Last month we erred about the terrific Lauda-Air/Lufthansa $498 roundtrip fare from Los Angeles to Vienna by way of Munich. We correctly reported the fare but little else. Our thanks to Peter Katz, director of the Austrian Tourist Office in Los Angeles, who wrote to inform us that Lauda-Air planes and crews are used for the entire flight and there is no change of planes between Munich and Vienna. By the way, the fare is good until the end of May. On another matter, Mr. Katz was kind enough to send us a list of companies in the U. S. and in Austria which can arrange for vacation home rentals.
P.O. Box 3537
Ashland OR 97520
605 Market St.
San Francisco CA 94105
124 Little Falls Rd.
Fairfield NJ 07004
Holiday Home Rentals in Austria
Alda Travel Agency
Phone: 1-42 16 26
Phone: 222-513 45 97
3429 Fremont Pl. N. #318
Seattle WA 98103
Michelin Red Makes Changes
The 1993 Michelin Red Guide for Germany, a book we consider essential for travel in Germany, particularly for the auto traveler, has made its annual late winter appearance.
We bought our first red guide 20 years ago and since then have never set foot on European soil without one or more of these invaluable books in our suitcase. They are also superb for trip planning and, for the frequent traveler to Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Great Britain and the Benelux countries, a great reference to have around the house.
The price for the 1993 Deutschland guide is up another dollar to $25.95. Two years ago it cost $19.95. But rising prices have not been accompanied by added features. Last year for example, Michelin dropped its listing of "Holiday Villages," vacation apartments with cooking facilities that rent by the week, typically at far lower prices than comparable hotel accommodations. Now Michelin has changed the format for listing hotel room rates. For the past several editions, the book has given prices for the highest and lowest priced single room and for the highest and lowest double. Now, for reasons we can't even guess, rate information is limited to the price for the least expensive single and the highest priced double. Figuring what you might pay for a room is now much more a matter of guesswork. Granted, a lot of hotels price their rooms evenly, with only a 10 or 20 DM price spread from the lowest to the highest priced rooms. For those hotels, Michelin's new format is still useful.
On the other hand, many small, family-run hotels have two or three special rooms priced from 25% to 75% higher than their standard doubles. If your budget calls for a double at 160 DM or less, what are you to do when the Michelin listing shows 128/220? That means the cheapest single is 128 DM and the top double goes for 220 DM. A hotel might have several comfortable doubles at 160 DM but you can't determine that from the current edition. A case in point is one of our favorite hotels, the Anker in Marktheidenfeld, less than an hour's drive east of the Frankfurt Airport. The 1992 Red Guide listed the Anker's range for double rooms as 150/280. That's quite a spread, $90 to $169. A lot of folks who wouldn't pay $169 for a room might still stop at the Anker if they knew they could get a double for under $100. But this year one might conclude from the information in Michelin that the Anker with a 1993 top double room price of 300 DM ($181) is too expensive.
The traveler looking for a single room is no better served. It seems as though every hotel has one or two broom-closet singles priced substantially below the normal single room. A traveler with a reservation for one of these rooms might end up paying 50% to 100% more in order to get suitable accommodations. Or, worse, they could find themselves stuck in a cramped, airless room.
On the plus side, Michelin continues to expand its listings for hotels and restaurants in the Eastern part of Germany. While ordinary guidebooks may review a few dozen hotels and restaurants in the East, nearly all of which are in big cities, Michelin lists over 1,000 in more than 200 cities. And now, three years into unification, the Red Guide has finally tabbed two Eastern Germany restaurants for special recognition. The Zum goldenen Reiter in Schwerin, 207 kilometers northwest of Berlin, and the Gasthaus zum weissen Schwan in Weimar have been included in the category of restaurants Michelin considers as offering "good value for money and serving carefully prepared meals, often of regional cooking." About 25 hotels, most of them in smaller towns, have been awarded the Michelin "red rocking chair" as being "very quiet or quiet, secluded hotels."
Here are a few quick impressions of the 1993 edition.
Omitting hotels Trumer Stube, Pension Wolf & Goldfassan in Salzburg (one of a handful of non-German towns included in the guide). Omitting restaurants Fofi and Florian in Berlin, while including tired and touristy Kopenhagen. Not listing Munich's Hotel Opera, an exquisite little place in the Lehel district.
The Hotel Kraft with a top double price of 195 DM/$117, by far the least expensive of 22 Munich hotels to which Michelin gives its "comfortable" (two "roof peaks") rating. Other Munich hotels in that category range from a double room price of 225 DM/$136 (An der Oper) to 410 DM/$247 (Hungar-Hotel and Hotel Budapest).
In Berlin the Hotel Domus has a top of 245 DM/$148 while its competitors in the two roof peak category range from 298 DM/$180 (the boxy, charmless Hamburg with 240 mostly tiny guestrooms) to 525 DM/$316 (Berlin's Excelsior). The "single peak" Atrium-Hotel has a top of 150 DM/$90. We don't know the hotel, but that's an incredible price for 1993 Berlin.
In the countryside, the splendid Romantik Hotel Bierhütte in Hohenau, about 25 miles north of Passau, has a top of 204 DM/$123.
Falls from Grace
In Garmisch-Partenkirchen the Forsthaus Graseck, a favorite of ours since 1979 but which we have recently criticized for lumpy mattresses and worn furnishings, is no longer listed. The Red Guide is much used by Europeans and to be left out of the book could be a death blow to the hotel's obviously under capitalized owners. Even new beds and furniture didn't help.
Out of Line
Hotels in smaller cities are supposed to be less expensive. Room rates in Heidelberg, however, take ones breath away. Top price for a double room at the charming little Hirschgasse is 694 DM/$418. It's good, folks, but not that good. Der Europische Hof is 620 DM/$373 and even the dingy Alt Heidelberg is 280 DM/$168. We wouldn't stay there at half the price.
For the best food in Germany head for the Black Forest town of Baiersbronn, about 30 kilometers south of Baden-Baden. Nearby, in Tonbach, is the Schwarzwaldstube, which is celebrating its canonization to Michelin sainthood. This year it was awarded a third Michelin star, joining only two other German restaurants, Aubergine in Munich and Im Schiffchen near Düsseldorf. There are about a dozen German restaurants which have been given two stars and one of them, the Restaurant Bareiss, is also outside Baiersbronn, only a couple of miles from Schwarzwaldstube.
Richard Davidson has been a Gemütlichkeit subscriber for several years and, through his company, Austria Ski, an organizer of travel to Austria for much longer than that. In 1993 he is offering a new program of "stay put" vacations to single Austrian destinations. Called "Imperial Austria" the vacations are to Innsbruck, Baden by Vienna and to the town of Steyr.
The concept was designed with the "mature" traveler in mind and is based on a seven-day residence in one strategically located Austrian town from which full and half-day excursions depart.
Mr. Davidson's company makes two extraordinary promises to customers: first, they guarantee travelers will be "not just satisfied but pleased" with the trips or their money will be refunded; and, second, there is no penalty for cancellation.
I was particularly intrigued by the program to Steyr, about halfway between Vienna and Salzburg and close enough for daytrips to Bohemia. The per person price for the May trip is $1,075 per person and $1,375 in October. Prices include airfare, ground transport, seven nights in a first class hotel, breakfasts and dinners. Prices are based on New York departure and a "moderate supplement will be applied for departure from your nearest airport." In Steyr you will stay either in the Hotel Mader or the Romantik Hotel Minichmayr, whose restaurant is rated by Gault Millau. The full-day trip to Bohemia is an additional $52.
Call 800-333-5533 for brochures and information.
Odds & Ends
The Titlis Cableway in Engleberg (central Switzerland) now has revolving cable-cars. You'll see a 360-degree panorama during your ride up the mountain....Innsbruck has a new casino, Austria's 12th...Last month in our note on travel consultant Karen Pasold, we forgot to pass on a recommendation of hers. As a guide to the city of Vienna, Mrs. Ulrike Danniger-Kren, according to Ms. Pasold, is an "absolute delight." Her fee for one day is 2,500 OS ($216). Write her at Hennersdorfstrasse 17, A-2333 Leopoldsdorf, phone (2) 235-2296...Hamburg has opened a Museum of Erotic Art, the latest attraction of the city's red-light district, the Reeperbahn... There is a museum devoted to cats in Basel, Switzerland. The Katzen Museum, only open Sundays and by appointment, is at 101 Baselstrasse in the Basel suburb of Riehen. Phone: 061-67 26 84.
A couple of years ago we took a short cruise down the Danube on the M. S. Mozart, a luxurious ship that served disappointing food. A first look at the Mozart's 1993 prices causes rapid eye blinking. The seven-day Passau to Budapest tour for two persons costs $5,676. That's on the Dorabella Deck (at the waterline). Up on the Tamino Deck, the same room for two is $7,200. Other vessels which ply the river are less pricey. A couple can ride the M. S. Swiss Pearl from Vienna to Nürnberg, or vice versa, for $3,014. Contact DDSG-Danube Cruises Austria, 800-999-0226, fax 310-641-8049...DDSG also operates the Vienna-Budapest hydrofoil. Service begins April 9 and the one-way fare is $79, roundtrip $114.