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Trip Report Austria - a week in small towns and villages

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Fodors Forums is my favourite travel site and I get so much great info from others, I hope some of this info will be useful to someone else out there. I just wish I could write in a great entertaining style like some others!

My husband and I have just had a great week in Austria, flying from London to Bratislava airport, in Slovakia, with SkyEurope. We had free flights, otherwise we might have flown straight into Austria but Bratislava is only an hour's drive from Vienna. You can catch a bus from outside the airport terminal to Vienna but we hired a car for the trip.

If anyone is returning a car to Bratislava, the signage is very minimal and a bit vague. Also there is no one anywhere near the rental cars to help. We just parked the car and walked back to the terminal to drop off the keys.

If anyone is going to Bratislava airport and is into shopping, there is a new big shopping mall about 5 mins drive away http://www.avion.sk/english/ Note the shops don't open until 10am though you can get food and drink before then.

We had a week all together and ended up with:
one night in Durnstein,
3 nights in Zell am See,
2 nights in Hallstatt and
one night in Neusiedl am See

Our hotel at Durnstein http://www.saengerblondel.at/ was fantastic, nice room, free parking, friendly and hospitable owners and the best meal of our trip in their restaurant situated in a lovely garden. Very nice buffet breakfast.

The owners of the hotel in Zell am See, Beate and Bernd, http://www.hubertus-pension.at/englisch/unser_haus.html were very welcoming and friendly. We loved our stay at their hotel, our room was large and comfortable, good beds and shower, balcony with a great view of the mountains and cable car and a buffet breakfast with lots of choice. There is a computer for guests to use with free internet which we found very useful, also ample free parking. Guest kitchen for those who wanted to make a meal.

In Hallstatt, stayed at http://anger.hallstatt.net/?lang=en which was fine, didn't seem as welcoming as other places we had stayed and the breakfast wasn't quite as plentiful. It does have free parking as it's about 10 minutes along the lake shore.

Stayed for our last night in Neusiedl am See at http://www.rathausstueberl.at/set_engl.htm which had a nice restaurant but the room we had was very dated and badly needed redecorating. Very little English spoken.

The highlight of our trip was the day we drove the Grossglocknerstrasse. It took us all day, we started from Zell am See, drove towards Bruck and bought picnic lunch supplies at the Merkur supermarket, which had a good selection, then drove on to the toll booth. The hefty fee of 28 euro per car was worth it to us.

There were lots of (very fit) cyclists and loads of groups of motor cyclists too. All along the road are places to stop, cafes, toilets, picnic tables, viewing areas etc. The views of the mountains were really awesome. Drove along towards the glacier and wondered where to stop, when suddenly we found ourselves turning into a multi-storey carpark! Up and up and on the 4th level, parked on the top (for free) to take in the glorious glacier views. Two marmots playing in the sun attracted a huge crowd of onlookers. A really good, though tiring, day. Note that if you go back towards Zell am See on the other road, via Matrei, there is a tunnel with a toll of 10 euro but it seemed quicker to return that way.

We visited Hangar 7 http://www.hangar-7.com/#en/homepage/ which is at Salzburg airport, on the opposite side of the runway to the terminal building. It's an amazing futuristic looking building with Red Bull planes, racing cars and motorbikes. Free admission, toilets, cafe and bar inside.

Went to Melk Abbey http://www.stiftmelk.at/englisch/index.html which has some really beautiful rooms and the church is stunning. There are large gardens as well as a cafe and restaurant. Worth seeing but for us, not a 'must see'. Euro 7.50 to see the abbey and gardens. An audio tour is extra. Note that if you are on your own, it seemed to be acceptable to go around the hordes of people on tours and go at your own pace. If we had stood behind all the groups and waited, we would have been there all day.

Did a lot of exploring, had cake and coffee every day (mmm...), visited St Gilgen which is very pretty, situated on an aqua blue lake with a cable car up the mountain behind the town. Also enjoyed a few hours at Altaussee, there is a casual cafe right by the lake, where the boat docks, and the view there across the lake is lovely. Stopped for a while in Tulln which was peaceful and attractive, also had cake and coffee at Bad Ischl. Being Australian, we just HAD to stop for photos at Bad Aussee.

Our general impressions of Austria -
Austrians seem healthier and fitter and happier than people in the UK.
Cycling was very popular.
Friendly people
Free clean toilets everywhere (unlike some other European countries!).
Clean with no litter anywhere and very green scenery.
Good roads.
Food was generally good but menu choices a bit limited. Cakes were very good.
English was spoken a little, we got by with very little German. Smiles and gestures always help.

Kay

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