildings. Historic buildings will be preserved and repurposed, but locals and visitors can expect that word on Portland won’t stay mum for long. Get there now to experience it in transition. — Meagan Drillinger
If you’ve ever wistfully thought of living the expat Italian lifestyle — where you maintain a year-round glow, take daily aperitivo along the sea, and watch the world go by behind oversized sunglasses from a café in a baroque piazza — you’ve dreamed of Sicily.
At the tip of the boot, this island exudes the Old World bliss of the dolce far niente. Sicily is Italy on steroids, a land of contrasts and hyperbole where some things never change (gentlemen in coppola hats; two-hour lunches; the raw sensuality of every Antonio and Giovanna), even in a landscape that changes dramatically within any 30-mile drive, from rocky cliffs to wide sandy beaches to green rolling hills.
Time moves more slowly here, yet a whole new generation of industrious siciliani have managed to harness some forward momentum. They’re opening world-class cocktail bars, taking the reins of family wineries, accumulating Michelin stars, and creating art-forward boutique hotels that prove Milan doesn’t have the lock on style. — Jennifer V. Cole