Monday, February 6, 2012

Oh Little Town in Austria . . .

Austria is full of little towns where we have stayed and enjoyed the local delicacies. While big metropolitan areas are always fun to visit, both my partner and I grew up in rural areas, which mean we love the little towns and villages that dot Austria’s landscape. Whether we’re staying in a small pension or hotel in a town or have found a zimmer in a village, we find these small clumps of houses really reveal the heart of Austria.

For sheer Austrian beauty, you cannot go wrong with the town of Hallstatt. Set on Hallstatter See, a large lake in Upper Austria, it is one of the most picturesque towns you’ll ever visit. When covered in snow, it looks like a gingerbread house town, although it may be a little salty thanks to the salt mines in the area. These mines serve as one of the town’s tourist attractions, as does the town’s ossuary, a place where the bones of the dead are stored. The reason everyone goes here, though is for the relaxation, the walks, and the views. It’s a wonderful place to be.

Pertisau in Tyrol is a lovely summer and winter village. In winter, it has the great ski slopes that dominate the Tyrolean Alps. In summer, it has access to the lush warm waters of Achensee and the gorgeous mountains around it. It’s not as pretty as Hallstatt, but the food is better.

Feldbach in eastern Styria is a lovely sleepy town set in the rolling vineyards. It has a great mediaeval feel about it, and the castles surrounding it just reinforce that sense of being back in 1200. Of course, the wine that comes out of that region also makes you feel like you’re somewhere in the dark ages, although that could just be the hangover. While you’re there, visit Bad Gleichenberg where there is a spa.

Mürzzuschlag in Lower Austria is always worth a visit as it has some great wild trails and some lovely cycling routes. If you’re interested in railways, there is a railway museum and several other sights. In winter, it has some great skiing nearby, so it’s a fantastic place to eat and sleep between days of skiing. The hotels are often cheaper than their Tyrolean equivalents.

Villach and Landskron in Carinthia have several little interesting bits to explore. The nearby castle, Burgruine Landskron, dominates the local landscapes, and falconers regularly display their birds there. In addition there are a lot of monkeys there, and no, we don’t mean our fellow tourists. The castle holds a collection of macaque monkeys in the Affenberg. When you’re done with the castle, you can explore Ossiachersee, a nearby lake that offers the usual scenic walks and diversions.

Austria’s towns and villages are far too numerous to be listed here, but these are some of our favorites. Hotels and zimmers are usually easy to find, so enjoy your trip to Austria in comfort.

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