You will return to Vienna

This is my review of Austria (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide) by Teresa Czerniewicz-Umer,Joanna Egert-Romanowskiej,Janiny Kumanieckiej,Helen Peters.

This follows the usual attractively presented and well-illustrated DK Eyewitness format. It is useful to provide an overview of a country assuming very limited prior knowledge, to help work out itineraries and to identify key features of a town or region of interest.

Although quite good in its coverage of Vienna – but it was quite hard work piecing together the information on the various parts of the city – this guide displays some of the shortcomings I began to notice in the DK guide to Corsica. Some maps are too skimpy, as for the important and popular location of Salzburg, and the "street by street" plan for that city does not clearly flag up some of the key features you should visit, like the arcades of shops connecting streets, the main churches you should visit – including such facts as the contrast between the plain, dark interior of St. Francis, and the "delicate side of Baroque" of the grey patterns on a white ground of the ceiling of St. Peter's. Likewise, clear instructions as to how to reach the entrance to the cable car in Festungsgasse up to the Hohersalzburg Fortress would have been useful.

To take another example, the section on the beautiful Salzkammergut region of lakes and mountains was not as clear on details as it could have been, without adding to the overall length. For instance, in a tourist board in the town of Bad Goisern (a good base to stay if Bad Ischl is oversubscribed), I discovered that close to the intriguing lakeside town of Halstatt is the Krippensteinbahn cable car station at Obertraun which transports you up to the plateau from which you can not only view the Hoher Dachstein peak and the Hallstatt Glacier, but also look down into the valley from some viewing platforms, undertake some circular walks or explore caves of stalactites and traces of mammoths. I would probably have missed this if relying totally on the book. Similarly, the appeal of towns like St. Wolfgang – beautiful church with amazing double-folding doors altar screen, boat trips and mountain railway to a high point, is not flagged up as strongly as should be the case.

I have the impression that the producers of these guides are in danger of slipping into a complacent rut with their visually attractive formula. I am unsure how well-informed their "eyewitnesses" really are. They do not give enough thought to the practical needs of tourists with scant knowledge of an area, who want itineraries that will guide them without wasting time to beautiful or interesting places. A little more practical information e.g. on taking the cheap OBB S7 train from Vienna airport to the central city, using the useful "free map" provided for tourists would also be handy. This book identifies the main features, but then you need to use the internet to fill in the gaps. I know that the answer might to be to purchase more DK guides focusing on smaller areas e.g. a single city like Vienna, but that adds too much to the weight of luggage.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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