Austria has been charming visitors and travellers for centuries. The winter months offer a unique opportunity to enjoy the traditional Christmas Markets, wind through the snow capped mountains and visit medieval towns and villages during the festive season...
After her visit to Austria to research our new tour, Susie gives us an insight into her journeys there
Austria – Historic birthplace of classical music. Mozart, Hyden and Strauss. This country has it all from castles, chocolate, coffee house, cathedrals, strudel, schnapps, the Vienna Boys Choir and Lipizzan stallions. Not to mention some of the most breath-taking scenery around.
Driving through the Tirol region of Austria, my brain couldn’t come up with enough adjectives to describe the scenery that lay before me. Magnificent, majestic, incredible and beautiful just didn’t seem to do it justice. EPIC. The mountain ranges are EPIC. That’s the only word to describe it. The smattering of small town and villages all with the typical Tyrolean look just add to the ambience. One town in particular is Kufstein. The city itself is impressive and at the same time charming with all its little winding alleyways and buildings dating back to the 11th century. The Fortress is the centrepiece rising high above the town itself. What’s interesting is during the day, even during winter, the Heldenorgel concert can be heard at mid-day. Afterwards St. Vitus Parish Church’s mid-day ringing plays for about 10 to 15 minutes. The Christmas market during December held at the fortress makes it a perfect setting for holiday merriment. For a change of pace a short 10 minute drive away is the Riedel Wine Glass factory and outlet store. Here’s a unique opportunity to take a factory tour and see how this glass is blown into the unique creations that are world famous.
On to Salzburg, you can’t help but stare in awe of the picture-perfect scenery. As you wander around this beautiful city, you eventually wind up in the “old town” or Altstadt as it is known with its quaint streets, cafes and shops. It’s the home of the city’s most beloved son, Mozart. The city is most proud of its #1 son and rightfully so as his music has withstood the test of time. The city is best discovered by foot. Everything you want to see is within walking distance of one another. For an incredible view of the city, take the funicular up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Built in the 11th century, its Europe’s largest and completely preserved fortresses. Have a walk around, or enjoy a cup of coffee in the one of cafes while taking in the views. One of the biggest draws is the Sound Of Music tour which is very popular. It takes you to the actual locations where the movie was filmed. Based on the true story of the Von Trapp Family it is not only entertaining, but moving as well. Interesting note. Salzburg has 35 churches in the city. Keep in mind that the city is not that large. On Sunday, a different church rings their bells at 10 minutes to the hour and then again on the hour. I guess that’s if you don’t make it one of the services, you can still catch one at another church. The bells ring up until 3:00pm. In 2006, all 35 churches rang their bells at the same time in honour of the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. My understanding was that it was so loud, that the city decided not to do it again for probably a very long while. The city is famous for its music festival during the months of July and August and for its Christmas Market during November and December.
Vienna is just as beautiful as Salzburg but in a different way. Whereas Salzburg is more countrified and surrounded by the Alps, Vienna is more cosmopolitan with a history and beauty all its own. What defines Vienna? In my opinion, it has something for everyone. This is a city for all tastes. History, Culture, Music, Food and Wine. It has 4 palaces, including the Hofburg, Schonbrunn, Palais Paliffy and the Belvedere. It has one of the oldest Ferris Wheels still in existence today which is an icon in its own right. Ringstrasse one of the most famous Boulevard’s in all of Europe houses the Austrian Parliament, State Opera House, Vienna Opera House and Museum of Fine Arts. Rising in the heart of the city centre is the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Centuries old, its an engineering marvel in itself. Want to experience something different? How about learning how to make Schnapps at the Schnapps Museum? Owned by the same family since its inception back in 1875. If you are lucky you will have the tour conducted by the patriarch of the family himself, Friedrich Fischer. He will entertain you with stories and antidotes from days past along with giving you a chance to sample each and every single type of schnapps that his family has invented. You might even get a chance to create your own. Speaking of sampling alcohol, there are plenty of wineries of which Austria is famous for. A lot of them located within the city itself within small taverns. If alcohol is not your style, maybe you would like to try your hand at Strudel making for which the country is celebrated. How about learning the history of the Sissi Taler, and Mozart Hearts chocolate that are so typical Viennese? Don’t forget those tastings! Maybe you don’t want to anything at all! Then I would recommend going to the one of the coffee houses that Vienna is well known for. Sit down, talk with a local, enjoy a cup of coffee and a bite of Strudel. For those who love to shop, don’t forget the Christmas Market! Festive and lively, it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of walking around exploring all the stalls, buying trinkets all the while enjoying a cup of mulled wine and munching on roasted chestnuts. Don’t forget to look at the one of the largest advent calendars in the world! Lastly, Vienna would not be complete without partaking in a dinner and concert. After all, this is the home of the Waltz, and Classical Music. A perfect ending to a perfect tour.
Christmas Markets in Austria
When do you need to visit Austria so you can take in the famous Christmas Markets?
Salzburg - Nov 17 - Dec 26 2011
Vienna - Nov 17 - Dec 26 2011
Kufstein - Nov 25 - Dec 11 2011
Top 5 things to do/see:
1 Kufstein Fortress - the landmark of Kufstein
2 Sound of Music Tour - a little bit touristy but a great day tour from Salzburg
3 Old ViennaSchnapps Museum - located in the heart of Old Vienna - where you can taste the real stuff
4 St. Stephen’s Cathedral - the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna this grand building dates back to the 12th century
5 Dinner and Concert at Schonbrunn Palace - listen to a fine selection of Mozart and Strauss at the lovely Orangery Schoenbrunn
Top 5 Restaurants in the Tirol:
1 Batzenhausel – Römerhofgasse 1, A-6330 Kufstein
Great for authentic Tirolese food and lively atomsphere
2 Alt Salzburg–Burgerspitalgasse 2, Salzburg, Austria 662-84 14 76
extensive Austrian menu - delicious flavours, good value and great hospitality
3 Barenwirt Restaurant – Mullner Hauptstrasse 8, Salzburg 5020, Austria 662-422404
voted top restaurant on Trip Advisor - this place is a typical Brewery Restaurant
and great option for those who like beers, Schnitzel4 and Backhendl. Bookings are essential on Fri/Sat nights
4 Restaurant Der Kuckuck– Himmelpfortgasse 15, Vienna 1010, Austria +43 1 512 84 70
Atmospheric restaurant with good service. Not the cheapest in Vienna, but this intimate restaurant is a real treat
5 Lubin - Hainburger Strasse 48, Vienna 1030, Austria 01 713 36 83 | www.lubin.at
a little off the tourist trail this Croatian fish restaurant is a great option if you want a break from the meat dishes that tend to dominate in the Tirol.
If you like the sound if this then join Back-Roads on their Winter Austrian Tour departing Nov 2011 - March 2012