JOAN JOHNSON SALZBURG & VIENNA – Austria National Tourist Office.

Our wonderful staff member Joan Johnson has shared her experience to Salzburg and Vienna- please read below..

We flew Emirates into Munich and returned from Vienna, and were lucky enough to get business class on three of the four flights. A380 has 180 degree flat beds and the 777 has flat beds but angled, ie not 180 degrees.
I was lucky enough to stay at the 5* Sacher Hotel in Salzburg with a room overlooking the Salzach River. Lovely hotel, well located with only a short walk across the bridge to the old town of Salzburg which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
I did a site inspection of the Goldener Hirsch Hotel but felt it too kitchy, in the Alpine lodge style. Other travellers who stayed at the Radisson Blu Altstadt Hotel said that the rooms were so dark they had to use their phones as torches.
Our first evening was a wonderful reception on a large patio at the Hohensalzburg Fortress, built in 1077, overlooking the whole city, then dinner at Stiegel Brewery, the oldest in Salzburg, founded in 1452! (I love the history.)

11th Century Hohensalzburg Castle overlooking Salzburg (image below)

11th century Hohensalzburg Castle overlooking Salzburg

Other meals in Salzburg were a lunch at Leopoldskron Schloss, now an hotel, located in an affluent residential area on the shores of Lake Leopoldskroner Weiher. This palace was commissioned in 1736 by Count Leopold, the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg. After his death it had several owners and went into disrepair, until in 1918 Max Reinhardt, theatre director and founder of the Salzburg Festival, bought and renovated it. After Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany in 1938, Max Reinhardt emigrated to Britain and then the USA, never to see his palace again.

We had dinner at Hellbrun Palace which was commissioned to be built in 1612 by Salzburg’s Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus. It was called his Pleasure Palace and was built for his amusement, with the most bizarre folklore figures, weird rooms and the Trick Fountains which have to be seen to be believed. This Palace is about 6 kms from Salzburg and can easily be reached by public bus or taxi.

Another dinner was at Schloss Fuschl, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa. This hotel is about 18 kms from Salzburg and one would need a car.

The birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart, Salzburg has many souvenir and chocolate shops with his iconic picture on items. In a souvenir shop I saw a teeshirt with a picture of a kangaroo, with the wording “Austria does not have kangaroos”.

For “Sound of Music” lovers, there are day tours to the sites where the film was made, and Salzburg is preparing for the 50th anniversary next year of the movie.

2015/2016 Salzburg will celebrate 200 years of the city being annexed to Austria from Bavaria. The Red Bull Museum, Hangar 7, is located at the Salzburg airport, and the Swarovski Crystal Museum is located at Wattens, 20 kms from Innsbruck, but it is temporarily closed.

The day long workshop in Salzburg gave us information on many towns, regions, hotels, museums, concerts and tours.

We were about 65 people, 25 from Australia and the rest American agents and journalists. We travelled by private double decker bus from Salzburg to Vienna, except for a 3 hour cruise on the Danube from Tulln to the medieval town of Duernstein. As there is not much to see on this leg, I feel it would be better to start the cruise in Duernstein and through the wine producing region of the Wachau Valley. The Austrian tour operators do not like the big river cruise companies as the money does not stay in Austria. They prefer smaller local cruise companies with shorter cruises.

We had booked to cycle between Krems and Duernstein which is a portion of the popular Danube Bike Trail, but it was cancelled due to bad weather.
Duernstein is a small quaint village with cobbled streets, and it is where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in the castle in 1192. (I love all this history!)

We did a site inspection and had lunch at the Relais & Chateaux Schloss Duernstein which overlooks the Danube.
Before reaching Vienna we had dinner at the Loisium Wine & Spa Resort in the wine village of Langenois which is about 75 kms from Vienna. The resort is a very modern building but some of their cellars are 900 years old. We did a tour of their museum and cellars, tasted many of their wines (Gruner Veltliner is a specialty of the area) and did a site inspection. Most of their clients are from Vienna and surrounding areas.

I stayed at the Bristol Hotel in Vienna and my room overlooked the magnificent Opera building. We did site inspections of the Kempinski, Ritz Carlton, Sofitel and the Park Hyatt which is in an old bank building and has just recently opened as an hotel.

afternoon tea at  Das Loft on 18th floor of the Sofitel Vienna


Afternoon tea at  Das Loft on 18th floor of the Sofitel Vienna (image above)

The Sofitel is located on the other side of the river, on the border of the 2nd district and is decorated in only black, white and grey, and the rooms are totally monochromatic in one of these colours. Le Loft on the 18th floor is the bar/lounge with glass walls and fabulous views over the city – the only bit of colour is the ceiling. We were served champagne and wine with beautifully decorated snacks and sweets.

view of St Stephen's Cathedral from Das Loft at the Sofitel


View of St Stephen’s Cathedral from Das Loft at the Sofitel (image above)

The Ritz Carlton has modern rooms and an open rooftop bar called Atmosphere , also with wonderful city views.

We had lunch at the Palmenhaus Restaurant , a former greenhouse of the Imperial Court. After many years it had fallen into disrepair and 10 years and $17 million later it was reopened to the public in 1998 as a restaurant. With the Art Nouveau glass domed ceilings and plants and creepers all over, it is now a popular contemporary restaurant.
We toured some purveyors to the Imperial Court which was so interesting – two of which are below:

  • R. Scheer, seven generations of making shoes since 1816. Scheer became the official shoe maker in 1878 for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They still make shoes to order, but you have to wait six months and the cost is from EUR5000!!
  • A.E. Koechert, jewellers since 1814. The renowned goldsmiths of the time, Emanuel Piote and Jakob Koechert became the “Jewellers to the Imperial Court” in 1831.

We had a private reception at the Leopold Museum and a private tour of the artwork of Egon Schiele, one of Austria’s most important modern artists from the early 20th century.

We also had a private tour of the Spanish Riding School Stables, briefly watched a rehearsal and heard the history. It is possible to book for a rehearsal only. We were also privileged to be able to watch a rehearsal of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Lunch in the ballroom of the Café Ferstal.

Our Gala evening started at the Park Hyatt where we had a Viennese waltz lesson – of course as in travel, mostly women with a very few men, us girls had to dance with each other – it was a fun night. We proceeded to the Jagdplateau at Neue Burg for an exclusive show and dinner amongst the exhibits.

Next year Vienna will be celebrating 150 years of the opening of Ringstrasse with numerous events and exhibitions.

Panorama Tours & Travel provided our transport throughout. They are a Virtuoso on site operator and can book concert tickets, driver guides, wine tours, cooking programs, and even strudel making classes.
Salzburg and Vienna card both have cards that provide free entry to many attractions, museums and public transport, and discounts to concerts, theatres etc. 24 hour, 48 hour and 72 hour passes can be purchased for Salzburg, and 48 hour and 72 hour passes for Vienna.

A funny comment about the Austrian people from Thomas Strobl, an Austrian comedian who entertained us in Salzburg – “an Austrian is an attempt to make an Italian out of a German”
I was in awe of the grand majestic buildings and monuments in Vienna – there is so much history and so much to see, and not enough time.

It was a very educational week where we sampled lots of local food and wine, and what there is to do in Austria.