Monday, March 25, 2013

How to Have the Perfect Winter Holiday in Austria

Winter Holiday in Austria

The Austrian Alps have for a long time presented some of the most luxurious skiing and snowboarding opportunities in Europe. The country's mountain resorts have catered to thousands upon thousands of satisfied holidaymakers, without compromising their traditional beauty and charm. But how do you make sure you get the best holiday for your group, and all at a price that will be pleasantly surprising?

Steep thrills or beginner's paradise?

There's a wide variety of resorts to choose from in Austria, and you're sure to find the ideal place for you; whether you're booking a holiday for a family of beginners, a pack of daredevils or a group with a wide range of abilities, Austria's resorts will be able to provide. For beginner skiers and boarders, Obergurgl and Lech are a couple of the finest resorts to go for at this level. Set in a small traditional village, Obergurgl is the quieter of the two resorts, but it is almost guaranteed to have good snow. You are unlikely to meet any big crowds or queues in the resort, and with the easy level of the pistes it makes for an excellent place to learn. Lech is a larger and busier resort, and more suitable for groups of varying abilities as there is a lot of off piste on offer and a snow park and half-pipe for boarders. While some of the slopes back to the centre are a little steep for beginners, there is nothing too challenging.

For those who want something to get the adrenaline pumping, St Anton is a great place to go. Situated in the western end of the Tirol region, the resort offers a wide area of mountain to explore as the ski pass allows you to venture into Lech and Zürs as well. Like Lech and Obergurgl, St Anton experiences a lot of snowfall, so it's unlikely that you'll be stuck scraping your skis across the rocks. While it can get a bit crowded, cars are not permitted in the village centre so it still feels like the picturesque Alpine town you want it to be. It's got good après ski opportunities too, as does Saalbach. Saalbach is one of the four resorts that make up the "Ski Circus" – a ski area of over 200km of marked piste. Saalbach has something for everyone, with a selection of easy slopes and ski schools for beginners, as well as a variety of harder runs and some fantastic off piste for skiers and boarders alike. There are a number of snow parks and half-pipes to enjoy too, giving large groups a great range of mountain activities to keep them occupied.

In February, Saalbach hosted the legendary Ästhetiker Winter MÄSH, an exciting three-day snowboarding festival that saw some of the world's best snowboarders entertaining the eager crowds. MASH stands for 'Music, Art and Snowboard Happening', and perfectly sums up the type of event that it is. There were team snowboarding contests galore, adding a little something special to everyone's ski and boarding holidays.

Booking the holiday

Getting to a resort can often be difficult and a complicated process to organize for yourself. Booking a package deal will eliminate any problems, however, as the company will arrange everything for you to ensure a hassle-free holiday. There are plenty of cheap ski holidays on offer, whether you're booking for a large family group or with a small group of friends. There will be an option of catered or self-catered accommodation for you to choose from, so you can choose the one that best suits you. 

The catered chalets on offer provide food that is cooked to a high standard, and saves you from having to find a supermarket in the mountains or cooking at the end of a tiring day on the slopes. Austria does, however, have an excellent range of mountain restaurants to choose from, so whether you're dining out every night of just once throughout your stay, you're sure to find something to suit you.

Whether you're looking for a quick weekend getaway for two or an exciting winter holiday with family or friends, Austria's resorts will be able to cater to your needs. With an excellent snowfall record and plenty of exciting mountain activities on offer, they certainly won't let you down.

Written by:  Jennifer Beckman, 25/3/2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Experience the Culture and Traditional that is the Salzburg Festival 2013

Every summer, the scenic Austrian city of Salzburg plays host to the world-renowned Salzburg Festival. This exciting showcase of the country’s most talented artists, as well as worldwide celebrated operatic and dramatic performances, can be enjoyed in the city’s Great Festival Hall, which has been its setting since the 1920’s.

Historically, the Salzburg Festival has been in existence since 1877, when it was organised by the International Mozart Foundation, named after Salzburg’s most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  After a brief respite for the First World War, the festival then continued in 1920, when Reinhardt famously performed Hofmannsthal’s Jederman, on Salzburg’s Cathedral’s steps.

Since then, the festival has included a number of iconic performances, to include one by the Von Trapp Family Singers, whose life was famously dramatized in The Sound of Music. Salzburg is extremely proud of being the setting for this classic film, which seems to be celebrated at every turn when exploring the city!

Today the festival is as popular as ever, drawing crowds of thousands from throughout Austria, Western Europe and the world to this comparatively small mountainside city. The programme for 2013 includes concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic, a Mozart Matinee by Ivor Bolton and a dramatic performance of Snow White.

The 2013 Festival commences on the 19th July, running for five weeks until its Grand Finale on the 1st September. As well as being treated to productions by some of the world’s best conductors, musicians, actors and singers, those fortunate enough to have tickets will also be dazzled by stunning pyrotechnic displays and a backdrop of dramatic illuminations. 

I would highly recommend the purchase of a glossy, comprehensive programme to illustrate the festival’s broad spectrum of performances and to act as a worthwhile souvenir of this magnificent event. This, along with tickets and information of all artists can be purchased from the festival’s official website

Friday, March 22, 2013

Do You Fancy Visiting a World-famous Film Set?

"Sound of Music" filmed in Salzburg Austria
Sound of Music filmed in Salzburg (picture credit:

Okay, I’m going to put my hands up and admit to the fact that I am a massive fan of the Rogers and Hammerstein’s film The Sound of Music. I can hear you sniggering, but do you know what? I don’t really care! As this film is based on true events that transpired in the run-up to the Second World War and because it is a picture that literally has it all, I am actually quite proud of this sincere fondness.

This was one of the main reasons for my wanting to visit the city of Salzburg in the first place. The city always looked so idyllic and quaint in the movie itself and I was keen to see how much it had changed since the film was shot back in 1965. 

This turned out to be the biggest surprise of them all! When I got to Salzburg and walked around the Old Town especially, I very soon realised that Salzburg has hardly changed at all. Nearly fifty years later, walking around the city you still recognise many landmarks and buildings that were captured in the original film and this is actually quite amazing!

Of course, if you have ever been lucky enough to venture to Salzburg yourself, the Fortress which sits atop of a hill overlooking the city is one of the first sights that instantly hits you. I found that the Mirabel Gardens were still extremely easy to recognise, as were a number of other buildings and fountains where the Von Trapp children danced and sung around.

In an age where there are numerous violent films depicting yet another poor unfortunate being murdered, the film The Sound of Music provides some much-needed escapism; a return to a bygone age of innocence. There is so much to be said for this.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Vienna City Marathon

Vienna Marathon
Vienna Marathon 2013

My policy when on holiday in a new place is, go with the flow. It is all very well to have a strictly planned itinerary ticking off all the right tourist spots, but nothing can give you a taste of the place and the people like getting involved in a local event. As it happens, the thing that was going on while I was in Vienna is the city marathon.

The marathon was in full swing while I was there, and little did I know that people actually travel from afar in order to take part in it. The annual running event is in fact the country’s largest, and in 2010 had over 33,000 participants from over 108 different countries. This year will be the event’s 30th birthday, as it was first held back in 1984, so it’s bound to be most special!
The event includes a full marathon which covers the full distance of 42.195kms. Running this distance without immense training is difficult for most people, to put it mildly. But thankfully, there is also a half marathon, in addition to a relay event, and even two fun runs of 4.2 km. and 2 km for young people and kids. 

Of course, you need to register for the marathon and can’t simply start running on the track. But watching the runners and cheering, and generally getting steeped in the atmosphere is a lovely way to spend a day, especially if you plan a walking route where you can explore the city at the same time. 

Running the Vienna City Marathon is bound to be an exceptional experience. The city is a unique mix of so much history and character coupled with modernity. Surely, taking part in such an invigorating event in an iconic city like Vienna, and running alongside people from across Austria and the world will be an experience worth having. 

And the marathon itself is much more than a running event, and has a theme around which several different events take place each year. Last year the theme was the 150th birthday of famous art nouveau artist Gustav Klimt. The race this year will be starting on Sunday 14th April 2013 9.00 am.