Member Monday: How Awesome is Austria? Just Ask These Members!

Pictured above: Sarolta and Gyula F. with Fritz Sendlhofer, Garibaldi Beard World Champion.

When member Sarolta and Gyula F. went to Club La Costa Alpine Centre in Austria, they had a memorable time, to say the least. From the slopes to beards to hospitality, see what made Gyula rave about this destination.

“First of all, my wife Sarolta and I would like to say a few kind words about Global Discovery Vacations. We became members three years ago and we were somewhat apprehensive as to how this venture may turn out. We didn’t need to be.

Last year, we wanted to go to the Tuscany region in Italy and GDV found us San Gimignano. A must-visit! It has more than a 1000-year history, and the town itself is a gem. The apartment we stayed in was restored true to its history. It was located in the ‘old town’ of San Gimignano, where you step back in time and enjoy the museums, churches, restaurants and gift shops that abound, including wine stores with area wines.

It’s worth it to go on wine-tasting tours, which we did not do, but we may go next time. We had a car, although, as we heard, you can take a bus or train. We toured the easy to reach historical towns of Sienna, Florence, Pisa and even Vinci, Leonardo da Vinci’s birthplace and museum. An unforgettable treat! No Wal-Mart(s) here for sure. Instead, you’ll find peaceful rolling hills of vineyards.

This year we went to the Austrian Alps. In both cases, they were efficient and helpful answering our questions and arranged everything 100 percent to our satisfaction.”

Where would you recommend a fellow member to go to…
Have fun/attractions
On Monday, we found a typed note pasted on our door describing in detail all the activities for the week by the entertainment director Henan, who wore many hats such as being translator for English speakers, van driver and tour director. You name it, he did them all.

And when he wasn’t otherwise occupied, he was in the gym as a free personal trainer. We wish we went on every one of his recommended excursions, but unfortunately stomach flu and the Winter Olympics in Sochi curbed some of our excursions.

Tuesday was ski day, so Gyula went to ski with Henan. There is a ski rental shop right at the resort. Good price, good equipment. Although a skier for many years, Gyula got the best skiing tips ever from Henan.

There were two tobogganing/dinner outings during the week high in the mountains that we regretfully missed due to our “health issues.”

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By Friday we were ready to go on one planned activity. It included visiting the mountain home of Garibaldi Beard World Champion, Fritz Sendlhofer. First he welcomed us to taste his homemade beer using a traditional variety of malts that he brewed in his shiny copper equipment.

Then we went to the side of his house into a traditional mountain woodchoppers’ shack. It was covered with wide swathes of pine bark. You might say it was a shelter where the woodchoppers stayed out of the weather weeks on end in the mountains. This is where they slept and cooked.

Fritz proceeded to make a meal traditionally eaten by the woodchoppers over open fire in a large long-handled frying pan that had a nifty iron stand. Fritz used plenty of butter to fry the onions, put in pre-cooked small dumplings, then added three different kinds of grated cheeses, salt and spices and oodles of butter which he then cooked over open fire. When he finished, he invited the group to his dining room to eat it. We were plenty hungry and it was delicious! Served with green salad and plenty of beer.

The dining room was a museum itself. He had nothing for sale. From the ceiling, possibly 500 beer mugs hung on the rafters.  On the walls were at least 100 different kinds of saws used in this part of the world in times past, as well as many different axes. And of course it wouldn’t have been Austria if he did not invite us to taste his homemade schnapps, not for the fainthearted.

The group included a Russian family of three, a British mom and her teenage daughter, two of our tour guides and us from the U.S.A. Henan translated to English and a young woman (both from the resort) translated Fritz’s German into Russian. Henan says that Fritz really keeps to small groups. It was as if he existed only for us alone to tell about how he became a beard world champ.

His latest and most memorable championship was in Las Vegas in 2012. He appeared in ads from time to time along with the usual retinue of female models.

What was your favorite:
Resort/Condominium Amenity or Room
The check-in was as smooth as could be. Everybody spoke good English and we were provided with ample information about what we might do in the resort and in the surrounding towns and mountains.

The resort offers a breakfast/dinner combination for 25 Euros per person, per day. This was a bit steep for our budget at this time, but we had no difficulty feeding ourselves in the kitchenette in our studio apartment. For being a studio apartment it was quite large with a snowy mountain view.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, our first full day at the resort, we found a very well-equipped gym for every need and taste. The resort is child friendly, as they even have a children’s play room equipped with toys, etc. Their swimming pool was large and the water was pleasantly warm. They had a sauna, too.

Place to go in the destination
On Friday afternoon Gyula went to explore the nearby tourist town Zell am See at the very foot of the ski gondola, while Sarolta took it easy at the resort keeping track of the goings on in Sochi. Gyula loved Zell am See saying, “I have never seen so many small hotels in my life.”  People just walked into town off the slopes with their skis on their shoulders.

From the Austria tour book, it is clear that this area is also a fantastic place for walks and other nature activities during the summer. We hope to come back some time during the summer and say hello to Henan and Fritz.

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Why did you choose this destination?
In mid-Dec. 2013, we got an email (with everyone else from GDV) for Special Buys. We did not need to use our Star Credits, so we chose Club La Costa Alpine Centre, Saalfelden, Austria from February 15-22, 2014, for a 7-day $99 special. A deal we couldn’t refuse!

We were traveling from the direction of Vienna by car on Auto road A-1 and continued South on A-10 from Salzburg. Then we continued on Route 164, a well-maintained two-lane road. With our small Toyota Yaris, we soon found ourselves in need of our first and second gear a lot.

But it was worth it. Towering snow-capped peaks on both sides. Ski resorts one after another. There are less adventurous roads to get to our destination, but they are busier, too.

After about 30 miles we got in the town of Saalfelden, which we found to be a good place to shop for groceries and other practical things. South of Saalfelden, about 3 km, we found our destination off Route 311.

Who did you travel with?
My wife and I, in our 60s and 70s.

What was your favorite memory of your vacation?
Obviously visiting with Fritz.

Any tips for a traveler to this resort or destination? Anything you think they should bring?
If you want to cook yourself, Saalfelden has nice super markets and the room has the needed cooking and serving utensils.

About you

How long have you been a Global Discovery Vacations member?
Three years.

Why did you join the club?
The price looked reasonable and we were hoping it was for real. And it is!

What is your profession?
I am a retired professor and my wife is a retired IRS agent (but she’s very nice).

How many trips have you taken using your membership?
Two.

Photos courtesy of Gyula F.

Corey is a writer from Overland Park, KS, and has been with Global Discovery Vacations since September 2013. Once a sportswriter, he traveled the country and became proficient in airport security line etiquette and leaving items in hotel rooms.

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