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Seeking hermit for Austrian mountain hermitage

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Would you be willing to live a hermit life in one of Austria’s last remote mountain hermitages (at 1,600m above sea level) with stunning views and no neighbours? The 350-year-old hermitage of Saalfelden near Salzburg, built on a cliff overlooking the town, is currently looking for a candidate to replace its current hermit.

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Cycling through three countries: Germany, Austria and Switzerland

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by Renate Habernass

Friedrichshafen is a small town in the southeast corner of Germany, and the starting point for an easy cycle tour that takes you halfway around the Lake of Constance from Germany to Austria, and finally to Switzerland. These three countries share their borders around this wonderful lake, with the Alps jutting out on the Swiss side.

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Austria’s Rappenloch Canyon

by Renate Habermaas

wooden walk

The Rappenlochschlucht is a small canyon in the region of Vorarlberg (Austria) that offers a wide range of hiking trails with a range of activities, and is a great introduction for those trying out hiking for the first time.

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Innsbruck: Mountain playground

View of the Alps from the hiking trail

Innsbruck is probably most famous as the country that’s hosted the Winter Olympics…three times. However, look beyond the snow activities, and you’ll find that just on the outskirts of the city is a mountainous playground that’s just as fun in summer.

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Nordkette is lined with numerous trails that you can explore on a hike, bike or climb. Plenty of alpine trails here link you to neighbouring countries, and you can get a mountainous panorama from wherever you look.

You can see Nordkette easily from the Innsbruck city, and the new Nordkettenbahnen railway can zip you from town to mountain in just 20 minutes.

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Innsbruck: All That Shines

Jingling bells are everywhere. Glittering lights and baubles shine from cutesy storefronts.

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View of the Alps and Goldenes Dachl from the Old Town square

It isn’t Christmas time. It isn’t even December – this is Innsbruck, where Christmas happens every day of the year (even in the middle of summer). Innsbruck has long been a destination for winter sports – it’s enclosed within the chain of the Alps and it has also hosted the Winter Olympic Games three times – but take off those boards and skis, and you’ll see the city’s chintzy side.

Innsbruck became the capital of Tyrol in Austria in 1429, and was the cultural capital of Europe in the fifteenth century, bestowing it with a rich deposit of Renaissance art and architecture. Most of these well-preserved buildings are centred in the Old Town area, and as the city is surrounded by mountains, there’s always a peak within view. When it snows, it feels like you’re inside a snowglobe.

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Al Fresco Dining; see the painted walls?

When it’s the festive season, Innsbruck sets up its famous Christmas Market (from mid November to mid December) in the heart of its picturesque Medieval Old Town. But, someone must have decided that this setting can be put to good use year-round as well.

At any given time of the year, take a stroll through the labyrinth of alleyways with pastel-coloured Medieval houses and you’ll find storefronts with spangly decorations, trinkets, carvings and yet more glittery objects. When they say all that glitters isn’t gold, it doesn’t apply to Innsbruck. Take a walk through the Old town, and you’ll find that many buildings seem to be glittering with gold. Gold tiles. Gold frames. Gold accents. Gold baubles. The roof of the Goldenes Dachl (Gold Roof) building alone has around 3,000 gold-plated tiles. (Strangely enough, one of the tiles is forever missing and locals would be glad to tell you the story behind it.)

Once dinnertime rolls around, tuck yourself into one of many traditional Tyrolean restaurants dotted around the Old Town. There may not be a Christmas tree inside, but the heavy wooden chairs and tables look festive enough, as do the equally heavy meals which will fill you up like a stuffed turkey.

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Bakery in the morning

The only thing that doesn’t fit with this indulgent lifestyle is the locals, who all look like poster models for healthy living. With the Alps at their doorstep, they’re forever out there cycling, hiking or skiing. Remember, they’ve hosted the Winter Olympics. Three times.

If you’re in the mood for Christmas, forget Finland or the North Pole. Innsbruck has all the chintz, the glitters and the cute little shopfronts – and we’re not just talking about the Swarovski shop – plus, it isn’t freezing cold all the time.

Innsbruck: All That Glitters

Innsbruck's Golden Roof against the Alps

Nestled within the Alps, Innsbruck’s cutesy Old Town makes for a fun distraction from all the outdoor activities. Here, you can buy Christmas ornaments no matter the time of the year (plenty of ornament shops dot the town), check into a hotel that Mozart once stayed at, or admire the Golden Roof glittering in the sun (the landmark of Innsbruck). If you’re here in winter, head to the nearby slopes and ski on some of the best snow on earth – the city has hosted three Winter Olympic games to date.