Reports are already filtering back. One reader described the streets of Venice in May as so full of tourists it was like getting in and out of the stadium at a Super Bowl. Another tells of a line two blocks long all day to see Michelangelo's sculpture of David in Florence. In the heat and height of the summer, that line will be longer.

Gemütlichkeit staffer Andrew Bestor called from Salzburg in early June to tell us the town is already full to the battlements of Hohensalzburg with tourists. Beautiful Salzburg is where we were told by a tourist official five years ago over 700 tour buses each day in high season drop their loads of visitors.

It is said to be virtually impossible to use accumulated mileage for an airline ticket to Europe this summer. The airlines, you see, can sell every seat for cash.

Car rental companies report huge demand for cars throughout Europe.

What this all adds up to is that 1997 may turn out to be a record year for the number of Americans visiting Europe. And what that means is the best-known cities and attractions will be overrun with visitors.

If this summer is your trip of a lifetime and you have no choice but to fight your way in and out of the great museums, castles and cathedrals of Europe, there are one or two things you can do to ease the pain a bit.

• Visit the really hot attractions, like Bavaria's Royal Castles, early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Be among the first in line when they open or among the last visitors of the day. Our man in Florence said the line to see David dwindled to only a handful between the hours of 5 and 6 p.m. Use the middle of the day to shop, sit at a sidewalk café or walk. Some attractions, like the palaces of Nymphenburg in Munich and Schönbrunn in Vienna have huge, beautiful grounds which are great for strolling at almost any time. You could, for example, tour Nymphenburg first thing in the morning, then walk the grounds at your leisure and, in the afternoon, visit the less popular but fantastic botanical gardens that are adjacent to the palace grounds.

• Drive the back roads. It takes longer but you'll be away from the crowds and feel as though you're on a private, personal expedition rather than part of an invading army.

• In the biggest cities, like Vienna, Munich and Berlin, visit attractions the guidebooks don't tout so highly or are a little away from the center of tourist activity. In Munich, walk the Englischer Garten and see the Bavarian National Museum. In Vienna, visit the KunstHaus Wien/Hundertwasser or spend an afternoon in the Prater, a giant amusement park where you'll be among Viennese instead of Americans.

Berlin is so spread out it's easier to get away from the hordes. Take a boat ride on the Havel and visit the strange but fascinating Checkpoint Charlie Museum whose eclectic collection of memorabilia tells the story of both successful and tragic escape attempts from behind the Berlin Wall.

In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, of course, are thousands of villages and towns tourists seldom see. Many have great charm, history, culture, recreational options and as such offer an attractive summer alternative to the most popular places. You will find tourists in all, sometimes quite a lot, but not so many as in the tourist meccas.

Austria

Attersee

This village on the Attersee, about 35 miles east of Salzburg, is the center of a relatively inexpensive resort area in Austria's Salzkammergut. Moderately-priced hotels and inexpensive vacation apartments abound.

Don't Miss: A lake tour on the Attersee-Shiffart with lunch on board. A day in nearby Bad Ischl, summer headquarters of Emperor Franz Josef and home of composer Franz Lehar.

Recommended Hotels:

Hotel Seegasthof Oberndorfer, Haupstrasse 18, A-4864 Attersee, tel 07666/7864-0, fax 07666/7864-91. Rooms from $67.

Pension Alpenblick, Abtsdorf 56, Attersee, A-4864, tel. 07666 75 43, fax 07666 74 71. Rooms from about $30.

Where to Eat:

Café 1er Beisel, Landungsplatz 6, A-4864, tel 07666/7877. Three course meals from about $30.

Steyr

Picturesque walled town south of Linz on a peninsula formed by the confluence of the Steyr and Enns rivers. The town square is lined with Gothic and Renaissance buildings.

Don't Miss: The Altstadt and the apricot Schnapps at Gasthof Pöchhacher.

Recommended Hotels:

Hotel Mader, Stadtplatz 36, Steyr A-4400, tel. 07252/533580, fax 07252/533506. Rooms from about $70.

Schwechater Hof, Leopold-Werndl-Strasse 1, Steyr A-4400. tel. 07252/53067, fax 07252/5477054. Rooms from about $55

Where to Eat:

Gasthof Pöchhacher, Sieringerstrasse 122, Steyr A-4400, tel. 07252/63173. Three course meals from about $20.

Bad Hofgastein

Sparkling, modern village in the heart of a pretty Alpine valley. Limitless opportunities for recreation, including golf. About an hour and 20 minutes by train from Salzburg.

Don't Miss: A visit to the historic spa town of Badgastein, which during the Victorian era, attracted Europe's crowned heads.

Recommended Hotels:

Appartmenthotel Aurora, Am Kirchenplatz 8, Bad Hofgastein, Austria, A-5630, tel. 06432/6210-0, fax 06432/6210-62. Apartments from about $60 per day (7-days)

Hotel Norica, Kaiser-Franz-Platz 3, Bad Hofgastein, Austria, A-5630, tel. 06432/8391-0, fax 06432/8391-500. Rooms from about $75

Where to Eat:

Hotel-Café Austria, Bad Hofgastein, Austria, A-5630, tel. 06432/6223. Three course meals from about $20.

Burgenland

Get way off the track in this unique 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, it sometimes mysteriously disappears; the last time being from 1868 to 1872. Walk the towns, note the rooftop storks' nests and stop in the garden of a Heurige (wine tavern) 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 $90.

Where to Eat: Any of the wine taverns.

Germany

Trier

This historic old wine town is littered with irrefutable evidence that it was once the capital of Ancient Rome in Germany. Use it as a headquarters to explore the Mosel or Saar wine regions. Luxembourg and France are nearby.

Don't Miss: The Imperial Roman Baths, the Roman Amphitheatre and a boat ride on the Mosel.

Recommended Hotels:

Hotel Petrisberg, Sickingerstr. 11-13, D-54296 Trier, tel: 0651/4 64-0, fax 0651/4 64 50

Where to Eat:

Palais Kesselstatt, Liebfrauenstr. 10, D-54290 Trier, 0651/40204, fax 0651/42308.

Bamberg

One of Germany's most enchanting towns. Wonderful buildings, great riverside setting. 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 about $78.

Wilde Rose, Kesslerstr. 7, Bamberg, D-96047, phone 0951/28317, fax 0951/22071. Rooms from $53.

Where to Eat:

Weinhaus Messerschmitt, Lange Str. 41, Bamberg, D-96049, phone 0951/27866, fax 0951/26141. Three course meals from $26.

Weimar

Rich in history and physical beauty, this small town of 60,000 is readying to be Europe's "Cultural Capital" in 1999. Because it was four decades behind the Iron Curtain, tourists have yet to arrive in big numbers.

Don't Miss: The small chapel in the town's Alter Friedhof (old cemetery) containing the coffins of Schiller and Goethe, called by many the greatest German of them all. St. Peter's Cathedral in nearby Erfurt. Ilm Park.

Where to Stay:

Wolff's Art Hotel & Restaurant, Freiherr-vom-Stein-Allee 3a/b, D-99425 Weimar, tel. 5 40 60, fax 54 06 99. Rooms from about $87

Christliches Hotel Amalienhof, Amalienstrasse 2, D-99423 Weimar, tel. 54 90, fax 54 91 10. Rooms from about $74.

Where to Eat:

Residenz Café, Grüner Markt 4, D-99423 Weimar, tel/fax 03643/59408. Three course meals from about $15.

Sylt

This narrow spit of land off the northwest coast of Germany has long been popular as a summer getaway for Germans but few Americans ever find their way there. What's to do? Explore the thatched roof Frisian village of Keitum. Gamble at the casino in Westerland. Dine out in some of Germany's best seafood restaurants. Our recommended hotel, the Benen Diken Hof, is one of Germany's finest small hotels, or, for cheaper accommodations, you may wish to contact the tourist office (Am Tipkenhoog 5, D-25980 Keitum, tel 04651/3370, fax 04651/33737) about vacation rentals.

Don't Miss: The beach promenade in Westerland and miles of sand dune trails.

Where to Stay:

Hotel Benen Diken Hof, Süderstrasse, D-25980 Keitum, tel. 04651/93830, fax 04651/938 383. Rooms from about $85.

Where to Eat:

Alte Friesenstube, Gaadt 4, D-25980 Westerland, tel. 04651/1228, fax 04651/26319. Three course meals from about $26.

Switzerland

The Emmental

Rolling pastures, huge farmhouse/barns and tiny farm villages that attract few tourists are the main features of this placid region east of Bern. Switzerland's most inexpensive vacation apartments and chalets are found here. Famous for the cheese. The pace is slow.

Don't Miss: Country drives and the village of Langnau.

Where to Stay:

Hotel Hirschen, CH-3550 Langnau, tel. 034/402 1517, fax 034/402 5623. Rooms from about $56.

Where to Eat:

• Hotel Hirschen, CH-3550 Langnau, tel. 034/402 1517, fax 034/402 5623. Three course meals from about $34.

Lake Constance

The south shore of Lake Constance offers several interesting towns, a few vineyards and, of course, the lake. From Stein am Rhein east to Bregenz in Austria is perhaps 60 miles.

Don't Miss: Stein am Rhein, tiny Gottlieben near Kreuzlingen, a walk around the German city of Konstanz and the ferry from Romanshorn to Friedrichshafen in Germany.

Where to Stay:

Schölssi Bottighofen, Seeterrace, Bottighofen CH-8598, tel. 071/688 1275, fax 688 1540. Rooms from about $120.

Seehotel Schiff, Mannenbach am Untersee, CH-8268, tel 072/663 41 41, fax 072/663 41 50. Rooms from about $70

Where to Eat:

• Hotel Krone, Gottlieben, CH-8274, tel. 071/666 8060, fax 071/666 8069. Three course meals from about $40.

Morges

Pretty little town on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) between Lausanne and Geneva in the La Côte wine region. Exploring such villages as Apples, Vufflens-le-Château, Biere and Ballens on the slopes above the lake, you will find few tourists. You can see Audrey Hepburn's grave in nearby Tolochenaz. Geneva and Lausanne are easy daytrips. Nyon is an interesting nearby lake town.

Don't Miss: The meal of a lifetime at L'Ermitage in Vufflens-Le-Château, otherwise any little Pinte (simple wine restaurant) in one of the villages in the hills.

Where to Stay:

L'Ermitage, Vufflens-Le-Château, CH-1134, tel. 021/802 2191, fax 021/802 2240. Rooms from about $211.

Hotel de la Courrone, Grand-Rue 88, Morges, CH-1110, tel. 021/803 2016, fax 021/803 12 97. Rooms from about $76.

Where to Eat:

• L'Ermitage, Vufflens-Le-Château, CH-1134, tel. 021/802 2191, fax 021/802 2240. Three course meals from about $90.

Brienz

Unpretentious small town on the Brienzersee and a quieter, cheaper alternative to touristy Interlaken. Known as the birthplace of Swiss woodcarving. Call in advance to tour H. Huggler-Wyss (CH-3855, Brienz, phone 036/511679), manufacturer of wood sculptures. Nearby 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 the great peaks of the Jungfrau Region.

Don't Miss: Ballenberg. A ride on a lake steamer.

Where to Stay:

Grandhotel Giessbach, CH-3855, Brienz, tel. 036/513535, fax 036/513707. Rooms from about $99.

Brienzerburli-Löwen, CH-3855, Brienz, phone 033/951 1241, fax 033/9513 841. Rooms from about $85.

Where to Eat: At the hotels listed above.

June 1997