While many visitors to Vienna enjoy a unique bird’s eye view of the city from atop its landmark 200m Giant Ferris Wheel, another unique vantage point can be had on two wheels along Vienna’s 1200km of cycle paths.
This ‘best of’ experience in the Austrian capital gives you access to Velo-city 2013. Held at the impressive city hall, this is the largest international conference on cycling, bringing together some 1000 participants ranging from planners and architects to social marketers, environmentalists and industry representatives. Highlighted themes this year include ‘cycling cities’ and ‘cycling benefits’, along with the newly introduced topic of ‘cycling cultures’.
What better way to toast Vienna’s rich cycling traditions than with a fine award-winning wine! Treat yourself to a spot of wine-tasting at Heuriger Wieninger, a traditional Viennese wine tavern, where your third-generation host Leo Wieninger will guide you through the tavern’s wine cellar and offer you a taste of authentic Viennese wine. And did you know that Vienna is only city in the world that boasts vineyards fully within its boundaries? We say a hearty ‘cheers’ to that!
Enjoy a dinner at Vestibül Restaurant, impressively set within Vienna’s ornate Burgtheater, serving fresh and innovative new twists on well-loved Austrian specialties. Follow with an overnight stay at the Boutiquehotel Stadthalle, the world’s first city hotel maintaining a zero energy balance. Your ‘best of’ experience concludes the next day with a guided cycling tour through Vienna, passing by some of the city’s most celebrated sights.
Winter is not all about skiing, as Touching Nature Web Guides know for sure. Set out on a winter walk on your holiday in SalzburgerLand, and enjoy rosy cheeks and fresh alpine air at a slower pace.
When it comes to winter activities in Austria, your mind probably wanders to downhill skiing. While there is ample opportunity to soar down mountains or glide through scenic valleys and woodlands on cross country tracks, discovering the alps on foot lets you experience the white-clad landscapes and fresh serenity more intimately. There is now a growing trend to cater for those who enjoy the quiet beauty of winter with walks and rambles rather than skiing. More and more walking trails are being groomed specifically for the snowy season, offering everything from relaxing strolls to longer hikes.
For winter walking in Austria, all you need is a comfortable pair of hiking boots and your usual outdoor clothes. Some walkers choose to bring along a pair of walking poles, but this is not a necessity, especially since there are a number of level paths. But they come in handy should you find yourself on an icy patch or when ascending a steeper hillside. Winter walking trails are specially flattened so you won’t find yourself sinking down to your knees. These trails are called ‘Winterwanderwege’ in German. One region that is particularly attractive to winter walkers is SalzburgerLand. The Salzburger Sportwelt region, for example,consists of eight ski resorts, all of which have well-prepared winter walking trails in their vicinities.
Another prime winter holiday destination in SalzburgerLand is Zell Am See-Kaprun. There you can take a cable car or ski lift up to Mt Kitzsteinhorn (3,203m/10,509 ft) to walk the easy but wonderfully scenic ‘Glacier Trail’ at an altitude of 3,029m/9 938 ft. The Kitzsteinhorn Glacier is covered in snow 10 months a year! While on Mt. Kitzsteinhorn you can also visit the Ice Camp, an amazing world of sparkly ice and illuminated igloos, with an ice bar and an ice cinema at 2,500m/8,202 ft above sea level.
The Rauris Valley, which is located in the Hohe Tauern National Park, boasts 48km/30 mi of waymarked trails for winter walking. Along the trails you may observe wildlife such as deer and snow hares, and you can warm up along the way inside rustic mountain huts. One Rauris Valley trail not to miss is Kolm Saigurn, which leads you to a romantic valley head surrounded by frozen waterfalls.
Finally, the Gastein Valley is a hub for winter walking and boasts over 100km/62 mi of Winterwanderwege. Choose between trails that take from half an hour to four or more hours to complete. Some are gentle and level while others are gradual climbs. Several of the tracks can be accessed by cable car, such as one that begins at the Stubnerkogelbahn-Senderbahn summit station. “The fantastic view from the peak of the Stubnerkogel across the entire valley is something not only skiers rave about,” describes Gasteinertal Tourism. “Those who are particularly brave venture across the 140m/153 yard long suspension bridge at 2,300m/7,546 ft: an airy kind of winter experience!”
Other non-skiing winter activities in the SalzburgerLand region include going for a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride, tobogganing, snow-shoeing, Nordic walking, ice skating – not to mention kids of all ages enjoy building snowmen! After a day of outdoor recreation, you can take a cable car to a mountain hut to relax over hot chocolate or ‘Jägertee’ – a popular tea and rum drink.
There are numerous other walking options in SalzburgerLand, with most of the region’s winter walking paths being clearly marked and local tourist offices providing you with winter walking maps. So put on your boots, grab your walking poles and get ready to experience the magical winter season.
For more information on SalzburgerLand and other Austrian walking regions, visit TouchingNature.co.uk
The Olympics are fast approaching, bringing road and public transport chaos galore. Instead of seeking alternative routes, why not pack your bags and head to a destination where the only means of transport you need are your legs, fuelled by fresh mountain air and hearty Austrian cuisine? Introducing the Eagle’s Walk in Tirol.
I got to know this neck of the woods as part of an Austrian road trip, filming footage for Matt Carroll’s Hidden Austria. We were running slightly behind schedule as the van pulled into a parking lot at the base of a rather steep, pine-tree dotted incline of the Alpine landscape. According to the itinerary, the Eagle’s Walk section was to involve a short hike up to a mountain hut where we would meet our guide and later lay our heads to rest. The changeover was to be “schnell, schnell, schnell” and, travelling with Austrian time efficiency and three men, there was no room for rearranging bags. My suitcase was thrust open, out came the PJs and, lacking headspace to decide what potions a city girl might need to look halfway respectable after a night in the hills, the entire vanity case was taken in tow.
Now, I might have put myself out there for the ridiculing remarks that followed, but ladies, take my advice: leave the cosmetics at home. For as soon as you have left that last memory of your constantly trackable lifestyle – a laptop – on the backseat in a car-park, the Eagle’s Walk opens up a whole new world of natural beauty in which a blotchy face no longer feels like the end of the world. 126 stages covering some 1480km of scenic, high-altitude hiking trails came within reach as we began our ascent. What struck me was the complete calm, broken only by birdsong and the rustles of wildlife going about their day from the surrounding greenery, plus the air glorious air, filling your lungs and driving you effortlessly onwards against the warmth of the afternoon sun. Inspiring stuff, for when else does a Londoner get to walk up a route to eternity other than the steps of a broken down escalator?!
A common way to experience the Eagle’s Walk is on a multi-day hike, broken up by overnight stays at mountain huts and chalets. These are located at regular intervals along the trails, making it easy to plan your trip in advance, and there are even accommodation-to-accommodation luggage transfer options. For those looking for additional incentive to get those hiking boots down from the loft, there is an Eagle’s Walk reward system with many of the inns offering stamping stations. Collect the stamps to receive hiking badges, souvenirs and the chance to win your next holiday.
As we found out on our overnight stay at the Hämmermoosalm in Leutasch, despite being at 1417m altitude in basic, wood-beamed accommodation, the Tirolean mountains work their magic and you wake up feeling more uplifted than after a night at a 5* resort. The pillow feels fluffier, the people seem friendlier and the food tastes scrummier. Only one element could leave you feeling like you didn’t manage to Get A-Head of the Games: the queue for the shower. But then, us Londoners do love a good queue. And with homemade bread wafting up from the breakfast room below and the sun gaining ground on the majestic Alps outside the window, this is one Olympic jam that I am quite happy to be caught up in.
Rob Rees is on a tour through Austria. Discover with him Austria’s hidden gems.
“We are five days into the Grand Tour of Austria’s lesser known ski resorts, having just left St. Johann / Alpendorf en route for the Dachstein area.
We started the Tour in the village of Au in the Bregenzerwald in Vorarlberg. The area is magical, totally unspoilt and so accessible from the Southern German motorways and the main Vorarlberg town of Dornbirn. Friedrichshafen and Memmingen airports are both within an hour making it a perfect short break destination. We were lucky to stay at the Hotel Roessle in Au. It’s a 300 year old building, tastefully renovated and run with such passion and care by the Simma family. Good food, attentive service and a simple spa and sauna area.
Snow kept coming but we managed to get up to Damuels for 2 hours deep snow to reacquaint ourselves with our skis and trusted equipment on the first day. ‘Warm-up Day’; well that’s what we convinced ourselves as the afternoon refreshments slipped down easily. How good that Austrian beer always tastes!
Bregenzerwald is a real find. Totally authentic; mostly dairy farms and wooden buildings. 22 villages scattered along the main road so you never feel like you are in a developed or commercialised ski resort. Skiing co-exists with real life. The ambience is excellent; the Mountain cheese is abundant and it is the home of 17 cheese producers and a Cheesemakers academy. There’s also plenty of good intermediate skiing split over three big mountain ranges; Warth-Schrocken, Damuels-Mellau and Au’s Diedamskopf. 200km in total giving plenty of runs, even for the most dedicated piste basher. They are all covered by the Three Valleys or 3 Taeler lift pass www.3taeler.com .
Day two provided us with the ‘day of all days’. After a morning skiing the delightful Diedamskopf by Au, the snow just kept coming. A 4 hour car journey from the Roessle to our next stop -Alpendorf near St Johann in Pongau- took seven hours. In hindsight, a very wise decision to abandon our skiiing on the Diedamskopf and head for the roads early. It is easy for Brits to misjudge the conditions and easier to fail to see that huge quantities of snow can even fox the super-efficient Austrians. We’re so used to just travelling around Austria effortlessly most ski seasons on pristine roads.
A memorable car journey began; through the Alberg tunnel and along the Inn valley with famous name ski resorts flashing by us every twenty minutes on the clear motorway – Monatafon, St Anton, Ischgl, Galtur, Alpbach, Seefeld, Zillertal. We headed off onto side roads at Woergl tracking through the ‘Ski Welt Wilder Kaiser’ resorts of Soll & Ellmau. No worries about the lack of snow here! We crawled behind snowploughs, tail to tail, via Fieberbrunn and Leogang until we hit Saalfelden. Unsurprisingly the pass near the Hoechkoenig at Hinterthal was closed so we diverted via Zell am See, to take the long way round. Massive tree slides at Taxenbach reduced traffic to single file but the Austrian Army were on hand to chop it up and clean it all away.
Suffice to say a good night’s sleep was had at the Pension Palfengut high above Alpendorf, when we finally reached our destination.
To discover the Salzburger Sportwelt, it would probably have been better to be based in Flachau or Wagrain. You will be more central and these villages provide easier access to a broader range of slopes. It’s also simpler to build Kleinarl, Flachauwinkl and Zauchensee into a day’s tour. With Alpendorf as our base, we had to rush to get back home at night via the rather convoluted, ageing Gernkogel chair lifts. However, there are still some superb red runs from the top of the Grafenberg which flatter even the most ‘out of practice’ skiers. The Grafenberg is serviced by a fast new gondola from Wagrain….but it is better to use the continual bus link from this Wagrain base station to the ‘Flying Mozart’ gondola to get to the Flachau ski area www.flachau.at
Flachau’s Griessenkareck has some long wooded red runs that fan out in various directions from the summit and you’ll have a smile on your face all day. The ‘must do’s’ are the Hermann Maier World Cup run down to the centre of Flachau, the long red to the bottom of the ‘Rote 8′ gondola and the red to the bottom of the ‘Flying Mozart’ lift. The conditions could not have been better. Perfectly groomed pistes, 1 degree temperature, some beautiful huts and long uncrowded descents.”
There’s much more to Zell am See-Kaprun than the gorgeous lake and pretty town. Take the cable car up to Gipfelwelt 3000 (and beyond), to the Hohe Tauern National Park, and you’re in for a real treat – as Matt finds out. National Park ranger Andrea gives him an insights into the mystic world inside the mountain.
But what are Sarah and Terry - LiveShareTravel.com – thinking of Zell am See-Kaprun. Find out below.
“It’s impossible not to be hugely impressed by Zell Am See and the spectacular Lake Zell. Just a few kilometres away Kitzsteinhorn’s peak presides over some of the most delectable vistas in the Alps. At its summit we were thrilled by Peakworld 3000, for us one of the best mountain attractions in the world.”
If you are interested whatelse Sarah and Terry experienced in Austria click here.
“Part of me knows that people are waving at me – and part of me smiles in response. On the other hand, the people waving are a good fifty metres below me on solid ground, whereas only a metal cable about as thick as my thumb separates me from clear, thin air.
This is via ferrata, or klettersteig as it’s called around here. It’s a modified kind of rock climbing whose origins date back to World War One, when soldiers unused to snowy peaks had to fight to the death on the mountains. Nearly 100 years have passed since then and I’m really, seriously hoping that death won’t be involved here.
Lukas, my guide, was incredibly cautious. At least at the beginning. “Are you sure you want to go?” he asked, looking at the scheming clouds overhead. “After all, I mean. It is raining.” Lukas, my dear, I’m British. If I never did anything because of the rain, I’d never do anything.
And so, moments later I found myself stepping into a flimsy harness, strapping on a hat, fumbling for gloves and re-examining both the metal carabiner-like clips and my own sanity.
I’d done this once before, sure, and it was exhilarating in that kind of “wow, that-was-great-but-would-I-really-want-to-do-it-again-kind-of-way.”
Turns out, the answer is a wobbly yes.
Montafon, the quieter area of Vorarlberg in west Austria, loves its outdoors. In winter there’s skiing and snowboarding, naturally, and summer sees the usual hiking, climbing and mountain biking you’d expect to find in the Alps. Yet there are new kinds of adventures available, like this purpose-built klettersteig route and an indoor climbing centre for when the weather moves from unpleasant to downright vile.
When that happens, there’s also käsespätzle, the local cheesy dish to warm you from the inside. I had my first taste of käsespätzle in Schruns, a village so small the receptionist refused to give me a map.
“It’s Schruns,” she told me. “Cross the river and walk past the church and you’ll find anything you want.”
She was right. Despite its size, Schruns does have a lot. Babbling stream, check. Characterful church with domed roof, check. Wellness spa, cafe and museum of local culture, check, check, check.
It also has, as I discover a short while later, clinging on for dear life, a purpose-built klettersteig within driving reach of the town.
Actually, klettersteig has that perfect blend of adventure. The harness and clips should save you from serious harm should the worst arise. Yet most of the time it gives those untrained in mountain climbing (aka me) a taste of scrambling up that slippery rock. A foothold here, a reach there, a mind over matter exercise all the way through.
“Look down,” says Lukas at a certain point. Two words I try to ignore. “Look how high you are and how far you’ve come.” Knuckles whitening, I do look down. That’s when I see the people waving. “Want to really give them something to look at?” he asks. “Abseil down from here.”
Abigail King is a freelance writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. She has circled the globe twice, camped in the snows of Kilimanjaro and Patagonia and tracked down tigers, turtles and panda bears. She’s then had a hot shower and embraced the city life of New York, Rio, Paris and Tokyo.
Whether visitors arrive in Tirol in western Austria by air or overland it doesn’t take long for them to recognise that they have arrived in an outdoor paradise. Although well known for its winter sports Tirol also offers some of Europe’s best hiking terrain; I was here to sample the delights of one of the region’s most spectacular trails.
As part of the Tirol Tourist Board’s efforts to attract summer visitors to the region, the Adlerweg, (Eagle Walk) was set up in 2005. It connects a series of routes from a pre-existing network of paths that criss-cross the region. While the main route is 280km long and broken neatly into 23 stages, there are 1480 km of trails to choose from. In this way the Eagle Walk can accommodate both the serious hiker who is looking for a challenging long-distance trail, as well as the casual day tripper who is looking for a gentle walk in beautiful surroundings.
I fell into the day tripping category (I would have loved to stay longer but will just have to return another time). I met the Project Coordinator and my guide for the day, Georg Pawlata, in Innsbruck and we set off for the start point of section 16 of the Eagle Walk, some 30 km north-west of the city. We walked around 8km along a relatively flat path and having been blessed with unbroken sunshine I was able to enjoy the Alpine scenery at its most spectacular along this short section of the walk.
Many different species of wildlife can be spotted along the Eagle trail. Eagles are often seen, although mainly on those sections that are over 1500m above sea level. Equally spectacular is the sight of one of the 60 native pairs of alpine bearded vultures. Marmots are a common sight, while mountain goats and capricorns are also seen along the path. Lynx also wander through the higher regions, although a hiker is unlikely to have a big cat encounter here. Sadly on this occasion I left the Eagle Walk without a sighting of anything, large or small.
So was the trail named so because of the sight of eagles flying above the path? Not so, explains Georg. “We wanted to connect together the most beautiful points of the region. We had to think very carefully where the trail went. Once a route was created we thought hard about the name. At one point one of our team stood back from the map, looked again at the line we’d drawn and said “Wow! It looks like an eagle!” From that point the name of the trail was obvious.”
We stopped for a break at the Gaistal-Alm alpine hut. There are many of these huts along the route, offering hikers accommodation (often including a shower) and a hot meal. We enjoyed a hearty home cooked lunch while looking out over the magnificent valley with its soaring peaks; if only I didn’t have a flight to catch that day, I could have lingered here all afternoon.
The Tirol Tourist Board have followed the lead of other long distance trails and created a reward system, where walkers can collect stamps in a booklet for each stage of the Eagle Walk that they complete. Prizes range from a bronze medal for 5 stages completed to a gold medal, T-shirt and a chance to win a Tirol weekend for two for those who complete all 23 stages.
The full Eagle Walk can only be attempted in the summer months, as the high elevation of some of the sections means that the winter snow does not clear until the end of June. Most visitors however will choose to walk one section of the walk and stay in a hotel nearby. Whichever way you choose to experience the Eagle Walk, you are guaranteed to be treated to some of the best Alpine landscapes along the route.
Heathrow Airport, Friday 6am. The somewhat disshevelled looking ANTO team makes its way through security with only one thought on the mind at this time in the morning – coffee! But as soon as the first gulp of caffeine has made its way into the system, life springs into our Austrian-loving veins and we chat excitedly about the weekend’s regional meeting in the beautiful Zillertal.
We arrive at Munich airport to stunning sunshine, collect our hire car and commence on a picturesque road trip led by our regional manager, Herwig Kolzer, who steers on valiantly despite only 3 hours sleep, until we reach our destination of the Posthotel in Zell im Zillertal. Here we assemble with our regional colleagues from Stockholm and Copenhagen, before checking into our allocated appartments and rooms.
The hotel is fantastic, newly constructed from head to toe in natural materials, with its own swimming pool, sauna area and gym. What’s more, the views of the mountains are stunning, and once we have enjoyed a welcoming buffet of local bread, meat and cheese we are ready to put our heads together for the afternoon’s meetings, kick-started with an introduction to Zillertal by managing director Gernot Paesold.
7.30pm and time for a quick change before we clamber back into the hire cars for dinner at Hotel Edenlehen in Mayrhofen. We take seats in the immaculately set private dining area and eagerly discuss which dish to choose from the mouth-watering menu. Yet once the waitress has poured wine, the first perfectly presented starter is served for all, and it becomes clear that the menu was not in fact optional, but everyone will be enjoying the entire 7 course feast – brilliant!
Dinner at Hotel Edenlehen
3 hours later our stomaches are ready to pop with satisfaction and there is no better way to end the day than hit the after parties of the Snowbombing Festival in Mayrhofen where the crowds appear to just be getting going when we call it a day and head back to the hotel.
Saturday is split into a skier’s and non-skier’s programme. The skiers have an early start, hiring their gear and attacking the slopes of the Hochzillertal / Hochfügen area by 9am. Us none-skiers (yes, there are members of the ANTO who cannot actually ski!) take it more leisurely with a stroll through Zell am Zillertal, before taking the cable car up the mountain to join the rest of the team for lunch at the fabulously chilled out Platzlalm.
The Team at Platzlalm
After lunch the skiers climb further heights to enjoy the spectacular views from the legendary Kristallhütte, while the highlight for non-skiers is a lift back down to the cable car in the Platzlalm’s skidoo. Back at the hotel we enjoy the outdoor pool and sauna area, before all meeting again for dinner at Landgasthof Linde in Stumm – what a life!
Bo Lauridsen, Market Manager Copenhagen
Sunday morning we wake up to bright sunshine once again – the perfect weather to take a trip up to the peaks on Austria’s largest cable car, the Ahornbahn. As the blue and yellow vessel climbs the heights I can only thank my lucky stars that it is a perfectly calm day. Despite slightly wobbly legs I allow myself to peer at the view from the safety of centre cabin, concealing shades, and a pole that seems to have become my best friend, and even I can tell you that it is magnificent! At the top we take a peak into the Iglu Hotel’s White Lounge which really does have to be the coolest of bars, built within an actual igloo.
Michael Tauschmann, Market Manager Stockholm
We had come to the final stage of our trip and it was time to head back down the mountain to hit the Arena Coaster in Zell. Really and truly there could have been no better way to end the weekend than the rush down this 1450m coaster of fun.
Herwig Kolzer, Regional Manager
Standing at the bottom we witnessed half a dozen excited kids clambering into the toboggans, strapping themselves in and embarking on the journey up the mountain, before whizzing down the steep drops and sharp turns of the track. The questions that came to mind were a. would we fit in those things? b. would we get the hang of the brakes? c. how fast did they exactly go, especially after a lunch of sausages and ice cream?
Yet after one ride down the Arena Coaster those questions become irrelevant, as a group of 15 slightly flushed and windswept adults gathered at the bottom of the track with only one more question: “Can we go again please!?”
Having skied all my life, but never been to a World Cup Ski Race before, it seemed to be the best way to celebrate my sister’s 35th Birthday. I’m blessed enough to come from a great ski resort myself– if not the best – Kleinwalsertal. Not getting the chance to see my parents often enough I decided to fly from London Stansted to Memmingen in south Germany. From here it is only an hour and a quarter to Kleinwalsertal, in Austria, which is great for skiing and Après-Ski and even suitable for mothers.
Next stop was “Going am Wilden Kaiser” for the annual “Weißwurstparty” at the Stanglwirt. An exclusive 5* Hotel which hosts the “Weißwurstparty” on the night before the legendary World Cup ski race “Hahnenkamm” in Kitzbuehel. Situated at the “Wild Kaiser Mountain” this spa hotel hosts this most exclusive red carpet event.
Classic Tickets start from €120, and include all drinks (except spirits) and “Weißwurst” a deliciously traditional German sausage from Bavaria. The night was apparently full of Austrian and German celebrities, but it was only a handful that I recognised having lived nine years in England. There was live music in all rooms and the atmosphere was amazing, but the best was still to come!
Early the next morning, but not early enough as it seemed as the best places were already taken, we finally went to watch – perhaps the most famous downhill race in the world- the Hahnenkamm. It was amazing to see the skiers throw themselves down the mountain in a race for the prestige medals. One skier who has managed to win the Hahnenkamm four times is Franz Klammer, but many, many more have been injured trying some very seriously.
Last week I was in Burgenland, the most eastern providence of Austria. We had our annual marketing workshop at the St. Martins Therme & Lodge. For people like me, who love mountains and adventure sports, the Burgenland might not be on top of the “must see list”. That has changed now! I was really surprised about the beauty of this part of Austria. Of course, I know that Lake Neusiedl is a perfect place for kite surfing, but apart from that …
We stayed at the St. Martins Therme & Lodge. The hotel or better the 4* resort / lodge is located in the middle of pristine nature, on the edge of the National park. Luckily we had some time to enjoy the fitness and spa area to distress and relax after our workshop.
Our workshop also always includes an excursion to the nearer surroundings. This time we went to Illmitz on Lake Neusiedl for the bird watching! At the beginning I was a bit sceptic, but as soon as the National Park Ranger started to give us – very enthusiastically – more detail about the region and the animal life I could not stop listening to his stories. I did not know that all the birds take Lake Neusiedl as a “halfway station” on their way south / north. Well, it is a great place to take a break. But what I really enjoyed was the great light and the perfect sunset! For me as a hobby photographer, it was heaven. I could not stop taking pictures.
But the best of all was the food and the wine. Always when I am back in Austria I just cannot stop eating. I am always wondering why I do not but on weight. Maybe because I combine my stay with some exercise – cycling, walking etc. – or because the food is quite healthy; whatever, I do not really care. The food is just too good. Hmm, the trout and the veal and the apple strudel … not to forget the wine …
At the end of my stay I have to acknowledge that I finally understand the meaning of “Gut Ding braucht Weile” – why good things need their time and taking a break and just enjoying the nature can be very exciting.