Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Austrian Spring Festival

For four days in May or June, music and contemporary visual arts transform the Austrian settlement of Graz into an even more magical city. Graz is known for its traditional charm and is, in fact, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. This, juxtaposed with contemporary electronic music and arts, creates a fantastically unearthly atmosphere that is something to be experienced. 

The festival takes place sometime in May each year, and features an intriguing international line up from the world of electronic culture, including music and art. There is usually a variety of events, from concerts in large venues to street performances of music and visual arts. The contemporariness, if there is such a word, of Spring may be hard to reconcile with the ‘high culture’ character of Graz, but the contradiction is part of the festival’s charm and makes it what it is! 

The most fascinating venue sported by the Spring is probably the Dom Im Berg, which is situated under a mountain in the centre of Graz! Schlossberg is a hillock or mountain in the centre of Graz with a castle or Schloss on top of it; the tunnels under which were once used as air raid shelters. Today, this subterranean maze has been converted into three ultra-chic concert spaces, which form part of the Spring Festival each year. 

Graz itself is an important tourist and visitor’s attraction to begin with, being Austria’s second largest city and a World Heritage Site. So accommodation and other logistics are taken care of for festival goers, who can find plenty of options to suit their budget. 

The dates for this year’s Austrian Spring Festival are Wednesday 29th May to Sunday 2nd June. You can get a full four day pass for fewer than €90. You can find lots more information, including the scheduled line up, as and when it becomes available at

The Altitude Festival, Mayrhofen, Austria

This brilliantly enjoyable festival of laughs started quite informally around six years back, when a couple of British comedians decided to do stand-up while on skiing holiday in the Central Eastern Alps. The altitude festival has now earned a firm place in the annual alpine events calendar.

The festival was based in the French skiing resort of Meribel, which is where it took place for the first two years or so, after which it has moved to Mayrhofen, a.k.a ‘The Hof’. Mayrhofen itself is a shredder’s delight, thanks to the amazing piste, not to mention the possibilities of other pleasures like hiking and paragliding, with a bit of mountain biking thrown in. 

The line-up is amazing and seems to get better each year. Last year included comedy geniuses like Milton Jones, Franky Boyle and Craig Campbell, and some genuinely promising new talent as well. Altitude was actually the baby by the very funny Marcus Brigstocke, with some other comics, very informally, while on a skiing holiday; but has turned into a full-fledged festival that kicks après ski about a thousand notches up.

The event is usually about a week long, with a variety of events and shows, including traditional stand up, pub gigs lubricated by a generous flow of excellent booze, live music and even shows for children. By day of course, one is free to partake in the pleasures of the piste, or simply relax and unwind. The mix works very well indeed, and Mayrhofen provides the best setting for all the hilarity to take place. 

Mayrhofen is not just a splendid winter resort, but one of the best places you can enjoy comedy. And when it comes to pure fun, it doesn’t get much better than the Altitude festival. This year’s dates are to be announced, but you can find lots more information on the festival’s official website and on, which will keep you updated about the schedule and what you can expect this year.

** photo credit:


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Experience the Culture and Traditional that is the Salzburg Festival

Salzburg Festival
Salzburg Festival (photo credit:

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Put those Skis Away for a While in Austria!

Whilst I’m sure you’re horrified at the very idea of enjoying a pastime in Austria other than skiing, you need to realise that the country offers a plethora of other activities to enjoy, especially during the warmer months of the year.

In fact, although winter sports holidays are still firm favourites in the country, the number of people travelling to Austria during the summer months is definitely on the increase. This is down to the fact that there are so many diverse activities to get your teeth into in the country: ranging from anything between pleasant and tranquil walks through forests, to full-on and adrenaline-pumping pastimes.

To start with the more sedate kinds of activities, there are plenty to enjoy and these will appeal to people of all age groups. Austria allows you to indulge in pastimes such as nature walks (especially beautiful in the spring when the first flowers come out in their droves), lake swimming, painting and photography opportunities, lake and river fishing, sailing, cycling and a whole host of equally enjoyable other leisure pursuits.

For those of you who would prefer to get involved in something altogether more ‘white knuckle’, Austria definitely will not disappoint. For example, how does white-water rafting sound; and how about bungee jumping? You might even like to consider canoeing and kayaking, mountain biking, abseiling or even spelunking. Real adrenaline junkies should never presume that Austria is a sleepy backwater with very little going on. 

So, pop those skis in the cupboard just for a time, as there is a whole world of other fantastic activities for you to participate in whilst on holiday in the country of Austria. Don’t worry; you can get them back out when winter comes around again!