Good Hotel Value
I commend your choice of Pension Altenburg (February 26, 1997), only a 10-minute walk down a small hill and across a bridge over a flowing stream into historic old-town Weimar. We especially enjoyed walking in the beautiful, well groomed park of grassy meadows and magnificent old trees. We toured Goethe's small two-story garden house on the edge of the park, and his large, art-filled city house. We sampled several small restaurants and found all to be excellent. Our double room (130 DM/$75) at the Altenburg was simple but modern and immaculately kept, with red, blue, and pink flowers in the window box. The two lady caretakers were especially helpful.
We were also pleased with Schloss Rhörsdorf on a hill among apple orchards overlooking Dresden. The Schloss is a restored country estate, with a stable of riding horses available to guests. Our second floor, double room cost 150 DM ($86). Days were spent touring the historic museums overlooking the beautiful River Elbe. At the Gallery of Old Masters of the Zwinger Palace we saw Vermeer's portrait of a lady reading a letter in the light from a window. In the Gallery of New Masters at the Albertinium, it was refreshing to discover paintings by Kuehl, Schlotz, and Max Lieberman.
Evening hours we walked about hamlet Rhörsdorf, or sat on the hotel's patio enjoying cool drinks and the view. The two caretakers who served our meals were a true lady and a real gentleman.
J. Lloyd Sutterby
Last year, in search of an inexpensive hotel in Zürich, we stayed at the Bristol. It scored high on the people-service scale but our room was so small we kept tripping over our suitcases. Another problem was noise from a streetcar line nearby which had a sharp bend that forced the cars to grind their way around the curve. And, while the location is quite close to the Bahnhof, we had to hike a considerable distance to get to restaurants. This year we tried the Scheuble, which is even closer to the Bahnhof and much closer to Bahnhofstrasse, the lake, and restaurants. We appreciated the location and our room was a bit larger than at the Bristol. On every other count, however, (except absence of streetcar noise) the Scheuble was not very satisfactory. Most of the staff were a bit surly and the rooms, hallways, lobby and restaurant shabby. The Bristol came across as "thrifty," the Scheuble as "cheap."
We did find an excellent moderately-priced restaurant in Zürich, though. At Fraumünsterstrasse 14, we found Trattoria Toscana. The interior is attractive, the service professional but relaxed, and the food delicious. We ordered one green salad for the two of us, half-sized portions of spaghetti al Capone (bits of ham in a cream sauce), and a liter of Chianti. The bill came to 53 Sfr. ($37). We returned the next night for half-size portions of veal a la Marsala, plus the green salad which we split. Another delicious meal and the bill came to 69 Sfr. ($48). We found the half-portions were just about right for us.
We made another restaurant discovery in Germany. On a cold, windy, rainy night in Hamburg we went down to the restaurant of our hotel, the St. Raphael, and were told they served only a buffet dinner for 39 DM ($22) per person.
Near the Bahnhof, on Kirchenallee, we discovered the Block House, part of an American-style restaurant chain but with a German Hofbräu atmosphere. The decor was attractive and cozy and all the personnel near the door said Guten Abend when we arrived and Wiedersehen when we left. They feature American beef steaks, but we opted for turkey and ordered Putenbruststeak, which was broiled just right and served with the best baked potato we have had in years. We split a "Block House Salad," and each had a glass of draught beer for 47 DM ($27). We enjoyed the meal so much we decided to find out if we had been unduly influenced by finding such a welcome retreat on a nasty night. Later in the trip we ate at the Block House opposite the Stuttgart Bahnhof and ordered the same meal. It tasted just as good. Gemütlichkeit subscribers who aren't afraid to risk their reputations as supersophisticated gourmands might give a Block House a try. (They can probably be found in most big German cities. I believe there are nine of them in Hamburg.) You won't get anything elegant, but you won't run the risk of squandering 200 bucks on poorly prepared dishes with fancy names and/or of getting snubbed by a waiter, either.
Other than the buffet-only dinner setup at the St. Raphael, we found the hotel to be quite satisfactory. Incidentally it appears that the Hotel Glockenhof in Zürich has also gone to a buffet-only evening meal arrangement. (I suppose it saves them the trouble of printing a menu and having to fuss over individual meals.) At least that was the case the night we went there, which forced us to try the Glogge Egg where we had barely edible gnocchi in tomato sauce, a salad, and beer apiece which cost 60 Sfr. The food, atmosphere, service, and quality of our fellow diners was at least 10 times higher the next two nights at the Trattoria Toscana for the same amount of money.
Robert F. Biehler
You can get Budvar on draught at the Orangerie in the Nassauer Hof Hotel, both the best of their kind in Wiesbaden. Orangerie belongs to a German-European edition of a "Super-Restaurants-Chefs" chain or Jeune Restaurateurs D'Europe "Talent & Passion." Lunch for two is approximately 100 DM ($57).
Re: Weimar. If you are over 65 stay at the Radisson in Erfurt (30 minutes drive to Weimar). No exceptional food in sight but the price for seniors is 1% off for each year of age. In my case that was almost 75% off the rack rate! Erfurt itself is worth a day's sight-seeing—old town, even older cathedral, river walk, market, etc.
When in Weimar or Erfurt, go to Buchenwald. See the monument and commemorative park on your left before you get to the main camp. Spend some time in the main building at the camp entrance which also served as the "bunker" or penalty compound.
Circle the camp past the crematorium to the right as you face the entrance. Behind the camp are two heavily wooded cemeteries. The victims of the Russian (or Communist) use of the camp (1945-52, I think) are buried here.
Re: Berlin's cafés. Forget the Café Kranzler, the ultimate tourist trap. Here, they charge to use the toilets and there is a minimum during busy hours. There is a poor selection of pastries and bad service. Instead go to the Palais Café by the Opera on Unter den Linden, two blocks from the Radisson. The Palais is the most European of all cafés and has a prewar atmosphere. Pastry selection and attitude of staff are both superior.
Laguna Beach CA
(Ed. Note: Longtime subscriber Dr. Chari knows whereof he speaks. He is an Auschwitz survivor and at the war's end was liberated from Bergen-Belsen. When we phoned him to clarify a portion of his letter he gave us another recommendation: St. Hedwig's Cathedral, behind the Palais Café. Buried in the crypt there is Domprobst Bernard Lichtenberg, a Berlin priest who saved Jews from the camps by declaring them "non-Aryan Christians." Dr. Chari says the Nazis did not look kindly on such activities and Father Lichtenberg was sent to Dachau. He died en route.)
Grüner Baum Gripe
Recently, I went to Austria and stayed at Grüner Baum in Badgastein. On the positive side, my single corner room was a delight at an off-season price of about $70 per day. The location was wonderful as was the walk from the Grüner Baum to Bad Hofgastein. A real pleasure to stop at a restaurant on the way for some coffee and Kugel.
On the other side, when I made my reservations, my letter stated that I would take half-board when I was not traveling into other parts of Austria. I had four dinners at the Grüner Baum and was charged for 10 when I paid the bill. The person at the front desk stated I did not notify the head waiter that I would not be at dinner the nights I was elsewhere. When I noted my statement in my reservation letter that I would be traveling to other parts of Austria and would only be having dinner when I was available, I was coldly told that it was my obligation to advise them in the morning that I would not be having dinner that night. I am very agreeable to paying when I receive service, however, I did not think it was my responsibility since it was clearly stated in my reservation letter of my intentions. I think a first class operation, as the Grüner Baum is, would have followed-up on my letter and made it clear to the restaurant staff of my intentions.
Also, the warm greeting of the owners was not present when I arrived nor did they ever greet me during my stay. I have stayed in many first-class inns and hotels and was never treated as coldly as I was at Grüner Baum. I met some wonderful people at Grüner Baum and my stay was delightful except as stated. I much preferred Bad Hofgastein to Badgastein. Badgastein appears very tired whereas Bad Hofgastein is full of energy and very charming.
George J Boser
(Ed. Note: Hotel operators tell us the standard procedure for half-board rate bookings is that the hotel charges the guest the half-board rate each day unless notified the morning of the day in question that the guest will not be at dinner that evening. Daily notification is the responsibility of the guest. The hotel's responsibility is to advise half-board guests of this procedure.)
(U.S. Dollar prices quoted in this issue of Gemütlichkeit may be inaccurate for these reasons:
* Prices in local currency have not been updated since the date of publication of this newsletter, and...
* The dollar prices shown were obtained by using exchange rates in effect at the time of publication.)