Holiday Postmortem | Beyond Switzerland

Holiday Postmortem | Beyond Switzerland
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First Published: Sat, Apr 05 2008. 12 39 AM IST

Updated: Sat, Apr 05 2008. 12 39 AM IST
Anantara Solutions CEO G.B. Prabhat travelled to Austria with wife Uma and daughters Sandhya, 19, and Chaaya, 14, in May. Its timeless appeal is drawing the family back again this summer
Why Austria with the family?
I had been to Austria a few times on my own. The extraordinary sights—the mountains, the lakes—make a compelling case for the country as a holiday destination. Plus, from what I had seen of the smaller towns and villages, they seemed to be fiercely protective of their own individual identity—something that we stand to risk losing in an increasingly globalized world. It is something of an anachronism, and that is what makes it so appealing.
You chose to spend most of your time in Tyrol. Why do you prefer it to, say, Switzerland, which has a very similar landscape?
That’s right. More than any other part of Austria, Tyrol is dominated by the majestic Alps. But, unlike Switzerland, it is not overrun by tourists. At the base of Switzerland’s Mt Titlis and all the way up to the peak, there are signs in three languages: German, English and Hindi. That makes it a no-no for me: I do not seek India when I travel abroad, I want a clean break from my everyday existence.
That is why I headed to Tyrol. In the winter, this is the hub of avid skiers; in fact, it has hosted the Winter Olympics twice. I actually had a tough time deciding on the time of travel, since both winter and summer are exquisite in their own ways. Ultimately, though, I think early summer has an edge over other seasons: There is remnant snow in some places but the lushness of the vegetation is also in full evidence.
Any specific spot in Tyrol?
Well, we spent a considerable part of the holiday in Innsbruck, in the lap of the Alps, with spectacular views of the mountains in all directions. A limpid river (formed by Alpine melt, I am told) flows through the town. The name Innsbruck (bruecke in German means bridge) is a composite meaning—“the bridge over the Inn Valley”. Besides the bridge that gives the town its name, there are a few arterial roads and numerous cobblestone paths with poetic houses lined up on both sides. The architecture and the spirit of life in the Altstadt (old city) are particularly fascinating. This is where the landmark Goldenes Dachl (literally, golden roof) is located—the copper tiles on the roof give it its name. Walking through the old and new town of Innsbruck is enthralling. The sleepy, small-town life is enchanting.
That’s a point you keep going back to—the sleepiness, the quietness of Austria.
Frankly, I am not a big votary of globalization. In Austria, I found a people and a place so self-confident that there is no great compulsion for them to prove themselves in conventional terms. It makes for a contented economy, if not a thriving one. It also encourages continuation of the core values that bind a people. For instance, Austria may have none of the overt tourist-friendliness of Switzerland, but I appreciate the expansive indifference that allows visitors to enjoy their anonymity. The lack of sophistication is very appealing. For me, this is Shangri-La.
What was the holiday agenda?
It wasn’t about specific activities: But, yes, all of us share a passion for walking and nature. And breathtaking natural beauty and good weather can induce us to walk for hours, especially as one doesn’t work up a sweat. We spent a day trekking on the hills around a village called Lans—through winding mud paths past the occasional cottage or a natural pond—and another walking from a village called Natters to Innsbruck, a distance of 7-8km. The road meanders through hills but is itself quite flat, bordered by wilderness and a few cultivated patches. The village centres have restaurants serving wholesome food, but the cottages just outside the village show little signs of life. Other than the occasional car, we seemed the only moving objects along the village road. And I think it is an indication of the health of the local vegetation that the countryside was so astonishingly green even as the higher reaches were still swathed in snow. That contrast between new greenery and pristine whiteness is really startling.
Did you experience the snow first-hand?
We spent half a day at the Stubai glacier, the year-round skiing destination. It was quite a remarkable experience, being at a great height—the highest point is around 3,250m—surrounded by snow, yet being toasted by a warm sun. At last we knew how Bollywood heroes and heroines manage to roll around in the snow without being particularly heavily clad.
As a vegetarian foodie, was the eating tough in meat-and-eggs Austria?
Strictly vegetarian food was available widely: From penne arrabiata and Middle Eastern potato calzone to Spanish polenta, the culinary options were endless. Our one regret was that we couldn’t find an egg-free version of the famed apple strudel—though the original recipe, in fact, does not contain eggs. Hope sustains life: On our next trip, we will probably locate a joint that serves the egg-free version.
Any regrets about not visiting Vienna?
Well, we like to see every place in depth—no flitting around towns and cities for us. Vienna, with its classical architecture and music, is definitely a big draw. That is why we are going back to Austria this May. This time, the focus will be sharply on the capital.
Getting There
Austrian Airlines connects Delhi, Mumbai and Vienna; round-trip economy fares from Rs33,000, inclusive of taxes. There are no direct flights from Bangalore, but you could fly from Bangalore to Frankfurt on Lufthansa and connect to Vienna. Round-trip economy fares from Rs1.47 lakh, inclusive of taxes.
As told to Sumana Mukherjee. Share your last holiday with us at lounge@livemint.com.
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First Published: Sat, Apr 05 2008. 12 39 AM IST