The Grand Tour, Part 2...Austria by Auto

By Bob Bestor

Many of Europe's remotest and most beautiful mountain roads are in Austria. This second segment of our "Grand Tour" traverses several of them.

In August we launched the "Grand Tour" series; suggested 14-day automobile journeys to many of our favorite cities, towns, village, sights, hotels and backroads.

In order to cover as much new ground as possible, we chose an "open jaw" format; each journey begins in one major gateway city and ends in another. Our first tour, though it was mostly through Germany, started in Zürich and finished in Frankfurt. We also settled on 14 days as the most common time frame for a European vacation.

This month's drive is almost entirely through Austria. It begins 50 miles south of the Munich Airport in Bad Aibling, Germany, and ends with four days in Vienna. In between, are short visits to Graz and Salzburg and some of Europe's most thrilling and beautiful mountain driving.

In planning this itinerary, we were forced to make difficult choices about what to include and what to bypass. Except for Vienna, Salzburg and Graz, one could design several tours of equal or even greater interest than the one that follows. Stops on this itinerary were selected in part to give the trip continuity and provide for "quality" driving time. Thus, some wonderful parts of Austria were left out. In addition, numerous towns along our route, or just a short detour off it, - places like Kitzbühel, Bad Ausee, Bad Ischl, St. Gilgen and St. Wolfgang come to mind - are destinations as interesting as some of the stops we chose. But, we will see more of Austria in subsequent "Grand Tour" segments.

Like the first "Grand Tour," this itinerary is a guideline. We assume you will adjust it to suit your own style of travel.

Day One: Bad Aibling, Germany

Suggested Map(s): Die Generalkarte Germany #23, Die Generalkarte Germany #26

Activities: Arrive Munich. Pick up your rental car and head south for Bad Aibling (about 80 km/50 miles) and the Romantik Hotel Lindner. The Lindner's best rooms are in a quiet annex at the rear of the property. The hotel's decor features a classic Baroque façade, windows with striped shutters, dark wood wainscoting and vaulted ceilings. A walk around town, a good meal and night's sleep will begin the jet lag healing process.

Directions: Go south from the Airport on the Red Road that circles the eastern edge of the town of Erding. At Hohenlinden turn right to Ebersberg and Grafing. The road is scenic between Hohenthann and Beyharting. Bad Aibling is just 5 km north of the Munich-Salzburg Autobahn (map coordinates 53.1-2.8).

Day Two: Zell Am See

Suggested Map(s): Die Generalkarte Austria #7 & #6

Activities: This morning begins two days of great mountain driving. You will negotiate the Gerlos Pass to the Upper Pinzgau, see the Krimml Waterfalls and, finally, drive one of Europe's most spectacular mountain roads, the Grossglockner. The overnight is in Zell Am See at the Hotel Berner; try dinner at Gasthof Steinerwirt (Dreifaltigkeitgasse, tel. 06542/2502). An option would be to stay near the Grossglockner summit in the Alpenhotel Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Haus; nothing special as a hotel but it is an interesting experience to overnight at about 8,000 feet. Even July can seem like winter.

You'll need some cash for this drive. The Grossglockner toll is 350 AS ($35) in high season and the fee for the Felbertauren Tunnel is 190 AS ($19) in high season. There may be other tolls as well.

Directions: To save time, take the Munich-Salzburg Autobahn east to Autobahndreieck Inntal and from there south on Autobahn 93 in the direction Kufstein and Innsbruck. Past Kramsach, take the Achensee Zillertal exit (map coord. C-4) and go south on Red Road 169. At Zell am Ziller, head east on Red Road 165 through Gerlos and over the pass. In Gerlos you might purchase the makings of a picnic lunch to be eaten at the magnificent Krimml Falls (map coord. D-7).

At Mittersill go south on Red Road 108 through the Felbertauren, through Lienz and from there back north on Red Road 107 over the Grossglockner (map coord. B-6). (The road is usually closed from early November to the beginning of May.) At the top, take a side trip to the Franz Josefs-Höhe and see the Pasterze Glacier. After the descent, continue on to Zell Am See.

Day Three: Salzburg

Suggested Map(s): Die Generalkarte Austria #7 & #4

Activities: The day starts with another spectacular mountain drive and ends in Salzburg, one of Europe's most beautiful cities. However, because the town is visited daily in summer by hundreds of tour buses, it is best seen in the off-season. Our recommended hotel downtown is the friendly little Trumer Stube. Outside the city, in Oberalm near Hallein, some of the warmest hospitality you'll ever experience is at Schloss Haunsperg.

Directions: From Zell Am See, go north to Saalfelden then east on Red Road 164 to the picturesque village of Maria Alm. The road on to Dienten, another pretty town, is particularly scenic, with an abundance of flower-bedecked houses. From there continue to Mühlbach and then to Bischofshofen. Then go north on the Red Road along the Salzach river into Salzburg. If you plan to stay at Schloss Haunsperg take the Hallein exit. Oberalm is on the east side of the river.

Day Four: Salzburg

Activities: Salzburg's top sights are well covered in the Michelin Green Guide for Austria. Two of our favorites are the cemetery at St. Peter's Church at the foot of the Mönchberg - while you're there have a beverage or lunch in the Stiftskeller, said to be the oldest restaurant in Austria - and Archbishop Wolf Dietrich's mausoleum in St. Sebastian Cemetery, which contains his ostentatious instructions for his own funeral. The Mozart family tomb is also here, though "Wolfie" was buried in Vienna. A good excursion is to Hellbrunn Castle, combined with lunch or dinner at Maria-Theresien-Schössl (Morzger Strasse 87, tel. 0662/820 191).

Day Five: Murau

Suggested Map(s): Die Generalkarte Austria #5

Activities: Another day of pleasant and very scenic motoring through the Austrian countryside, with a stop at the unique lakeside village of Hallstatt, ending in the small town of Murau. Overnight at Der Murauer Gasthof Hotel Lercher, whose restaurant specializes in game dishes. In Hallstatt, don't miss the Chapel of St. Michael with its collection of skulls of former town residents. Later, you will traverse the scenic Erzherzog Johann Strasse in the green, sparsely populated province of Styria.

Directions: Go east from Salzburg on Red Road #158 toward St. Gilgen. From there turn left and north on Red Road #154 to the south shore of the Mondsee. Take the Yellow Road east and then, just before the Attersee, go right on Red Road 152 and at Schoberstein head southeast on Red Road 153. At Red Road 145 turn right and pass through Bad Ischl and then south toward Hallstatt, along the west shore of the Hallstattersee. After a walk around the town and perhaps lunch at the Hotel Grüner Baum (Marktplatz 104, tel. 06134/263) or the Bräu Gasthof (Seestrasse 120, tel. 06134/221) head south via the Yellow Road around the south end of the lake and on east to Bad Aussee. From there turn right and south on Red Road 145 through Bad Mittendorf. At the intersection of Red Road 308 (map coord. C-9), turn right and west toward Grobning, where you then turn south on a Yellow Road; the approximately 35 km (22 mile) long Erzherzog Johann Strasse. It is narrow, lacks guard rails or shoulders and is closed in winter. At Red Road 36 turn left and continue to Murau.

Days Six and Seven: Graz

Suggested Map(s): Die Generalkarte Austria #5

Activities: After a fairly short drive to Graz you will have almost two full days to explore this terrific city. We like it because its authentic and, though not a metropolis, is still large enough to offer plenty of central European urbanity.

See the Landeszeughaus (arsenal), the Cathedral, the façade of the Hof Backerei at Hofgasse 6 and the Mausoleum of Ferdinand II. If there is time, take half a day to drive south to explore one of Europe's little-known wine roads; the Südsteirische-Weinstrasse (map coord. E-10) along the Slovenian border. Our recommended hotel is Erzherzog Johann; dine at Kepler-Keller (Stempfergasse 6, tel. 0316/72 4 39).

Directions: The goal today is to get to Graz. Proceed east on Red Road 96 toward Judenburg. At the junction, take Red Road S36 northeast toward Knittelfeld. Then follow the Autobahn (A9) southeast into Graz.

Day Eight: Sebersdorf

Suggested Map(s): Die Generalkarte Austria #5

Activities: This is a day to relax and enjoy one of Austria's most charming castle hotels, Schloss Obermayerhofen in Sebersdorf about half an hour north of Graz. Check in early, enjoy your room, take a long walk, an afternoon nap and have dinner in the Hofstüberl, once part of the castle's stables.

Directions: From Graz go north via the main Vienna-Graz Autobahn (A2) and exit Sebersdorf-Waltersdorf. Note the words 'Schloss Obermayerhofen' on the map to left of the exit.

Day Nine: Rust

Suggested Map(s): Die Generalkarte Austria #5 & #2

Activities: Day nine features a drive through vineyards and a short visit to the province of Burgenland, a very different and undiscovered part of Austria on the Hungarian border. Stroll the towns of Mörbisch and Rust, noting the rooftop storks' nests, and don't fail to stop for a snack and a made-on-the-premises glass of fresh white wine at a Heuriger (wine tavern).

Stay at Seehotel Rust directly on the Neusiedler See, a seven-foot deep, 124-square-mile body of water that sometimes mysteriously disappears. The last time was for four years in 1968.

Directions: Proceed north on the Autobahn and exit at Pinkafeld. Take the Yellow Road east through Pinkafeld to Red Road 50, then turn left and north passing through Bernstein and Günseck. Just past Langeck, take Red Road 55 north through Pilgersdorf. At Kirchschlag take the Yellow Road east for about one or two kilometers and then turn north toward Stang. There is quite a network of roads in this area but use the map to continue to work your way north through Wiesmath to Hochswalkersdorf. From there follow the green-lined Yellow Road toward Mattersburg. Almost immediately after crossing Red Road S31 take a right on the Yellow Road toward Marz. Follow the Rotwein Strasse (Red Wine Road) through Rohrbach, along the Hungarian border through Schattendorf, then up to Draburg, Siegendorf and to St. Margarethen where you turn right on Red Road 52 and into Rust.

Days Ten, Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen: Vienna

Suggested Map(s): Die Generalkarte Austria #2

Activities: Use the late morning to visit the spa town of Baden, perhaps for lunch. One of many addresses in and around Vienna once occupied by Beethoven is at 10 Rathausgasse, now a small museum.

Just north of Baden, the village of Gumpoldskirchen produces one of the few Austrian wines sold in the U.S., Gumpoldskirchner, a white wine.

West of Baden is Mayerling, site of the 1888 double-suicide of 30-year-old Archduke Rudolf son of Emperor Franz-Josef and Empress Elizabeth and his 17-year-old mistress, Maria Vetsera.

Gemütlichkeit recommends several hotels from which to choose your Vienna headquarters. In the luxury category, the Sacher has great old-world style. Favorite small, charming hotels inside the Ring include the Römischer-Kaiser, the Kaiserin Elisabeth and the König von Ungarn. We think the best combination of comfort and value is found at the Pension Aviano. Plainer accommodations, also good value, are the Pension Nossek and the Pension Pertschy. Just outside the Ring is an establishment we liked well enough to make the "Gemütlichkeit Hotel of the Year" in 1994, the Pension Altstadt.

Vienna has many good restaurants in all price categories. We recommend: Restaurant Korso (Mahlerstr. 2, tel. 01/51-516-546, very expensive), Zum Kuckuck (Himmelpfortgasse 15, tel. 01/512 8470, expensive), Restaurant Boheme (Spittleberggasse 19, tel. 01/933 173, moderate) Zur Hohen Brücke Gästatte (Wipplingerstrasse 23, inexpensive) and Gösser Bierklinik (Steindlgasse 4, tel. 01/535 6897, inexpensive).

Guidebooks, particularly the Michelin Green for Austria and the Eyewitness Guide Vienna, provide ample information about the city's many sights. Among our favorites: the Hofburg's Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury); Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts); the Kaisergruft (tomb of the Hapsburgs); the Prater (an amusement park); the Zentralfriedhof (main cemetery) with its graves of Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and the Strauss family; the Belvedere Palaces, the grounds at Schönbrunn, Hundertwasser Haus, a fancifully designed apartment house; the Saturday morning Flohmarkt (flea market), any performance at the Volksoper, and KunstHausWien, a new museum designed by Hundertwasser.

Directions: Go north from Rust on the Yellow Road through Oggau. At Red Road 50 turn left toward Eisenstadt. From there take the Yellow Road north through Stotzing, Loretto and to Unterwaltersdorf; then the Red Road 210 west through Ebreichsdorf to Baden. From there, one can continue north to Gumpoldskirchen and on to Vienna, or head west to Mayerling and the Vienna Woods.

Day Fourteen: Fly Home from Vienna Airport

Suggested Grand Tour Hotels

1. Alpenhotel Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Haus A-9844 Grossglockner, phone 04824/2512, Moderate to Expensive, Rating: 9/20.
2. Der Murauer Gasthof Hotel Lercher A-8850, Schwarzenbergstr. 10, Murau, Austria, phone 3532/2431, fax 3532/3694, singles 550 to 950 AS ($175 to $243), doubles 1000 to 1800 AS ($175 to $243). Rating: 12/20
3. Seehotel Rust A-7071, Am Seekanal 2-4, Rust, Austria, phone 2685/381, fax 2685/381-419, singles 980 to 1150 AS ($98 to $115), doubles 1560 to 1900 AS ($156 to $1900). Rating: 13/20
4. Schloss Haunsperg A-5411, Oberalm bei Hallein (Salzburg), Austria, phone 6245/80662, fax 6245/80680, singles 900 to 1350 AS ($900 to $1350), doubles 1800 to 2700 AS ($180 to $270). Rating: 18/20 G
5. Trumer Stube A-5020, Bergstrasse 6, Salzburg, Austria, phone 662/874767, fax 662/874326, singles 550 to 900 AS ($55 to $90), doubles 900 to 1450 AS ($90 to $145). Rating: 15/20 G
6. Schloss Obermayerhofen A-8272, Sebersdorf, Austria, phone 3333/2503, fax 3333/2503, singles 1500 AS ($150), doubles 1950 to 3000 AS ($195 to $300). Rating: 16/20
7. Pension Aviano A-1010, Marco d Avianogasse 1, Vienna, Austria, phone 1/512 83 30, fax 1/5312 81 65-65, singles 620 to 740 AS ($62 to $74), doubles 980 to 1500 AS ($98 to $150). Rating: 16.5/20 G
8. Pension Pertschy A-1010, Habsburgergasse 5, Vienna, Austria, phone 1/534 49-0, fax 1/534 49-49, singles 580 to 740 AS ($58 to $74), doubles 980 to 1240 AS ($98 to $124). Rating: 11/20
9. Pension Nossek A-1010, Graben 17, Vienna, Austria, phone 1/533 70 41, fax 1/535 36 46, singles 550 to 700 AS ($55 to $70), doubles 900 to 950 AS ($90 to $95). Rating: 10/20
10. Pension Altstadt A-1070, Kirchengasse 41, Vienna, Austria, phone 1/526 33 99-0, fax 1/523 49 01, singles 850 to 1450 AS ($85 to $145), doubles 1150 to 1750 AS ($115 to $175). Rating: 17/20 G
11. Romantik Hotel Römischer Kaiser A-1015, Annagasse 16, Vienna, Austria, phone 1/512 77 51-0, fax 1/512 77 51/13, singles 1500 to 2100 AS ($150 to $210), doubles 1900 to 2900 AS ($190 to $290). Rating: 16/20 G
12. Hotel Kaiserin Elisabeth A-1010, Weihburggasse 3, Vienna, Austria, phone 1/15 526-0, fax 1/15 52 67, singles 950 to 1450 AS ($95 to $145), doubles 1900 to 2600 AS ($190 to $260). Rating: 16/20 G
13. Hotel Sacher A-1010, Philharmonikerstrasse 4, Vienna, Austria, phone 1/514 56, fax 1/5145 7810, singles 1900 to 2450 AS ($190 to $245), doubles 3700 to 5400 AS ($370 to $5400). Rating: 18/20 G
14. König von Ungarn A-1010, Schulerstrasse 10, Vienna, Austria, phone 1/515 840, fax 1/515-848, singles 1500 to 1950 AS ($150 to $195), doubles 2100 AS ($210). Rating: 15/20
15. Hotel Berner A-5700, Zell Am See, Austria, phone 6542/2557, fax 6542/25577, singles 700 to 1500 AS ($70 to $150), doubles 1100 to 2600 AS ($110 to $260). Rating: 15/20 G
16. Romantik Hotel Lindner D-83043, Marienplatz 5, Bad Aibling, phone 8061/90630, fax 8061/30535, singles from 100 DM ($70), doubles to 230 DM ($162). Rating: 16/20 G

October 1995