Gemütlichkeit: Sweet 16

With this issue, Gemütlichkeit begins its 17th year. That's slightly more than 200 issues and, at about 6,800 words per issue, nearly 1.4 million words, many of them correctly spelled. (Yes, we've had Wein [wine] for Wien [Vienna], a slew of "its" for "it's" and vice versa, and last month we even managed to get a major river, the Rhône, flowing in the wrong direction. Editor asleep at the word processor.)

But in the midst of it all, even if we say so ourselves, we've managed to steer thousands of travelers to some truly gemütlich places and saved them money in the process.

Over the years we've come to realize our chief satisfactions in producing Gemütlichkeit are twofold: first, in finding special places or deals to pass along to you. Believe it or not, the "we-can-hardly-wait-to-tell-them-about-this-one" reaction is fairly exciting. Our second big "feel good" comes after you use a recommendation of ours and tell us we were "right on." We've discovered our tastes are similar to yours. With rare exception, if we like a place, you like it. So, in observance of this Gemütlichkeit milestone, here are a few of our favorite things. Not always the best, and seldom the most expensive, but our personal favorites—in alphabetical order.

* Augustiner Gäststatten Munich's amazing, beautiful, chaotic, atmospheric, beer restaurant with cheap—but great—food and beer.

* Berlin In our opinion, the most interesting city in G.A.S. (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) - probably in Europe. Go now.

* Burgenland (Austria) Reminds of Provence and Tuscany but at half the price. Some of the world's finest dessert wines are made here. One of Europe's true bargain destinations.

* Gasthof Fraundorfer Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Simple hotel but the most fun you can have eating at a restaurant. Good Bavarian food, too. Our last visit was October and it hasn't changed in the 25 years we've known it. Except for time out for heart bypass surgery, Friedl has sung, yodeled and played the accordion from 7pm to midnight six days a week since 1959. Yes, it's touristy but after 9pm check out the local Bavarian characters that begin to drift in.

* Hotel Altstadt Art deco hotel in a Vienna neighborhood of interesting shops and mid-priced restaurants frequented almost entirely by locals. The urbane, charming owner, Otto Wiesenthal, has an unerring touch.

* Hotel Anker Top-flight but affordable, walled hotel 45 minutes from Frankfurt Airport in Marktheidenfeld. Terrific restaurant.

* Hotel Art Nouveau Gemütlichkeit's Berlin headquarters is in a fascinating neighborhood. Guests are in the capable hands of Christin and Gerd Schlenzka.

* Hotel Beau Rivage Palace (Lausanne) Numbah 1, baby.

* Hotel Chalet du Lac (Switzerland) Rustic, mid-priced hotel with good restaurant in gorgeous lakeside location on the Brienzersee overlooking the village of Iseltwald's small, quiet harbor.

* Hotel Les Sources des Alpes Elegant little spa hotel beneath 3,000 foot rock wall that towers over the remote Swiss spa town of Leukerbad.

* KaDeWe Food Floor Berlin department store's staggering collection of food, wine and beer, a good bit of which can be consumed on premises.

* Lac Léman: (Lake Geneva, east end): Enchantingly beautiful in a never-ending, ever-changing interplay of mountains, water, sky and vineyards.

* Rogacki Stand-up lunch counter in a Berlin market. Wonderful, inexpensive food prepared before your eyes. Clientèle ranges from TV stars to street cleaners.

* Rösti: Swiss-style hash brown potatoes. Franchise this taste in the U.S. and make billions.

* Schloss Haunsperg (Near Salzburg) The castle hotel of castle hotels; suitably worn, authentic, full of art and antiques, and run by a titled, tweedy couple whose hospitality is unmatched. Nobody does it better than Eike and Georg von Gernerth.

* Smutny: Timeless Vienna Beisl with hearty food and the two great Czech beers, Budvar and Pilsner Urquell.

* Swiss Transportation System The world's best. A marvel.

* Sylt (Germany) Sand dunes, windswept Atlantic beaches, luscious seafood and a great small hotel, the Benen-Diken Hof.

* Vienna Superior music, architecture, food and old-world charm.

* Zürich Airport As serene as a major international airport can be. Put your luggage on a cart and roll it either to the trunk of your rental car or to your train coach. - RHB

February 2003