Austrian Castle Hotels

Castle hotels are a commodity not sold in the U.S. We simply don't have any. Maybe that's why many Americans are enchanted by them. If you are one who is we recommend Castle Hotels in Austria, written by a father-daughter duo, Paul V. Jameson and Hannah Jameson.

The books early pages offer some garden-variety travel advice laced with a few Austrian travel insights that demonstrate either the authors knowledge of the country or good research or both. For example, their definition of the various kinds of castles is something we have not seen elsewhere:

"A castle hotel is a castle turned into a hotel in which the ambiance of a castle survives. This definition is not precise as ambiance cannot be measured by objective criteria but is subjectively assessed. Even the word castle is not very specific as it includes five distinct categories of buildings:

  • Burg is a strategically located medieval building, a fortress-like home of a nobleman, symbol of his independence and proof of his might.
  • Schloss is a nobleman's residence from more recent times. It served no military purpose but was built for comfort and social status.
  • Palais (palace) is a particularly opulent Schloss usually built for an emperor, king, or prince.
  • Jagdschloss is the hunting lodge of an aristocrat. It is always smaller, cozier, and more rustic than a Schloss.
  • Herrenhaus is a manor house on a country estate and is considerably less elegant than a Schloss."

Some 40 properties each with a color photograph are described in more and better detail than the usual Frommer or Fodor written-from-the-hotel-brochure description. It is obvious that each has been visited and researched.

In addition, excursions are suggested usually more than one for each hotel. Some outings are by car, bus or train; but a few, like this one from Hotel Grünwalderhof in Patsch in the Tirol, are on foot:

"Finally, there is a walk that all hotel guests should take at least once. A short time before sunset, take the footpath at the end of the parking lot and follow it as it climbs a small hill 5 minutes from the hotel. One side of the hill is covered with a thick pine and spruce forest and the other with grass. From its top, a majestic view unfolds of the Alps with forests, pastures, jagged mountain ridges, and plunging valleys. The snow-capped peaks and glaciers of the Stubai Alps at that time of the day still glisten in the glare of the setting sun, but darkness has already enveloped the valleys and gradually creeps up the mountainsides. Cows on the pastures are only barely visible, and even the distant clanging of their bells is dying away. Soon, perfect stillness reigns except for the soothing chirping of crickets, which only enhances the awe-inspiring, unworldly quiet that pervades the air."

If one judges the value of travel guides by their girth, at $24.95 Castle Hotels in Austria is a little pricey. But for those planning a trip to Austria, and who want to carefully select one (or two or three) of these unique hotels, it will be money well spent.

You may not find Castle Hotels in Austria in your local bookstore. Contact: Euramco, 15 Elm Street, Canton MA 02021, fax 617-828-7666.

Bavarian Beer Guide

Attention beer lovers; here is your bible to the hundreds of Bavaria's brewpubs and breweries, big and small. The Good Beer Guide to Munich and Bavaria was written by Graham Lees, member of the British Guild of Beer Writers, founder of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) and the Munich Cricket Club. Published in the U.K. by CAMRA, we found the Good Beer Guide in Hugendubel on Munich's Marienplatz for 27.80 DM ($18.66).

In it is everything you need to know about getting a good glass of beer in Bavaria (not exactly as daunting a challenge as drilling for oil in Israel, well admit). The following entry for the village of Buttenheim, including the description of one of the two breweries, will give you an idea what this book is all about:

"Buttenheim, Small, two-brewery village off the A-73 or parallel B-4, halfway between Bamberg and Forcheim.

There is nothing remarkable, in this part of the world, in a one-horse village having two breweries—but the beers they produce are. Their speciality is the heavily hopped Kellerbier style, but the liberal use of the bitter herb influences all 12 beers produced in Buttenheim, from the basic Vollbier through Pilsener to Märzen. Buttenheim probably produces the most hoppy beers in all Bavaria; a visit here is a must for all lovers of dry, hoppy beer. Both breweriesSt. Georgen and Löwenstem from the same family Modschiedler and stand next to one another. Both breweries offer budget priced accommodations; the St. Georgen pub serves mountainous meals.

Brauereigaststätte Georgen Markt-str. 12
Tel: 09545 4460, or 4183

St. Georgen Vollbier, Kellerbier (unfiltered and gravity dispensed), Pilsener on draught. Bottled Märzen and Dunkel. Seasonal specialities: dark doppelbock in spring and Weihnachstfestbier (Christmas).

Fri-Wed 0900-2400; closed Thursday

Sleeping Accommodations

A bustling, hearty pub of crowded long wooden tables. A varied clientèle clearly relishes the beer; waitresses are constantly busy refilling the earthenware mugs favoured especially for the unfiltered Kellerbier. It is particularly busy early evening when people flock in from beyond the village to eat lion-sized Bavarian meals. Not one, but two thriving Stammtische (regulars tables). Brewery visits are possible. Call in advance."

Tasting notes at the end of the book describe and rate each of the beers offered at each brewery. For example, the Kellerbier of St. Georgen, above, has a 4.9% alcohol content, gets three out of a possible four stars (excellent) and is described thusly: "Rusty red, unfiltered. Massive hop aroma, like rubbing dried hops in the hand. A taste of apple fruitiness gives way to an explosion of hops in the mouth and an extremely dry finish."

The guide may not be available in the U.S., but the ISBN is 1-85249-114-0. Otherwise write CAMRA, 34 Alma Road, St. Albans, Herts AL1 3BW and include 8.99 pounds sterling and about $10 for shipping and handling.