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Eastern Alps Travel Guide

Zell am See

This lovely lakeside town got its name from the monks' cells of a monastery founded here in about 790. It has excellent skiing and is busy throughout the winter. But it is now also one of Austria's most popular summer destinations, with an idyllic setting that’s hard to beat, and the town can get very crowded in the peak season of July and August. If you want to stay in the town center, booking well ahead of time is strongly


Interestingly, Zell am See has also become one of Europe's top vacation destinations for people from the Middle East, and some Middle Eastern airlines have heavily increased their services into Vienna to meet this demand. The town faced considerable controversy after a booklet was issued by the city authorities in early summer 2014 offering "cultural advice" to visitors—it pointed out that Austrian shopkeepers don't expect customers to haggle over prices, and that eating on the floor in hotel rooms is very much a no-no. Visitors were advised not to wear burkas and to "adopt the Austrian mentality." It added: "Here the colour black symbolises mourning, and is rarely worn in daily life. In our culture, we are accustomed to look into the smiling face of the person opposite us in order to gain a first impression and establish mutual trust." The town's mayor claimed that the number of women wearing a full burka has been causing friction with locals. Some hotels criticize the booklet, saying it unfairly stigmatizes Arab visitors, while many see the matter as a fascinating example of how the spread of global tourism can bring interesting cultural interaction.

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