I never cared for fairy tales. They always seemed to be rather ridiculous in a childish sort of way. The only one I ever really liked was The Seven Dwarfs. That was because of my role as Sleepy Dwarf in a kindergarten play. My acting career pretty much ended with that performance along with my affinity for fairy tales. That this occurred at the tender age of six meant that fairy tales became an extremely forgettable experience for me. That was until I entered the Landzeit Strengberg Restaurant beside the A1 (West Autobahn) in northern Austria. My wife had been raving for hours about the quality and presentation of the food at Rosenberger’s and Landzeit in Austria. I had never heard an eating experience described in such glowing terms, especially one that involved a roadside restaurant. As an American experienced in thousands of miles of interstate highway travel such establishments conjured up images of an abandoned Stuckey’s in western Iowa and a “Shrimp Burger” that I wolfed down at a Jamestown, North Dakota truck stop café. Thus, I was more than a bit skeptical about what these Austrian eateries might offer. My wife’s descriptions sounded more like a fairy tale and much less like reality.
A Feast Fit For Royalty – In The Most Tasteful Manner
As soon as we escaped from the increasingly snowy weather conditions along the A1 and entered the Landzeit Strengberg, I suddenly realized that everything my wife had been telling me was true. Imagine a feast fit for royalty. The innumerable food choices were displayed in the most elegant fashion. A young man wearing a straw hat and looking like he had just come from a farm was slicing sizable portions of the juiciest roast I had ever seen. My eye was soon caught by some glowing strawberries atop a layered cake that set my mouth to watering. Bavarian Pretzels baked golden brown awaited the grasp of some lucky soul. The lasagna looked so delicious that I immediately demanded that a delectable portion be placed upon my plate. The produce was positively Mediterranean, salads contained the freshest ingredients while the rolls seemed to have been the product of a master baker. It was a fairy tale made real. Before long I lost all self-control, spending 35 Euros on a meal for two in a matter of minutes.
While the weather continued to worsen outside, my wife and I blissfully enjoyed every morsel of our Landzeit meal. The place was as clean as the food was good. The serving and seating area were cafeteria style, but it felt more like a setting for aristocracy such was the glorious decor. The floors gleamed, the bathrooms were spotless and the music relaxing. Roadside heaven was a place on earth, to be found at multiple locations across Austria. When we first entered the restaurant, I had noticed a sign sporting the photo of a besuited, very professional looking man. He looked pleasant, well-groomed and uber wealthy. This turned out to be Wolfgang Rosenberger, Managing Director of Landzeit. He is one of the heirs to the family business and a direct descendent of its founder. These roadside restaurants began almost fifty years before as the brainchild of the elder Wolfgang Rosenberger, a man who had first earned his leaving by driving gravel trucks for a power plant on the Danube. His resourcefulness had led him into the roadside hotel and restaurant business.
With the help of his wife, Rosenberger built his first rest stop along the highway during the 1960’s. After Wolfgang’s untimely death, his brother Heinz – a trained pastry chef – took up the enterprise. He opened the first Rosenberger’s in 1972 with the help of Wolfgang’s widow, Christine. Four years later, they opened their first roadside hotel. Since that time, Rosenberger’s and its offshoot Landzeit has grown into a 50 million business. Landzeit began due to a family dispute over inheritance of the restaurants and hotels after Heinz died in 1999. Today, there are both Rosenberger’s and Landzeits, managed by respective sides of the family all along the Austrian autobahns. They have become a national institution, known for offering traveler’s an incredible roadside meal in a pristine setting. I can certainly vouch for Land Zeit after my fantastical experience. The food was so tasty that I almost forgot that we still were trying to make Cesky Krumlov by nightfall. A goal that was looking less attainable after forty-five minutes of heavenly helpings at Landzeit.
Safety Concerns – Under The Cover of Snow
Well fed, if a bit somnolent after our immaculate meal, we were soon back on the A1. Snow, intermixed with rain, continued to come down in a wet spray that made driving conditions difficult. Somehow, none of the precipitation stuck to the road. It felt at times as though we were driving in a perpetual car wash. We could not see anything more than 50 meters on any side of the vehicle. By the time we approached the outskirts of Linz and began to head north, the weather began to get a bit better. The perpetual gloom had lifted enough to see the steely grey waters of the Danube sliding beneath a bridge. Daylight was fleeting as we began to make our way towards Freistadt on the S10 motorway and the Austria-Czech Republic border just beyond. A series of tunnels made the roadway a bit easier to navigate. Unfortunately, each time we exited a tunnel the weather had worsened.
We were going up in elevation, which meant that the temperature dropped, snowfall increased, and the road conditions quickly deteriorated. A few kilometers before the border, the road was completely covered in snow. Visibility was reduced to just a few meters. We led a line of slowly snaking traffic through snowy townscapes. I began to fret that we might be forced to spend the night in one of these small villages out of safety concerns. These concerns soon materialized in the form of red and blue lights as emergency personnel blocked one half of the roadway. Four fire trucks, an ambulance and an army of first responders were crowded around what we expected to be an accident. Instead, there was no accident anywhere to be seen. Perhaps they had cleared it away already or maybe they were waiting for an accident to happen. This possibility was becoming a probability as we slowly slid our way across the Czech border.