by Garry Cook (published in Daily Star Sunday)
With forests, lakes and winding streets, Austria is a readymade backdrop for the new James Bond flick Quantum Of Solace, released next month.
Its hairy mountain roads are ideal for Daniel Craig to dice with death in an edgeof-your-seat car chase.
And the peaks are perfect for skiing or dangling from a cable car.
The 22nd Bond film features Lake Constance in Vorarlberg, Austria’s westernmost state, and Bregenz – a small town sandwiched between the lake and the foothills of the Alps.
Up in the old town there is a striking city wall and cobbled streets to explore.
And in the park on the shores of the lake, oompah bands play to holidaymakers lounging in deckchairs.
Come nightfall, screens are put up on the bandstand and old black-and-white movies are shown. No doubt Solace will be up there in the playlist come autumn.
Austria is a picture-postcard country and, like 007, it is always perfectly turned out.
If you spot a piece of litter on the ground you’ve probably wandered across the border into Italy.
While the Bond locations will surely attract film fans, there are plenty more towns in Austria with scenery worthy of a movie set.
I visited Vienna and Klagenfurt, in the south of the country.
Everyone knows about Vienna. But it’s those lesserknown places where the beauty of Austria overwhelms you.
Klagenfurt, an 800-year-old city, sits on the edge of Lake Worthersee in the Carinthia region. This area is known as the Alpine Riviera and you can hop on a leisurely cruise across the lake and take in its natural beauty.
Lake Worthersee often freezes in the winter but in the summer it can reach 26 degrees – perfect for swimming – with clear blue water clean enough to drink.
And the crisp air doesn’t so much take your breath away as cleanse it with Alpine freshness.
There are 1,270 lakes in the mountainous region, perfect for walking, hiking, swimming and sailing.
And if you like golf, you won’t ever play on more scenic courses than the 11 dotted around.
Klagenfurt is exceptionally pleasing on the eye, with rows of pretty pastel-coloured buildings and immaculate public gardens.
It’s big enough to give you that city buzz when you walk out of your hotel but it’s not so big that you can’t escape to the countryside within five minutes.
Just a boat ride down Lake Worthersee is Velden, where there are fabulous bars and a glitzy casino you can lose your money in – which I did.
The casino is a great night out and you don’t have to dress too smartly to get in (jeans are acceptable).
Back in Klagenfurt, there’s lots for kids to do, including adventure parks and the brilliant Minimundus, the miniature monument world.
There’s also a reptile zoo and a dinosaur park.
If you’re into football, the new 32,000-seater Worthersee Stadium is flawless and has been designed to get the fans as close to the pitch as possible.
You won’t have to sneak into the toilets for a crafty fag either. You can smoke and drink in your seats – a privilege long since lost to fans in Britain.
But the highlight of my trip was an afternoon bike ride around Klagenfurt.
You know you’re experiencing a different culture when you see bikes unchained and lined up by the roadside ready to go.
They wouldn’t last five minutes on the streets of Britain.
All you do is pay a small fee at the tourist office and you’re off.
There’s a similar, better system in Vienna – and a bike is definitely the best way to get around this massive city.
If you fancy a change you can always take a hydrofoil down the Danube to Bratislava. It only costs about a tenner and takes less than two hours.
But you’ll never get bored in Vienna.
Every major European city has one or two flagship mustsee buildings – Vienna has dozens.
And you can’t go wrong with 6,500 restaurants, 2,700 cafés and 111 drinking taverns.
Most nightclubs don’t charge to get in and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the cost of a round.
The locals like to drink the night away in small bars and you’re a lightweight if you go home before 5am.
But you’ll struggle to pick up a hangover – and believe me I tried.
The refreshing Austrian beer is as crisp and clean as the Alpine air.
And I’ll drink to that.
KLAGENFURT: Fly with Ryanair to Klagenfurt from Stansted three days a week from £10 each way. Stay at the Arcotel Moser Verdino from £60 per night single, £78 per night double. See Arcotel.cc for details.
VIENNA: easyJet flies daily to Vienna from Luton from £70 each way.
Alternately, fly to Bratislava with Sky Europe from Manchester or with Ryanair from Bristol and East Midlands, then on to Vienna by Terravision bus, which takes an hour. Buses can be booked through airline websites or terravision.eu
Stay at the InterContinental Vienna, which has rooms from £160 per night. See ichotelsgroup.com