take holidays in Austria?
Austria, landlocked in the centre of Europe is efficient, safe, uncrowded (well, by locals,
total population is only 8m), and has stunning towns and magnificent
The rise and fall of the Habsburg (aka Hapsburg) dynasty (1278- 1914) and the Austrian
Empire is a monumental story in Europe's history, gone but not forgotten by tourists
gaping at the mass of gothic, baroque and rococo royal relics or
listening to present day concerts by long-dead Vienna inhabitants
- Mozart, Strauss, Brahms and Beethoven to name but a few.
Museums, especially in gorgeous Vienna, offer a lot more than Habsburg lifestyle samples and cover
many topics in great depth and style.
The climate offers a comfortable warmth in the summer and acceptable
cold in winter, encouraging year-round outdoor activities, particularly
summer hiking and winter skiing.
Transport systems are brilliant and road access to other European
cities is easy, while locals are friendly and many speak English.
The post-modern Hundertwasserhaus residences
- Food is heavy and dedicated to carnivores. Vegetarians may have
a hard time finding suitable body fuel.
- German is more a language of command than conversation.
Best season: May - September for summer activities with less
crowds and less heat than July/Aug, or December - March for a deep white
winter and superb skiing.
Worst: The country is rarely over -heated or hideously overcrowded
but July, August and Christmas are very busy times, while October and November
can be miserable - dark, wet and grey.
Minimum worthwhile stay, not including flights: Vienna and Salzburg
- 4 days
Recommended: At least 2 weeks to take in Vienna, Salzburg and some
***Vienna, a superbly walkable, elegant and
interesting city. See Vienna
Part of the Hofburg Palace, Vienna city centre.
**Salzburg. Mozart's home is a
pretty little town, well, the old bit is, but over-touristed
and without much space to permit tourists to relax and enjoy its
rampant baroquery properly.
The castle towering over Salzburg is sturdily interesting, as is
the cathedral, the Residenz (palace) and the nearby graveyard/catacombs,
but the focus is more on where Wolfie the Wonder Boy grew up or
Sound of Music locations.
It's a very long day trip from Vienna so stay over and visit the
16thC town of Krems, magnificent Melk Abbey and Hellbrunn Palace
on the way.
Also worth a look, 48km from Salzburg, are the ice caves of Eisriesenwelt,
near Werfen. Dramatic, elaborate shapes and frozen waterfalls line
the 42km of explored caverns, tho' not all is open and guides may
be necessary. Fascinating but cold and slippery so not suited to
the very young or old.
Salzburg recreation, with the castle looming above
***Salzkammergut is a vista-overload
resort area of mountains, lakes and charming towns just east of
Salzburg. In the summer it offers walks and water sports, in winter
skiing. Key towns are Bad Ischl (fashionable spa resort), St. Wolfgang
(on Wolfgangsee Lake) and Hallstatt.
***Grossglockner Road. If you have
wheels and it's May-November then this stunning 50km mountain/glacier
route will really honk your horn. Start the tortuous tour from Zell
*** Innsbruck (Tyrol). A lovely, partly
medieval city surrounded by spectacular peaks, it functions perfectly
as a summer resort or winter sports base, though it doesn't have
immediate access to slopes.
Nearby is Seefeld, a prime ski resort that offers more than just
slopes and Mutters, 'the most beautiful village in Tyrol' and romantic
in any weather.
**St Anton am Arlsberg (Tyrol). Near
Switzerland this is another picturesque Tyrolean town with some
of Europe's best skiing at reasonable prices.
Hiking: The Alps in summertime offer
a zillion stunning, well-marked walking routes, open along with
the spring flowers in late May. The Zillertal Alps are particularly
scenic and leg friendly, and Zell am Ziller is a good starting point.
Lifts help the less fit.
Climbing: Plenty of challenging climbs
available, with northern Tyrol being especially popular.
Skiing: With all those mountains
and snow Austria is a great downhill and cross-country ski destination,
tho' not cheap. Tyrol and Vorarlberg are most popular.
Hangliding & paragliding: Due to
the excess of high places and affluence of the country, gliding
is commonplace and kit can be rented easily from ski resorts.
Rafting /canoeing: Land Salzburg
(Salzburg Alps) has superb locations for watersports from quiet
canoeing to wild white water rafting. Speed boats are restricted.
Biking: This country is extremely bike
friendly, with rental machines available from most railway stations
and dedicated tracks everywhere.
The best long route is the Lower Danube Cycle Track, running beside
the river from Vienna to Naarn and passing many gorgeous medieval
towns on the way.
River Cruises: Lengthy and a bit slow
on sights. If your time is limited don't bother with the
Night life: Austria is culturally more
about classical music than techno raves, tho' the natives do know
how to have a good time.
A Strauss memorial in Vienna, music capital of Europe
mid May- June: Vienna Festival - wide range of arts, especially
music, naturally, but also dance and theatre, sometimes challenging
pieces, all set in magnificent buildings.
mid July-Aug: ImPulsTanz - a dynamic and diverse dance festival
across the whole of lovely Vienna.
End July - end August: Salzburg Festival - opera and concerts.
'Europe's most prestigious summer musical event.' Very large, very
expensive. Every year in Mozart's pretty home town.
Dec 31st, Kaiserball - waltzing into Vienna's glamorous ball season
is this, the ultimate in smart dances, set in the magnificent Hofburg
Palace. No expense spared.
some precise dates, more suggestions and information see
or Arts Festivals
German is the native language but most Austrians under 50 speak
The currency is the Euro and prices are fairly high. ATMs are plentiful
and most Traveller's Cheques accepted.
Electric sockets are 230v and take 2 round pin plugs.
Crime is rare and more likely to be opportunistic theft by transient
East Europeans rather than locals.
This is not good weight-loss country. National dishes tend to be
heavy, saucy and meat oriented - hardly surprising for a place with
no coastline - while local cheeses, pastries, beers and wines are
excellent and too tempting by half.
Street snacks tend to be of the sausage, pickles and chunky bread
About the only thing that will not pile on the pounds is the superb
European citizens and nationals of USA, Australia and New Zealand do not
need visas for visits up to 90 days.
Not likely, muddy green at best. There is an explanation for the
Napoleon had never lost a battle when he came across the white coated
Austrian army at Aspern, around the Danube, in 1809. The French,
in blue coats, lost, and their bodies were thrown into the Danube.
Due to poor dye quality the colour ran into the water, turning it
temporarily blue. Strauss remembered the great victory in 1867 by
calling his latest waltz, 'The Blue Danube.'
The green Danube passing sluggishly through Vienna
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