Austria lovers, help!

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Mar 23rd, 2004, 02:44 PM
  #1
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Austria lovers, help!

I am working on a family trip to August, and want to reserve 3-5 days for something Alpine. We have been to Switzerland before (the Bernese Oberland), and absolutely loved it, but I'm considering doing something different this time, just for variety's sake. I'm assuming Austria would be less expensive, and, who knows, maybe less crowded (though I could be wrong on this score). Though I'd like to see Vienna, I'm mainly interested in something rustic with lots of good hiking and scenery. I know nothing compares with the Oberland, but what's my best bet on coming halfway close to that kind of experience? By the way, we would probably travelling north from Italy. Thanks much for any insights you might have!
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 03:26 PM
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rex
 
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I don't know why I have never been to Austria for an extended stay. I have been five times, and too often just barely getting a taste, en route to somewhere else. So, your question resonates with me, since I can just about guarantee you that three days will eave you wanting more.

You have 4-5 major choices, and you are likely going to want to just choose one:

Closst to Italy (from Verona over the Brenner Pass) Innsbruck and the Tyrol (and could include the Vorarlberg - - making you just a stone's throw from the castles of Mad Ludwig). Innsbruck gets "dissed" as a dull place in the middle of extraordinary geography. I can hardly think of any other real "city" anywhere that has snow covered mountains when you look north, south, east or west. Its little sister neighbor Hall in Tirol is a nice one-day stay kind of place. And the part of Italy you travel through to get to Tyrol is very interesting and quite "Austrian" in its own right. I really, REALLY enjoyed a day trip to Trento, and would have liked more time there.

Salburg and the Salzkammergut - - many will say this might be your best choice; you would have two choices of routes to get there - - it's 2-3 hours beyond Innsbruck, or from Venice, you can get there via Klagenfurt. There is so much written here on the joys of this area - - it's the land of the "Sound of Music" and it lies up to the hype.

From Klagenfurt, you could alternatively head east to Graz, which was a strong favorite with our family (only 24 hours there regrettably) last year during the 2003 Graz Cultural Capital of Europe festival year. It has a mountain right in the middle of the city. Off the top of my head, I don't recall where exactly are the boundaries of Carinthia (a province in Austria; Kaernten, in German) but it starts somewhere between Klagenfurt and Graz, and continues along the eastern edge of Asutria back towards Vienna.

Vienna, of course, wouldbe an urban stay of three days or more, but the Viennese Woods (the WienerWald) is a part of Austria that was just mentioned here in the past day or two as too often neglected and overlooked. And by me too. I don't really know anything about this part of Austria, except that I think that some good Austrian wines originate from here.

So, like I say all the time - - you need _books_ at this stage of your planning to see what gets you salivatig the most. It might depend on where you are originating in Italy. What is the context in which these 3-5 days fit otherwise?

Don't overlook the part of Northern Italy that abuts Austria!

Best wishes,

Rex
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 03:42 PM
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Well, I'm an Austria lover, too; and I've been there many times. Rustic, hiking, and scenery bring to mind many spots. There are lots of places with all three of those features. Rex has given you a good overview, so I'll just tell you what my favorites are, and they'll be in order of my preference.

First, strangely enough, is an area that isn't extremely mountainous, but is great for all kinds of hikes, with lots of marked trails and light hill climbing. It's also full of small settlements (almost too small to be called villages), farms and places to stop and meet the natives. And there's one of the most authentic and famous castles on top of an unbelievably steep conical hill an easy hike away. Top all of that with a wonderful country hotel that is family oriented, and in my opinion you have the perfect solution.

The hotel is the Hotel Moorquell, about halfway between St. Veit and Bruckl, about a mile off the road that goes between them. It is typically Alpine in character, with really wonderful rooms, a fishing pond, tennis courts, and of course lots of those hiking trails to follow. The castle is the famous Hochosterwitz. Write to the hotel at: [email protected].

Now, if you want more and bigger mountains, and if you are traveling north from the Garda area, head into Austria and then west to the Stubai Valley just southwest of Innsbruck, or the Otz Valley just a bit farther west of the Stubai. There are mountains galore in either valley, great villages with small hotels, and hiking scenery to die for if you like the Alpine views. In the Stubai valley, my choice is Neustift; in the Otz valley , my choice is Solden. There are lots of other really neat villages.

Well, you can think about these and come back with more questions if you want. Good luck.
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 03:55 PM
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Well, I don't think Rex has seen the best of Alpine Austria. (He, I am sure, disagrees.) In my days of wandering the mountains of Austria, let me say up front that nothing out ranks the Berner Oberland, or Zinal, Saas Fee, and Zermatt. But Austria has its charm and its beauty.

Two very interesting areas are the Ötztal, which is west and south of Innsbruck and the Höhe Tauren National Park. We rented an apartment in the Ötztal, Haus Michael by name, in Langenfeld-Astlehn for an extended stay. The apartment per se is the best one we have had in our travels. We had a car and drove daily to see the sights. Our rambles took us over the Timmelsjoch (which is a little scary on the Italian side), to the Zugspitze, to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Innsbruck, and the ski villages on the slopes of the Ötztaler Alps. It was high up on one of the ridges that hikers found the emerging remains of Ötzi, the Ice Man, who now resides in a refrigerator in Bozen/Bolzano.

Another area we loved is Heiligenblut - Lienz and the Hohe Tauren park. This is the site of the famous Grossglockner, its glacier, and some wild scenery. The famous Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse also traverses the mountains. Some say it is not worth the cost for the tolls; I say I loved it. We bought the multi day pass and took our time driving over it 3 times before we left.

We also visited the famous waterfalls, and we made an excursion south of Lienz to the Dolomites which lie along the border.

Although not up on peaks, the lakes around Salzburg are beautiful. Mondsee comes to mind as one of them. A car for this part of the trip is necessary. Buses are not all that frequent and trains don't go there.

A car gave us the freedom to roam at will and go at our own schedule.

We were able to shop the markets and buy our own food some of the time, and at other times, we ate in the restaurants and Bierstubes that abound.
Good food everywhere, and no one is obliged to drink beer. In fact the hotel in Heilgenblut (Glocknerhof) had the best food I have yet found in Europe. It was expensive, but worth every morsel.
The Wienerschnitzel easily beat anything I found in Vienna, and the lake fish were to my wife's liking every time.

I could go on for some more, but between Innsbruck and the Vorarlberg lie some wonderful valleys and byways to visit.
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 04:06 PM
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rex
 
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<<Well, I don't think Rex has seen the best of Alpine Austria. (He, I am sure, disagrees.)>>

No, I actually DO agree - - and even said "I have been five times, and too often just barely getting a taste, en route to somewhere else."

I was merely trying to get tarheel started on a reading plan.

I absolutely bow to your familiarity with the kinds of areas being sought. Virtually all of my familiarity with Austria has been "on a sidewalk" or looking out a car window, driving by.
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Mar 24th, 2004, 06:01 AM
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Thanks to all of you----lots of food for thought here. I've checked out Rick Steves and a Fodor's or two, but need to dig a little deeper now, and you all have given me some great tips. I may have more questions, so thanks in advance for your help there, too.
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