Wiener Schnitzel is without doubt the national meal of Austria. Legend has it that it is derived from medieval dishes that developed from the habit of rich Byzantine merchants to put thin slices of gold on their meat. When Venetian competitors tried to copy this habit, the church banned it as too decadent.
To compensate for the loss of “gold”, breading was used instead. This gave rise to “Piccata Milanese”, a dish similar to Wiener Schnitzel in Milan. During the revolution against Austrian rule in 1848, Field Marshall Radetzky did not only succeed in suppressing the revolutionary forces, but also fell in love with this dish. After his victorious return to Vienna, he introduced his new favourite meal to Austria, where it was slightly transformed into today’s Wiener Schnitzel.
It is so popular even today, that Germans refer to us Austrians as “Schnitzelfresser” (“Schnitzel munchers”). By the way, the term “Wiener Schnitzel” is protected in Austria and a schnitzel declared that way has to be made from veal. If it is pork (much more common), it has to be called “Schnitzel a la Wien” (“Schnitzel nach Wiener Art”) or otherwise indicated that it is not made of veal.