Austria : Hotels , Flights & Travel Packages
Austria Travel Guide : Austria Tours & Travel Services : Hotels Best Deals & Discounts : Low Cost Flights : Affordable Travel & Holidays Packages
Austria (German: Österreich, literally "the Eastern Realm" or "Eastern Empire") is a land-locked alpine German speaking country in Central Europe bordering Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Germany and Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east and Slovenia and Italy to the south. Austria, along with neighboring Switzerland, is the winter sports capital of Europe. However, it is just as popular for summer tourists who visit its historic cities and villages and hike in the magnificent scenery of the alps. Austria is well known of the following travel activities :
Skiing and Snowboarding : Austria offers a high density of ski resorts, second perhaps only to Switzerland in Europe. However, most of them are medium-sized. Austria's ski resorts are not as spectacular and glamorous as the mega-resorts found in Switzerland and France, but they are more cosy, less prone to mass tourism and a little cheaper (particularly for beer). Due to their proximity and the common language, most winter sport tourists in Austria come from southern Germany.
Cycle Touring : Austria is well known for its scenic cycle routes along its largest rivers. Though Austria is a mountainous country, cycle routes along rivers are flat or gently downhill, and therefore suitable even for casual cyclists. The most famous route is the Danube cycle path from Passau to Vienna, one of the most popular cycle paths in Europe, drawing large crowds of cyclists from all over the world each summer. Other rivers with well-developed cycle routes are the Inn, Drau, Moell and Mur. Most routes follow a combination of dedicated cycle paths, country lanes, and traffic calmed roads, and are well suited for children.
Music : Many visitors come to experience Austria's musical heritage. Salzburg and Vienna offer world renowned opera, classical music and jazz at moderate prices, but performances of high standards are also widely available throughout the rest of the country. There are dozens of Summer festivals for all tastes, the most famous being the avant-garde Salzburg festival (Salzburger Festspiele) but because they're aimed at tourists prices can be high. Austria's strong musical tradition is not confined to classical music alone. Austrian folk music (Volksmusik) is an integral part of rural Austria, and is said to have influenced many of the nation's big composers. In the Alps almost every village has its own choir or brass band (Blasmusik), and you'll often see groups of friends sitting down to sing Lieder in rural pubs. Traditional Alpine instruments are the accordion and zither. In Vienna a type of melancholic violin music known as Schrammelmusik is often performed in Restaurants and Heurigen.
Movies : Austria has quite a special kind of cinematic culture, that is worth taking notice of as tourist. Many films star celebrities from cabaret, a kind of staged comedy popular in Austria. Most of these movies are characterized by their rather cynical and sometimes bizarre black humour, usually portraying members of Vienna's lower or middle class. Josef Hader, Roland Düringer, Reinhard Nowak or Alfred Dorfer are among the most outstanding actors here. Recommendations include Indien (1993), Muttertag (1993), Hinterholz 8 (1998), Komm, süßer Tod (2000) and Silentium (2004). Popular directors are Harald Sicheritz, Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl. Haneke received positive international praise for his films Die Klavierspielerin (2001), based on the novel by nobel-prize winning author Elfriede Jelinek and Caché (2005). Seidl received various awards for his drama Hundstage (2001). Also, the 1949 classic The Third Man was shot in Vienna, and is regularly shown in Vienna's Burg Kino.
Hiking : It is normally safe to hike without a guide in the Austrian Alps, as there is a dense network of marked trails and mountain shelters. However, a few lethal incidents do happen every year as a result of carelessness. Walkers are strongly advised not to stray off the trails and not to hike in bad weather or without suitable equipment. Before setting off, always check with the local tourist office whether the trail corresponds to your abilities. Also check the weather forecast. Sudden thunderstorms are frequent and are more likely to happen in the afternoon. A rule of thumb is that if you haven't reached the summit by noon it's time to give up and return to shelter. Though the scenery is by all accounts majestic, don't expect an empty wilderness. The Alps can be very crowded with mountaineers, especially in high season (there are even traffic jams of climbers on some popular mountains). Littering is a no-no in all of Austria, but especially in the mountains, and you will enrage fellow walkers if you're seen doing it. If you really want to show respect pick up any litter you happen to see in your path and dispose of it at the end of your hike (it's a bit of an unwritten rule). Long distance trails are marked with the Austrian flag (red-white-red horizontal stripes) painted onto rocks and tree trunks. Most trails and mountain huts are maintained by the Austrian Alpine Club.
Choosing a ski resort : Price, Size and Location
As a general rule, the larger the ski resort and the higher the elevation above sea level, the higher the price. Ski passes will consume a large proportion of your budget. Beginners will nomally find that they are unable to use most pistes covered by a ski pass in a large resort such as Arlberg. Ski resorts in Carinthia and Styria tend to offer better value than those in Tyrol and Salzburg and are less crowded. Large ski resorts have a tendency for mass tourism while smaller ones make more of an effort and offer a more personal service. If you're skiing in late February or March it might be a good idea to head for resorts located at higher elevations (above 2000 m), as milder temparutures can turn the snow heavy and slushy (danger of knee injury) below that.
Athletic experience : Fast lifts (chairlifts and gondolas) mean more skiing than slow lifts or the dreaded (T bar lifts). You get what you pay for. Some resorts have a high proportion of black slopes and are less suitable for beginners. Backcountry type experiences can found in many of the larger resorts in Vorarlberg and Tyrol, offering a high altitude powder bowl environment.
Apres Ski : Apres Ski is about getting together after an exhausting day of skiing and talking to people in the many bars and pubs, moshing to swedish rock group at 5pm and then not remembering having dinner. Nowadays, larger resorts also offer organized Apres Ski gettogethers and pub crawls.
*** Please note that alcohol and skiing do not mix well, and that on higher altitutes alcohol may impair your reflexes more than on sea level.
When to go : The ski season lasts from early December to late March. A small number of ski resorts keep their lifts open all year on glaciers located mainly near the Italian frontier. The best conditions for skiing are in mid-January, the coldest time of the year. Late February is a good time for sun-seekers. The most crowded time is the period from December the 25th until January the 2nd. Advanced skiers may want to avoid this time as slopes can be too congested to be enjoyable. All of February is also rather crowded because of school and university vacations. The least crowded times are early December, mid-January and late March.
Austria Main Cities & Attractions :
Vienna (Wien) - Bregenz - Eisenstadt - Graz - Innsbruck - Klagenfurt - Linz - Salzburg - Villach
Other Destinations & Attractions :
Lake Constance — a big lake situated in Vorarlberg and shared with Switzerland and Germany
Kaprun — part of the Europa Sport Region
Pinswang — one of the most ancient settlements of the North Tyrolean Ausserfern, on the border with Bavaria and a short walk or drive to the famous King Ludwig's castles
St. Anton — a popular ski resort in Austria on the Vorarlberg-Tyrolean border
Wörthersee — one of Austria's warmest lakes
Zell am See — one of the most important alpine tourist towns in Austria
Austria Flights & Airports : There are 6 airports in Austria with scheduled flights. The most important international airport is Vienna which has connection to all major airports of the world. Other international airports include Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz, and Salzburg which provide domestic flights as well as connections to some European countries. Those airports are particularly popular with cheap airlines such as Ryanair. For traveling to the western states it is recommended to use the very close Munich airport. The most common airports to visit Vorarlberg are Altenrhein (Austrian), Friedrichshafen (Ryanair, Intersky) and Zurich (Swiss). If visiting Austria for winter sports, choose airport considering cost and duration for the whole trip (plane+transfer), not always Vienna and even likely not in Austria. Unlike many countries, getting in to Austria for skiing shouldn't imply flying to the capital city first. Vienna itself is a 4 hour drive away from the nearest medium-sized resort, and longer by public transport.