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Weve been to Austria three times now and can highly recommend it. Weve spent the lions share of our time in Salzburg at the foot of the Alps. Its an incredible fairy tale type town with friendly people and great things to eat.
On our first visit to Salzburg we were really tired upon arrival at the Radisson SAS Hotel Altstadt. The cab driver let us out on the "back side" of the hotel. It didn't look very promising and as Cindy and I walked up a few stairs to the small entrance, we looked at each other and wondered what kind of a place it was going to be.
Upon entering the hotel it was a big surprise. Wood plank ceilings and a friendly receptionist who quipped: "Guten Abend, you must be the Schumans!" I guess we were the last guests expected to check in that night.
This hotel was in a block of buildings started in the 1300s. What a place!
We got our key and headed upstairs. Our room was incredible. Wooden plank ceiling with a beautiful bed with comforter and an ultra modern and downright posh bathroom with lots of marble and a separate tub and glass enclosed shower. We rested a bit and then phoned downstairs and asked if there were any good restaurants within walking distance. Our friendly receptionist told us to simply walk out the back door of the hotel, turn right and look for a restaurant called Zum Mohren just a couple of doors down the way.
When we walked out the back door of the hotel, it was like entering a fairy tale world. A small cobblestone pedestrian walkway with little shops, each with it's own wrought iron sign. The restaurant was a gem.
Skiers will love the mountain cams at area ski resorts near Salzburg. The hotels feature live cams on slopes day and night not only showing live shots but temps and ski conditions as well.
We dined in at a restaurant in Salzburg called St. Peter's. It's considered the oldest restaurant in Europe and dates back to the year 803. It's carved into the side of a mini-mountain!
During one recent trip to that part of the world, we also took a day trip to Vienna. Locally it's called Wien and that's pronounced "veen." Its a beautiful old city. Wish we could have seen more of it.
We hit Vienna again during an Eastern European jaunt in the summer and stayed at the Marriott. We had enough time to sample some of the local cuisine and it was quite good. For some reason, Vienna just isn't nearly as friendly as the rest of Austria. Compared to Salzburg, the people keep to themselves in Vienna. But it's still a great place to visit. Their airport is a small but nice treat, too!
My favorite thing about Vienna is just wandering around in the streets of the old part of the city. For a relatively small city it's a happening kind of place with great little coffee and pastry shops.
Innsbruck is a beautiful city snuggled in an alpine valley. We took a tram up into the Alps and enjoyed the view of the city 7,000 feet down below! The skiers were having a ball on the slopes and hang-gliders were soaring overhead.
If you're into casinos our hotel (the Holiday Inn) had one in the building. While the hotel was one of the nicer Holiday Inn facilities we've seen in Europe, the casino was very small and pretty much empty when we dropped by. Then again it was early in the evening.
If youre not going on a tour we would highly suggest getting a Euro-rail pass that allows you unlimited travel for a certain amount of time. It has absolutely made our trips to Europe being able to just hop on any train and go anywhere anytime.
One of the best things about traveling is meeting people and learning. On the way back to Munich from Salzburg on our first trip to Austria, it was snowing and cold. Visibility was poor. We boarded the train in Salzburg and when we entered our first class car, an elderly woman was sitting in one of our seats. Tickets specified which seats to occupy. Since I didn't know if the train would be full or not, I politely indicated to the older woman that I thought she was in my seat. She muttered something in a mix of English and German about how lousy the rail service was in this day and age and then moved to her seat. This was an older train. It was very nice but like the ones you see in the movies where there is a compartment on one side of the train seating six (three seats facing each other on each side) with an aisle on the outside corridor. Anyway the woman kept fidgeting to the point that I whispered to Cindy that I'd just like to smack her! But as the train started to roll out of the station, the old Frau saw that Cindy had a video cam and she jumped at Cindy and said: "Get your camera, take pictures. The castle is on the left. Quick. Now!" She was being helpful and thanks to her, we got a great shot of the castle.
As we chugged along the Bavarian countryside, the woman started talking to us. She kept pointing out areas we were passing through and tagging her remarks with: "The man of a thousand years did not bring bombs here." Finally I asked her if she was referring to Adolph Hitler and she replied: "Yes, exactly."
We learned a lot from this woman who turned out to be a precious gem. She went on to say: "You young people probably wonder how Hitler could have gotten a stronghold on the people of Germany. How could that happen? Well we were in bad shape. Many were literally starving. Some, rather than starve, were killing themselves. Then this man comes along from Austria and promises to put food on our table and beer in our mugs. He says if we will just trust him and ignore the rumors we might hear, Germany will be strong again."
The woman said that she had heard rumors about concentration camps but didn't believe them until she was arrested herself and thrown in a concentration camp for feeding a Jewish family. She was lucky, she survived. She told us about how German children were brainwashed and told that if they caught their moms and dads listening to the BBC, they should inform the authorities so that mom and dad could be taken away for proper training. So unknowingly, kids were sending their own parents to Hitler's camps.
I'm not a history major but this woman seemed sincere and eager for young people to understand what happened during those dark days. It was a moving experience. This is truly what travel is all about. Learning from people about people.
If you're ever in Munich and don't spend at least a day in Salzburg, you're making a big mistake! It's really worth the trip!
Currency is the Euro. It used to be the Austrian Schilling. Driving is on the right. Passport needed but not a visa.