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Trip Report New Years in Salzburg

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Last year we took our son, daughter and son-in-law to Garmisch-Partenkirschen for the week after Christmas. We had a delightful, magical time and I wrote ecstatically about it in a report here called Winter Wonderland. As that title implies there was a lovely blanket of snow everywhere that enhanced our experience immeasurably. When we debated about where to spend New Years this year we were torn between wanting to recapture some of the magic we'd experienced last year and fearing that another trip to snow areas might not live up to the standard set in GAP. Nonetheless we decided to chance it and chose Salzburg as our destination. We were not disappointed in the least. It proved a wonderful venue for our family holiday.

With two such similar trips (indeed, I saw posts here debating the relative merits of the two destinations as others apparently struggled with a decision between the two) we found ourselves frequently comparing the two places and I intend to conclude this report doing just that. In the meantime bear with me while I tell of this year's wonderful trip.

Transport
(The bad part of the tale'skip it if you hate lengthy detailed reports of travel problems. There's much better stuff ahead)

Right off the bat, this trip proved worse in the logistics department. My husband, son and I traveled from Ft. Lauderdale and our daughter and son-in-law from MSP. We all had miserable connections'for us FLL to DTW then to AMS and then to MUC and finally a train to Salzburg. Our flight out of FLL was late by 3 hours requiring rebooking our flight to Amsterdam (but with an upgrade to Business Class to relieve some of the sting.) We had a 5 hour layover in AMS where we went into town then returned and bumped into our daughter and SIL at the airport lounge where they'd been waiting for 6 hours having missed their connection as well. Delay, then loss, of luggage when we arrived in Munich put us further off schedule for train connections to Salzburg (we'd originally scheduled a flight all the way to Salzburg but that got cancelled and I'd foolishly decided we'd just stop in Munich and train rather than reroute through DeGaulle with a 5 hour layover'little did I know then that that would have gotten us to our destination much earlier than we actually did) but we finally arrived at our ultimate destination about 30 hours after we left for the airport'minus our son's luggage including his new skis and boots that he was expecting to use for his eagerly awaited chance to ski Kitzbuhel the following morning.

The only thing worse than our flight to Salzburg was our flight home. We left in a blizzard pulling our luggage behind us over streets coated with 6 inches of slush topped with 12 inches of new snow. Nonetheless the intrepid Salzburg cab driver got us to the airport without problem and we only had a one hour delay for deicing as our Styrian Spirit pilot wooshed us out of the blizzard and above the clouds for our flight to CDG. There we spent time in line waiting for boarding passes and then were herded onto two bus trips (passing the same locales in two different directions) to finally arrive at the temporary gates for our flight to DTW. Again we had a 5 hour layover in DTW which stretched to 6 for the usual mechanical problems that NWA always seems to have these days. We arrived at our home in Ft. Lauderdale at 2 a.m. after leaving our hotel in Salzburg at 6 a.m. But we did better than our son, who missed his connection in AMS and again took the train into the city for a walkaround rather than wait at Schipol for 6 hours or so. I've promised that hereafter regardless of how much the difference in cost, I'll never book another trip with more than one connection. Ever. Lesson learned.

Amsterdam

Hadn't expected to tour the city but when our connection problems materialized and we had 5 hours with no luggage and only an intereurope (rather than transatlantic where security takes longer) flight ahead, we quick grabbed a train for the approximately 20 minute ride into town. We walked around the city from the Central Station around the Singel canal, across Dam Square, to one of the churches and through a bit of the red light district. We were enchanted to see tiny snowflakes beginning to come down and then appalled to see them turn into blobs of wet, slushy snow as we struggled against the wind and blinding whiteness to return to our train. Sort of surprised to encounter so much snow so early in the season but it was to be our initiation into the conditions we continued to find throughout our trip.
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    Hotels—Zur Goldene Ente and Park Hotel Castellani

    We booked two hotels for our party, Zur Goldene Ente for our son and us and Hotel Castellani for our daughter and her husband. The former was chosen after reading reviews on this site and because of its location in the old town; the latter because it had a fitness center and looked good on the internet. The Goldene Ente is on Goldgasse in the pedestrian part of Salzburg old town just off the main shopping street—Getriedegasse. It is perfectly situated for the tourist. We had the apartment (room 19) on the 4th floor (there is an elevator). It has two rooms, a bath with shower and a second half bath and even a kitchenette. It was quite spacious and worked perfectly for us and our son. It had recently been remodeled and had light wood floors and white walls and cabinets with spare but modern furnishings. The bedroom connected to the half bath had a sitting area, an antique ceramic stove and a canopy bed. The bedroom connected to the bathroom with shower had all a couple of chairs and of the closet space. So it’s not perfect say for two couples but it is a really good deal for a family especially at 225 euros per night with buffet breakfast. The hotel also has a really fun and friendly restaurant on the ground floor with good Bavarian food and gemutlicheit ambiance. We ate one meal there and stopped for drinks on several nights.

    Though the Park Hotel Castellani was about a kilometer from the heart of old town it was still on the same side of the river and walkable for our daughter and SIL. It is a more or less typical, modern business hotel with nice rooms (square leather chairs in the lobby and rooms, lots of glass and blonde wood, etc.) and a very nice fitness center which was the primary draw. At 170 euros per night with breakfast, it too, seemed a pretty good deal. It has a nice, if underutilized, restaurant—see food section of this report.

    Skiing and kudos to Salzburg Tourist Office

    For our son one of the best aspects of both our trips to Garmisch last year and to Salzburg this year was the skiing. He judged the skiing better this year than last and was pleased with the opportunity to take the Tourist Office supplied Salzburg Snow Shuttle (at 13 euros per day) to 4 different ski areas—Kitzbuhel, Schladming, Flachau and Salbach. SIL joined him for Kitzbuhel and Salbach. The rest of us even joined the bus trip and spent a day in Kitzbuhel. Nice feature. Actually we found lots to commend the Salzburg Tourist Office for, from their snow shuttle to their extensive information about New Years Eve festivities at most of the hotels and restaurants in the city, to information about concerts and skating, etc. on New Years Eve and Day.

    Kitzbuhel

    Our first actual day in Salzburg was spent not in Salzburg at all but in Kitzbuhel. The Snow Shuttle follows a predictable schedule among the various ski resorts each week and Kitz (as the cognescenti call it) just happened to be that day, so off we all went getting on the bus at its load up point on Mirabellplatz in front of the Bar Bellini (a very cute place and worthy of a stop.) The shuttle stops at the ski lift so those of us not skiing had to take a local bus into the actual town of Kitbuhel.

    Kitzbuhel is a very cute little village, in our case made cuter yet by a continual snowfall (which was, in the higher elevations where our guys were skiing, making for near total white out conditions such that at times they couldn’t even see their skis, but which, with nerves of steel, one can report as “fun.”) The buildings lining the two parallel main streets of town are very colorful—pink, green, yellow, even blueish-purple. The shop windows are beautifully decorated and the folks walking about are exceedingly well and expensively clothed. Lots of furs and nary a PETA protester in sight. Actually the place seems to be all about skiing—and money and the fashion that goes with it. Makes for infinite fun people watching, from small children in newly purchased, perfectly clean pastel snowsuits to women with hair to the shoulder on one side of their head and shaved on the other (possibly to make it easier to accommodate the ubiquitous cell phone) to George Hamilton type older men with perfect tans in loden hats and mile long scarves over shirpa jackets. Worthy of a short day trip.
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    Salzburg itself—the sights

    We spent altogether 3 full and one half days in the actual town of Salzburg. If you were just touring, it wouldn’t demand all that much time but when you’re hunkered down for a week of skiing, partying and soaking up atmosphere, it certainly doesn’t get boring. We’d been to Salzburg three times previously, once on our very first trip to Europe in 1973, but not since 1988, and never in winter. The city is beautiful, especially when snow covered. The blue-green copper patina-ed roofs of the many churches stand above the rest of the snow-covered city and the Festung Hohensalzburg looms over it all on the hill above. It’s breathtaking and DH must have taken about a hundred pictures just of the city. The view from the pedestrian bridge that crosses the Salzach River between old town and new town affords perhaps the best vantage point. And it’s even more beautiful when lit up in twinkling white lights during the holiday season.
    Among the sights we took in on our many walks about the city were:
    The Dom Church, one of the most beautiful church interiors anywhere with brightly painted panels and dome in blues and burnt oranges; also the Fransiscan and the University churches; the Festung Hohensalzburg with its ancient rooms and early toilet for use by the archbishop who lived there; Getriedegasse, the wonderful long shopping street with metal signs jutting out over the street to mark and identify each shop including even the annoying McDonalds, and with the little side alleys leading off into cute little courtyards on all sides often sporting special displays of local Christmas handicrafts; the market on the street paralleling Getriedegasse in the area at the entrance to the University church with all manner of vegetables and treats to eat and warm you against the cold and snow; the Mirabell gardens without flowers but just as prettily attired in puffs of snow adhering to the bushes and trees and statues throughout; the horse fountain beneath the mountain; the walk along the river in the rain that thankfully changed over to snow; and even the new modern art museum on the hill above town juxtaposed against the fortress and suffering mightily by comparison but nice when you get the to top via elevator and see the wonderful exhibit space with floor to ceiling windows looking out onto perfect woods covered in yet more snow. It was all good. And so was our day trip to Vienna, so that’s next.

    Vienna

    Though our children had been to Vienna when they were small, our SIL had never been so although it was a 2 and a half hour train ride, it was a mandatory day trip—at least for all but our son who went skiing that day. We began by taking a taxi to the train station where we purchased our approximately 40 euro per person round trip second class tickets and waited about 30 minutes for the train which was coming from Innsbruck late for its 7 a.m. departure. So we arrived at Vienna West Bahnhof at about 10 or 10:30 a.m. Between then and when we arrived back in Salzburg at 10:30 p.m. or so, we completely blitzed Freud’s city in what I think was a rather inspired plan that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to see much of what the city has to offer in a single day. Here’s how it went.

    Arrived at West Bahnhof and purchased day transport tickets for 5 euros per person, then immediately jumped on S Bahn to the Naschtmarkt, one of the best city markets in Europe. Walked about the completely operational market in the deep snow and photographed stands with olives, oranges and all manner of foodstuffs in the falling snow. Stopped for a little snit of sparkling wine to celebrate our return to our first and one of our favorite European cities and slogged on over to Karlskirche where we waited and froze in the pews while daughter and SIL took the elevator to the top to observe the painting of the dome and look out over the snow-covered city. Plodded over to Karlsplatz U Bahn station, took it to St. Stephen’s and immediately walked down the Graben to Julius Meinl for lunch. I think I have BTilke to thank for turning me on to this place. Don’t know why we never found it on previous trips but it will definitely be a pilgrimage site hereafter. This being the day before New Years Eve the place was filled with shoppers loading their baskets with all manner of expensive foodie luxuries from caviar to smoked salmon to lobster—and even Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes from a very odd display of US breakfast delicacies. We had planned to have lunch in the restaurant but I’d not made reservations since we weren’t sure of which day we’d select for our trip to the city. We were told everything was filled and my heart sank but daughter wisely asked if there was anything available at the bar and miracle of miracles there was a string of 4 stools right in a row and our party was seated instantly for what turned out to be the favorite meal of the trip. Among the various dishes that won our hearts—and stomachs—were perfectly done scallops, best ever lobster bisque and lobster, and monkfish atop a bed of celery root, fennel and artichoke. Though the bisque was light it was very flavorful and everything else had the wonderful if often forbidden taste of butter, butter and more butter. How could they miss?!! We loved our seats at the bar (I usually prefer bar to restaurant seating) but we envied the family seated around a horseshoe table with a view onto the Graben and its chandeliers of white holiday lights and promised ourselves that next time we’ll book ahead for those seats.

    Fortified and very, very happy, we walked through Michelsplatz and then the Hofburg until we got cold again and hopped onto the Strassenbahn to circle the ring and point out its many beautiful buildings to our SIL. After making the full circle, we got off at the Opera and walked up the Karnterstrasse shopping street, and back to St. Stephen’s this time to enter and look around as hordes of others joined us in the late afternoon. We left that sanctuary for another, the wonderful wintergarden lobby of our favorite Vienna hotel, the Konig Von Ungarn, just around the corner from Stephensdom. That lobby of the favorite hotel of a recently departed former poster on this board to whom I shall always be greatful for his many recommendations which have taken me to so many fine places including the KVU, is just made for relaxing with a bottle of sparkling wine after a day of shopping or sightseeing—and we did. Then, however, we had to be on our way in order to fit in another meal before leaving the city to return to Salzburg. We chose Plachutta, having remembered it as a place that would be open for a very early dinner and one that serves a mean Tafelspitz. I had a combination appetizer plate—meat in aspic, steak tartare and carp mousse—and another combination plate of main dishes including marrow bone, boiled beef on bones and tongue--not for everyone but it satisfied me though the place wasn’t a hit with daughter and SIL. It was, however, perfectly positioned to get us out of town fast. We walked out the door and across the street to the U Bahn that took us back to the Westbahnhof and back to Salzburg. Hard to imagine how one could fit more into a single day in Vienna though I thought longingly on the trip home of the time I’d hoped to squeak out to see the Judith and the other Klimts at the Belvedere—oh well, next time.
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    Food

    If you’ve ever read any of my other trip reports, you knew I’d get to it sooner or later
    I’ve already mentioned a couple of meals but here’s the scoop on the rest.

    Nordsee—a perennial favorite of all of those in our party. Salzburg has two venues within blocks of each other on Getriedegasse. This is my nomination for the world’s best fast food. We had shrimp in dill sauce, herring, calamari, squid salad, salad nicoise, and herring and lox sandwiches and cursed ourselves for not being able to stuff in more yet. The places are always jammed but the one closest to the Domplatz has a nice, quiet area upstairs where you can stuff yourself in relative peace.
    Stiftskeller St. Peter—Actually we didn’t eat here but we’d intended to. I had advance reservations for their Mozart dinner but as we approached the podium for seating we found the maitre d’ hopelessly engaged in an argument with a group of people who insisted they had reservations which she had no record of—and they wouldn’t take no for an answer. Meanwhile folks who were in line behind us pushed ahead and managed to get a special table set up for them even though the place was totally full—apparently oversubscribed. They offered to seat us in an adjacent room with a partial view of the performaners—and next to the complaining, reservationless group. At this point we quietly asked for and got an immediate and full refund in cash of the deposit I’d made and went to a quite good Chinese restaurant (Chinatown) congratulating ourselves that we’d gotten the best of all worlds. We’d seen the beautiful room decorated for Christmas. We’d also seen the singers and musicians and decided the entertainment might be a bit tacky and we knew that service would be awful. Besides daughter hated the menu and everyone loved the Chinese. All’s well that ends well. I know there are a lot of people on this site who have spoken highly of this place. I think this just wasn’t the night for it.

    Goldene Ente—This is the restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel where we stayed. It is as traditional an Austrian restaurant/beer stube as you can hope to find. We ate there the night we arrived late in Salzburg after the two day flight from hell and instantly forgot our woes and settled into the warmth and friendliness of the hotel and the city. Tafelspitz aspic appetizer proved quite light and modern for such an old-fashioned, traditional place but it was good and so was the pork roasted in beer and caraway seeds accompanied by bread dumplings and sauerkraut with bacon and lots of beer. Highly recommended and often filled with families.

    Carpe Diem—As traditional as Goldene Ente was, Carpe Diem was modern and cutting edge. It’s billed as “Finest Finger Food” and everything is served in savory cones brought to the table in what looks like glass candlestick holders. It’s a little like sushi and a little like tapas—small, concentrated tastes and lots of them. The place is at the end of Getriedegasse near the horse fountain. There is a large bar downstairs. Indeed their bar business seems to exceed their restaurant business which is carried on upstairs. The whole place is beautiful with dark wood walls and art deco furniture plus lounge chairs presumably for after dinner lounging and drinking though no one ever went near them during our approximately 3 hour dinner there. The cones themselves are made with herbs or cheese but there seem only to be two different kinds which gets a bit boring after the 4th or 5th cone. Each is filled with condiments and then stacked with meat, fish, veggies or cheeses, the latter led me after several glasses of wine paired with earlier cones to sing softly but embarrassingly to our children about “the cheese in the cone, hi ho the dairy o, the cheese in the cone.” Maybe it’s because the whole thing gets to be a bit silly after a while. Also there were some combinations that just didn’t seem to click. Nonetheless several of the offerings were very tasty and my husband who is usually not what sociologists call “an early adapter,” enjoyed the meal thoroughly. At worst it was a faltering concept, at best a pretty good time. Interestingly enough the only thing that doesn’t come in cones at this place is dessert (that comes in little straight up shot glasses, four layers per glass) and it was even more amusing when DH ordered ice cream and it came on a plate of all things.

    Herzl—the less expensive tavern of the famed and otherwise pricey Goldener Hirsch. This, like our hotel restaurant, is quintessential Austrian cute, with green tablecloths overladen with pink ones and wood benches. Perhaps because the place is affiliated with GH, I was expecting more than I got. The herring with onion, apple and sour cream was pretty tasteless, and the bauernschmaus, that wonderful Austrian national dish of pork, dumplings, ham, sausage and kraut, was only competent with the ham feeling almost processed.

    Blaue Gans and New Years Eve—This was the place we picked for our New Years Eve dinner from among the 30 or more possibilities I learned of in advance on the Salzburg Tourism internet site. I selected from pictures of the place and from reading its regular menu from the hotel’s site. It also seemed to offer the best deal pricewise—for 99 euros per person, an 8 course dinner in a trendy art hotel, with a midnight champagne toast and a view of the famous fireworks over the Fortress from the rooftop—and an assurance that men could be attired in dressy sweaters rather than jackets and ties without embarrassment to themselves and others. Unlike the Mozart dinner at the Stiftskeller St. Peter, this place did not disappoint us—except that we never did find the rooftop. The hotel is modern, trendy, as I said. It’s billed as an Art Hotel so you get the picture. Tasteful, modern décor but in an old building. There are three places to dine—a bar with tall tables and a very modern vibe, the dining room where we ate with regular height tables in a vaulted ceiling room like an old beer cellar but with modern furnishings, and a cave downstairs which I never descended to see. With a set meal at a set price and a full house, I wasn’t expecting a great meal. Surprise. This time my expectations were not confirmed and happily so. We started with my idea of the single best dish of the trip—poached monkfish in an aspic of minestrone with delicate pesto flavor and tiny veggies. Light and sublime. Next came a linguini with duck, then apple sorbet followed by veal, beef cheeks and mashed potatoes and three desserts that I recall tasted good but that I’m ashamed to say have faded into a wine and champagne-induced haze. That dissipated quickly as we joined the other revelers on the street to watch the official fireworks explode over the festung and stepped lively to miss the unofficial ones exploding everywhere along the streets. Music and dancing was everywhere as tents had been set up to accommodate the crowds. There was skating on the ice rink in the Mozartplatz and a light show had images projected on several of the large buildings about old town. We walked to our hotel about 1:30 after a bit of participation in the merry making and a taste of the second best dish of the trip—a sandwich made of dried beef with raclette melted cheese on top from a food stand in the market. Fabulous. Happy New Year.
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    K&K—Fueled by our raclette sandwich of the night before we set out in search of a complete raclette or fondue meal for our New Years Day lunch. We couldn’t find it but in the process settled upon another traditional meal at a very traditional place on Mozartplatz, the K&K. More wood walls and wood booths and traditional Austrian food. I had a heavy appetizer of black pudding (blood sausage for those not into organ meats and other peasant delicacies) with roesti potatoes and then a more refined dish of lamb with ratatouille and more potatoes. One can never have too many potatoes, now can one? Everything was very good and service was excellent.

    Salieri—You’ve got to hand it to the contrarians at the Park Hotel Castellani. In a town dedicated to Mozart (he was born there and every store has candy with his face on it and the airport is the W.A. Mozart airport), they dedicated their restaurant to his arch enemy Salieri. Our daughter and SIL had their inaugural meal there when they arrived in Salzburg after their marathon flight and liked it enough to suggest we join them for another. We ate there New Years Day night—alone. The restaurant isn’t large but we did feel a bit lonely with no one else to observe or comment on. The emptiness couldn’t have been because of poor food—more likely exhaustion and overindulgence on the part of the tourists and townspeople—because ours was just fine. Son and SIL especially enjoyed the cream of chestnut soup.

    Romantik Hotel Gmachl in Elixhausen—Thwarted in our efforts to get raclette and/or fondue in Salzburg, we took to the internet in search of it and found two Romantik Hotels in the vicinity. This is a chain of mostly German and Austrian hotels usually with Bavarian cutesy but tasteful décor and food. We figured it was our best hope for a cheese-based lunch and we were in the mood for some small town atmosphere, so we chose the one of the two that looked cutest and closest and took the bus for a mini-day trip about 5 km outside Salzburg to the itty, bitty burg of Elixhausen. We miscalculated our stop and had to walk a half to three-quarters of a kilometer through deep and still driving snow to the center of town where the hotel was sitting directly across the street from another bus stop that we could have taken. But as a result, we arrived, hot, tired, thirsty and hungry in a perfect state for a nice cold beer at the darling little bar and then a great lunch at the lovely wood paneled dining room prepared by a chef whose work is rated 14 of 20 in the Gault Milleau guide. DH had trout that had been swimming in the tank minutes before. Son had wide noodle pasta with lobster and very garlicky spinach and I had veal with a lime crust atop couscous. Green candles were lit on the tables next to rosebud bouquets--a perfect setting and even cosier when you looked outside to see the snow coming down at an ever faster pace. No raclette and no fondue but this place fulfilled our needs completely. Since the snow had been piling up during our leisurely lunch we presumed the bus would probably not be on time when we trundled over to the stop across the street from the hotel. Thank goodness we were wrong. It was there right on time and took us back to Salzburg with nary a hitch. A wonderful little outing.

    Comparisons—Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GAP) and Salzburg

    So how did this year’s trip stack up against our Winter Wonderland of last year? A couple of our party said Salzburg hands down—a bigger city, more to do, better skiing, better food with more variety, fabulous NYEve celebration. Others pointed out a few things that GAP had over Salzburg—We’d had a car in GAP which made day trips faster and easier, at least for the riders. We specifically didn’t have one this year at my husband’s insistence and, given the road conditions, he turned out to be right on. We’d never have ventured to Elixhausen in the blizzard that we did if we’d been driving rather than taking the bus. But taking trains and buses takes much more planning and more time and we had to forego several suggested day trips because they would take too long. We missed the cute little snow and ice bars that were set up everywhere in GAP and surrounding villages. Salzburg had outdoor bars but they were of the wood or plastic variety and lacked the charm of the real things. And we missed the small villages that transport and weather conditions prevented us from seeing this year that had been so much a part of our trip to GAP. We also missed the darling little breakfast room and the hospitality of the couple who owned and managed our Edelweiss hotel in GAP. That place felt like living in someone’s home. We had very hospitable reception staff at our hotels this year but the feeling was still hotel like and not homey though we enjoyed the friendliness of the restaurant/bar immediately downstairs and our hotel’s location directly in the heart of old town without need for a 5 or 6 block walk into town as we’d had at our cute little GAP place.

    Overall both experiences were wonderful and we’d recommend either/both to anyone contemplating a holiday with lots of snow. Even as I say that, I’m still unsure that perfect snow/wonderland conditions are a given in either place. Perhaps we’ve just been lucky two years in a row. However it happened, we’re pleased to have been blessed with wonderful conditions and great beauty both years and we’d highly recommend either place to others who want to have a truly wonderful winter holiday with family.


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    Julie, what a great thing to do with your kids! Those memories will last forever! As usual, you have painted a very detailed view of your trip in your report, and I can just imagine the places you went!

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    Thanks for bringing back all of these fine memories for us Mom; A second gift - getting to experience it all over again. What a fabulous time, and how special to get to not only enjoy your company during our travels, but to read your perspective and reflections from the trip as well. I'm sure Chris will share ours soon - we need to convert written notes to electronic.

    Anyone reading this and wondering what the "kids'" views are - just ask Julie to pass along your questions to her daughter. I'm happy to help out.

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    Sounds like a great trip! Glad you liked Meinl; it's one of my favorite restaurants in Vienna and although the tables are almost always reserved in advance, the bar is kept open for drop ins.
    How crowded was Salzburg at New Year's? We definitely want to a White Christmas next year and are thinking of spending the Christmas holidays in Oberstdorf. We can't decide whether to stay there over New Year's or perhaps check out around the 28th and spend NYE in someplace like Salzburg. But not if it's too mobbed.

    Aside from the airfare headaches (kudos for not letting them sour your trip), sounds like a great time.

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    SIL's Perspective:

    TRAVEL:
    Travel to Salzburg was one of the longer trips I've taken, but nothing really bad happened to DW and I. We had a tight connection in AMS, and missed it. The NWA mechanics didn't help us out by having us sit on the tarmac in MSP for over an hour waiting for some signoff. We landed in AMS with 15 minutes to make our next flight. We probably could've run and caught it, but would've lost our luggage for sure.

    Next time we fly through AMS I'll keep some Amsterdam info on hand. We had six hours to kill and could've easily taken a peak at the town. I have a WorldClub membership (which DW thinks I should cancel) so it wasn't all bad. We drank champagne and watched movies on our DVD player.

    The trip back went like clockwork. Our train left Salzburg on time. It arrived at Munich Ostbanhof on schedule. Our train to the airport arrived 4 minutes later on the adjacent track. Our flights from MUC to AMS, and AMS to MSP were business class, and everything was on time and easy.

    Though DW and I will print out and save Julie's statement that she's "promised that hereafter regardless of how much the difference in cost, I’ll never book another trip with more than one connection." Spending 2-1/2 days traveling for 7 day vacation is a lot.

    CASTELLANI PARK HOTEL:
    The place is nice "business" hotel. Not that its a bad thing. Its located a little over 1km from Aldstat. Walkable but not very scenic. DW and I walked it 3 times, otherwise it was 7E taxi ride. Good breakfast. Friendly staff. Most importantly they had DW's favorite eliptical machine. I normally like to stay in the center of places, btu having DW happy all week was worth the extra taxi rides.

    SKIING:
    I skied with BIL at Kitzbuhel and what's known as SkiCircus (Saalbach, Hinterglemm & Leogang) I'd call myself a good intermediate skier. I'll ski most anywhere except off-terrain. BIL is an expert skier.

    We both liked Kitz a lot. Its a huge area with 8 different peaks, a number of long expert runs that both BIL and I enjoyed. I'd recommend carrying a map with you. The place is so large and in our case there was numerous white-out conditions. It was tough to see what run you were on at the top. We found a great lunch spot on Hahnenkam. It was a ski-in/ski-out place that said it specialized in Tirolian Specialties. We enjoyed bratwrust, sourkraut and beer overlooking the town of kitzbuhel all while listenig to a little yodeling music. Perfect!

    SkiCircus gave us the best skiing weather of the trip. It was crystal clear, their was fresh snow and temps were in the 30's. The town of Saalbach is surrounded by skiing on all sides. Sort of unique for a ski town. Wish I would've brought a camera.

    SALZBURG SKI BUS:

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    As Julie said a great service put on by Salzburg Tourism. Very friendly and knowledgeable guides. They all spoke English. You could purchase your lift tickets on the bus and fill out rental forms. The bus dropped you off near the local rental shop. You pick up your gear and by the time you're ready to head out they would have your lift tickets waiting for you. Then at the end of the day the bus would sell beverages. Very reasonably I might add, a beer was only 1.5E.

    VIENNA:
    The train rides were long but worth the trip. What a great old Imperial capital. Huge boulevards ringing the palace. Buildings that just ooze majesty. We were there in a nice little blizzard. It added a pleasant little twist to the place. Julius Meinl was a fabulous experience. It's like a Dean & Deluca cubed, plus throw in formal dining environment adjacent to the market's cheese counter. Lots of fun! We rate all of our meals on our trips; 15 point scale - five each for food, serivec and ambiance. We gave Julius Meinl a 12.5. The only thing it missed on was our lack of a reservation. Sitting at the bar provied great service, but if we were sitting in one of the booths looking out on Graben it could've been a 13.5 to 14. That's up in "Venice" category! Since I mentioned Graben street I have to say the xmas lights on that street might be the best I've ever seen. All white lights that bow and cascade across the street with huge chandelier like configurations in the middle. Clark W Griswald would be impressed.

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    NEW YEARS:
    Somewhere we heard that Salzburg is one of the top ten places for New Years. I'm not sure where that came from, or if it was just dreamed up by wishful thinking, but its not too far off.

    As you heard we enjoyed dinner at the Blau Gaus. Nicely decorated for New Years and an enjoyable menu. Our only mistake was sitting down at 8pm. We should've let our reservations slip to 8:30 or 9pm. To much time to consume wine without a lot of movement.

    We couldn't locate the roof for viewing fireworks so we didn't get "THE SHOT" for video, but being on the streets was a fun and daring experience.

    People started shooting off fireworks around 4pm that afternoon. And this isn't like kids shooting of bottle-rockets in a park, people were lighting cherry bombs on Getriedegasse. This all reaches its crescendo at midnight. We were out in the middle of the street with out complimenty glass of champagne in hand and there were fireworks going off all around us. These were the full-on mortars, the same the city was shooting off from Hohensalzburg. While this is going on Mozart is playing and people are waltzing in the streets. Quite the scene!

    After the initial pandemonium of the New Year let up a little we headed towards Residenceplatz and Mozartplatz. There were tons of drink/food tents. A band that played a lot of Bon Jovi songs, and thousands of revelers. DW and I hung on until about 2AM. I'm not sure if this is one of the top ten New Years offerings in the world, but its the best I've ever seen.

    SALZBURG vs. GAP:
    Tough call. Julie pressed the question often.

    Salzburg being a larger town offered better sites and better food. GAP and the surrounding towns we visited had the fun winter festival feeling.

    From Salzburg we trained to Vienna to see Schonbrunn Palace. From GAP we drove to see Neuschwanstein Castle.

    In GAP we could skied just outside of Innsbruck at Axamer Lixum, home of past Olympics. It Salzburg we skied at Kitzbuhel and Saalbach, home of World Cup events.

    New Year's eve in the GAP with dinner at Gasthof Fraundorfer. We had a wonderful meal, plenty of entertainment from the accordionist and the owners leiderhosen clad grandsons who did their dance with the foot and thigh slapping. Though not much happened beyond the walls of the restaurant.

    Salzburg New Years - A hit! (Read Above)

    CONCLUSION: I'm just lucky to have experienced both of these cities and vacations. I could've been sitting in Minnesota.

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    BTilke, to answer your question, about how crowded Salzburg was, I'd say "manageable." Enough people to make for a party atmosphere, but not so many that I felt like I couldn't move or enjoy myself. Admittedly I wasn't trying to get a glass of sekt at the stroke of midnight, but we didn't have any problems getting wonderful raclette sandwiches about 12:30 or so and we were able to get lunch reservations at K&K the day after new years by just walking in. A couple of days the crowds on Getriedegasse were fairly thick, but again, not so that you felt you needed to shove to get through. My husband hates crowds and never seemed crazed about the numbers he had to share the streets with. We felt fine throughout our visit.

    Candert or Liz chime in with your reactions if different from mine.

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    Hi Julie, we are in Salzburg now and I kept your rest. recs in mind. We plan to try the Goldene Ente in the next few days. Last night we ate at Herzl and got lucky, we both liked our dinners; I had a very good tout filet. Tonight we ate at the "bio restaurant" of the zum Hirschen; also very good.
    Bonus: attended a free concert tonight at the Mozarteum by, of all things, the Notre Dame Univ. concert band. I never thought I'd be listening to the Notre Dame "theme" song here in Austria!

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    BTilke, I trust things are lovely there right now. Flowering shrubs along the river, etc. Enjoy. Do stop by Carpe Diem for a drink and one cone just to see what modernization is doing to the Salzburg dining scene. The Blaue Gans is also a winner. Both quite different from Herzl and Goldene Ente though.

    Hmmm, Notre Dame fight songs in Salzburg. Whoda thunk it!

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    Actually, the weather was terrible! Rain (sometimes VERY heavy rain) every day. Much cooler than usual yesterday and today. We were in Zell am See early yesterday and the temps were not much above freezing; there was a coating of fresh snow on the hillsides (not the very tip of the mountains, much lower down). On the postbus from Salzburg to Zell am See, we even saw a few flakes ourselves. Mixed with the rain, of course. I'm glad I decided to bring a warm coat along--we saw some tourists in lightweight spring/summer clothes and they were absolutely miserable.
    The flowers (at least in places like Zell am See) are much later than usual this year. Tulips were still in full bloom; peonies were not close to blooming yet.
    Nonetheless, we had an excellent time (we just got back an hour ago). We packed a LOT into our six days. The only two disappointments were Berchtesgaden (it was absolutely pouring with rain when I went there, a real cloudburst, so I simply caught the next train back to Salzburg) and Bad Gastein, which was nice but MUCH too steep for my mother.
    Schloss Hellbrunn was a big hit; I loved the Folkmuseum, which got so few visitors they kept the door locked--I had to hunt down the "reception" guy to let me in and I had the place to myself. I really enjoyed touring the castle and the water fountains. The SoM gazebo was a bust, though, not worth seeing. No wonder it's stuck way down where the group tour buses come in.
    We did get a few minutes of blue sky here and there; whenever that happened, our cameras clicked away at everything in sight!
    I don't think we'll be going back over New Year's, though. Over the week-end portion of our trip, it felt WAY too crowded; can't imagine what it would be like there over a holiday!
    P.S. Never made it to Goldene Ente--my mother was too tired from all the walking in the rain and cold to make forays to restaurants every evening, so we ate in the hotel several nights instead. Next time!

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    Thanks for the report I am heading that way for xmas and new years. I think after your report I will go to salzburg for new years. Maybe I should base myself there since I will have a car and go to different ski resorts.

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