Though seldom visited by Americans, Oberstdorf, in Germany's Allgau, is an enormously popular ski and "cure" destination for Germans. Gemütlichkeit editor/publisher, Bob Bestor, was there recently.

Oberstdorf is about as far south as one can go and still be in Germany. In a wide, flat valley surrounded by mountains that offer some of Germany's finest skiing, this resort town is in that tip of Germany that extends into Austria about midway between Füssen in Bavaria and the Austrian city of Bregenz, at the eastern end of Lake Constance.

It is reached by rail from Kempten via Sonthofen, or from Lindau via Immenstadt and Sonthofen.

Those driving to Oberstdorf should use Mairs Deutschland Die Generalkarte #25 (scale 1:200,000) or ADAC # 14 Bodensee, Schwäbische Alb, Allgäu. Approaching from the west, Lindau or Bregenz, we suggest heading south to Federal Road (red on maps) #200 which goes east to Hittsau. From there continue east on the Main Road (yellow on the map) that crosses the border from Austria to Germany at Schönhalden. At this point the drive becomes especially scenic.

Driving south from Memmingen, one can take the autobahn to below Kempten but we recommend the yellow road to Ottobeuren and its fabulous church, then a leisurely backroads drive south through such towns as Untrasried and Betzigau. Below Kempten, find Sulzberg and go south on the green-edged yellow road through Ottacker, Rottach and Gindels, paralleling Federal Road 19, all the way to Oberstdorf.

A couple of statistics immediately tell one what Oberstdorf is all about. This is a town with only 12,000 permanent residents but with 16,000 beds for visitors. It attracts some 2.3 million overnight guests annually which, according to the Oberstdorf tourist office, is more than any other spa or holiday resort in Germany. Visitors stay an average of 12 days, a tip-off that the 2.3 million figure doesn't include very many Americans.

Two factors account for Oberstdorf's popularity: the winter sports and the fact that in 1937 it was designated a "climatic health resort." If Germany ever adopts a bill of rights, the famous "cure" vacation will undoubtedly lead the list. And Oberstdorf gets more than its share of visitors adhering to this beloved custom. The town brims with spa hotels and sanatoriums. But unlike many European resorts, the town has kept a steady hand on growth. There are no high rises.

In winter, skiing is the main attraction. There are 40 kilometers of downhill runs and 60 kilometers of cross-country tracks. The town also has three indoor skating rinks and the world's highest ski jump. In summer there many miles of hiking paths, tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course and nearly 40 hotel and municipal swimming pools.

Hiking and climbing are principally accessed via cable car to the 1706 meter Söllereck (easiest), the 2039 meter Feldhorn (a bit more challenging) and, for serious climbers, the Nebelhorn at 2224 meters.

Recommended excursions from Oberstdorf are the Breitach Gorge (Breitachklamm), a narrow, deep ravine through which surges a powerful torrent, and to the Kleinwalsertal, a pretty valley that is physically in Austria but can only be reached through Germany and in whose three little hamlets, Riezlern, Hirschegg and Mittelberg, the acceptable currency is the Deutsche Mark.

Being virtually at the end of the road, Oberstdorf has very little through traffic, so nearly all its hotels could be rated as "quiet." You will, however, pay a premium for the resort location.

Oberstdorf Hotels

Kneippkurhaus

Christliches Hospiz

(Editor's Choice)

This is the only hotel in Germany authorized to use the word hospiz in its name, a rather dubious distinction since some mistake it as a place where people go to die. Though the Kneippkurhaus Christliches Hospiz would be a good place to spend one's last days, it is not a hospice in that sense of the word. It is, however, by far the finest hotel we saw in Oberstdorf and probably among the top 15 we've ever reviewed.

The problem here is getting in. Most guests reserve a year in advance and stay for two or three weeks, so your chances of dropping by for a couple of overnights aren't good. However, the engaging, grandmotherly owner, Gisela Schüle, made a point of telling us that short-term guests are welcome during the occasional periods when the hotel isn't full.

The hotel's splendid public and guest rooms are decorated in that special sort of rustic elegance in which the finest country hotels of Germany, Austria and Switzerland seem to specialize. But you won't see any of the kitschy touches like acres of floral tile, drapes, carpet and wallpaper, or lumber truck loads of ponderous dark wood, that so often give this decorating style a dim, somber look. Here the look is glistening and sprightly with plenty of blond wood and modern lighting.

Guestrooms are spacious with dazzling white walls, light wood trim, high-backed easy chairs in a separate sitting area, and ample, sparkling bathrooms. Many, like Number 329, have expansive windows that open onto large balconies with fine mountain views.

Top of the line in every respect.

• Address: Kneippkurhaus Christliches Hospiz, Ludwigstrasse 37-41a, D-87561 Oberstdorf
* Phone: 08322/701-0
* Fax: 08322/701 516
* Location: Central
* Rooms: 108 total, 70 singles, 38 doubles; all designated nonsmoking
* Proprietor: Gisela & Theodor Schüle
* Prices: 170 to 239 DM ($110-$155) 339 to 426 DM ($220-$277), including all meals
* Facilities: Fitness room, indoor pool, therapy pool
* Credit Cards: All
* Disabled: Yes
* Closed: First three weeks in December
* Parking: Free
* Rating: Excellent 18.5/20 G

Parkhotel Frank

This sedate, four-star hotel in a residential area near the center, favors massive beams and oversized furniture in a homey atmosphere.

At the Frank you'll particularly like the indoor pool and Jacuzzi, after-dinner zither music by the fire, the hotel's cozy nooks and corners and, in summer, an expansive outdoor terrace and lawn area.

Room Number 30, a small suite, has an extraordinary bathroom. A large oval tub is surrounded by mirrors and the room is done in small squares of gold, black, red and blue tile. There is also a double sink, hairdryer, heated towel rack and a separate room for the toilet.

Not in a class with the Hospiz (above) but otherwise the best we saw in Oberstdorf.

• Address: Parkhotel Frank, Sachsenweg 11, D-87561 Oberstdorf
* Phone: 08322/70 60
* Fax: 08322/706 286
* Location: Central
* Rooms: 68 total, including 9 singles
* Proprietor: Robert Frank
* Prices: 45 to 205 DM ($94-$134), 302 to 406 DM ($196-$264), including breakfast and dinner
* Facilities: Indoor pool, sauna, fitness room, outdoor terrace, children's playroom
* Credit Cards: All
* Disabled: Yes
* Closed: November to mid-December, end of April
* Parking: Free
* Rating: Excellent 17/20

Kurhotel Adula

Large, typical upscale German resort hotel, similar in style to the Frank. This one, however, is perched on a hillside above the town, affording excellent views of the valley, mountains and village particularly from the large, outdoor, south-facing terrace.

The view is also pleasant from the Adula's huge dining room which serves good, but not great, food.

If you like the vistas and don't mind not being in the center of town, you'll enjoy the Adula as much as the Frank.

• Address: Kurhotel Adula, In der Leite 6, D-87561 Oberstdorf
* Phone: 08322/70 90
* Fax: 08322/709 403
* Location: On a hillside in Jauchen about 1.5 kilometers west of Oberstdorf
* Rooms: 78 total, 24 singles, 48 doubles
* Proprietor: Family Ludwig Riegg
* Prices: 165 to 216 DM ($107-$140), 320 to 340 DM ($208-$221)
* Facilities: Indoor pool, sauna, solarium, fitness room, massage, outdoor terrace, beauty center
* Credit Cards: All
* Disabled: Not suitable
* Closed: Never
* Parking: Free
* Other: Hotel runs bus to town every two hours
* Rating: Above Average 15/20

Nebelhorn Blick

The flower-lined balconies and cheery public rooms of the chalet-style Nebelhorn look out across the valley to the town and the mountains beyond.

It is one of Oberstdorf's better hotel values. Room Number 16, probably the best room and deal in the house, is a junior suite that rents for 150 DM ($98), on a self-service basis (no breakfast, make your own bed). its side-by-side twin beds jut at an angle from a wood-paneled corner of the room. This cozy nook is bathed in light from modern fixtures recessed in the wood-paneled ceiling. Beyond the bedroom is a comfortably furnished separate sitting room that opens onto a balcony with a fine view. There is also a small kitchen, but the bathroom is unfortunately done in a garish burnt-orange tile.

Large, recently-remodeled double rooms, such as Number 40, with balcony, high, open-beam ceiling and separate sitting area, go for 180 DM ($117).

Public rooms are most pleasant, particularly the dining room, and there is a lovely little indoor pool with adjacent Jacuzzi.

The Nebelhorn offers no transportation downtown, though a bus stops nearby every half-hour in season.

• Address: Nebelhorn Blick, Kornau 49, D-87561, Oberstdorf-Kornau
* Phone: 08322/4086
* Fax: 08322/7341
* Location: In Kornau, about four kilometers west of Oberstdorf's center
* Rooms: 27 rooms including 4 singles
* Proprietor: Family Gras
* Prices: 75 to 93 DM ($49-$60), 150 to 186 DM ($97-$121)
* Facilities: Indoor pool, sauna, whirlpool, solarium
* Credit Cards: Not accepted
* Disabled: Not suitable
* Closed: Never
* Parking: Free
* Other: Lobby has no-smoking section
* Rating: Above Average 14/20 $

Hotel Waldesruhe

Another hotel located above the valley, west of the town center. Views are excellent. The Waldesruhe is a favorite of ski jumpers.

• Address: Hotel Waldesruhe, Alte Walserstrasse 20, D-87561 Oberstdorf
* Phone: 08322/40 61
* Fax: 08322/83 27
* Location: West of Oberstdorf on a hill overlooking the valley and the town
* Rooms: 38 rooms including 11 singles
* Proprietor: Axel Brutscher
* Prices: 88 to 118 DM ($57-$77),176 to 300 DM ($114-$195)
* Facilities: Indoor pool, small fitness room, sauna, terrace for outdoor dining
* Credit Cards: Not accepted
* Disabled: Not suitable
* Closed: Last week October to December 18
* Parking: Free
* Other: Restaurant has excellent view of valley; no shuttle to train, taxi is 12 DM ($8)
* Rating: Above Average 14/20

Haus Wiese

Very much a private home atmosphere. The front door is usually locked and the small reception area seldom attended. Number seven, a corner room with wide windows and a view of the mountains and village, was full of carved wood furniture and antiques but marred by an aroma that bore witness to the many smokers who had gone before.

There is a small indoor pool and management is friendly, but it's getting time for some refurbishment.

• Address: Haus Wiese, Stillachstrasse 4 a, D-87561 Oberstdorf
* Phone: 08322/30 30
* Location: Residential area about one kilometer from the center
* Rooms: 13 rooms, 4 singles, 5 doubles
* Proprietor: Family Wiese
* Prices: 95 to 105 DM ($62-$68), 170 to 210 DM ($110-$136)
* Facilities: Indoor pool but no lift or restaurant
* Credit Cards: Not accepted
* Disabled: Not suitable
* Closed: Never
* Parking: Free
* Rating: Average 11/20

Hotel Traube

Recently remodeled rooms make the centrally-located Traube another good value. One rather bizarre feature, however, is that all bathrooms are glassed-in, though a curtain can be drawn over the glass for privacy. Number 17, the "wedding room" has a canopied bed, mirrored ceiling, whirlpool tub and a balcony with a view of the mountains. Depending on the season, it rents for 180 to 240 DM ($117-$156).

In summer, the beer garden under chestnut trees is most pleasant.

The Traube's ebullient and friendly owner, Reinhard Scheuerl, is an avid golfer.

• Address: Hotel Traube, Hauptsrasse 6, D-87561 Oberstdorf
* Phone: 08322/46 48
* Fax: 08322/31 68
* Location: Central
* Rooms: 9 rooms, including 2 singles
* Proprietor: Reinhard Scheuerl
* Prices: 80 to 110 DM ($52-$71) 130 to 240 DM ($85-$156)
* Facilities: No lift, beer garden under chestnut trees
* Credit Cards: All
* Disabled: Not suitable
* Closed: Restaurant closed November to mid-December
* Parking: Free
* Other: Restaurant has zither music four nights each week
* Rating: Above Average 13/20

Hotel Adler

(Editor's Choice)

Oberstdorf's top value is the Adler where a comfortable double such as Number seven, rents for 160 DM ($104). The best room in the house is spacious Number 34 (220 DM/$143) where everything from tile to furniture is handmade.

• Address: Hotel Adler, Fuggerstrasse 1, D-87561 Oberstdorf
* Phone: 08322/30 59
* Fax: 08322/81 87
* Location: Residential, close to center
* Rooms: 33 rooms, 1 guest house, 8 singles
* Prices: 85 to 95 DM ($55-$62), 150 to 170 DM ($97-$110)
* Facilities: Outdoor terrace for dining, no lift
* Credit Cards: Not accepted
* Disabled: Not suitable
* Closed: 10 November to 15 December, last two weeks of April
* Parking: Free
* Rating: Above Average 14/20 $

Restaurants

Adula Hotel Restaurant

Our visit to the Adula was during the off-season and the wood-paneled dining room with white stucco walls was less than a third full. We were seated at a banquette near a window with a good view of the lights of the valley and village below, including Oberstdorf's nicely-lit church steeple. We found pink table cloths, white napkins, a small bouquet of daisies and silver salvers at each place (but no silver covers, thank goodness). One meal came already plated; the other was served from a copper sauté pan.

A "gift-of-the-kitchen" starter was a tomato puree and two small shrimp in aspic served in an herbed mayonnaise. Novel and tasty.

A run-of-the-mill salad buffet (9.5 DM/$6.25) included butter lettuce, tomato slices, red and yellow peppers with sliced onions, grated carrots and sliced cucumber with the usual choice of dressings.

One main dish was rostspies (33 DM/$21.50), in this case a skewer of four veal strips stuffed with a mild, white cheese and topped with porcini mushrooms. Alongside was green and white fettuccine with flecks of ham in a thick cream sauce. Except for a small tomato on the skewer there were no vegetables. A better dish was Poulardenbrusten (29 DM/$19), several slices of chicken breast in a light reduction sauce that came with steamed broccoli sprinkled with almond slices. A side of bland white fettuccine arrived without sauce.

This was late November and it was a pleasant surprise to find the first wine of the French harvest, Beaujolais Nouveau. We were charged 19 DM ($12.50) for a small carafe. Another welcome beverage was the Czech beer, Budweiser or Budvar, though it was somewhat below par. Business is slow at this time of year and the keg may have been around too long.

A good but hardly memorable meal. The bill for two persons was 126 DM ($82), including wine and beer.

Adula Hotel Restaurant, Fuggerstrasse 1, D-87561 Oberstdorf, phone 08322/30 59, fax 08322/81 87. Moderately expensive.
* Rating: Above Average 12/20

Dampfbierbrauerei

In search of a late, inexpensive dinner one night we landed at the Dampfbierbrauerei (steam beer brewery). It is to be avoided. One finds good beer everywhere in Germany, but the dampfbier made on the premises was cloudy and reminiscent of a bad batch at a below average California brew pub. Three-tenths of a liter costs 3.7 DM ($2.50).

Nor can we recommend the food. Schnitzel (18.5 DM/$12) was barely passable as were the pommes frites served with it. Hirschgeschnetzeltes (19.5 DM/$13), sautéed chopped venison in a cream sauce, had a strange taste; the accompanying spätzel was tasteless and brussel sprouts were cooked to mush.

Dampfbierbrauerei, Bahnhofsplatz 6-8. D-87561 Oberstdorf. Closed Mondays. Inexpensive-moderate.
* Rating: Unacceptable 3/20

Oberstdorf

Population: 11,000

Altitude: 2,674 feet

Approximate distances from:

* Munich 165 km 102 miles
* Kempten 39 km 24 miles
* Zürich 215 km 133 miles

Tourist Information

* Kurverwaltung und Verkehrsamt
* Marktplatz 7
* Oberstdorf D-87561
* Phone: 08322/7000
* Fax: 08322/700236

November 1994