Culturally Cool Austria – Europe’s Meeting Place

Ars Electronica Center & Urfahr Church Linz (c) ÖW_Peter Burgstaller

From its geographical status as a landlocked country surrounded by eight European neighbours, the Austria of today reflects its unique position at the centre of the continent where influences meet and a centuries-long history and tradition are celebrated and respected. There is a strong sense of identity - or culture if you prefer – in Austria, and, as visitors will soon experience, one that is showcased naturally and inclusively. See and hear it in the finest of music and the arts, admire it in the most splendid architecture, step into it on a mountain adventure, taste it at tables across the country, and be embraced by it in the most charming of hospitality.

 

In Tune
The fine sounds of music can be heard throughout Austria, whether in the setting of a grand opera house, modern concert hall, mountain venue or festival stage. Music is an art form that crosses borders, with beloved compositions able to transcend language, gender and ethnicity. Mozart, Haydn, Liszt and Mahler are just a few of the names having composed melodies recognised globally, and while their origins may be Austrian, their influence is international. Come and see where some of these composers got their start. In Salzburg, the home that Mozart was born in is open to visitors, as is the Haydnhaus in Vienna in which Haydn composed the majority of his works over his 12 years in residence. From chords to canvas, Austria also holds a strong reputation in the world of visual art, with pieces by Austrian painters in galleries around the world. Even for those not so well-versed in art, The Kiss created by Austrian-born Gustav Klimt in 1908/09 in an eye-catching gilded style – and today hanging in Vienna’s Belvedere Gallery – is almost at once recognisable.

 

Hungerburg Station Nordkettenbahnen Innsbruck (c) ÖW_Andreas HoferAn Architectural Arch through the Ages
Think you’ll see lovely baroque architecture and picture-perfect alpine chalets adorned with flower-bedecked balconies on your visit to Austria? Yes, quite likely. But look a bit closer, stand back a bit, and you’ll also get amazing views of an Austria that you perhaps weren’t expecting. In the past few decades, there have been many developments in Austria’s architectural identity, most notably, a blending of the old and new. For a futuristic feel, let your gaze wander up the fluorescently lit sides of the Kunsthaus Graz (Graz Art Museum), dubbed ‘the friendly alien’ with its bulbous shape and shiny blue plexi-glass panes that reflect Graz’s Old Town within them. The sky’s the limit in the former imperial town of Innsbruck, where London-based architect Zaha Hadid has left her mark on the city’s Bergisel Ski Jump as well as its Nordkettenbahnen cable car stations, a series of structural modern marvels with fluid lines inspired by natural ice formations. Need more evidence for this old-meets-new trend? The province of Vorarlberg has become somewhat of a hotbed of building innovation, catching the attention not only of those in the architectural world, but also visitors to the region. The traditional wood architecture is complemented by amazing glass constructs that proudly take a place alongside their more long-standing neighbours. This blending of building styles has become a real hallmark of Austria’s westernmost province.

 

Lofty Alpine Traditions
While Austria’s geographic position alone ensures its alpine designation, it’s the observances and evidence of this association with the mountains throughout the centuries that make it part of the cultural landscape. In 1991, the well-preserved body of a pre-historic man was discovered on a glacier in the Ötztal Alps at an elevation of 2300m. Nicknamed ‘Ötzi the Iceman’, he is thought to have lived some 5,300 years ago and perhaps been a trader in this region of criss-crossing alpine routes. Plenty of evidence of this centuries-upon-centuries-long trade and movement across Austria’s alpine region remains. The landmark protected Berliner Hütte at 2044m in the Zillertal opened in 1879 and still welcomes guest today. The 46km Grossglockner High Alpine Road connecting the federal provinces of Salzburg and Carinthia was constructed in the 1930s and remains one of the most famous roads in the Alps.

 

Viennese Schnitzel (c) ÖW_SchardtGetting a Taste of Things
While Austrian chefs are quite happy to be associated with beloved favourites such as crisp Apfelstrudel and Wiener Schnitzel, there is a fresh and innovative culinary trend evident in a lot of Austria’s kitchens. An Austrian menu nowadays reflects wide cultural influences in the re-invention of many traditional dishes. An old adage reworked as ‘The way to a visitor’s heart is through his/her stomach’ may succinctly sum up why visitors to Austria can’t wait to take their place at the table, be it at a Michelin-starred restaurant or cosy family-owned hut serving up local specialities. Not to forget the ever-important wine, of course! Austria’s reds and whites have a long tradition in the country’s wine regions which consistently produce many award-winning varieties worthy of global attention.

 

Do Stay Awhile
For most Austrians, a strong passion for tradition and a respect for the past that is so clearly reflected in contemporary culture, characterise a way of life. As a consequence, visitors to Austria can’t help but feel the authenticity of their interactions with local hosts who help bring destination Austria to life in a real and unedited way. From the concierge at a luxury 5* hotel to the vendor at a farmer’s market, from the city tour guide to the friendly face at the ski hire shop, and from the moment you arrive until the time you depart, you can be sure of a charming tradition of hospitality unmatched throughout the world.



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 Anna Blum on 16.12.2014  |   No comments

The Mouthwatering Dishes No Austrian Ski Trip Should Be Without

by Nicola Swales

The Mouthwatering Dishes No Austrian Ski Trip Should Be Without

 
‘…Cream coloured ponies and crisp apple Strudels / Doorbells and sleigh bells and Schnitzel with noodles…’ go the lyrics from My Favourite Things in the famous film, The Sound of Music.

If you’ve visited the country before – ski holiday or otherwise – then it’s really unsurprising that the most well-known song from that most famous of films about Austria references food. I mean, why wouldn’t it? Eating out here is one of the absolute highlights of any first-time trip.

And let’s face it: when you’re on a ski holiday, what you eat is important. Not only do meal times become major social events that punctuate the day, but you’re also likely to be eating in restaurants much more than usual. Factor in the extra energy you’re going to need to slide down a mountain all day compared to what you’d be doing at home, and it quickly becomes clear that local cuisine ought to be something we consider very carefully before booking a trip.

Yet bizarrely, when we talk about ski resorts the factors we focus on are usually the beauty of the scenery, the quality of the snow and the value for money. All three are important of course, but if you take into account nothing else then you’re inadvertently narrowing your viewpoint to ensure you only ever discover a narrow cross section of places.

If you’re considering heading back to the slopes this year, and you agree that mountain lunches and dinners out are a big part of the experience, then read on to find out why Austria should be on your shortlist.

 

What’s So Special About Austrian Grub?


Distinguished by its unique mix of flavours and textures, meats and cheeses as well as delicious pastries, authentic Austrian cuisine is strongly influenced by its neighbouring countries – most notably Hungary, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic. Some recipes have been passed down for over six centuries, with most dishes today influenced by the peasant cuisine of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Traditional dishes originating from this era are heavily potato-based (potatoes saved the population from famine) but veal was also a common, cheap option during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph and is still a well-loved ingredient today.

If you enjoy a good hearty meal, you’re going to love some of the dishes below. Just be sure to come with a big appetite!

 

Wiener Schnitzel Is Well-Known and Rightly So


Wiener Schnitzel - Best Mountain Food in Austria
 
In spite of its name, Austria’s signature dish was most likely first served at a table in Rome rather than Vienna. According to legend, this breaded deep-fried Schnitzel originated from the Italian Piccata Milanese in the 12th century. It was supposedly introduced to the people of Vienna as the favourite meal of General Radetzky after suppressing the revolution in Milan.

It should be made from fine veal (aus feinem Kalbfleisch), although a more budget (and less tasty) option is made using pork cutlets (Schweineschnitzel). Every Austrian knows that the perfect Wiener Schnitzel tastes buttery on the outside and ‘zart und saftig‘ (tender and juicy) inside.

If you want to see how the pros do it, look no further than The Sound of Music’s very own von Trapp family. Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and August – the real-life great-grandchildren of Captain and Baroness Maria von Trapp – recently filmed themselves making their family’s own Wiener Schnitzel recipe at home.

 

You’ll Find No Better Value Than Goulash Soup


Goulash Soup - Best Mountain Food in Austria
 
Traditionally, any good Austrian housewife’s repertoire would include this wholesome meal in a soup. Recipes vary wherever you go, but generally you can expect a stew of meat and vegetables – such as onion, tomatoes and potatoes – seasoned with paprika and other spices.

With origins that date back over 1200 years to medieval Hungary, goulash in all its forms holds a deep cultural significance in many countries – from Austria to Albania – where the former empire once stood. The word ‘Goulasch‘ comes from the Hungarian word for cowboy or herdsman, ‘gulyás‘. In the past, Magyar herdsman would butcher the feebler cows on cattle drives and make a stew from them.

This is a meal designed by necessity to fuel these herdsmen as they marched across Europe to cattle markets in major cities like Vienna. So it’s really no wonder that today it continues to be a much appreciated winter warmer for cold skiers at lunchtime. It’s one of the cheapest – yet most filling – mountain lunches you’ll find anywhere.

 

Tiroler Gröstl: A Real Alpine Filler


Tiroler Gröstl - Best Mountain Food in Austria
 
Made up of bacon, onion, potatoes and often served with a fried egg, for hundreds of years this has been Austria’s tastiest way to use up yesterday’s leftovers. Order it mid-morning after a night of dancing and Schnaps when there’s skiing to be done, and thank me later.

It also makes an excellent mountain lunch, especially when combined with Kaiserschmarrn for pudding (more on that in a moment). If you fancy trying your own, there’s a great recipe for homemade Tiroler Gröstl here.

If that’s not for you, this part of Europe is also famous for its sausages. Order Ein Paar Wurstl – a couple of joined-together frankfurters – served with mustard, ketchup, and chips if you must. A safe choice, maybe, but streets ahead of the sausage and chips you’d get back home.

 

That Covers Savoury, But What About Dessert?


Linzertorte - Best Mountain Food in Austria
 
The tradition of desserts is a huge one amongst Austrians – some of the finest puddings in the world originate from the region. The cakes alone – from Sachertorte to Linser Torte, the oldest known cake in human history – are worthy of their own short guide.

I’ll focus on desserts you’re more likely to find in mountain restaurants here, but be sure to put a visit to a traditional cafe with decent cake selection high on your to-do list whilst visiting.

 

Apfelstrudel Is the Undisputed Champion


Apfelstrudel - Best Mountain Food in Austria
 
The headline act in an array of awesome desserts is, of course, the Apfelstrudel. Literally meaning ‘apple whirlpool’, the best ones have flaky pastry containing a generous and moist apple mix that contains cinnamon, cloves, nuts and raisins.

People have been enjoying it for centuries – although it is difficult to establish a specific date, the oldest known Strudel recipe dates back to 1696. The handwritten recipe is in Vienna’s National Library, and it gives instructions for making a milk-cream Strudel.

But don’t limit yourself and forget the more minor celebrities in the Strudel world: Mohnstrudel (poppy seed), Quarkstrudel (curd) and Nussstrudel (walnut) are also worth a taste!

 

Pancake Fans Will Love Kaiserschmarrn


Kaiserschmarrn - Best Mountain Food in Austria
 
This is my favourite Austrian pudding – in fact one of my favourite puddings in the world! The delicious sweet pancakes are torn into bite-sized chunks and served with icing sugar and stewed fruit.

Kaiser means ‘emperor’ and Schmarrn means ‘mess’ or ‘nonsense’ and, according to late 19th-century history, originates from a visit to the kitchens of Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace by Kaiser Franz Joseph.

There are several stories of how it came about. One involves the emperor entering the palace kitchen and upon seeing a clearly ruined pancake angrily asking the chef: ‘What is this nonsense (diese Schmarrn)?’

To which the chef, thinking quickly, replied, ‘This is my new pudding, we will name it Kaiserschmarrn!’ The emperor soon became extremely fond of this dish, as are thousands of hungry skiers in mountain restaurants today.

 

Salzburger Nockerl Is a Mountain Speciality


Salzburger Nockerl - Best Mountain Food in Austria
 
This is Salzburg’s own dish that can be sampled in mountain restaurants throughout Salzburgerland. Made from three sweet dumplings that are decorated with icing sugar to look like snow, the dish represents the three hills above Salzburg which surround the city centre.

The dish was allegedly invented by Salome Alt, the mistress of Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau in the early 17th century. So adored by the people of Salzburg, they even feature in a song as part of an operetta, where the sugary dumplings are praised as ‘Süß wie die Liebe und zart wie ein Kuss‘ (sweet as love and tender as a kiss).

Another dumpling dessert worthy of your attention is Germknödel, originating from Viennese and Bohemian cuisine. It’s a favourite amongst children – but that doesn’t mean it has to be ruled out for adults with a sweet tooth! You’ll usually see them served with vanilla sauce or with poppy seeds and melted butter. They’re fairly heavy though – so don’t expect to do much skiing after lunch…

 
Nicola Swales is a teacher, contributor on Welove2ski.com, and food blogger on her own website Kitchenidiots.com.

 

These Are the Best Value Ski Holidays You’ll Find Anywhere This Winter


Not skied for a while? Then book a ski holiday to one of 14 top Austrian ski resorts with the Ski Again programme. Provided by ski holiday companies Inghams and Ski Total, Ski Again packages start at £825 and include flights, transfers, 7 nights accommodation, 6-day lift pass, 6-day ski and boot hire and up to 16 hours of SkiWorkShops. Getting back to the slopes has never been this easy.

Visit austria.info/uk/skiagain for more information on Ski Again and the affordable packages available.

OK! TAKE ME THERE NOW.

 



 Martina Jamnig on 06.12.2014  |   No comments

Noshing in Vienna

Sandra Shevey visited some Austrian markets. The Naschmarkt in Vienna was of course on top of her list. So, what does she have to say about it?

“Of Vienna`s 26 permanent markets, Naschmarkt is the oldest with a charter dating back to the 17thc.  It probably however was going long before that as an unincorporated market.Naschmarkt, Wien, 2009, Copyright www.peterrigaud.com

Meaning `wares` or `spices` Naschmarkt was repatriated to Wienzeile over the Wien River in 1917 when the Vienna River was covered over and city planners had decided to demolish the old city walls and redevelop Vienna`s `Ring`.  The original market site now hosts Vienna`s fine Opera House.  Naschmarkt spans 1.5 kilometres.

The old quarter still has a link with the ancient markets as old street names prevail such as meat market, fish market, honey market, bread market, milk market, cheese market and others.  It is on Meat Market that `Some Like It Hot` director Billy Wilder lived as a boy when attending grade school in Vienna.

The Naschmarkt was rebuilt within city walks just before the market was moved to Karlsplatz (its present site) in 1917….moved along with the old market building which still serves as its primary administrative centre.  Architecturally it is impressive- a rotunda market building with a majolica frontpiece symbolising fecundity- cherubs, grapes and vines. Read More



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 Martina Jamnig on 26.06.2014  |   No comments

A Summer Journey to Austrian Wine

Wine & Travel (c) AWMB

The picnic basket filled with scrumptious Schmankerl delicacies is ready. The bicycles are geared up for the first tour of the season, and the joy of a warm spring day in an Austrian vineyard can barely be contained! Austria’s wine growing regions from Vienna to Steiermark and from Donauland to Südburgenland offer endlessly delightful adventures and experiences.

 

The warmth of the sun entices to go outside and into nature. The blissful months of April, May and June play host to 4.5 million Austrian holiday trips – the second highest number after the summer holiday period. So now would be an optimal time to plan, book and enjoy an Austrian wine journey.

 

There are so many things to discover – beginning with a bike or walking tour along the Danube river; the opening of the Viennese Schanigärten sidewalk cafés; a visit to see the Lipizzaner horses in Styria and the beautiful nature parks near the Neusiedlersee (Lake Neusiedl). But that isn’t all. For those who are particularly attracted to regional delights and enjoyment on the highest level, a wine and pleasure journey is exactly the right thing. This kind of travel is mainly an all-round experience, where wine and pleasure along with nature, culture and attractive places of interest make up a well-rounded holiday. For some food for the soul, take a romantic stroll through the Kellergassen (cellar lanes) in Lower Austria, visit the winery of your favorite producer, or take a walk through the vineyards and then enjoy a hearty Brettljause platter of coldcuts with a glass of good wine in a Buschenschank tavern.

 

“Wine & Travel” made easy

Where, when and how long is a Heurigen or Buschenschank “Ausg´steckt” – open to serve their own wine and food? Which winery has guest rooms? When do regional wineries hold their Weinfrühling – wine springtime open-house? Where are the places of interest? The answers to your questions and much more can be found on the wine-tourism platform www.winetravelsinaustria.com. This tool offers the possibility to search for and find interesting points and locations such as winemakers, wines, vinotheques, hotels and restaurants, and to combine them together in one or more travel routes. So, go ahead and plan your Austrian wine and pleasure journey, upload photos and videos, rate your target destinations and share it all with other users and begin your summer with Austrian Wine!

 

All travel tips and advice are available on the “Wine Travels in Austria” platform from the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) at www.austrianwine.com



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 Anna Blum on 06.06.2014  |   No comments

Innsbruck Market: On a Clear Day You Can See George Clooney

Sandra Shevey visited some Austrian markets. The Innsbruck market was one of it. So, what does she have to say about it?

The train to Innsbruck was jammed with evangelists on their way to Oberammergau for the Passion Play which runs every 10 years.  Seating was difficult as I had to make my way around the placards which obstructed the corridors. Window views appeared like a film montage- images of mountains and sheep and deer (right out of `The Sound of Music`). Five hours later I arrived dog tired at Innsbruck, the capital city of Tyrol (western Austria) and one of the best ski resorts in the world.  It has hosted the Winter Olympics twice (1964 and 1976) and has also hosted the Paralympics (1984 and 1988).  In 2008 it was chosen to host the first Winter Youth Olympic Games to be held in 2012.Innsbruck_Copyright Innsbruck Tourism

Meaning `Bridge over the River Inn` Innsbruck was and is an important trade crosspoint of both Germany and Italy.  Lake Como is just across the border and on a clear day you can see George Clooney who has a villa there. The counts of Andechs were given rights over the Tyrol valleys by the Roman Emperor and in 1180 established a market, built a bridge to facilitiate movement of goods between north and south regions of the Alps. It is conceivable they merely regulated an existing market in as much as the location has always had an enviable proximity linking trade routes and the Brenner Pass.

In this Innsbruck would not be unlike our own Borough market in London which originally existed on the north side of the Thames and was expanded by the Romans who built the bridge linking north and south London.

The market began in the open amidst the cobbles and alleys in the old town square.  It still exists to some extent today in the same form and the same place. An Art Noveau indoor market hall was built in 1921.  A bit of the old building exists and you can view it from the rear of the New Food Hall which was built in 1960. In times past the 1921 hall was doubtless used to sell perishables whilst outdoor stalls sold fruit and veg and other produce.

There still is an outdoor market, generally specializing in antiques, bric-a-brac and other flea items but it was cancelled during my trip.  Two outdoor stages had been erected for band concerts taking place in the market square later that evening. I think this is a good omen…..a progressive omen…a healthy omen.  Rock concerts sure beat the kinds of entertainment previously generated for the amusement of sovereigns who would sit on their thrones peering down from terraces as some poor soul got his arm or leg hacked off in a tournament or some other blood sport.

The difference between New Hall and Old Hall is that between farm-fresh and organic.  New Hall reminds a bit of Harrods.  Everything is pukka, smart and expensive.  It`s like Saturday at the Borough market in London. Old Hall produce is not only local and home-grown.  It is organically grown which means the taste is that much more rarefied.  The houmas was thick and rich.  Fillets of roast pork were so tender you could eat them with your fingers. Pumpernickel and creme fraiche sprinfled with parsley were definitive in both taste and texture.Food_Copyright Innsbruck Tourism

The General Food Hall is open Monday – Friday 6am – 6:30pm and on Satuday from 6am – 1pm.  The Farmers Market is open Monday – Saturday 6am – Noon. I must admit at this stage that I speak not a word of Austrian.  Not a word.  And yet it didn`t seem to matter.  I had long conversations during my trip but they weren`t always verbal. I was asked to try a cheese which translated means `love cheese`.  I was given a single taster.  `Nothing`, I said to the cheesemonger. `I need more than one taster to get me going`.  A local behind me in the queue quipped, `Natural Viagra`.  I howled.  I laugh every time I think of the remark, even now as I write the blog. Another stall purveyed homemade onion cake and also a delicious bread called `Feigen cake` which is stuffed with nuts, apples and raisins.

Saturday also hosts two small Farmers markets in other parts of Innsbruck.  Visiting them gives you the chance to walk around the city.  You feel diminished by the grandeur of Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo architecture- also somewhat daunted by the wooden Durer-like crucifixes which still dominate this lovely, lost Austrian valley, shrouded in mist, mountains and magic.

And it`s not just on the streets.  I was booked into the Hotel Adler, around the corner from the old marketplace.  A large part of the hotel was originally a Capuchin convent.  This 400 year old hotel owned by the Ultsch family since 1900 and currently part of the Best Western Group remains architecturally true to its monastic origins and those origins include a singificant amount of religious iconography. As I savoured some of the best cheese I have ever eaten, I departed this last Austrian market venue.  It was the end of the tour.  I was sorry it was over.  But I thought I`d come back.  Like the cheese, it had left a pleasant taste in my mouth.

Copyright 2010 Sandra Shevey All Rights Reserved
Sandra Shevey runs tours around local markets worldwide.  http://sandrashevey.tripod.com
Contact: sandra_shevey@yahoo.com
 Hospitality courtesy of the Austrian National Tourist Office, www.austria.info



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 Martina Jamnig on 07.05.2014  |   No comments

‘Best of’ Tirol – national park on the roof of Austria

Here’s a tall feat – 241 peaks over 3,000m. Wow.

The undisturbed rugged mountain terrain of East Tirol (nicknamed the ‘roof of Austria’) is a true reminder that we are really just guests within the natural habitats of our world, and the best way to experience these inspiring settings is by simply – and respectfully – letting nature lead the way.

Those who choose to follow this ‘best of’ experience can be part of a newly launched ‘hands on’ adventure in National Park Hohe Tauern that allows volunteers, accompanied by a park ranger, to lend a hand with sustainable practices such as planting young trees, laying down climbing routes or cutting grass on the farm.

The theme of preservation continues on your visit to Villgratental, one of the most remote valleys in the Alps. A delightful surprise then to find out that this unspoiled valley is the setting for an award-winning restaurant. Enjoy fine dining with a menu of regional specialties made with fresh, local products in a traditional farm house dating back to 1879. You’ll continue to admire authentically Austrian wooden architecture at Oberstaller Alm in nearby Innervillgraten, often cited as one of the most interesting villages in the Alps with its 16 wooden farmhouses and a small chapel.

Your overnight on this tour is at the Zedern Klang Spa Hotel, which holds the distinction as the first hotel in Austria to receive the International Climate Award for its energy-saving and eco-friendly construction. Here, ‘green energy’ is produced through the power of water, and the salt water pools and thermal baths in the hotel’s spa landscape offer natural regenerative effects. A gourmet dinner before you rest upon a sheep wool mattress on a cedar wood bed built with no metal joints. Even sleep seems to come more naturally here!



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 Anna Blum on 26.06.2013  |   No comments

‘Best of’ Salzburg – enjoy a lead-free holiday

While the city of Salzburg has firmly established itself in visitors’ Austrian itineraries year after year due to a host of attractions which include the Mozart birth house, a grand selection of vibrant festivals, an Old Town famous for its baroque architecture, and of course the city’s draw as the setting for the beloved film The Sound of Music, the province of SalzburgerLand, home to Austria’s ‘Lake District’, proves no less alluring.

In fact, on this ‘best of’ experience, you’ll be introduced to a charming mountain town that, for the past 15 years, has been trailblazing its way into eco-friendly (and cool!) mobility initiatives. For guests in the all-season, alpine resort of Werfenweng, getting around is all part of the fun on a car-free holiday. You’ll be introduced to the town’s own soft mobility project – SAMO – as you test drive some of the unique e-vehicles available to visitors and on a horse-drawn carriage ride en route to a hearty snack at an inviting summer lodge amidst high alpine pastures. After adding to Werfenweng’s 250,000 annual visitor overnights tally with one of your own, day two beckons with the promise of outstanding views as you ride the Ikarus cable car up Bischling mountain where you’ll have an incredible vantage point of over 40 peaks.

Be in awe of some of the native inhabitants of SalzburgerLand’s peak region as you enjoy a birds of prey show at 1850m, followed by a circular hike that’s sure to whet the appetite for lunch at one of SalzburgerLand’s 161 certified alpine huts and Bioparadies establishments which take great care in serving fresh, regionally-grown products. Before your ‘so longs and goodbyes’ to this part of Austria, stop in at a farmer’s store for some demonstrations, sampling, and no doubt a bit of ‘take away’!



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 Anna Blum on 11.06.2013  |   No comments

‘Best of’ Lower Austria – the cradle of Austrian wine

In what may be Mother Nature’s most perfect shade of green, let your eyes wander over the gorgeous rolling landscape of Lower Austria, where the distinctive rows of some of the country’s finest grape vines stretch in almost limitless directions. Time changes little in these parts, and to its residents they wouldn’t have it any other way, for here, in this sprawling northeastern province, a laid-back relaxed atmosphere makes everything just that little bit more enjoyable.

Immerse yourself in true Austrian wine culture on this ‘best of’ experience that introduces you to the beautiful sights and tantalising tastes of the Weinviertel (“Wine Quarter”) of Lower Austria.

Gain a bit of history into Austria’s most popular white grape variety, Grüner Veltliner DAC, covering some 50 percent of the vineyards in the Weinviertel. Known for its trademark peppery accent, it can have smoky characteristics but also hints of fruity flare, and has the wonderful adaptability to accompany most foods.

Now, who’s ready to raise a toast? As you sit down to a cosy evening meal in one of the area’s charming ‘cellar alleys’ (Kellergassen), you’ll no doubt add your approval to the many accolades that Austrian Grüner Veltliner DAC has already been honoured with by the international wine community. You’ll overnight in one of the region’s specially appointed Genießerzimmer rooms (literally meaning to ‘savour’ / ‘enjoy’). These rooms are in beautifully located hotels / guest houses that proudly reflect the bon vivant spirit of Lower Austria and are filled with luxurious amenities and delightful surprises. Sweet dreams!

Fully revitalised, you’ll visit the 2013 Lower Austria “Bread & Wine” exhibition – bread being another proud regional tradition – then take part in a guided bike tour taking you through the area’s wine-growing villages en route to a ‘vintner’s picnic’ (scrumptious!).

Your visit to Lower Austria ends with a stop at the castle of Schloss Hof. A magnificent display of baroque style and architecture, this 18th century castle, once a country escape for the Imperial family, has grounds covering some 50 hectares including terraced gardens and a manor farm. So, for a royal good time, why not visit Lower Austria?



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 Anna Blum on 07.06.2013  |   No comments

‘Best of’ Styria – get to know the culinary side of Graz

“Mahlzeit!”

Sure, “bon appétit” works too, but when in Austria, why not give the local lingo a try and wish your fellow travelers “Mahlzeit” (“mealtime”) as you sit down to your latest delicious discovery on this ‘best of’ experience to Austria’s capital of culinary delights.

Graz is a foodie’s dream come true, an epicurean experience at every turn amidst a vibrant city scene. Here, in the Styrian capital on the banks of the River Mur, a host of internationally-acclaimed restaurants, friendly bars and colourful local markets can be found dotted amongst the visually-striking buildings. It is clear that in Graz the architectural highlights of the region come together and the various styles collide in the most pleasing of ways.

On a culinary themed city tour, you’ll have a chance to stroll through one of Graz’s 16 farmers’ markets that are a source of fresh and organic products to the city’s culinary outlets. Bet you won’t resist a tempting taste here and there! At a relaxed pace, discover the historic Old Town (a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site) as you exchange stories with fellow visitors. You’ll also enjoy an exclusive tour of the newly re-opened Natural History Museum.

Attention chocolate lovers – a special treat for you: a guided visit to the Zotter Chocolate Factory is sure to make a sweet impression. At Zotter, an Organic and Fair Trade philosophy starts with the bean and there is no flavour that’s unimaginable. Olive & lemon anyone? Or how does “I’ll try a bit of the peanuts & ketchup bar” sound?!

Just a short journey outside the city takes you to the Rogner Bad Blumau thermal spa hotel, where two natural hot springs provide not only the mineral-rich waters for the hotel’s thermal pools, but are also a key source of the hotel’s power. This unique resort is a true visual feast for the eyes and relaxation for body and soul. Ahhh…



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 Anna Blum on 04.06.2013  |   No comments

‘Best of’ Carinthia – natural cuisine and jewels of nature

In its enviable sun-kissed location on the ‘southern balcony of the Alps’, Carinthia truly splashes out on visitor fun with over 200 warm bathing lakes, the majority of which have drinking water quality!

Marvel at the sights of National Park Hohe Tauern, home to Austria’s highest mountain, the Grossglockner, and the largest natural protected area in the Alps. Originally established in Carinthia in 1981, its boundaries now stretch over three provinces – Carinthia, Salzburg and Tirol. Surrounded by mountains that stretch some 3000m skywards, and amidst tranquil greenery, on a ‘best of’ experience you tuck into lunch on a terrace at the charming 4-star Holiday Village Moserhof, set upon a historic manor house estate.

With energy levels up, it’s then time for a tour through the impressively scenic wilds of the Rabisch gorge in the company of a national park ranger. Cameras at the ready for even a waterfall or two! Dinner is at your choice of one of the cosy, traditional guesthouses which uphold a centuries-old tradition and a culinary philosophy adhering to organic ingredients.

Overnight at the Hotel Alpengarten in the 1200m resort town of Mallnitz, with dreams of tomorrow’s guided e-biking tour through the Seebachtal Valley, followed by a walking excursion with the national park’s animal warden. And, just one last taste of Carinthia to be had: a traditional buffet lunch – the so-called ‘Jause’ – with the freshest of products from local farms and businesses.



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 Anna Blum on 31.05.2013  |   No comments