Austrian FlagOur Austrian Trip
June, 1997

By Jack WelschClick on Thumbnail

Audio Contols:

In June of 1997, My wife, Linda, and I spent 12 days in Europe, primarily Austria. The trip was a combination of business and pleasure. The business part involved several days in Vienna for a distributor's conference. The pleasure part was primarily unstructured wandering around. Except for in Vienna, we made no reservations in advance. In order to use frequent flyer points, we flew in and out of Zürich on Swissair. The rest of the trip was by rented car. Though the title is "Our Austrian Trip", we spent a little time elsewhere including most of two days in Germany.

What follows is a diary of events. I've left in quite a bit of personal material just to lend a flavor. Hope you like it...


Our friend, "Stosh" picked us up at our house at noon and drove my car to JFK. We’d figured as much as 4-1/2 hours for the trip but made it in about 3 so we had a lot of time to kill. As luck had it, though, we got there just after a big French tour group. It took about 1/2 hour to check in. Lin, Stosh, and I had a lousy cheeseburger in the cafeteria. Such is exotic international travel! I gave Stosh my keys and off he went. (If this were a film, they'd zoom in on the keys for reasons that will become clear.) We boarded on time but taxied forever. We were almost an hour late in launching. The plane was a totally full 747; a tough way to cross the pond. I love being in Europe but I hate the trip over!


We arrived in Zürich at 8:00 but it took about an hour to get the bags and car. I bought maps of Austria and Switzerland and we headed toward St. Gallen, then south to Buchs, where we crossed into Liechtenstein. From there, we drove north again into FeldKirch where we rejoined the Autobahn. There was a lot of construction and a few detours but what sights! The sky was scattered to broken but the mountains are magnificent!!!

Crossing into Austria, we entered Tirol and Linda suggested we stop in Imst but, when we got there, I though the town was too big. I’d seen some small towns up on the hillside so up we went. We found no room at the only place in Karrösten but got one at Gasthaus Traube in nearby Karres. It's a nice place there run by nice folks. Had a Bratwurst and beer for lunch and headed to bed. That’s when I discovered that I’d given Stosh the keys to my suitcase. Great!! I thought we’d have to drill the lock out but the woman at the hotel suggested we call the "Schlüsseldienst". Took him about 1/2 hour to come up from Imst but it took him only a few minutes to pick open the lock. My stupidity cost me ÖS30 and a lot of sleep. I called Carol at my office to see if she could send my key to Vienna with someone so I could lock the suitcase for the trip home and finally got to bed at around 3:30 local time.

We slept ‘til about 6:05, then showered and went down to dinner for which we had Zwiebelrostbraten. It was good, but a bit greasy. After dinner, we walked a bit even though it had begun to rain. Eventually, the skies began to clear and the walk was delightful. We could hear a brass band from the distance and those big cowbells from a nearby pasture. What an experience! Linda said it seemed like something from Heidi. What a place!!


TyrolWe awakened as it started to get light at 4:00 but I put on my sleep mask and we slept ‘til 8:00, then had breakfast. The sky had clouded up and the weather continued to deteriorate ‘til it started to rain. Ugh! We headed east on the Autobahn A12 to Innsbruck, which has always had an attraction for me. We went into town but couldn’t find any charm so we got back on the Autobahn to Wattens where we visited the Swarovski crystal factory. Actually, there’s no factory tour, just a rather strange exhibit and the prices in their store are exactly what they are even in shops in Vienna. I can see no real reason to visit. We headed east on the A12 once again and got off at Zillertal for Wurstl at a Gasthaus. The waitress there was very nice. She’d spent 4 months driving around the US and gave us a postcard from the Gasthaus. There, we picked up a brochure on crystal from Kisslinger in Rattenberg so we stayed on the 171, which parallels the A12 and stopped at Rattenburg, walked around in the rain and bought a vase. We decided to stay on the 171 and did so for a while but then got back on the A12 and crossed into Germany. Almost immediately, we got back off the A12 and crossed back into Austria. Then as we took 172 and 305, we went back into Germany, then Austria, then Germany through Berchesgaten, then back into Austria again! Three visits to Germany in one day! After a frustrating search in the rain for a place to stay, we finally ended up at he Hotel Gartenauer in Anif bei Salzburg and had a delightful dinner at the hotel. I had pork in a gorgonzola cream sauce and Linda had pork in caraway sauce. Apfelstrudel was dessert for both of us. After dinner we walked around a bit, visiting the charming cemetery on the hill behind the hotel.


SaltzgammergutBeing a block from a church isn’t necessarily a good thing on Sunday AM! The bells tolled at 6:00 and all hell cut loose at 7:00 I guess so people had no excuse for missing 8:00 mass! We had breakfast at the hotel, then I walked up to take pictures in the churchyard. I also sat in the church for a few minutes.

SalzburgGetting into Salzburg was an easy matter and took only a few minutes. We parked in the first garage we came to, came out into the street and met a couple from Wisconsin. They’d been banging around Europe by train and showed us the way to the Altstadt ("old city"). We bought a city map and walked to Mozart’s Geburtshaus (birth house). We then just wandered around this magnificent city. There was music everywhere as many very talented street musicians played. We bought a watercolor from a (Chinese!) street artist.

SalzburgLinda loves carriage rides so we took one through the city then ate on the terrace of the Glockenspiel Restaurant where we had the famous Salzberger Nockerl for desert. We rode the cog railway to the burg which overlooks the city and took some pictures from that perspective, then we visited St. Peter’s Cemetery. We eventually ran out of steam and left town around 3:00. The drive to Vienna was about 3 hours primarily on the Autobahn. Driving in Vienna was made difficult by the heavy traffic and my ignorance of where we were going. After going around in circles for a while, we ended up at our new temporary home the ANA Grand Hotel. Check-in was a breeze and we went out to a sidewalk cafe for supper. This was a mistake as the food and service were both poor and the beer was Budweiser! I don’t like that beer at home; I sure didn’t come all this way to drink it!! Returning to the hotel, we had an espresso in the bar and met some of our friends.


This was the first working day of the trip. Since we were to be in Austria, we decided to visit the factory of a company who manufactures welders we're considering for the factory. At 7:30, John, my boss and President of our company, Keith, our VP, International, the salesman a driver and I all climbed into the (un-air-conditioned) Benz for the 2+ hour drive south to Graz. The company, people and equipment were very impressive. We got back at 3:00 and the 3 of us and Theo, our European Area Director met our 5 biggest distributors to give them a peek at a major new product we'd be introducing in September.

At 6:30 we all went to the opening cocktail party where Linda joined us. After cocktails, a group went to the famous Hotel Sacher for dinner. What a place the Sacher is and me without my camera! I had a goose liver paté, a Tafelspitz and, of course, Sacher Torte. We walked back to the hotel and had a drink (water for me) in the lobby bar.


First day of the distributor's conference which was held at the Vienna Marriott, a 10-minute walk from our hotel. Linda went to the first session and we had to walk there in the rain. Unfortunately, we walked right past the Marriott and onward for a couple more blocks before discovering our error.

We all met in the lobby at 6:30 to board a specially chartered streetcar to take us to the Weinbottich in Grinzig. John, Keith and I had some things to discuss prior to a call John had to make back to the US. Keith told Theo to hold the streetcar for as long as possible but, when we went out, it had left. John stayed behind to make his call and Keith and I took a cab to join the party in progress.

We had a great time at this old restaurant; Linda and Keith's wife, Stephanie, were sitting with our friends Evert & Ina from Netherlands so Keith and I joined them and John joined us later. We took the last bus back and ended up in the lobby bar. By the time all the night’s festivities were over, it was 2:00 AM.


Another workday. I had to make a presentation. When I got back to the room, I had some calls to make back home. Then I sat in the tub to try and get my legs working again.

Boys' ChoirSince it was raining again, busses picked us up at 6:30 and we took the short drive to Palais Pallavicini for the banquet. This was a magnificent building and a part of the Royal Palace complex immediately adjacent to the Spanish Riding School. The palace was absolutely beautiful. We had a champagne (or perhaps Sekt) reception before entering the magnificent banquet room. As a gift from Dr. Wilfling, our Austrian friend, distributor and host, we were entertained before dinner by a boys choir singing mostly Strauss and a little Mozart. A small orchestra situated on a balcony high above provided music during dinner. After dinner, there were a few speeches and our friend Michel announced his retirement from our French distributorship which he owns. That was certainly a sad note but overall, the evening was fantastic!

Since it had stopped raining, we walked back to the hotel, then went straight to bed.


Last day of the meeting and an early-morning presentation for me. Everyone was late, however, so we didn’t get going until 9:30. Because so many were leaving, Keith cancelled the afternoon program and I had lunch with Wilfling who then helped me plan our trip through Austria. He also made reservations for me for a concert tonight in the palace.

ViennaI went back to the room and was surprised Linda was there since I was early. In any case, she gave me a walking tour since she’d had a guided one. That a city! I think it's a respectable second to Paris. We went back and took a little nap, then headed out on food toward the palace figuring we’d get something to eat on the way. Unfortunately, it started to rain and we couldn’t find a restaurant. We walked all over getting soaked until we ended up in a little trattoria which was only OK. It had stopped raining by the time we finished eating and we walked to the Wiener Hofburg Concert Hall which is in what had been a ballroom in the palace. Sure took big bucks to build this place! The concert was great but we had some turkeys sitting around us. We walked back to the hotel and went to bed.


Stift MelkWe slept late and had breakfast around 10:00. I had my Piper shirt on and it turned out the Bellboy was a pilot from Australia. (What a difference 2 letters make!) He hasn’t been flying since he’s in Europe ‘cause it’s so expensive. For example, ~US$10 for each landing including a touch and go! We finally got on the road at 11:20 after ironing and packing. We took the A1 west, stopping first at Stift Melk, a Benedictine Monastery built in the 11th century. Such wealth!

Got off the Autobahn and drove to the resort town of Bad Ischl which was a bit to crowded for our taste, then ended up, more by chance than by planning, at St. Wolfgang on the Wolfgangsee. Wilfling had told me the Wolfgangsee was a good place to stop and that there were several towns to choose from. He also said there was a cog railway up to the Schafbergspitze but that I’d have to ask around to discover where the station was. Anyway, we drove through St. Wolfgang and noticed several nice hotels but each time we saw one we liked we were past the driveway by the time we decided to stop and we kept going. Finally, we stopped at a nice place called Strandhotel Margaretha and found that it was only about 100 yards from the Bergbahn to the Schafbergspitze! We were able to get a room facing the lake but it was in a newer section set back a bit so that the view was somewhat restricted. Still a great view!

The woman at the hotel was surprised to find that we were Americans since Americans rarely come to St. Wolfgang. Unfortunately, a tour bus pulled up and unloaded a group of Brits so English was the language in use. I really prefer it when German is the only language I hear. Makes for more atmosphere!

Linda and I walked up through town and agreed that our hotel was in the best location. We returned to the hotel for dinner, which was a BBQ. The dinner was good but the tour spoiled the atmosphere just a bit.


From SchafbergspitzeWe woke at 5:30 to a spectacular view from our balcony. The sky was clear and the sun on the Alps was magnificent! I’d misread the clock and thought it was 6:30 so we got up. When we discovered our error, we decided to try for the first run up the mountain. SchafbergspitzeFortunately, I checked voicemail and found that John was desperately trying to contact me about some documents I had to sign. He wanted to know where to fax them. This was really a problem because we'd planned on continuing our wanderings and had no Idea where we'd spend the night or whether we'd have access to a fax machine! The desk clerk hadn’t come in yet so we put our suitcases in the car, confirmed that the hotel had a fax, then asked one of the kitchen staff to tell the clerk when she arrived that we wanted to stay another night. Having done all we could, we talked to the Bahnhof to get the first train.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t making the early run this morning since it only runs when enough people reserve in advance. We returned to the hotel and found the desk clerk who’d arrived in the meantime and checked in to the room that had been unavailable the night before, on the top floor right in front. I voicemailed John to tell him to have the fax sent, then we ate breakfast and took the 9:05 train. The 45-minute trip was fabulous on a 2-car, steam-driven cog railroad train to the top. The train makes two stops, the last of which is still short of the top and it’s quite a climb to the summit. Linda was pretty nervous and stayed pretty close to on building while I wandered around. Wow, what a view!! We couldn’t have had a better day for it! I strongly recommend this place!

WolfgangseeI’d have stayed forever but Linda was eager to get down and I had the commitment to John so we took the train down at 12:00. I called with the fax number at the hotel . I read the fax own by the lake and called them back with my comments and approval, then rowed a boat around and swam a bit. The lake is cold. As it turned out, the business issue was a blessing; it prevented us from leaving without fully enjoying St. Wolfgang.

Linda and I drove to Ströbel and then St. Gilgen but neither were as nice as St. Wolfgang; we’d really lucked out! On arriving back in St. Wolfgang, I dropped Linda in town, took the car back to the hotel and walked back as Linda changed some money. I joined her and we ate at the Hotel Peter. We had great (spicy) potato soup. Linda had fish and I had "skewer". We walked back to the hotel and found a zillion people on the terrace loudly talking something I didn’t recognize, perhaps Hungarian. We finished the day sitting on our balcony watching the colors change on the Alps across the lake. Great day. At some time during the night, I saw fires lit on the mountainside in the form of a huge image of a cross with a crown over it. Neat! I wonder what it was about...


HallstadtNot the best day. The wind blew hard during the night and brought in some low clouds. We slept fairly late and missed breakfast so we had to make due with a limited one they provided. We left and drove back to Bad Ischl and then to the ancient town of Hallstadt where we visited 2 museums and the salt mine which dates from the Bronze age. The salt mine visit involved a ride up an elevated (on scaffolding) fernicular, then a long walk uphill to the entrance building where Linda waited and I donned coveralls with the other visitors. Then we walked further up to the mine entrance. A train took us into the mountain, then we walked for what seemed like many miles. The tour included two wooden slides and an enormous set of stairs. Quite an ordeal but very interesting. It was raining lightly when I got back out. Generally miserable weather. We ate pizza with garlic and sheep’s cheese for lunch. Not half bad.

We had a lousy drive for about an hour and a half before we finally found a nice hotel in St. Veit. Before that we went through a pretty dreary area (although this was probably accentuated by weather and our mood). At one point, we drove way up a mountain on tiny road following signs to a place that turned out not to have private baths. As it happened, the place in St. Veit was delightful, as was the woman who ran it. We had a great dinner and a pleasant room. I’m fairly certain we were the only guests.


GrossglocknerWe got up at 8:00 and had breakfast at 9:00. The sky seemed to be clearing. We drove up the Hochalpenstraße ("high alpine road") to the glacier at the foot of Grossglockner. What a drive! The view was spectacular and the sky cleared for us as we got to the glacier. Before getting there, we had to drive over the Alps and start down the other side, a trip of 35 km. Linda was scared stiff but I was wishing I had a driver so I could rubberneck more. It had snowed rather substantially the night before. I stopped at a small inn near the top to take pictures and got talking with the proprietor. I asked whether the snow was normal and he said it normally snows about twice a summer but this amount was abnormal. He was shoveling what looked like more than a foot of snow. The road to the glacier ends quite a bit above it. Linda stayed behind as I took a funicular down to what I thought would be the glacier itself. I discovered it only goes about 1/2 way down and the rest is a rather treacherous climb. I did it anyway, of course, and walked out on the glacier itself. On his return from an Alaskan trip, my dad had told me glaciers are dirty and this one certainly was, Just dirt and ice but still very blue and you could look down into it. The climb back to the Talstation (base station) was brutal and I thought once or twice that I might actually die there. Eventually, I got to the top, found Lin and we started back across the Alps. The sky was even clearer and the drive was spectacular ‘til we entered clouds near Edelspitze. We stopped for lunch at the place we’d stopped at on the way back and had Gulashensuppe. Zell am SeeWe eventually made it back down, bought some carvings for the kids from a craftsman and ended up for the night at the town of Zell am See. We got a room at the Sporthotel Alpin at ÖS700/person including dinner and breakfast. We had a nice walk around the town and waited out a rainstorm while having a drink. Then we returned and dressed for a delightful dinner. The meal included with the room was venison but I told them when we checked in that we didn’t like it much so they made weinerschnitzel for us. Delightful evening.


During the night, the lake was spectacular as viewed from our balcony. We woke to an overcast once again but the lake was still beautiful. We set out west on the route Wilfling had outlined for us but realized we were going back into the mountains. Linda had really had enough "high" excitement and the bad weather made it pretty silly in any case. As a result, we headed north. We stopped in Rattenberg to finish our gift buying. I put the car in a lot and went to buy a parking ticket and when I got back to the car a woman said a guy had written my number down. To be safe, I moved the car and sat in it while Linda did the shopping. After that, we took the Autobahn to east of Innsbruck, then got off it and headed North to Germany. We stopped at a small Bavarian border town which wasn’t so great, then eventually found Linderhof which was one of Mad Ludwig’s castles. Schloß LinderhofIt’s a lot smaller then Neuschwanstein and unbelievably gaudy. It was pouring rain when we came out and the guide said June and July are their rainiest months. He said August and September are the nicest. We took a tiny road back into Austria where we found a nice hotel which, unfortunately, was booked. We turned back north onto Germany again and ended up at Füssen, the site of mad King Ludwig's most famous castle, Neuschwanstein. This is probably the most photographed castle in the world. We got a great room, actually a suite with a good view of the castle, at the Jägerhaus at the Hotel Lisl. It was DM280 but I got them to throw in breakfast. We ate dinner in their restaurant and just hung out in our suite. The castle was lit up for the night and it was beautiful.


NeuschwansteinThe last full day. The sky was partly cloudy when we awoke at 7:00. We had breakfast and, leaving Linda at the table, I set out for the mountain and the castle. I’d planned on walking but a bus was sitting outside the hotel so I climbed aboard and rode. I’d planned on stopping first at the bridge that crosses a gorge behind the castle to take pictures. I got confused at the top and took the wrong path but found a great spot for some pictures. That worked out well because the bridge was closed for repairs. Near it, though, I bought a small picture from an artist. The castle was covered with scaffolding and netting as well, so pictures of it were out of the question. On returning to the valley, I finally found Linda and we packed and blew town. By the time we left, the town was packed with tourists. Neuschwanstein is pretty but much too commercialized.

The drive westward was slow; lots of traffic and small roads. We finally stopped at Immenstadt on the Bodensee (a.k.a. Lake Constance) for lunch at a park by the shore. We drove to Meersburg where we took the Autofähre across the lake (about a 20-minute trip) then took a tiny road into Switzerland. This was the only time we were actually stopped at a border crossing. The young lady asked what we were bringing in, I said "nichts", and we were on our way again.

Our one planning error was in not making a reservation near the airport for the night before our return flight. I decided to check out the airport so we’d be ready in the AM, took a wrong turn and ended in the parking garage. The problem is, you need to go inside and pay so you have a pass to leave so I double-parked while Linda paid. What a mess! We ended up at a Hilton nearby. The only rooms available were on the concierge floor at outrageous prices but we took one rather than drive around. We drove into town, got gas and returned the car to the airport where we watched an attendant hit 2 cars while moving one! We paid for the car, took the shuttle to the hotel, had drinks and snacks in the lounge and ate a simple dinner. After dinner, we had coffee and cognac in the lounge, then quit.


We were up before the 7:30 call, had breakfast in the lounge, and then took the shuttle to the airport. We had a long wait for the plane and, of course, the ride home was endless.

After we cleared customs at JFK, we couldn’t find Stosh. I figured he had a problem with the car because he’s never late. Finally, I went searching for him. It turns out they announced the wrong gate for our plane and lots of people were waiting in the wrong spot. He’d brought his wife with him so we all rode home together. We stopped for a bit to eat on the way home. As always, we’re sorry it’s over but it’s great to be home.