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Review 1777: Owner, Helenenstrasse Apartment
2bed/1bath apartment in St. Gilgen, Salzkammergut, Austria
July 2005, 2 weeks
We had passed through the village of St. Gilgen on a couple of previous winter trips to Salzburg. We always thought we'd enjoy staying in the lake district of the Salzkammergut and also wanted to visit in the summer. So when we planned our 14-month trip to Europe, I began to look into possibilities in the Salzkammergut. I had a really hard time finding vacation rentals on the internet, since most of the properties are marketed only in German. Finally I came upon this apartment in St. Gilgen, a relatively new listing by a British woman. She was very good to work with. She gave me a discount for renting two weeks and let me pay with an American check.
We absolutely loved staying in St. Gilgen. The village is located at the end of the Wolfangsee, with beautiful views across the lake and of the surrounding mountains. The village is very picturesque with an old traditional church, colorful Alpine houses, sidewalk cafes, and flowers everywhere. The main square honors Mozart, whose mother was born here. Mozart's sister Nannerl also lived in St. Gilgen for several years. St. Gilgen is a year-round village, attracting skiers in the wintertime and hikers, boaters, and paragliders in the summer. There are lots of shops and restaurants. One of the waterfront restaurants has a big outdoor dining area and there was live entertainment and dancing on the weekends. One night there was an outdoor big band concert in the main square attended by most everyone in the village. And there were all kinds of summer activities on the waterfront. Summer was a great time to visit.
The apartment is just across the main road from the village, up a slight hill in a small complex of similar buildings. We could walk to the village and then down to the waterfront in less than ten minutes. It was good to be a bit away from the activity down in the main village. The apartment buildings are traditional-looking Alpine houses, and there are several apartments in each building. Parking is just outside the door, and there was a helpful caretaker who seemed to be around the property every day.
This is a ground floor apartment. It's a simple, somewhat modern place inside, somehow smaller than I had expected based on the internet photos. The front door opens into a small hallway with a place for coats on the left and a small bathroom with a tub/shower on the right. Beyond the hallway is the living room/dining room. The apartment is decorated in shades of red, as shown on the internet. The main room has a comfortable couch, two easy chairs, a coffee table and a cozy dining room table with four chairs. The couch folds out into a bed if needed, but there really isn't room for six people to share this apartment.
The living room opens onto a long terrace with outdoor chairs - and a really nice view of the lake and the massive Schafberg mountain on the other side of the lake. We enjoyed watching the cablecar traveling up the side of the mountain next to the apartment, headed to the top of the Zwolferhorn.
The right side of the living room is a floor to ceiling wall unit with a television/video player, some books and videos, and storage cabinets. We really enjoyed the Scrabble game we found in the cabinets and played it almost every night. The door to the bedrooms is built into this wall unit. When we first arrived the door to the bedrooms was closed and we almost couldn't figure out where the bedrooms were! We stayed here near the very end of our trip, so the apartment library was significantly enhanced by the many books we left behind.
There's a small - very small - galley kichen off of the living room. It includes a refrigerator, stove and oven, and sink. There were a couple of small appliances (like a toaster), but really not much counter space at all. The apartment is equipped with most everything you need to fix meals in the apartment ... just not much space to operate. Despite this, we managed to fix some pretty good meals.
The two bedrooms are adjoining. The first bedroom has a double bed with wardrobes and some shelves built in to the back of the living room wall unit. The second bedroom opens off the larger bedroom and is extremely small ... suitable only for children. There's a set of bunk beds and just enough room to swing open the door. Our daughter had to close the door in order to get to her clothes cupboard.
The washing machine was just recently added to the apartment. We had never seen anything like it - kind of a portable mixer that you manually fill up with water and use to churn up a very small load of clothes. My husband figured out how to operate it and we actually managed to wash most of our clothes while we were there. (He set it up in the bathtub to avoid getting water everywhere.) I can see where there really wasn't any other way to add a washing machine in this compact place, and we were definitely glad to have this contraption. We used a drying rack to dry our clothes outside on the terrace.
This is really kind of a compact ski/hiking apartment, a small and clean place to sleep, change clothes, and eat a few meals while enjoying the great outdoors. We stayed in so many truly wonderful and unique places on our long trip that this little apartment was kind of "vanilla." But it was very functional, convenient and economical - and our stay in St. Gilgen was fabulous because we enjoyed the area so much.
There is so much to do here in the summertime. We rode the train up the Schafberg mountain and took the cable car up the Zwolferhorn, then hiked up on the top of both mountains. (The photo of our family on my profile is taken at the top of the Schafberg - absolutely amazing views!) Both mountains have good mountain restaurants on the top. We really enjoyed watching the paragliders on the Zwolferhorn. If you are ambitious, you could hike all the way up either mountain - we were less ambitious and hiked DOWN the Zwolferhorn. One day we hiked around the Wolfgangsee to the village of St. Wolfgang, a decent and somewhat strenuous hike. (You can get a good map of hikes at the Tourist office.) We hiked twice at a beautiful high meadow called the Postalm. We rented an electric boat and cruised on the lake. Our daughter especially liked the summer sled ride down at Strobl. We visited there a couple of times; she and I had a spectacular crash riding double one day, so I definitely recommend caution when riding double with two people.
It's a 30 minute drive to Salzburg and less than an hour to Bertesgaden. We went into Salzburg twice (one of our very favorite cities) and to Bertesgaden twice. One day we did a salt mine tour in Bertesgaden and another day we did a boat trip at Lake Konigsee. There was still so much we didn't do - we could have stayed another two weeks! We did buy a special card at the tourist office, which gave us discounts on activities in the area.
There are two big grocery stores at the entrance to the village and a couple of bakeries in the village. There's another really big grocery store just outside of Mondsee. We used the internet at the library, which is open on a very limited schedule. We also used the internet in Salzburg. The Tourist Information Center has lots of information and maps, and the people there are very helpful.
St. Gilgen is a fantastic place for a family vacation and we definitely want to visit again. I would do more research to see what other apartments might be available (something more spacious and "alpine" feeling inside), but I would also be fine to stay at this apartment again.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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