We keep a close watch on what is written about travel to Germany, Austria & Switzerland. Here are a few useful and interesting excerpts we've clipped recently from various sources:

R. H. Growald, Copley News Service

To the outside world, Demel's and the Hotel Sacher are the best known of Vienna's coffeehouses. You'll mainly see tourists at the tables there. Both charge $5 to $8 for a cup of coffee (the range at most other places is about $2 to $5).

Other coffeehouses to include in your Vienna itinerary:

1. Café Landtmann (1 Dr. Karl Lueger Ring 4) Favorite of actors and politicians (next door to City Hall and the City Theater), with 20-foot ceilings...

2. Café Central (corner of Herrengasse and Strauchgasse) A favorite of lovers, writers and diabetics - its glass display case includes some cakes made without sugar. Probably Vienna's most elegant coffeehouse with marble pillars and a pianist. Leon Trotsky once hung out at the Central.

3. Café Museum (Opern Gasse 7) Favorite of painters, writers, political dreamers, chess players and Dr. Sigmund Freud.

4. Hawelka (Dorotheergasse 6) A smaller café but jammed with painters and yuppies trying to be bohemian in their tailored clothes. Like most coffeehouses in central Vienna, Hawelka serves meals.

5. Café Tirolerhof (Tegetthoffstrasse 8) A sort of neighborhood club for people who don't care who you are, peopled with serious newspaper readers and almost as silent as a library.

6. Griensteidl (Michaeler Platz 2) Established in 1847, this is one of Vienna's oldest coffeehouses. It features 18-foot arched windows and whispered chats between conservatively dressed Viennese who seem so respectable they might be spies.

Associated Press Report

Prince Leopold von Bayern, a dashing aristocratic race driver, revels in whooshing along Germany's Autobahn at 155 mph. "The speeds on the city racecourses are limited by tight curves, so you can't get up to top speed. The autobahn is mostly straight so you can," he said, adding that it is also more dangerous. "On the racetrack, everyone knows what he's doing. This is not so on the Autobahn. Not everyone should be driving so fast."

In Germany, no one is granted a driver's license until he or she has successfully completed 33 hours of driver's training in the classroom and 18 more on the road.

Drunk-driving laws are rigidly enforced on every German road and sobriety checkpoints are a common sight along the Autobahn. Passing on the right is strictly forbidden, as is tailgating. All trucks are restricted to the right lanes of the Autobahn.

"The most dangerous stretch of road is between Nürnberg and Munich," said Alfons Jung, Commissioner of the Autobahn police. "The road goes up and down and the weather is often foggy. You can be driving at 240 kilometers (149 mph) and suddenly, you can't see."

Paul Eisenstein, Hemispheres Magazine

German Autobahns account for about 4 percent of all German roads, but 30 percent of the miles Germans drive. On the average, each year 7,900 people are killed in motor accidents, but only about 700 deaths occur on the Autobahns. That's about 10%. In the United States, 30 percent of the motor vehicle deaths occur on the freeways. In fact, the statistics show that despite their high speeds there are fewer deaths per mile driven on the Autobahn than on the American interstates. And the German death rate is falling faster than in the United States.

Janet Fullwood, Sacramento Bee

Ms. Fullwood writes about some of the everyday-life differences Americans traveling in Germany can expect to encounter. They may be old hat to veteran travelers but her observations should enlighten others.

Escalators: If you spot an escalator from a distance and it is not moving do not assume that it is broken and start looking for the stairs. Most escalators in Germany (and elsewhere in Europe) operate on electric eyes. If no one is on them, they don't move.

Lights on Timers: Hallway lights in apartment buildings and modest hotels are almost always on energy saving timers. Flip the switch at the end of the hallway and the overhead light will come on just long enough to get you inside your door. Look for a switch near the door when you are headed in the opposite direction.

More Energy Savings: In inexpensive hotels and guest houses, a manually operated, 5 or 10 gallon water heater is provided for the shower, sink or bath. Remember to turn it on, or you'll stand there wondering why the water doesn't heat up.

Floor Numbers: If you are handed a key to room Number 101, don't look for it on the ground floor. The first floor in German buildings (and in most of the world outside North America, for that matter) is what Americans call the second floor.

Nifty Grocery Gadget: Shopping for produce in German grocery stores is also different than at home. In many stores, customers select and bag their own fruits and vegetables, then place them on an electronic scale located at the produce department. Attached to the scale is a panel of buttons, each bearing a drawing of a particular product. Push the picture that corresponds with what you are weighing and bingo - out pops a self stick label with the product's name, weight, price per kilo and price to be paid.

Different Packaging: You won't see as much fancy, wasteful packaging in Germany as in America. And some packaging is intriguingly different. Mustard, mayonnaise and tomato paste for example come in tubes, like toothpaste, as well as in jars. Fruit juice is packaged in 1 liter paper containers, like quarts of milk are packaged here.

Bring your own Bag: Few German grocery stores provide free bags at checkout. Customers either bring their own or buy one at the store. Most shoppers we saw packed their goods in canvas totes, but a good many, mostly women, shopped with old-fashioned wicker baskets over their arms.

Beds: Double and king sized beds are not the norm in German hotels and guest houses. What a couple gets instead are two twin beds pushed together. Nor are covers shared in common; instead each person gets his or her own down comforter covered in sheeting fabric.

Stephen Kinzer, New York Times

Visitors seeking dining experiences not normally found in Europe should visit Lucky Strike Originals, a new Berlin restaurant that specializes in Cajun Cuisine. Service can be brusque, reminding diners more of the Big Apple than the Big Easy, but the jambalaya and the gumbo are authentic. Live bands perform in an adjacent night club. Luckys, as it is known, is opposite the Pergamon Museum in Eastern Berlin at 177-180 Georgenstrasse. Res. 030/30 84 8822.

English speakers who want an irreverent look at Berlin life should buy a new guide book called Berlin: What's Cool (Syndicate Publishing, about $5), written by an American expatriate and sometime performance artist named David Tabatsky. He describes it as "not exactly the book for mom and dad," and it won't help you find a luxury hotel, but it is a witty and offbeat guide to some of the city's quirks and wonders.

Eastern Germany is the destination of many people who visit the country these days. There is a dearth of good hotels, but a new one, the Trihotel am Schweizer Wald, opened recently in the Baltic Port of Rostock, a good jumping off point for visits to the windswept coast and its historic Hanseatic cities (including Lübeck, where a new museum dedicated to the authors Heinrich and Thomas Mann has been open since May at 4 Mengstrasse). The hotel offers all modern conveniences as well as a small theater where music, dance, cabaret and pantomime performances are to be staged. Reservations: 0381/65970; rooms are about $145 for two.

February