Beware Credit Card Fees

I may be the only one who did not know this, but using one's credit card may not be the cheapest way to purchase when abroad. I recently reviewed my Citibank platinum business card rules and found that VISA and MasterCard both charge 1% and Citibank then charges an additional 2%. That's 3% total assuming Citibank does not compound their charge. I am sure the conversion rate itself is a reasonable one, but these are fairly stiff charges. I do not know the best way to convert currency, but this is more expensive than I realized.

Shelton G. Hopkins
Dallas, Texas

(Ed. Note: Considering the advantages of frequent flyer miles and convenience, the banks have probably correctly calculated that you're still financially ahead to use a credit card rather than buying travelers checks and getting a less favorable exchange rate. Some credit cards do not assess these transaction charges but they do not award frequent flyer points either.

In most cases, we think the best way to obtain foreign currency in Europe is to use an ATM debit card [NOT a credit card]. ATMs are everywhere. You get the best conversion rate and pay a small - zero to about $3 - transaction fee while avoiding the considerable expense and hassle of cashing traveler's checks - think of all those Saturdays, Sundays and holidays when the banks aren't open. Be sure to check with your bank to see what they'll charge you to use your ATM card out of the country.)

Recalls Haunsperg

Your recent mention of Schloss Haunsperg near Salzburg reminded us of our stay there in the summer of 1984. It was our first trip to Europe and knowing that we would be attending the Salzburg Festival, our travel agent booked reservations for us at the Schloss. Since my wife and I are professional musicians, Frau Gernerth told us of about past guests including the great conductor Bruno Walter and the young American conductor Andrew Litton. It made for a memorable first-time visit to Salzburg. That Christmas, the Gernerths were kind enough to send us a Christmas card.

Debbie and Nelson Tandoc
San Jose, CA

Great Dining Halls

The feature on dining halls in the August issue was of great interest to me because I have had the good fortune to dine at three of the listed establishments, two of which left me with special memories.

Last year I was in Munich during Fasching. On the Sunday prior to Lent we went to the Augustiner for lunch and encountered a party in progress that would rival any in New Orleans, I'm sure. The food, beer and music created a festive atmosphere that kept hundreds of people having fun for hours. I don't know what was going on at the Hofbräuhaus that afternoon but nothing could top this great dining hall experience.

Several years ago my wife and I went to the Christkindlmarkt in Nürnberg. On opening day of the market (the Friday after Thanksgiving) six of us went for lunch at Bratwursthäusle and were prepared for a long wait when we saw the line for tables. As we were considering our options the owner came over, told us to follow him, escorted us past the waiting line and took us to a corner table. After the rush quieted down he returned and sat with us and chatted like he had nothing better to do.

So, yes, I agree that they deserve special dining hall status and are true gemütlichkeit experiences. Special thanks for this feature article.

Gary R. Kleinhans
Via e-mail

September 2003