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Luckily, (for us, not the von Gernerths), we were the only four guests in the hotel. In the morning, in a cozy room with vaulted ceiling on the ground floor, a splendid table for four was set for breakfast with fresh flowers, gleaming glass and silverware, and starchy linens. There were boiled eggs from free-range chickens, plenty of juice, fresh cantaloupe, and the freshest cheeses, thinly sliced meats, breads and rolls.

If it is solitude you seek, the von Gernerths will leave you alone. The rest of us are invited to join them for glasses of Austrian wine-in their garden in summer, at other times in the comfortable leather furniture of a small parlor, and occasionally at a nearby Gasthaus.

They are also delighted to show you their castle and share its history. There seems to be an interesting story behind every apartment, every picture, every rug, every piece of porcelain and China, and every antique.

From World War II through the early '60s, for example, the top floor was occupied by a family displaced by the war. For some 20 years they lived in the von Gernerth's castle, rent free. During the war, the government allowed such families to occupy vacant buildings all over Austria. By law, they cannot be evicted by the owners except under rare circumstances. In fact, Mrs. von Gernerth told us some apartments in Vienna remain occupied by families put there by the government more than 50 years ago and who still pay virtually no rent.

Haunsperg's pièce de résistance is its Baroque chapel. The ornate altar appears to have been executed in marble. However, the area around Hallein is so rich in marble that the stone was bypassed as being too common. Instead, the altar was made of wood and then a faux marbre finish was applied by craftsmen. In the tabernacle is a rotating platform that turns to show three scenes, including a carved mother and child and a reliquary with a sliver of wood purported to be from Christ's cross. Mass is held there four or five times each year but the ancient bell (1570) in the tower above is rarely rung-the last time at a family wedding.

Though the approach to Haunsperg is through an industrial neighborhood, all that is forgotten once you enter the park-like, six-acre grounds. Tall trees surround the property, and there are a couple of acres of lawn and a clay tennis court.

Don't stop here just for an overnight. Pack away your undies and socks in the drawer of an antique chest and hang your clothes in a hand-carved armoire. Spread out, put your feet up, and unwind for a few days. Shop and sightsee in Salzburg during the day and, in the evening, dine casually at nearby Restaurant Hammerwirt. Take a daytrip to the Königsee, a walk in the forest, drive the Rossfeld Ringstrasse or just hang around the castle and read. Whatever you do, don't miss Schloss Haunsperg, a special place run by special people.

Haunsperg is easy to find. Go south from Salzburg on the A10, exit at Hallein, then come back north toward Oberalm. In short order, you will see signs to Schloss Haunsperg. It is west of the Autobahn and east of the Salzach river.

Daily Rates: Doubles €126-170, suites €144-200
Contact: Schloss Haunsperg A-5411 Oberalm bei Hallein
Hammerstrasse 51, tel. +43/06245/80662, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Rating: Quality 16/20, Value 18/20

Dinner in Oberalm

Restaurant Hammerwirt

This lively village Gasthaus seems almost an extension of the Haunsperg. The family-run Hammerwirt's service is friendly and the food above average. The von Gernerth's, naturally, made our dinner reservation and, even though it is only a short walk, insisted on delivering us to the front door in the hotel van.

There are comfortable banquettes around the room and tables are decorated with pink and white linen cloths and napkins, real flowers and candles. Walls are hung with prints of familiar paintings.

The ubiquitous mixed salads were a tasty melange of the usual vegetables; chopped greens, corn, red peppers, and sliced cucumbers in a tangy dressing. Asparagus soup was delicious, but mostly cream and butter—delicious but deadly. The best main dish consisted of juicy, perfectly done duck breast served with sliced Knödel and chopped cabbage and chard sautéed with ham. Chunks of baby lamb deep fried was somewhat less successful. We finished with plates of various flavors of ice cream buried in whipped cream, hot chocolate and berry sauces.

Beverages were Kaiser Bier vom Fass, a bottle of Sonnhof Rotspon Blauburgunder Zweigelt (when in doubt for red wine in Austria, order the reliable Blauburgunder) and apricot brandy. For four, the bill came to about $148. The Blauburgunder was about $25.

A most pleasant dining experience.

Landgasthaus Hammerwirt A-5411 Oberlam, tel 06245/83664.
Rating: Quality 14/20, Value 14/20

Lunch in Salzburg

St. Peter Stiftskeller

This landmark restaurant in St. Peter's Abbey has been criticized as touristy but in the off-season it's snug, wood-paneled rooms are filled with locals. In summer, of course, you'll want to be in the open-air, vaulted courtyard, the rear portion of which is dug from the side of the mountain. Started by Benedictine monks in 803, it is reputed to be the oldest restaurant in Austria.

The menu emphasizes such typical Austrian specialities as Tafelspitz (boiled beef) and Schnitzel cooked in the Vienna style so it flops over the plate. This is not haute cuisine but the dishes were good examples of their type. Main courses are in the $12 to $16 range. The uniformed male waiters provide quick, pleasant service.

As we left the restaurant, a bell began to toll and we stopped while a procession of mourners, all on foot and preceded by a rather small wooden coffin, exited the church and serpentined around the little square. As we stood by the restaurant entrance, they passed in front of us on their walk to the cemetery. A sobering moment on a bright, beautiful day.

St. Peter Stiftskeller St. Peter Bezirk 1-4, tel. 0662/841268-0, fax 0662/841268-75.
Rating: Quality 12/20, Value 12/20