Fifi LaMode, The Budget Babe's International Shopping Advisor, makes us wistful for old-world charm, natural wonders and incomparable hospitality in glorious Austria. —TBB
by Fifi LaMode
Simply put, Austria's gorgeous. Medieval castles look out over the Danube, the Alps hover over lovely villages, where cowbells alert the casual hiker, and Vienna, ah, Vienna, what can one say? Strauss and Klimt found inspiration here. Coffee houses, art galleries, antique shops abound, beautiful mementos of a bygone era. Art nouveau, baroque, deco, all meld in this glorious city.
We leave Vienna's many temptations for Salzburgerland, Sound of Music country. Our base is Alpendorf, about an hour's drive from Salzburg, dotted with chalets abundant with flowery balconies. The Berghof, run by the Rettenwender family, is a 5 star property at unbelievably reasonable prices with a state of the art wellness center and delicious healthy cuisine, and service to make you feel like royalty. You're wondering where the "budget" part of this article comes in, right? A night at the Berghof with buffet breakfast and 5 course dinner will run you about the same as an average B&B in New England!
Frau Rettenwnder is a fashion guru, with her model's looks, wearing a variety of dirndls and folk-inspired clothing of the finest quality suedes, silks and weaves. Note about dirndls: Outside Alpine countries, they're costumes. As tempting as it may be to buy one (some are really trendy), you will be limited to wearing them at the odd garden party.
So I'm thinking, can you find great clothes in such a small out-of-the-way town? We wander into neighboring St. Johann and we're amazed at the quality of the clothing and tasteful displays. It's also very 'green' here - grocery stores charge for plastic bags, but cardboard boxes and paper bags are available for free; it's against the law to leave your engine running while you're in the car, and no trucks are allowed on the roads on Sundays. Everyone, almost without exception, wears sensible, great quality shoes. One of my favorite Austrian brands, which IS available in the U.S., is Gabor. Leather inside and out, they come in dressy and casual styles and are tres chic. About the same price as Via Spiga or Amalfi.
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