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Trip Report Our short Christmas Market getaway in Austria and Bavaria

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We recently returned from a trip to Bavaria and Austria, with a focus on the Christmas/Advent Markets. We did a similar trip in late Nov. 2010, but again, due to work commitments, this was the only time for us to travel. If going at this time of year, be aware the days are short, as dusk comes around 4pm.

Brief overview:

We flew into/out of Munich from Newark, NJ. We flew United NJ to Munich and Lufthansa Munich to NJ, both non stop, booked through Lufthansa.com.

FYI: Anyone flying Munich to NJ, we've had a 3:20pm flight out of Munich, which arrives in NJ at 6:35pm our last 4 trips on Lufthansa. It's nice not to
have to spend our last night near the airport or get up very early in the morning. We've spent our "last night" in either Hall in Tirol or the Berchtesgaden area.

Flights: NJ to Munich was uneventful and on schedule. Munich to NJ was delayed 1:30 due to snow and wind. Both flights (in economy) were pretty comfortable, considering we were in economy class. On the return flight, my wife and I each had 2 seats to ourselves, as there were a few empty seats in our area and we asked the flight attendant if it would be ok. I'm usually not too critical, but the dinners on both flights were terrible, even by airline food standards, if there is such a thing. On the plus side, the snacks and drinks were available whenever you wanted something.

Car rental: We booked through www.gemut.com as we've done on previous trips. We picked up and returned at Munich airport. We reserved a compact car and wound up with an Opel Astra Turbo 4 door hatchback equipped with winter tires. We used our AmEx card for the "Premium Car Rental Protection" CDW policy. Thankfully, we didn't need to "use" it. Car cost - $415.00 for 10 days, AmEx Ins. cost $24.95 for up to 42 consecutive days. Gas is expensive, but the car gave excellent fuel mileage. I also got an IDP from AAA. Cost about $20 w/photo's.

The places we stayed:
Schonau am Konigsee - 3 nights - Guesthouse Friedwiese (we also stayed here in 11/10)
Ramsau am Dachstein - 2 nights - Pension Haus Maria (new to us)
Hall in Tirol - 4 nights - Gasthof Badl (we also stayed here in 10/01, 10/03, 4/05 and 11/10)

www.friedwiese.de/enska/isl.htm
www.pensionhausmaria.com
www.badl.at

Weather overall was excellent. Mostly sunny days with daytime temps in the high 30's to low 50's. Nights were cold, as expected. We had 2 days/early mornings with snowfall. One being our travel day from Schonau am Konigssee to Ramsau am Dachstein and the other our departure day. Started a fairly nice day, but as we neared Munich airport, it became a white out at times.

Just a note, we wished we had planned more nights/days based in Ramsau am Dachstein. It was the only "new" base for us and we LOVED it. We will return.

One last note about driving: Even though there was plenty of snow in some areas, we never had any difficulty driving. All the roads were clear, with only one exception, the "private" road up to the Dachstein Glacier cable car trip.

We have some photo's at:

http://www.worldisround.com/home/pja1/index.html

Day 1) We arrived Munich on time (7:30am on a Wed.) and headed straight to Schonau am Konigsee. No problems or traffic and just over a 2 hour drive. We did stop for coffee and to buy the Austrian Vignette (toll sticker), a must if driving on highways in Austria. Cost is about 8Euro for a sticker good for 10 consecutive days. We were greeted in Konigsee by a snow covered landscape. Absolutely beautiful. We "checked in" with Helga, the wonderful owner/host of the Guesthouse Friedwiese, and talked with her about our tentative plans. She's a wealth of knowledge about sights, activities, events and routes in the area. She's the main reason, along with the gorgeous views from her place of course, that we love staying here. Around 3 pm we set out to visit Salzburg and the Christmas Markets. Bad idea. Rush hour traffic around Salzburg and early darkness hindered us a bit, but we finally parked at the Monchsberg underground lot and walked around the markets a bit. If you've never been to Salzburg at this time of year, try it, it's wonderful!

Day 2) After a nice breakfast and chatting with Helga for a while, we headed out to St. Gilgen and arrived around noon. It's about a 1 hour drive if you stick mostly on the highway. We checked with the TI there and found parking by the boat dock. Since St. Gilgen's markets weren't open yet, we took the ship to the very charming town of St. Wolfgang. This was our first time here and immediately loved it. Old cobblestone lanes, beautiful lakeside setting, painted buildings, etc. The decorations, lights, horse drawn carriages, Christmas trees, the smell of roasted chestnuts and other foods just added to the atmosphere of this charming town. Upon returning we walked around St. Gilgen, which is a small but nice village.

After a brief stop back "home", we drove to Bad Reichenhall, about 25 minutes from Konigsee, and had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, the Don Camillo. Whether you order the pasta, pizza or the knoblauchsuppe, it was excellent as always. Bad Reichenhall had a small Christmas market, nice, but very small and at this point we didn't feel like it was worth staying long.

Day 3) We spent the day/evening in Berchtesgaden. Very charming, "local" feeling Christmas market. Plenty of lights, decorations and stalls of all kinds throughout the old town. The fresh, hot waffles on a stick were especially good. Very festive atmosphere. Had an excellent dinner at the Goldener Bär. During the day it was pretty quiet, but by dusk, it was crowded until closing around 8 or 9pm.

Day 4) Today we drove from Konigsee to Ramsau am Dachstein. We picked Ramsau basically because we've never been and "Der Dachstein" cable car trip looked interesting. We awoke in Konigsee to snow. Thankfully it didn't last too long, but did give us another inch or two of fresh snow. We took local roads, first the road via Oberau, to Hallein, then the 159 past Werfen (the castle was closed!) down to the Bischofshofen area, where we drove via Filzmoos (mistake) to Ramsau am Dachstein. I figured the 99 would be comparable to the 320. Not so. This can happen sometimes when you don't use a GPS or maps. We were a bit apprehensive about our pending stay in Ramsau am Dachstein, as every village we drove through was… dead. Upon finding the Pension Haus Maria, we were pleasantly surprised. We immediately felt we had known Alistair and Denise (owners) for years. They set out coffee and cookies for us and chatted about where we had been and what our plans were. This evening was spent in nearby Schladming, which had a Christmas market going on. Very cute old town. We even ran into a few Krampus! Had another fine dinner at the Kirchenwirt, just off the pedestrian zone.

Day 5) Awoke to crystal clear, warm weather. Go figure, around a foot of snow on the ground and no need for jackets. Ali and Denise asked us if we'd like to accompany them to a few old town Christmas markets later in the afternoon and then dinner after our Dachstein trip, so we made plans to be back by 3 or 4pm. We headed out to Der Dachstein, which is only about 10 minutes down the road. Obviously pretty popular with skiers as well as non skiers. It was crowded! Oh, get this, you can opt to sit outside on TOP of the cable car! It's called the "balcony". Unfortunately we didn't get to the Ice Palace or the Suspension Bridge (icy at the top), but the views were simply were breathtaking. Perhaps the best "mountain" trip we've ever taken, which includes the Zugspitze and Jungfraujoch. On the drive back to Haus Maria, we stopped in Ramsau and watched ski jumpers for a while. Crazy. Afterwards Ali and Denise took us to the nearby old towns of Atlenmarkt and Radstadt for the markets. Had dinner in Radstadt, but can't recall the name. The dessert, which was fantastic, was called "Kaiserschmarrn." We arrived back at Haus Maria around 10pm and called it a night. Very nice old towns and a very nice evening out.

Day 6) Another perfect morning/day weather wise. Today we took a scenic, leisurely drive to what we call our "home away from home", the Gasthof Badl in Hall in Tirol. I can't say enough about Sonja (owner/host) and the entire staff here. This place has it all… convenient location to Hall and Innsbruck, etc., stunning alpine views, terrific breakfasts and a very good and reasonable restaurant. this was our 5th stay here in 12 years. It's also a short walk to another favorite restaurant, the Berg Taverne. We had dinner at the Gashof Badl, talked with Sonja and called it an early night.

Day 7) Yet another crystal clear, warm day as we took a drive to Brixen/Bressanone and then to Sterzing/Vipiteno over the border in Italy. We'd been to both before a few years back, but wanted to see them "dressed up" for Christmas. Both had nice markets and we had a nice day out. Dinner tonight was at the Berg Taverne. The Cordon Bleu dinners and "Mohr im Hemd" deserts here are tops.

Day 8) Innsbruck. We've been to Innsbruck quite a few times and were never really crazy about it, but it really shines during the Christmas season. A few different markets and all were so very nice, and crowded. We'd never been in the Hofkirche here, and it is well worth seeing. We also stopped at Schloss Ambras, which we visited years ago. If in the area, it's a must see in my opinion. Afterwards we drove up to Igls, and were immediately taken with it's small village charm. Again, the lights, decorated Christmas trees and a snow covering made it especially beautiful.

Day 9) A cold but clear day. We didn't have any big plans but to visit Hall in Tirol today. Hall's market feels more like a local event rather than an event to draw in tourists. Hall's old town feels more "authentic" than some others, at least in our opinion. Not touristy is the way I'd describe it. We ran into Elka Steiner, who was the owner/host of the Gasthof Badl when we first started staying there, and talked and had some gluhwine with her.

Day 10) Left Hall in Tirol at 10am and drove to Munich airport. The nearer we got to Munich, the more it started to snow. If you're driving to the airport, get off the highway at Hallbermoos to fill the rental car up with gas. Very easy off the highway/on again and just minutes to the airport.

That's it. Overall a good trip, with good weather and we spent time visiting with some wonderful people.

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