Rough Guide to Austria

Overview

Venture across every inch of this prosperous and stable central European country, from the cosmopolitan capital of Vienna--packed with cultural offerings and late-night musikcafes--to the awesome Alpine backwaters of the Tyrol or winemaking villages. Learn how to stretch your budget in what can be an expensive country to visit. 40 maps. color photos.
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Overview

Venture across every inch of this prosperous and stable central European country, from the cosmopolitan capital of Vienna--packed with cultural offerings and late-night musikcafes--to the awesome Alpine backwaters of the Tyrol or winemaking villages. Learn how to stretch your budget in what can be an expensive country to visit. 40 maps. color photos.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781858283258
  • Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/1/1998
  • Series: Rough Guides Travel Series
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 544
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.48 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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WHERE TO GO
There's a lot to be said for concentrating on just one or two regions, rather than trying to cover a bit of everything in one trip ­ you could happily spend a week or two in any one of the Austrian provinces, or Länder. Austria's unique combination of outdoor attractions and classic urban centres ensures that you can pack a lot of variety into your stay: take in some fresh air at a high altitude, linger over one of the country¹s world-class art collections, make the most of a musical heritage second to none, or select any number from the list of recommended highlights below.

Without a visit to Vienna you'll return home with only half the picture. Built on a grand scale as seat of the Habsburg Empire, it's a place that positively drips with imperial nostalgia. The pickings are rich, with the old palaces of the Hofburg and Schönbrunn high on the list, as are the cultural offerings from the gargantuan art collection at the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the hi-tech applied-arts displays of the MAK. Equally compelling, nowadays, are the ghosts of Vienna's golden age at the turn of the nineteenth century, when the likes of Freud, Klimt, Schiele and Schönberg frequented the city's cafés. The city boasts some wonderful Jugendstil and early modernist buildings and a bevy of traditional fin-de-siècle cafés patrolled by waiters in tuxedos. Last, but by no means least, Vienna is by far the best place in the country for nightlife, and that means everything from top-class opera to techno.

Salzburg is no less intoxicating. Its Altstadt contains the country¹s most concentrated ensemble of Baroque architecture, and the Hohensalzburg fortress is arguably the country's most impressive medieval castle. A substantial musical pedigree is ensured by the city's status as the birthplace of Mozart and venue of the Salzburg Festival, one of the world¹s most renowned celebrations of classical music and theatre. Of Austria's other regional capitals, Innsbruck combines both a buzzing nightlife and close proximity to some of the Tyrol's highest peaks to make it one of Austria's most popular destinations. Its attractive and largely medieval city centre focuses on the Hofkirche, site of the memorial to sixteenth-century Habsburg strongman Emperor Maximilian I. In the Styrian capital, Graz, main attractions include the town centre, the fine-art collections of the Landesmuseum Joanneum and the Baroque Eggenberg Palace. Austria's second largest city is also a good base from which to venture out into the vineyards and pumpkin fields of the rural southeast.

Explorations down back streets of Austria's small medieval towns, many of which are still enclosed by their original walls, will reward you with hidden arcaded courtyards, tinkling fountains and overflowing flower boxes: Freistadt in Upper Austria, Hall in the Tyrol and Friesach in Carinthia present the pick of the bunch. Lower Austria has the country's highest concentration of monasteries, ranging from the Baroque excess of Melk, Altenburg and Zwettl to the likes of Heiligenkreuz, built on the cusp of the stylistic transition from Romanesque to Gothic. For unadulterated Romanesque architecture, head for Gurk in Carinthia; for Rococo floridity, Wilhering in Upper Austria is hard to beat. Austria also holds a bewildering variety of castles and chateaux, from fortified seats such as Forchtenstein in Burgenland to luxury aristocratic piles like Artstetten in Lower Austria. The two finest imperial palaces are the magnificent Baroque residence of Schönbrunn, on the outskirts of Vienna, and Schloss Ambras, the archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol's Renaissance treasure-trove near Innsbruck.

Musical pilgrimages are possible to the birthplaces or resting places of such luminaries as Beethoven, Bruckner, Haydn, Liszt, Mozart, Schönberg and Schubert. The country's top music festivals, among them the Salzburg Festival, the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt and the chamber music festival in Lockenhaus, draw international performers and audiences alike. At both the Bregenz Festival and the operetta festival in Mörbisch, floating stages host top-class performances against a shimmering backdrop.

Austria's main lakeland area is the Salzkammergut, where the Wolfgangsee, Mondsee, Traunsee and Hallstättersee offer a combination of water-based pursuits and stunning scenery. To the south, the Carinthian lakes of the Wörthersee, Ossiachersee and Millstättersee boast good bathing, boating and windsurfing facilities. In the far east of the country, the reed-encircled Neusiedlersee, Austria¹s only steppe lake, provides a total contrast, and an opportunity to marry beach culture with a spot of bird-watching.

Austria forms one of Europe's most mountainous countries, yet an excellent network of transport links puts even the dizziest of heights within reach. Key summer hiking areas are the alpine regions of western Austria, stretching from northeastern Styria and eastern Carinthia through the Salzkammergut, Salzburger Land, Tyrol and Vorarlberg. For snow sports, the Salzburger Land, Tyrol and Vorarlberg boast the highest concentration and widest range of modern, fully equipped resorts.

Finally, a great deal of Austria's industrial heritage has been put to good touristic effect, and many of the show-mines count among top attractions. If you have time to visit only one of them, pick from the following: the iron-ore workings at Eisenerz in Styria, the salt mine at Bad Dürrnberg in the Salzburger Land, the salt mine above Hallstatt in the Salzkammergut, the lead mine at Bad Bleiberg in Carinthia, and the silver mine at Schwaz in the Tyrol.

WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit Austria depends on whether you're aiming for urban or rural parts. Most of the mountain resorts, for example, have two distinct tourist seasons, one for winter sports enthusiasts, the other for summer hikers. In between times, you may find many of the tourist facilities closed. More urban centres, however, act as year-round tourist destinations, with the number of visitors swelling during peak holidays and annual festivals ­ Vienna pulls in crowds over Christmas, New Year and, of course, Fasching (the ball season), while the Salzburg Festival ensures a steady stream of well-heeled visitors in July and August.

For the best of the warm weather, plan to go between April and October ­ Austrian summers, in particular, are reliably warm, but not overpoweringly so. If you're skiing, you can pretty much guarantee a good covering of snow from November onwards to April. Away from the ski resorts, winter travel can't really be recommended, since the weather can be pretty wet and miserable. Weather conditions vary only slightly across the country, with the alpine regions decidedly cooler, the lowland regions in the north and east enduring more continental conditions of colder winters and hotter summers, and the southeast of the country enjoying longer, warmer, almost Mediterranean summers. Be aware that whatever the season, if you're at a high altitude, the weather can change quickly and dramatically. The possibility of a thundery shower exists at any time of the year.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

PART ONE   BASICS
Getting there from Britain and Ireland
Getting there from North America
Getting there from Australia and New Zealand
Red tape and visas
Health and insurance
Information and maps
Costs, money and banks
Getting around
Accommodation
Eating and drinking
Communications
The media
Opening hours, public holidays and sightseeing
Festivals
Sports and outdoor activities
Police, trouble and sexual harassment
Travellers with disabilities
Directory

PART TWO   THE GUIDE
CHAPTER 1:  VIENNA
Arrival, information and city transport
Accommodation
Stephansdom
Figarohaus (Mozart Museum)
Karntnerstrasse
Graben and Kohlmarkt
Michaelerplatz
Herrengasse
Minoritenplatz
Molker Bastei
Am Hof
Judenplatz
Hoher Markt
Hofburg
Spanische Reitschule (Spanish Riding School)
Prunksaal
Neue Burg museums
Votivkirche
Rathausplatz
Kunsthistorisches Museum
Messepalast (Museumsquartier)
Staatsoper
Akademie der bildenden Künste
Karlsplatz
MAK
Hundertwasserhaus
Belvedere
Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts
St Marxer Friedhof
Alsergrund
Schönbrunn
Technisches Museum
Lainzer Tiergarten
Kirche am Steinhof
Heiligenstädter-Testament-Haus
Wienerwald
Prater
Cafés and restaurants
Bars, clubs and live venues
Performing arts
Listings

CHAPTER 2:  LOWER AUSTRIA
Klosterneuburg
Tulln
Krems an der Donau
Wachau
Melk
Maria Taferl
St Polten
Otscher and the Ybbstal
Weinviertel
Marchfeld
Petronell-Carnuntum
Wienerwald
Wiener Neustadt
Semmering Pass

CHAPTER 3:  BURGENLAND
Eisenstadt
Neusiedler See
Rust
Morbisch am See
Purbach am Neusiedler See
Neusiedl am See
Podersdorf am See
Frauenkirchen
Halbturn
Seewinkel
Raiding
Lockenhaus
Bernstein
Güssing

CHAPTER 4:  STYRIA
Graz
Deutschlandsberg
Leibnitz
Bad Radkersburg
Feldbach
Hartberg
Bruck an der Mur
Mariazell
Leoben
Eisenerz
Seckau
Judenburg
Murau
Enns Valley

CHAPTER 5:  CARINTHIA AND THE EAST TYROL
Carinthia
Klagenfurt
Worthersee
Maria Saal
Magdalensberg
St Veit an der Glan
Hochosterwitz
Gurk
Friesach
Hüttenberg
Villach
Spittal an der Drau
Gmund
Heiligenblut
East Tyrol
Lienz
Defereggental
Kals
Matrei

CHAPTER 6:   SALZBURG AND THE SALZBURGER LAND
Salzburg
Schloss Hellbrunn
Hallein
Werfen
St Johann im Pongau
Gasteinertal
Zell am See
Salzachtal

CHAPTER 7:  THE SALZKAMMERGUT
Wolfgangsee
Mondsee
Bad Ischl
Traunsee
Hallstättersee
Bad Aussee

CHAPTER 8:  UPPER AUSTRIA
Linz
St Florian
Wilhering
Mauthausen
Enns
Mühlviertel
Steyr
Kremsmünster
Wels
Innviertel

CHAPTER 9:  THE TYROL
Innsbruck
Hall
Schwaz
Zillertal
Achensee
Rattenberg
Kufstein
Kitzbuhel
Seefeld
Stams
Otztal
Imst
Landeck
Oberinntal
Ischgl
Arlberg resorts
Ehrwald
Reutte

CHAPTER 10:   THE VORARLBERG
Bregenz
Dornbirn
Feldkirch
Bregenzerwald
Bludenz
Montafon
Zurs and Lech

PART THREE   CONTEXTS
Historical framework
Books
Language
Glossary
Index

LIST OF MAPS
Austria
Chapter divisions

VIENNA
Vienna's U-Bahn
Central Vienna
Innere Stadt
Hofburg
Schonbrunn

LOWER AUSTRIA
Tulln
Krems an der Donau
The Wachau
Melk
St Polten
Baden bei Wien
Wiener Neustadt

BURGENLAND
Eisenstadt
Neusiedler See

STYRIA
Graz
Central Graz

CARINTHIA AND THE EAST TYROL
Klagenfurt
Villach
Lienz

SALZBURG AND THE SALZBURGER LAND
Salzburg
Central Salzburg

THE SALZKAMMERGUT
Bad Ischl

UPPER AUSTRIA
Linz
Central Linz
Steyr
Wels

THE TYROL
Innsbruck
Central Innsbruck
Hall
Schwaz
Kufstein

THE VORARLBERG
Bregenz
Austro-Hungarian Empire
Austria 1945­55

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Introduction

It's the spectacular, snowcapped mountains of regions like the Tyrol that provide the most familiar images of Austria ­ a landscape of jagged peaks and rampaging rivers, giving way to green pastures studded with onion-domed churches. Yet Austria is by no means all alpine vistas: the country stretches across central Europe for some 700km, from the shores of the Bodensee in the west to the edge of the flat Hungarian plain in the east. Far removed from the archetype are the wetlands and reed beds of Burgenland, and the dramatic sequence of stopes that carve their way up the Erzberg in Styria. In Upper and Lower Austria in particular, a predominantly low-key landscape of gentle rolling hills and vineyards can come as something of a surprise to first-time visitors. Yet this fertile, low-lying northern half of the country is, in fact, where the majority of Austrians live and work, many of them within commuting distance of the capital, Vienna ­ the country's chief tourist destination after the alpine regions.

For all its bucolic charm and fondness for the days of empire, when Vienna sat at the centre of the vast, multinational Habsburg dynasty, Austria today is thoroughly modern, clean, efficient and eminently civilized, with uniformly excellent tourist facilities. Like neighbouring Switzerland, it's also a supremely law-abiding nation, where no one jaywalks or drops litter, and the trains and trams run on time. Whether you're staying in one of the popular skiing, hiking or spa-resorts, or in an out-of-the-way Gasthof, you're likely to experience "Gemütlichkeit" ­ a typically Austrian term expressing a mixture of cosiness and hospitality ­ at some point during your visit.

Looking at the country at the close of the twentieth century ­ stable, conservative and wealthy ­ you wouldn't think that Austria had spent the first half of the century struggling to find a national identity. After all, it was only in 1918, when the Habsburg Empire disintegrated, that the idea of a modern Austrian nation was born. The new republic, with a population of just eight million reluctant citizens, was riven by left- and right-wing political violence and, as a result, the majority of Austrians were wildly enthusiastic about the Anschluss with Nazi Germany in 1938. The price of Austria's participation, and ultimately defeat, in World War II, however, was Allied occupation. For ten years the country was split, like Germany, into Soviet, American, British and French zones. As a gesture of détente, the Soviets agreed ultimately to withdraw their troops, in return for Austria's "permanent neutrality". At this point, Austria turned over a new leaf, and recast itself as a model of consensus politics, with an almost Scandinavian emphasis on social policy as the guiding principle of national life. Postwar stability saw the growth of a genuine patriotism, while the end of the Cold War put the country, and its capital, back at the heart of Europe.

In 1995, Austria became a full member of the European Union, a move that for many was a sign that the country had finally entered the mainstream of European politics. From time to time, Austria¹s more reactionary elements have attracted widespread media attention, most notably during the Waldheim affair, when the wartime record of the president was called into question, and in the recent rise of the Far Right under the charismatic Jörg Haider. But the reality is that the Socialist party retains the strongest influence in government, as it has for much of the postwar period, and the country¹s political stability, for the most part, continues intact.

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