Table 970: Salzburg – Villach – Klagenfurt

PART 1

A new year and a new destination, this month we are in Austria travelling from Salzburg to Klagenfurt along the Tauern Railway. A typical journey takes around three hours covering a distance of 220 kilometres. This is one of Europe’s most stunning scenic railway journeys, crossing the Alps via the 8.3 kilometre long Tauern Railway Tunnel. The tunnel’s northern portal is located at Böckstein, in the valley of Bad Gastein, with the southern extremity near Mallnitz, in Carinthia.

Our journey begins in Salzburg, Austria’s fourth largest city, located close to the border with Germany. This charming city combines unique Alpine landscapes with a rich mix of architecture. Famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and the setting of ‘The Sound of Music’, you won’t run out of things to do.

A good starting point is the historic old town or Altstadt. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has some of Salzburg’s most popular attractions including Mozart’s birthplace, the Salzburg Museum, the stunning Salzburg Cathedral and St. Peter’s Monastery. Take time to roam the narrow streets offering boutique shops, quaint cafes and restaurants and marvel at the fabulous architecture.

One of the city’s most striking landmarks is Hohensalzburg Fortress, Europe’s largest fully preserved castle. Take the funicular up the hill and enjoy superb views of the city and its surroundings. Then head inside the castle to explore its various museums including the Fortress Museum, the Marionette Museum and the Rainer Regiment Museum.

Not to be missed is a visit to Mirabell gardens, one of the settings in the world famous musical, The Sound of Music. Pegasus fountain is featured in the song ‘Do-Re-Mi’, The garden features an array of beautiful flowers the colours of which change every year according to tradition.

PART 2

This week we continue our journey in Austria, heading south along the Tauern Railway from Salzburg to Villach. The main railway station in Salzburg is a 20 minute walk from the Altstadt (Old Town). The best views from the train are generally on the right-hand side (facing the direction of travel) although on the approach to Bad Gastein, views are better on the left.

Approximately 40 minutes after leaving Salzburg we reach Bischofshofen, the junction for the Enns Valley Railway. It is the rail-head for a number of resorts in the Hochkönig mountain region, such as Maria Alm, Dienten, Mühlbach and Hochkeil.
A few kilometres north of Bischofshofen is the town of Werfen, best known for the Castle Hohenwerfen and the largest ice cave in the world. Werfen is served by most regional trains between Salzburg and Bischofshofen.

Continuing south we soon reach Schwarzach-St.Veit, another important railway junction, where the line towards Innsbruck diverges from our route. As the station name suggests, it serves the two small market towns of Schwarzach and Sankt Veit. Schernberg Castle is a popular attraction and there are also numerous hiking trails in the area. A museum dedicated to the Tauern Railway is situated close to the station which is open from May to October.

The next main stop along the route is the popular resort and spa town of Bad Gastein. Located in a picturesque setting, it is a charming town with lots to offer including first-class skiing and hiking, together with its famous hot springs. The Bad Gastein waterfall is another popular attraction in the town.

PART 3

Shortly after leaving Bad Gastein, our train travels through the magnificent Tauern railway tunnel which is 8.4 kilometres in length and, at its highest point, is 1,226 metres above sea level. As the train descends down from the Tauern Tunnel to Villach, stunning views can be seen on the right.

The town of Villach lies on the Drava River in the state of Carinthia near the Italian and Slovenian borders, surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery. This quaint, historic town offers cobbled streets and pastel rainbow coloured buildings, typical among small Austrian towns. In the heart of Villach’s old town district is the main square and Trinity Column, along with shops, galleries and plenty of cafes and restaurants.

Highlights include the Church of St Jacob, with its beautiful interior, red pillars and rococo style altar. Landskron Castle offers superb views of the town, and is also home to the Adler Arena where you can watch breath-taking shows of birds of prey from April to October. The Museum der Stadt Villach is one of Austria’s oldest and largest museums where you can learn about the history, art and culture of Villach.

Also worth visiting are the nearby natural hot springs at Warmbad Villach and the beautiful Lake Faak, one of Carinthia’s smallest lakes.

PART 4

This week we continue our scenic journey departing Villach for Klagenfurt. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes and takes you pass, on the right hand side, beautiful Lake Wörthersee, one of Europe’s largest and warmest Alpine lakes.

Klagenfurt is the capital of the state of Carinthia, surrounded by superb landscapes and mountain scenery. The architecture is typical Austrian style with plenty of local history and a variety of things to see.

Head to the Neuer Platz, the main square where you will find the Lindwurm Fountain, the winged dragons which is the symbol of the town and also a statue of the only female ruler of the Habsburg Empire, Empress Maria Therese. The surrounding area also has a range of shops, restaurants and a tree-lined seating area.

Other highlights include Minimundus, a miniature park where you will find around 150 models of famous structures from around the world, including the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and the Statue of Liberty. Also worth viewing are the Parish Church of St. Egid and its bell tower with views over the city and one of the oldest buildings in Klagenfurt in neo-baroque style and the Landhaus, built in the 16th century with two dome-shaped towers which dominate the surrounding skyline. Inside you will find fine examples of Carinthian art and architecture.

Don’t forget to enjoy the area around Lake Wörthersee on the west side of Klagenfurt, where you can relax or take a boat trip to the surrounding towns.

TABLE 951: Salzberg – Innsbruck – Lindau

PART 1

This month we are looking at a route that consistently appears in any top 10 of the best scenic rail routes in Europe. Table 951 from the timetable can be used to plan your journey through stunning Bavarian Alpine scenery. Beginning in Salzburg the route heads towards Innsbruck taking a route which passes briefly into Germany via Rosenheim, then along the beautiful Arlberg railway finishing on the eastern side of Lake Constance in Lindau.

There are two rail routes between Salzburg and Innsbruck, the other route, shown in Table 960, remains entirely in Austrian territory but is slower and trains are less frequent. With both routes offering some wonderful scenery travellers are spoilt for choice and could perhaps chose the alternative route for a return journey.

Salzburg Hbf our starting point is a 20 minute walk from the city centre. This major rail hub has a wealth of domestic and international connections including to Wien (Table 950) and Munchen (Table 890). Because it lies on the border with Germany, the station is administered jointly by Austrian Railways (ÖBB) and German Rail (DB). Seat reservations are optional on most trains but cheaper tickets can be purchased by pre-booking.

Salzburg is a tourist favourite, famous as the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for The Sound of Music the number of tourists can outnumber locals by a large margin in peak times. The city is also internationally renowned for its baroque architecture with the historic centre being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The must see Hohensalzburg Fortress towers over the town and is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Reach it via the Festungsbahn, Austria’s oldest funicular railway. At the top visitors get fantastic views of the city and surrounding mountains.

PART 2

Leaving Salzburg, we travel 120 kilometres through pretty Bavarian countryside directly to the border town of Kufstein. As there are no stops within Germany there is no requirement for border controls. Known as the “Pearl of the Tyrol”, the medieval town of Kufstein is situated between the Brandenburg Alps and the Kaiser Mountains. Its greatest landmark is the Kufstein Fortress situated high above the city and is reached via the Festungsbahn funicular railway. The fortress now houses a museum and is worth a visit for the stunning view over the town and nearby mountains.

The next stop is Wörgl Hbf, an important railway junction where the line from Salzburg via Zell am See meets the main Munich to Innsbruck route. More than 12,000 travellers pass through this station daily, nearly as many people as live in Wörgl itself! The area is a popular alpine ski region and also home to a huge water park and spa. There is also a vast network of hiking trails where you can explore the spectacular Tyrol mountains

Next is Jenbach, the starting point for two narrow gauge railways. This makes an unusual station as there are tracks with three different gauges: the standard gauge railway line of the ÖBB, the 1,000 mm gauge Achenseebahn (Europe’s oldest steam cog railway) which transports tourists along seven kilometres to Lake Achensee (Table 956) and the 760 mm narrow gauge Zillertalbahn (Table 955). At Lake Achensee timetables are co-ordinated so that passengers can transfer to the steam boat ferry to continue their scenic exploration of the area.

PART 3

Following on from Jenbach the route now heads to the stunning city of Innsbruck and the start of the Arlberg Railway. Innsbruck Hbf is one of the busiest stations in Austria with around 450 trains passing through the station daily. As soon as you step onto the platform you are met with views of the mountains on one side and the Bergisel Olympic ski jump on the other. The delightful old town (Altstadt) offers access to the main tourist attractions, including the famous Golden Roof, a balcony which gets its name from the 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles that adorn its roof. Nearby is the elaborate Gothic Imperial Palace and Imperial Gardens with its giant chess boards and diverse plants and trees. Reaching the mountains is easy, with a ride on the spectacular modernist Hungerburgbahn funicular from the city centre followed by a series of cable cars to whisk you to the summit of the Nordkette range for one of Europe’s most impressive vistas.

The 157 kilometres from Innsbruck to Feldkirch are the most spectacular of the entire route. The line climbs to over 1,200 metres above sea level (one of the highest lines in Europe) following the course of the Inn River to the busy hub of Landeck where we then enter the mountain section of the Arlberg Railway. In this section trains pass through 14 tunnels and 20 galleries that serve as protection from falling rocks and avalanches. One of the most iconic moments is crossing the iron arch of the Trisanna Bridge, just outside Landeck. Raised 87 metres over the river valley, the bridge is overlooked by Schloss Wiesberg, a 13th-century castle set on a woodland cliff. Between the major ski resorts of St. Anton and Langen a popular playground for Europe’s Royal families, is the 10,249 metre long Arlberg tunnel, where we leave the Tyrol and enter Vorarlberg. If skiing is not your thing, or you are visiting in the Summer, this area offers plenty of spectacular walking routes, boating, bathing lakes and other sporting options.


PART 4

For the final section of this very scenic route, we leave behind the Arlberg Railway and reach Feldkirch, a pleasant medieval city on the border with Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It is nestled in a picturesque place where three valleys meet and includes a well preserved old town and the dominating edifice of the ancient Schattenburg Castle. It is also the best jumping-off point for exploring Liechtenstein which can be easily reached by bus. The buses are reasonably priced and transport you up into the hills for wonderful views to the sounds of cowbells, and onwards into Switzerland if you wish.

Next is Bregenz, the capital of the Vorarlberg region, which lies on the eastern shores of Lake Constance, the third-largest freshwater lake in Central Europe. From April to October, Vorarlberg Lines offer a number of sightseeing lake cruises, which can be especially beautiful at sunset. Just off shore is the city’s floating Lake Stage, home of the famous Bregenz Festival held each July and August. The festival is one of Europe’s most popular, featuring prominent operatic figures and major musicians and orchestras. The city itself lies at the base of the Pfänder Mountain. A six minute ride on a panoramic gondola takes you to the summit from where you enjoy fantastic views of the Swiss Alps, Lake Constance, and surrounding mountains. On a clear day, some 240 mountain peaks can be visible.

The final stop on this route is Lindau. This historic town is actually an island on the eastern side of Lake Constance and connected to the mainland by a road-traffic bridge and a railway dam leading to Lindau Hauptbahnhof. Full of medieval and half-timbered buildings it’s a popular tourist attraction, especially during summer. Boat tours are available from the pretty harbour, home to a famous lighthouse which is well worth a visit, or you can just sit and admire the view of Austria and Switzerland and the Alps across the lake. Lindau also provides you with a connection to another scenic railway, the Bavarian Allgäu railway (Table 935) which runs through southern Germany to Munich.