Here is a really good deal. This summer, American Express card holders (and non-Amex card holders, as well) can book a room for three nights at any of 48 Hilton hotels in 35 European cities and get a fourth night free or, get seven nights for the price of five, or 10 nights for the price of seven.
At press time, using the rate code EV (non-Amex card holders should use code MU), Gemütlichkeit phoned the Hilton reservation system and was quoted a price of $104 per room, per night, for a three-night stay beginning Friday, June 4. The fourth night would be free, making the average per night cost $78 for two persons. The price includes breakfast. The offer is valid June 1 through September 18. Hilton has hotels in Basel, Berlin, Budapest, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Geneva, Mainz, Munich, Prague, Vienna, Weimar and Zürich. Contact: Hilton 800-445-8667 (ask for rate codes MU or EV) or American Express 800-843-2273.
An idea for a different sort of vacation comes from the Alphorn Academy in Montreux. The package includes accommodations for one week at a four-star hotel, breakfasts, lunch one day at a local mountain restaurant, and a daily four-hour alphorn lesson. The price is 990 Sfr. ($685) plus 80 Sfr. ($55) for alphorn rental. The price for a non-alphorn playing companion is 890 Sfr. ($615) and includes daily cooking lessons.
An advanced course is scheduled September 12-19 in Charmey near Gruyre, and a beginner's class is August 29-September 5 in Montreux.
Contact: Alphorn Academy of Switzerland PO Box 1011, 1820 Montreux 1.
The mountain town of Lech in Austria's Arlberg is a delightful summer destination. A brass band plays every Sunday morning in the village and the tourist office offers a wide range of organized activities from golf instruction to cooking lessons and, of course, plenty of hiking. Drink a glass of champagne as you ride a cable car at sunset to the Alps highest casino.
Lech hotels in all price categories offer a variety of special packages. The Hotel Madlochblick, for example, has a seven-day "Experience the Wonders of Nature" package that includes all breakfasts and dinners and necessary equipment such as rucksacks, walking sticks, thermos flasks, rainwear and mountain bikes.
Participants will be taken to alpine meadows, introduced to Kneipp hydrotherapy and medicinal herbs by the Schuler family and invited to supper at the family refuge. Per person rates are from 5,250 to 5,600 AS ($423 to $451).
KD River Cruises of Europe has scheduled its 1998 "floating wine seminar" on the Rhine and Mosel rivers for October 10-17, during the grape harvest. Prices for the eight-day cruise are from $1,280 to $1,485 per person double for cabins, $1,855 for a suite, and includes several on-board seminars, tastings at seven different cellars and vineyards. The latter range from Kloster Eberbach, a medieval monastery, to Baden Central Wine Cellars, Europe's largest and most modern. The cruise, which is aboard the 104 passenger Heinrich Heine, begins in Cologne and ends in Basel. Contact a travel agent or phone 800-346-6525 from the eastern U.S. or 800-858-8587 from the west. Website: www.rivercruises.com.
Switzerland Tourism's 1998 edition of Switzerland for Festival Lovers is available free of charge. The brochure details highlights and booking arrangements of the packages available for Switzerland's top summer festivals.
This year, for example, the renowned International Festival of Music in Lucerne offers the Berlin Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony, in addition to a long list of top performers, headed by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. Phone 310-335-0125, fax 310-335-0131 for the free brochure.
More important dates for travelers to Switzerland: Opera Festival Avenches, July 3-22; Classic Open-air Festival Solothurn, July 10-19; Montreux Jazz Festival, July 3-18; Zürich Festival, June 26-July 19; and Vine-Growers Festival of Vevey, July 29-August 15.
The just-released 1998 Michelin Red Guide for Europe (includes 67 main European cities) is in book stores priced at $24.95. In Vienna, Restaurant Steiereck was given a second star and single stars were awarded to Academie, Fadinger, Selina, Jahreszeiten and the Bristol Hotels Restaurant Korso.
In Salzburg, Restaurant Karl-Rudolf Obauer won a second star while Brandstätter and Pfefferschiff were given one rosette.