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Bregenz, Austria

Winter is not the best time for visiting castles - they can be pretty dreary at that time of year - which may partly account for why we were disappointed in our stay at Deuring Schlössle, a Relais & Chateaux property.

We telephoned for a room a day in advance after deciding to break up a Munich-Zürich train trip with an overnight in Bregenz, at the southeastern tip of Lake Constance.

Since there had been no offer of a ride from the hotel, we took a taxi for the short ride from the rail station.

The vine-covered stone structure above the town sits cheek-by-jowl with other buildings in a residential neighborhood, and exiting the taxi it took a moment to spot the hotel entrance. The welcome from the lone young woman at reception, though not unfriendly, fell well short of effusive.

We were shown to a poorly-lit, barn of a room, Number 102. The floors were polished herringbone garnished with a couple of unimpressive oriental rugs and enclosed by totally bare walls save a single flowery, boring still life. The room's TV had a screen so tiny it was not viewable from either the couch or the bed. The antique furniture was rather impractical and not particularly comfortable.

The bathroom, however, was huge; with windows, a separate toilet cubicle, marble tile, and an elegant, gold-framed mirror over the stand-alone washbasin.

After check-in we immediately set out on a walk down the hill to see the town. Bregenz is noted for its massive, floating stage on Lake Constance; from it, musical and dramatic productions are presented to patrons in grandstands on shore. The annual summer music festival attracts world-class performers and no doubt the town has more charm at that time of year, but on this winter day we found little to attract us, not even a cozy Bierstube to escape a chilly wind.