This post is required as part of my participation in the AustrianTime campaign paid for by the Austrian Tourism Board. Subject matter for this and my other post were mandatory. Opinions are mine.
Austria is one of my favorite countries to visit whenever I want to simply enjoy nature and take it easy. AKA: indulge in a little AustrianTime. That’s why I was so pleased to receive an invitation this August, to visit Austria and see what AustrianTime was about, almost six years to the day of my first trip to the country. Austria’s stunning mountain peaks, sparkling lakes, green meadows and indoor/outdoor spas, offer a true retreat from busy urban life; aka my life in NYC when I am not traveling. For me, it is easy to slow down when I am surrounded by pristine mountains or lakes, and even if I am in the city, all the parks that you find in cities such as Innsbruck and Salzburg. The aforementioned is where I based myself during my first visit to Austria and the latter is where I spent the end of my most recent trip.
If you’re like me and you think this type of trip sounds ideal, begin by booking a few nights at Hotel Am Holand. Just make sure to have a rental car so that if you do want to leave, you don’t have to do the strenuous hike up/down the mountain every time you want to come and go from the hotel. Once you have tasted the food at breakfast and dinner, you might not want to leave anyway!!
During your stay, explore the Bregenzerwald and Vorarlberg at a leisurely pace. The best activities are designed for just that and the hikes available in the area are nearly innumerable. It’s easy to feel the stress of the city disappear when you soak your feet in a cold mountain stream after 6 hours of hiking or even at the start of a hike when the green of Austria’s mountains in summer is so bright it seems almost fake!
I recommend walking the Umgang trail if you like history and architecture. This gives you the option of twelve themed hikes that you can do at your own pace. I found it so intellectually stimulating at the same time as it was relaxing to be able to walk the trails at a pace I chose. I also enjoyed riding up the many tramways and gondolas that are found throughout Vorarlberg.
Most mountain summits in the areas of Austria that I visited, feature areas purposely meant for slowing down with sheepskin blankets, lounge chairs and a bar or restaurant. Combine those elements with the stunning nature in front of you and it’s impossible to not feel relaxed. Whenever I sank into one of the chairs after hiking around the summits, I felt so relaxed by my surroundings, the views and the feeling of the crisp mountain air filling my lungs.
If you have a car, use it to take a leisurely drive through the village of Krumbach before having a long lunch at the sublime Gasthof Krone in Hittisau. The village of Krumbach features seven public art installations that are also functional and which together are known as BUS:STOP. Each bus stop was designed by a different international architect from countries such as Chile, Norway and Japan.
The Green Ring was established to provide hiking paths in the same areas that are, in winter, used for downhill skiing in Lech Zurs am Arlberg. From a base in the town of Lech, it’s very simple to access the stunning views that the ring provides by taking the gondola in the center of town up to Panoramarestaurant am Rüfikopf. From there, a sign leads you to the beginning of the first part of the Ring. You can hike it in sections only. You can also hike the three sections of the ring as one continuous adventure, stopping to camp along the way or stay in local hotels. Though it is said online that this is a very easy hike in any section and that you will not need crampons, I did not find that to be the case. I found much to challenge me anytime we were going downhill, sometimes far more steeply than I was comfortable with. That being said, I am not an advanced hiker and so my opinion is not suited as expert advice in regards to climbing. In hindsight, I would have walked around the areas of the Green Ring but I would not have climbed down the mountain.
I recommend staying at Hotel Rote Wand where Joschi Walch, his wife and their wonderful employees will welcome you as if welcoming long lost family. They are the most welcoming and kind people I have ever encountered in Austria.
I concluded my trip with a visit to Salzburg after a lovely train ride in which I did little more than watch the beautiful Austrian countryside pass by my window. I arrived later in the day so I started with a slow walk of the city as it turned from dusk to night, and concluded with dinner overlooking the city at Die Stadtalm.
Because of my family connection to the Von Trapp Family through my time growing up in Vermont, I thought it was very fun to enjoy a leisurely tour of some of the sights used in the filming of The Sound of Music. I’m well aware of how the movie differs from their lives but it was still fun to relive some of those scenes as I did watch the movie quite a bit growing up. If you don’t rush, opting for a solo bicycle tour of said sights rather than an organized group tour, it’s wonderfully relaxing. Many of the sights are adjacent to, or within the limits of, Salzburg city parks.
I also recommend buying a ticket for the Trick Fountains Tour of Hellbrunn Palace, a longer tour that takes time to do. Most of it is outdoors and ideally suited to hot summer days when the sun is beating down and what you crave is a dip in a nice, cold pool. But that’s all I will say about it, lest I spoil the surprise!
Slow down for a long lunch in the square near Mozart’s statue when you dine at Wirtshaus Zwettler’s. I loved their local dishes, the radler they served and the views from our outdoor table. It was nice to watch the city go by as I sat and dined without thinking of where I needed to be next, or again without having my phone to do anything more than check in on Swarm.
If you like music as much as I do, a Mozart concert at Mirabell Palace in the Marble Room is perhaps the most ideal way you can slow down while in Salzburg. Save it for the last night even, to end your trip on a cloud of musical delight. Imagine sitting for three hours but having no idea that time is passing at all. That’s how I felt! When it was all over I couldn’t even remember the last time I had sat in one place for such a long period of time and not taken out my phone or felt bored. The music has a way of putting you under a spell! The quartet was sublimely talented and the surroundings were spellbinding in their own way as well, making me feel like I’d stepped back in time.
While I didn’t experience any spas during this visit, I did six years ago and that’s my favorite way to slow down in Austria. All the spas I visited during that first trip had indoor/outdoor elements to combine the best of nature with the best aspects of a spa. Being able to relax after a massage in a hot tub outdoors while staring at the mountain peaks and breathing the fresh air, is something I have still never gotten over. The sheer ability to be so relaxed in that environment is something I’ve never found an equal to. Our spas in America pale in comparison to those in Austria. I would have preferred to end every day that I was hiking through mountains, at a steam room or sauna at the least and and I would recommend travelers doing the same. Most of the hotels I’ve mentioned have at least a steam room if not more of a full spa available.
Where have you traveled in Austria? What does your ideal trip to slow down look like? What questions can I answer for you about travel in Austria or AustrianTime?