Reasons to Like Us

In my completely unbiased opinion, the two best things Gemütlichkeit has going for it are firsthand reporting and timeliness. All our hotel and restaurant evaluations are based on personal visits, most of which have taken place only a couple of weeks to a few months before you read about them.

Last year, in compiling the information contained in this year's first 11 issues, Gemütlichkeit reporters made a total of six trips to Germany, Austria, Switzerland. In addition to our own two trips, the team of Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer were also there twice, as was Nikki Goth Itoi.

This, I think, is what sets us apart from guidebooks which have copy deadlines many months ahead of their publication dates. Guidebooks are necessary. We use them all the time; but only Michelin, in its Red Guides, claims to visit every establishment it lists, every year. It is well-known in the travel publishing industry that several high-profile, U.S.-based guidebooks carry listings and descriptions of hotels and restaurants their writers have never visited.

If I say so myself, this makes our annual year-end issue especially useful. Contained within our eight pages this month, is a distillation of the best the five of us have seen and experienced in a year's time in two trips each.

You may be interested in the qualifications of the five Gemütlichkeit writers you rely on for travel advice:

• Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer are a husband and wife team who, for as long as we've known them, 13 years, have written a weekly travel column which is syndicated to daily newspapers in the Midwest. They also lead at least four international tours per year, mostly to Europe. When their clients have gone home, Roger and Claudia usually take a few extra days to roundup stories for Gemütlichkeit. In his youth, Roger worked in public relations for the Porsche factory in Stuttgart. He is fluent in German.

• Nikki Goth Itoi is senior editor of a San Francisco-based high-tech magazine whose duties frequently take her to Europe. She, too, sets aside a few days after business is over to free-lance for Gemütlichkeit.

• Prior to launching Gemütlichkeit in late 1986, Bob and Liz Bestor had vacationed in Europe about a dozen times. Since then, those vacations have become two to three times per year business trips.

The point being; there are some fairly experienced eyes, ears, noses, and palates out there seeing, feeling, hearing, sniffing, and tasting what's good and not so good about traveling in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

For 1999 Liz and I head for Europe on January 3; Nikki will be in northern Germany at the end of February, and Roger and Claudia go in the spring. And that's just the first quarter.

Local Color

Along the way in 1998 we encountered a few places that don't seem to fit in any of our "best" categories but which you might like knowing about.

• For local color in Seefeld, Austria, try the Milchhof on Münchnerstrasse. The beer is Puntigamer and the clientèle earthy; many grizzled characters in Tirolean dress, but very smoky.

• Hall in Tirol, near Innsbruck, is a very old town full of picturesque streets and buildings. Stop for refreshment at Anisbrau, Schlossergasse 15, a brewery from 1700 to 1900 and now a well-worn restaurant-bar with vaulted ceilings and wood wainscoting. Inexpensive.

• Music fans should not miss Ewige Lampe, a little hole-in-the-wall bar-jazz/blues club in Berlin's Savignyplatz neighborhood. Over two nights we saw tremendously entertaining blues and New Orleans-style jazz bands. Very friendly folks, employees and patrons and inexpensive. Can't wait to go back. Ewige Lampe, Niebuhrstr. 11a, tel./fax +49/030/324 3918.

• A few train routes stand out: Chur to Samedan in Switzerland; Innsbruck to Zürich; Locarno, Switzerland, to Domodossola in Italy; and any ICE train in Germany.

• Some places didn't measure up: the restaurant at Innsbruck's Schwarzer Adler Hotel; La Croix d'Ouchy in Lausanne, a restaurant we liked in 1991, failed us in 98; and room Number 14 at the Brauereigasthof Aying in Aying near Munich (the restaurant, however, was very good, it's just some of the guestrooms that need sprucing up).

Favorite Things

For us, 1998 was a very good year of travel. Here are five things I will remember most:

• Ewige Lampe
• Berlin's Art Nouveau Hotel, easily the year's best big city hotel discovery
• The food at the Hotel Saratz in Pontresina
• The extraordinary graciousness of Jacqueline Kaderli, director of Bern's Innere Enge Hotel
• Vienna's Beograd restaurant and the talented customer who got up and sang Summertime

Wrapping Up

This is our 144th issue, the end of 12 years. I continue to be amazed at how many of you have been around since that first year, 1987. But whether this is your 144th or very first Gemütlichkeit, you have our most sincere thanks for allowing us to be advisers to your travels.

December 1998