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On Lake Hallstatt, surrounded by mountains of the Dachstein range Even if you're not a classics fan, the Salzburg region is packed with sightseeing and music-lover interest, especially in the Austrian Lakes area called the Salzkammergut.

That's the territory which first became rich through the mining of salt. For at least the past 3000 years, miners have traded the mineral. The industry was controlled by medieval rulers who grew rich on the taxes they levied. 

Salzburg - Salt Mountain - likewise prospered from the salt trade, and flourished beside the River Salzach. 

Because of the wealth from salt, rulers kept the region virtually closed off, to prevent smuggling. So this region has preserved the old traditions in charming villages that are not blighted by other industries.

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Brochures: Leger Holidays, Canklow Meadows, Rotherham S60 2XR. Tel: 0845 408 0769. Web:

More information: Austrian National Tourist Office,
9-11 Richmond Buildings, London W1D 3HF. Tel: 0845 101 1819


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When Reg Butler visited these Austrian Lakes he chose not to drive. Instead he picked a coach tour, to enjoy watching the fabulous scenery instead of keeping hiseyes on the road all the time.

The Tour Manager of the 9-day Leger Holidays coach tour, was an extremely well qualified guide, and shared the driving with a colleague. 

The holiday was wrapped around the included excursions, plus several options.

Our hotel base was the 4-star Sporthotel at Gosau, which is hard to find on the map. The village is in the heart of the Dachstein-West winter-sport region. But in summer the area is great for walking, climbing and cycling.
A corner of the lakeside village of Hallstatt
Ten kilometres away is Hallstatt and its Lake, easily reached by local bus. Hallstatt is a stunning sightseeing highlight, with a narrow lake promenade overlooked by the towering pine- clad mountain. Every house or building is worth a picture.

In the hillside above is what's claimed as the world's oldest salt mine. It's still working, open to visitors, and is reached by funicular or hard walking.

Archaeologists declare that the Hallstatt salt culture has lasted 7,000 years. From 1000 BC onwards, the salt was traded south to the Mediterranean and north to the Baltic. It's a key part of the UNESCO World Heritage region of Hallstatt and the Dachstein.
The lake waters feed into the River Traun, where Bad Ischl lies at the heart of the Salzkammergut. This thriving spa resort was the favourite summer retreat of the Austrian aristocracy during the long life of Emperor Franz Josef.

At the entrance to the Kaiserpark, the emblem of the Hubertushof hotel and restaurant seems to have escaped from Franz Josef's rifleMaybe drinking the saline spa water kept the Emperor fit. He died in 1916 at age 88, after ruling Austria for 70 years. Franz Josef spent much of his long life at Bad Ischl, enjoying his favourite sport of killing chamois and any other wildlife that came within gunshot. 

When he married his bride, Elisabeth - popularly known as 'Sissi' - a wedding present was the Kaiservilla at Bad Ischl which became the royal hunting lodge. 

On guided tours visitors can view hundreds of animal trophies. Here also is where Franz Josef took time off from hunting to sign the declaration of war against Serbia on August 1st 1914.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries the royal court and ambitious politicians flocked to Bad Ischl for their summertime social life. This meant that music was needed for their entertainment. 

So the regular summer visitors also included Johannes Brahms, the operetta composer Oskar Strauss and Johann Strauss. The tenor Richard Tauber owned a summer house.

The musicians mainly frequented Cafe Ramsauer, directly opposite the main church. Wall plaques honour some of their names. 

The aristocracy preferred the Cafe Zauner which is still rated among Austria's best cafes. It has kept an opulent style and displays magnificent pastries and snacks for on-the-spot consumption or take-away. I bought a made to order salmon and salad baguette for a picnic, and it came beautifully wrapped in gold-coloured paper, tied with fancy tape. 

Close by in the Kurhaus, light classical music is performed with free entrance. 

embarkation at St Gilgen for trips on Wolfgang LakeOccupying a prime riverside location is the Villa which operetta composer Franz Lehar bought in 1912. He lived there until his death in 1948. The Lehar Villa is now kept as a house museum, furnished exactly as in Lehar's day.

A few miles further along is Lake Wolfgang, famed for the resort of St. Wolfgang, in which the leading hotel was the model for the operetta 'White Horse Inn'. 

At the northern end of the lake, connected by a regular boat service from St. Wolfgang, is St. Gilgen where Mozart's mother was born, and where Mozart's sister settled. A plaque and a fountain in the attractive town square commemorate the links.

The next lake, Mondsee, brings you to the 'Sound of Music' circuit. Many sightseeing tours out of Salzburg follow locations where the 1962 movie was filmed, and where the real-life Trapp family played out their personal story.

Music in the Kurhaus at Bad IschlSo every coach stops in Mondsee near the Collegiate Church where the wedding of Maria and the Baron was filmed.

As an additional option, guests on the Leger coach holiday can take an all-day trip to Salzburg and further explore the stories of both Mozart and the 'Sound of Music'.



SALZBURG - Annual elebration of Mozart's birthday in January

TYROL - by coach tour

VIENNA - Waltzing around the capital

"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

Fodor's Vienna to Salzburg - Most useful if you plan to visit both cities, and to explore the superb mountain and lake scenery in between the two.

Austria Green Gulde - An excellent general guide in Michelin's familiar green format.

Walking in the Salzkammergut: Holiday Rambles in Austria's Lake District - Ideal for anyone who wants to do some serious walking around the lakes, and along the mountain trails.

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