15 Suggestions on Avoiding the Summer Tourist Crush

Europe is about to experience an invasion bigger than D-Day. It will be mostly by air. Every day battalions of tourists will stream off transatlantic flights into airports all over the continent. For the most part, they'll head for the big cities and "must see" smaller ones like Rothenburg, Lucerne and Salzburg. There they will crowd the museums and castles, gobble up the hotel rooms and jostle each other for a little shade and a table at a sidewalk café.

If that's not your idea of a vacation, but you're stuck with traveling between June and October, here are 15 suggestions - five each in Germany, Austria and Switzerland - to get you off the main tourist track on to paths less well trod and also save you some money.

Germany

Spend 3 Days in Bamberg

A marvelous town, with Rothenburg-like charm. Wander the altstadt at dusk, just as the lights which illuminate the old buildings, bridges and statuary begin to take effect.

• Don't Miss:

Rauchbier ("smoky" beer) at Brauerei Schlenkerla, Dominikanerstrasse 6.

• Recommended Hotels:

Hotel St. Nepomuk, Obere Mühlbrücke 9, D-96049, Bamberg, phone 0951/25183, fax 0951/26651. Rooms from $80.

Wilde Rose, Kesslerstr. 7, Bamberg, D-96047, phone 0951/28317, fax 0951/22071. Rooms from $55.

• Where to Eat:

Weinhaus Messerschmitt, Lange Str. 41, Bamberg, D-96049, phone 0951/27866, fax 0951/26141. Three course meals from $28.

Drive the Mosel

Less traveled and prettier than the Rhine. Prearrange to visit wineries and taste some wine along the way. (For information the German Wine Information Bureau, 79 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10016, phone 212-213-7036). See Trier and its Roman ruins and explore romantic wine towns such as Bernkastel Kues, Zell and Cochem. Carry Mairs Die General Karte #12 & 15 for Germany.

• Don't Miss:

Burg Eltz, one of Europe's great fortress/castles.

• Recommended Hotels:

Gutshotel, Balduinstr. 1, Obere Mühlbrücke 9, Neumagen Dhron, D-96049, phone 0951/25183, fax 0951/26651. Rooms from $80, three-course meals from about $28.

Hotel Petrisberg, Sickingenstr. 11, Trier, D-54292, phone 0651/41181, fax 0651/73273. Rooms from about $55.

• Where to Eat:

Gutshotel

Retreat to Coburg

This pretty town of gardens, historic buildings and about 50,000 residents has enough to offer for at least two full days of sight-seeing. Visit the Veste, the fortress that guards the town from above, where Martin Luther lived for a time in 1530. See Ehrenburg Castle where Prince Albert, husband to Queen Victoria, spent his childhood. Some might be interested in a tour of the Hummel factory in nearby Rödental where the famous figurines are made. The town has two very good restaurants, the Schaller, a Michelin one-star and the Kräutergarten. Stay outside the city at moderately-priced Schloss Neuhof.

On your way from Bamberg to Coburg, or vice versa, you might spend a night at Hotel Feiler in tiny Wiesenttal, about 30 miles southwest of Bayreuth. Your main purpose here is to dine in the Feiler's one-star restaurant that specializes in dishes featuring very fresh wild mushrooms. Carry Die General Karte #14 for Germany.

Don't Miss:

The Veste's museum, especially the weapons collection.

• Where to Stay:

Schloss Neuhof, Neuhof Str. 10, Coburg, D-96450, phone 09563/20 51, fax 09563/21 07.

• Where to Eat:

Restaurant Schaller, Ketschendorfer Str. 22, Coburg, D-96450, Coburg, phone 095561/250 74. Three course meals from about $40.

Restaurant Kräutergarten, Rosenauer Str. 30, Coburg, D-96450, phone 09561/750 05. Three-course meals from about $35.

• The Feiler Option: Hotel Feiler Oberer Markt 4, Wiesenttal, D-91346, phone 09196/322, fax 09196/362. Rooms from about $60, three-course meals from about $45.

Hide Out in Seeg

Use this village, about 20 kilometers north of Füssen in Bavaria, as a base to explore the region or just, in 90s vernacular, chill out. Tour, if you haven't before, the Royal Castles of Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau and Linderhof, understanding they will be choked with tourists. Drive through the forest (take the tiniest backroads; see Die General Karte #25 for Germany) to the beautiful but also crowded Wieskirche. You might try a scenic drive south into Austria to Reutte, Weissenbach, returning by going east over the Oberjoch-Pass to Immenstadt. From there head east back to Seeg by way of Pfronten.

• Don't Miss:

Wieskirche

• Where to Stay:

Pension Heim, Aufmberg 8, D-87637, Seeg, phone 08364/258, fax 08364/1051. Rooms from about $42.

• Where to Eat:

Gasthof Hirsch, Kirchplatz 3, Seeg, phone 08364/353, three-course meals from about $12.

Head North to Hamburg

The great majority of American tourists head south from the Frankfurt Airport. The only major city in this list of 15 recommendations is under-visited and too often overlooked Hamburg. Rent a bike at the Tourist Information office near the railway station and pedal around the Aussenalster and the Binnenaslter, the city's lakes; or take a ride aboard one of the glass-roofed boats that ply them. See St. Paulis Sunday morning fish market. For best people watching, stroll the naughty Reeperbahn. If it fits your budget, or you're up for a splurge, the best small, city hotel we've seen is Hamburg's little Abtei.

Those who want to avoid even a northern big city might visit the spa town of Bad Pyrmont south of Hanover and stroll its magnificent gardens, or go east from there into the Harz Mountains, staying at Bad Sachsa or Goslar, which has an old town that gets three Michelin stars - worth a journey.

• Don't Miss:

A plate of Labskaus at the Old Commercial Room, Englische Planke 10, Hamburg, phone 040/366319.

• Where to Stay:

Hotel Abtei, Abteistrasse 14, D-20149, Hamburg, phone 040/44 95 95, fax 040/44 98 20. Rooms from about $150.

Hotel Bergkurpark, Ockelstr. 11, D-31812, Bad Pyrmont, phone 05281/4001, fax 05281/4004. Rooms from about $58, three-course meals from about $20.

Harzhotel Romantischer Winkel, Bismarckstr. 23, D-37441, Bad Sachsa, phone 05523/3040, fax 05523/304122. Rooms from about $60, three-course meals from about $23.

• Where to Eat:

Ratsweinkeller, Grosse Johannisstrasse 2, Hamburg, phone 040/36 41 53, three-course meals from about $22.

In Bad Pyrmont and Bad Sachsa, dine at the hotels listed above.

Austria

Drive the Wachau-Danube

Go east from Grein to Krems stopping for sure at Melk and Dürnstein. You may wish to overnight at the beautifully situated Schloss Dürnstein, though it might be somewhat of a letdown if one is expecting a gemütlich country hotel with outstanding food. A much less expensive alternative is to push on south from Krems to the pilgrimage town of Mariazell, staying at the simple but friendly Gasthof zum Alten Brauhaus. Next day go to Hieflau via Weichsleboden, Wildalpen and Pallau, a remote part of Austria and a glorious drive.

• Don't Miss:

The library of the Abbey at Melk

• Where to Stay:

Schloss Dürnstein, A-3601, Dürnstein, phone 02711/212, fax 02711/351. Rooms from about $110 including breakfast and dinner.

Gasthof zum Alten Brauhaus, 5 Wiener Strasse, A-8630, Mariazell, phone 03882/2523. Rooms from about $26, three-course meals from about $10.

• Where to Eat:

At the hotels listed above

• Map: Die General Karte #1 & 2 for Austria

Checkout Graz

A marvelous, relatively undiscovered old-world city, the capital of Styria. Tramp its altstadt, taking in the Zeughaus (arsenal), the Cathedral, the Mausoleum of Ferdinand II, the Stryrian Heimatwerk (craft store) and the Farmers Market across from the opera house. On a warm summer night, grab a table at one of the outdoor cafés on Mehlplatz, center of Graz nightlife, known as the "Bermuda Triangle."

For a really off-the-tourist-track excursion, drive south to Ehrenhausen, and explore one of Europe's unknown wine roads; the Südsteirische-Weinstrasse. A portion of it runs along the Slovenian border. The tourist office in Graz can provide detailed information. Of course, another excursion would be to Piber, where the Lippizaner Stallions of Vienna's Spanish Riding School are trained.

• Don't Miss: The façade of the Hof Backerei at Hofgasse 6.

• Where to Stay:

Erzherzog Johann, Sackstrasse 3-5, A-8010 Graz, phone 0316/811616, fax 0316/811 515. Rooms from about $80.

• Where to Eat:

Kepler-Keller, Stempfergasse 6, phone 822449. Main courses about $7 to $16.

Tour Burgenland

You'll be far from the hurly burly in this unique and undiscovered part of Austria south of Vienna on the Hungarian border. Interesting towns are Mörbisch and Rust, both on the rather strange Neusiedler See, a 124 square-mile body of water surrounded by reeds, only seven feet at its deepest point and which sometimes mysteriously disappears; the last time being from 1868 to 1872. Walk the towns, note the rooftop storks' nests and rest in the garden of a heurigen (wine taverns) for a snack and a glass of fresh white wine made on the premises.

• Don't Miss:

The Neusiedler See

• Where to Stay:

Seehotel Rust, A-7071, Rust, phone 02685/381, fax 02685/381 419. Rooms from about $80.

• Where to Eat:

Any of the wine taverns.

Take an Alpine Drive

Cross the Gerlos Pass, overnight in an atmospheric old hunting lodge, stop at Europe's highest waterfall, the Krimml, drive the Grossglockner, one of the most spectacular auto routes in all Europe, and finish in Badgastein. From the Autobahn connecting Salzburg and Innsbruck, go south on Red Road #169 near Jenbach, take #165 east through Gerlos and over the pass. At the other side is the Krimml and in Wald im Oberpinzgau overnight at the Jagdschloss Graf Recke. Early the next day (to avoid traffic), continue east toward Bruck, going south from there over the Grossglockner. The toll is about $25. On the other side, past Heiligenblut, go east on Red Road #106 and at Obervellach go north putting your car on a train (about $15 one way) at Mallnitz for the 10-minute trip through the Tauern Tunnel to Badgastein.

• Don't Miss: The glacier seen from the Franz-Josefs-Höhe at the top of the Grossglockner

• Where to Stay:

Jagdschloss Graf Recke, Rosenthal 63, A-5742, Wald im Oberpinzgau, phone 06565/6417, fax 06565/6920. Rooms from about $55, three-course meals from about $20.

Haus Hirt, An der Kaiserpromenade, A-5640 Badgastein, phone 06434/2797, fax 06434/279748. Rooms from about $60, including breakfast and dinner.

• Where to Eat:

At the hotels listed above

• Map: Die General Karte #7 for Austria

Our fifth suggestion for Austria is to stop for a few days in Steyr. See page one story.

Switzerland

Walk & Rest in Kandersteg

Beautifully situated at the end of the Kander Valley and surrounded on three sides by rugged mountains which seem to rise almost vertically from the flat valley floor. Spend your days walking and the late afternoons and early evenings in a chair from which you can to do two things: take on a little sustenance and watch the mountains. You will find such a chair in the garden of the Waldhotel Doldenhorn. For a one-day excursion, drive your car onto the train that goes south through the Lötschberg Tunnel (17 minutes). From the other end at Goppenstein, it's only a short drive down to the Rhône Valley and Sion, an interesting city where French is the first language. See the Valais Museum of Fine Art.

• Don't Miss:

Long walks

• Where to Stay:

Waldhotel Doldenhorn, CH-3718, Kandersteg, phone 033/751818, fax 751828. Rooms from about $68, three-course meals from about $25.

Reudihus, CH-3718, Kandersteg, phone 033/751580, fax 751828. Rooms from about $70. The restaurants features authentic Swiss dishes and set meals begin at about $18.

Where to Eat:

At the above hotels

• Map: Die General Karte #4 for Switzerland

Headquarter at Château d'Oex

From this quiet little town (pronounced Chateau Day) one can do easy rail or car excursions to several of the country's greatest tourist attractions: Montreux and Castle Chillon (30 miles); Aigle and other vineyard villages along the lake; the fortified town of Gruyères (13 miles); fashionable Gstaad (10 miles) and the mountain resorts of Villars (15 miles) and Les Diablerets (22 miles). Even Lausanne and its terrific new Olympic Museum is less than 50 miles away.

• Don't Miss:

The cable car ride to the Les Diablerets Glacier from the Col du Pilon.

• Where to Stay:

Hostellerie Bon Accueil, CH-1837, Château d'Oex, phone 029/46320, fax 029/45126.. Rooms from about $70.

• Where to Eat:

Hotel Bahnhof, CH-3792, Saanen (about 3 km from Gstaad), phone 030/41422. Meals from about $12.

• Map: Die General Karte #2 for Switzerland

Kickback in Brienz

This unpretentious lakeside village with a great view of the mountains is close to many attractions and known as the birthplace of Swiss woodcarving. Make advance arrangements to tour H. Huggler-Wyss (CH-3855, Brienz, phone 036/511679), manufacturer of wood sculptures. Just outside of town is Ballenberg, the Swiss Open Air Museum, a collection of about 60 farmhouses, barns and mills, all fully operational. Also nearby are the Giessbach Falls and, of course, the lake. One could also explore the Jungfrau Region from Brienz. Interlaken is 11 miles away.

• Don't Miss:

Ballenberg

• Where to Stay:

Grandhotel Giessbach, CH-3855, Brienz, phone 036/513535, fax 036/513707. Rooms from about $105.

Brienzerburli, CH-3855, Brienz, phone 036/511241, fax 036/513841. Rooms from about $70.

• Where to Eat:

At the hotels listed above.

• Map: Die General Karte #2 for Switzerland

Unwind in Wildhaus

Though Wildhaus has the advantages of a beautiful setting and few tourists, the main destination here is the relaxing hotel Alpenrose, located on the hillside above the town. Excursions to St. Gallen, Appenzell and Liechtenstein, even Bregenz in Austria, are convenient if you can pull yourself away from the hotel. To find tiny Wildhaus, draw a straight line south of St. Gallen about 60 km.

• Don't Miss:

Seeing Appenzell cheese made in the village of Stein.

• Where to Stay:

Hotel Alpenrose, CH-9658, Wildhaus, phone 074/52121, fax 074/51052. Rooms from about $85.

• Where to Eat:

At the Alpenrose.

• Map: Die General Karte #1 for Switzerland

Tour Graubunden

From Chur head over the Albula Pass to the part of Switzerland where Romansch is spoken. Visit the towns of Guarda, Zernez, Zuoz, Scuol, Pontresina and, for shopping, St. Moritz. You will find a little Italy in the region's food and architecture.

• Don't Miss:

Zuoz & Pontresina

• Where to Stay:

Hotel Klarer CH-7524, Zuoz, phone 082/71321, fax 082/71214. Rooms from about $70.

Schlosshotel Chastè CH-7553, Tarasp (near Scuol), phone 081/8641775, fax 081/8649970. Rooms from about $91.

• Where to Eat:

Hotel La Collina CH-7504, Pontresina, phone 082/60121. Three course meals from about $35.

Hotel Bettini CH-7530, Zernez, phone 082/81508. Three course meals from about $25.

Haus Paradies CH-7551, Ftan, phone 081/8641325. Three course meals from about $55.

• Map: Die General Karte #3 for Switzerland

April 1994