Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Joy of Relying on the Austrian Railway Network

In many countries around the world, the very use of the words ‘joy’ and ‘relying’ when attributed to their national rail network will probably be one of the biggest jokes you are ever likely to hear! However, when it comes to using the rail services in Austria, this really is not the case.
Every time I have been lucky enough to travel to this gorgeous Alpine country, I have made a point of travelling somewhere or other on their rail network. Whilst it may not be the cheapest in the world (nor the dearest for that matter!), the reliability of the services are seriously hard to beat in most other countries.

To be honest with you, Austria never had it easy when it came to building their national rail network in the first place: after all, the country is shrouded by towering mountains; but this definitely hasn’t appeared to have deterred them in any way. Even in the Tyrol region and other mountainous states of the country, you can rest assured the network covers the largest local towns and cities. 

As far as the trains are concerned, much of the rolling stock is actually quite old, but these are gradually being replaced with newer and more comfortable coaches. Some of the seating areas can be like travelling back in time several decades, but I found that this only added to the charm of using the train in Austria.

There are also fantastic international services to neighbouring countries: I travelled to Munich, in Germany, for example. If you are booking trains to destinations outside of Austria, just make sure you stick to the services you originally booked. This is a lesson I learnt the hard way, when I had to pay a large ‘fee’ for not having stuck to my original reservation on the way back from Germany.

In a country where you can take a glance at a train timetable and pretty much guarantee the service will run on time, physically relying on the Austrian railway network really should prove to be an absolute joy! To plan and book your trip, here is the link to the official Austrian Rail Network website:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Salzburg Airport

Okay, so Salzburg Airport may not exactly be the largest facility in the world, but this is something that only adds to the charm of using it. If you have flown from some of the biggest and busiest airports in the world, Salzburg Airport really will come as a less stressful bonus.

Despite the fact that Salzburg Airport is relatively small, it still offers its passengers absolutely everything they could possibly need. From duty free, to left luggage facilities, it is all on site for you. There are also a good number of shops and specialist boutiques for you to browse around and spend the last of your holiday money on souvenirs. 

For passengers looking for something to eat or drink, Salzburg Airport offers a few venues to choose between. The main eateries can be found as Airest Catering (where there is a very good choice of different world cuisines) and the Restaurant Ikarus. There are also other bars and venues serving lighter meals and snacks in the airport.

If you need to rely on the parking facilities at Salzburg Airport, the good news here is that there are no less than 1921 spaces undercover in the grounds of the airport itself, and a further 1366 other spaces just a 5 minute drive away. Regular bus and taxi arrivals are entirely possible to the airport and there is even a train connection which will speed you to the Hauptbahnhof in Salzburg City Centre in 15 to 20 minutes. 

Once you make your way to the departure gates in the airport, at first, you may feel that these are a little on top of each other – I certainly did! However, as you sit and watch other flights boarding, you will soon realise how adept the staff are at dealing with the flights from the airport. All-in-all, Salzburg Airport should leave you feeling totally relaxed and far less stressed than when you fly from other international airports. Truly the perfect beginning and end to your time spent in this delightful part of Austria!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Perfect Day in Zell am See

Of all the many Austrian towns I have been lucky enough to venture to, Zell am See simply must rank as a personal favourite. This settlement is located alongside the gorgeously-idyllic Zeller Lake and offers its visitors pretty much everything they could ever want: from skiing during the chillier winter months, to a plethora of water-based activities on the lake during the balmy days of summer.

I have always made a point of travelling to Zell am See every time I am in the Tyrol or Salzburg regions – I love it that much! My last trip was in March, as the town was only just emerging from what was clearly a cold winter – as the lake was still pretty much frozen solidly. On previous visits during the summer, however, I noticed how this lake really comes to life with opportunities to enjoy swimming, sailing and even pleasant boat cruises. 

First and foremost, I decided it was time for a spot of lunch and knew exactly where I was heading for this: The Grand Hotel which enjoys a fantastic position right beside the lake. There really is nothing better than tucking into a good portion of strudel whilst you soak in the majestic mountainous views through the window.

Tummy full, heart glad, it was then time to enjoy some sightseeing in this popular tourist town. The quaint and quintessentially Austrian Old Town district of Zell am See simply must be explored on a visit to the town and this is where you can marvel at the awesome architecture and frescoes of these centuries-old buildings. If you find yourself in Zell am See, do yourself a favour and make sure you visit the Stadt Museum which is housed in the oldest building in the area: the Vogt Tower. 

There are also plenty of cafés, restaurants, bars and shops to keep everyone happy, and as a year-round resort, you can guarantee Zell am See will be ready to welcome you at any time.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Spas and Well Being in Austria

Spa in Austria

Just the idea of being in stunning surroundings, with snow covered mountains or lush green slopes all around you, depending on the time of year, is enough to make most people think seriously about going to Austria for a spa break. Yes, Austria is not just good for skiing holidays or the chance to hike through the mountains and across the slopes. A spa holiday may not be the first thing you think of when you’re planning a trip to Austria, but you can be sure that if this is what appeals to you, you’ll have lots of spa breaks and locations to choose from.

Is one spa much like another?

You may think a spa is just a spa, and the only decision you have to make when booking your spa break is where to stay. Should it be near the delightful city of Innsbruck? Or would you rather head for Salzburg? Perhaps somewhere further into the quietness of the mountains would appeal to you, far away from the excitement of the skiers?

Wherever you think about going, you can be sure you will have an impressive choice of spa types to choose from. There are thermal spas, perhaps one of the most familiar spa types of all. Alternatively, and since this is Austria, you have the option of going for the watery wonder of the lakeside spas, or the high altitude delights of the mountain spas. So whatever you want to be surrounded by while you’re away, you can find the perfect spa to do the job.

What are the benefits of choosing an Austrian spa holiday?

The title of this article really says it all. Of course you have the advantage of the scenery and the spa facilities wherever you go. But you also have the ability to take good care of your well being, and different spa resorts have different ways for you to do this.

For example, the Grand Park Hotel is a thermal spa situated in the Gasteiner Valley, and it has a thermal spring pool for you to use. With different types of saunas, a rose quartz steam bath and waterbeds too, you’ll certainly get the benefit of thermal properties here.

Alternatively if you want to explore the delights of a mountain spa, head for the five star surroundings of the Wellness Residenz Schalber in the Tyrol. It describes its offering as holistic and it truly has your well being at heart. The highlight is the ability to swim inside and outside without changing pools – a true experience if ever there was one.

Some spas are built around certain sports, with the idea that your well being is as much about activity as it is about relaxation. If this sounds good to you, check out the Quellenhotel and Spa. Here you can indulge in a game of tennis either indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather conditions. They also have golfing facilities. And when you’re done you can have a dip in one of seven thermal water pools – how’s that for bliss?

So how do you choose the right location and venue for the ideal spa and well being holiday in Austria?

First it is all about location. The mountains of Austria provide a stunning venue for any break, especially when you can take advantage of the freedom to enjoy the outdoor pools and thermal spas. But on the other hand you might feel attracted to the idea of a lakeside spa, with the expanse of water to enjoy. Those wanting the opportunity to play some sports as well as enjoying spa and well being facilities should look for something like the Quellenhotel and Spa mentioned above.

You should also think about whether you are going to stay at the spa or whether you want to do some sightseeing while you are in Austria as well. This might depend on the amount of time you will be staying at your chosen spa. For instance, if I had a weekend to spend in Austria at a spa resort, I’d be tempted to pick the best one I could find in an appealing ‘get away from it all’ location. Why hurry to pack in all the sights as well as enjoy the spa facilities? It would do nothing but make me stressed, which defeats the purpose of going to a spa in the first place.

However if I had a week to spare, I’d definitely book a spa and well being break somewhere close to Innsbruck (a personal favourite, having been there some years ago). I’d have the opportunity to try all the spa facilities as well as having a couple of days out exploring the local area, perhaps with some nice morning hikes followed by an afternoon relaxing at the spa.

Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

The Apart Hotel Legendar - Lake Ossiach

Apart Hotel Legendar
Apart Hotel Legendar - Carinthia Austria

When you think of Austria you immediately think of mountains, covered alternately by snow and lush greenery. But this country also has its fair share of lakes, and you’ll find one of them – Lake Ossiach – right in front of the appealing Apart Hotel Legendar.

To say this is a different type of accommodation is to reveal this is a true one of a kind venue. Think of the best bits of a holiday apartment with all the best bits of a hotel and then throw the two together. If you could actually do this, and you were able to add in the luxurious surroundings of Lake Ossiach in Austria too, you’d find someone else had beaten you to it. That’s because this is the perfect description for the Apart Hotel Legendar.

This really does offer it all. If you love cooking with fresh natural ingredients while you’re away, you’ll appreciate the welcome pack that greets you when you arrive. This has all the staple ingredients you’ll need to cook a nice meal on your first evening there, without having to go out shopping. Actually you don’t even have to go food shopping if you don’t want to, because one of the services the hotel offers is a delivery service for groceries. And if you want to avail yourself of a meal cooked by the hotel, you can do that too. It really has the best of all worlds, coupled with superb rooms of different sizes, gorgeous views and a spa. Who said you can’t have everything?