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Treasure hunting in Europe's sporting goods stores.

When it comes to recreational gear, the West sets the pace in equipment and sportswear in the US. But try to act blase in Paris when faced with a hundred choices of hiking boots, from classic red laced polished leather waffle stompers to the last word in neon-splashed nylon; or to look in Innsbruck as if you understand the nuances of a dozen variations on the loden jacket, Austria's national costume for two centuries.

We zero in on half a dozen shops in well visited cities in countries that surround the Alps. All have wide selections and at least one salesperson who speaks some English. They also post American sizes or know conversions from European ones. All offer a wide choice of maps and are good places to get tips on local touring; three sell guided treks.

Some have equipment to rent, so you might avoid bringing bike, pack, or boots from home. Two will mail catalogs so you can shop from home (but descriptions and sizes are not in English). All are closed Sundays.

Expect prices to be steep, especially since the dollar's nosedive in 1990. (Mailing costs can also be high about $50 for a large tent from Austria, for example and shipping can take weeks.) On purchases over about $100 in the same store, tourists qualify for a refund of the value added tax, which is about 20 percent; ask for forms when you buy, and keep all receipts for customs officials.

A note if you're planning on biking: helmets and children's seats haven't really caught on in Europe, though they are for sale but not for rent.

AUSTRIA: Innsbruck. Sporthaus Witting, Maria-Theresienstrasse 39. The store's ornate building, on Innsbruck's main shopping street, is reason enough to visit. Look for skiing and mountaineering equipment, and handsome plain and embroidered wool loden jackets.

Hours are 8:45 to 12:30 and 2 to 6 weekdays, until 12:30 Saturdays (until 5 the first Saturday of the month for sales). Salzburg. Intersport Eybl, Alpenstrasse 108. Browse for clothing and gear on three tiers in this sleek store, about 10 minutes by bus from the old city. Besides vast footwear and camping gear departments, check out the funny-looking pie-size plastic disks used for eisstock, an Austrian version of boccie played on ice or asphalt. Look for the excellent Freytag and Berndt maps (about $6) for hiking, climbing, and water sports locales. Mountain bikes rent for about $16 a day (they go fast); helmets are for sale. Hours are 9 to 6 weekdays, 8:30 to 12:30 Saturdays (until 5 the first Saturday of the month for sales). From the old city, take bus 51 or 95.

FRANCE. Paris. Au Vieux Campeur, 14 stores in Fifth Arrondissement. You could spend a whole day browsing through these shops, in a four-block area next to the Sorbonne and identified by bright orange signs. Each store has a specialty from cycling to spelunking.

Orient yourself to the store locales by consulting the sandwich-board map on the sidewalk at 50 Rue des Ecoles. You're welcome to try the climbing wall next door at 48; use of gear and wall is free. October through July, hours are 2 to 7 Mondays, 10 to 8 Tuesdays through Saturdays; August and September, hours are 10 to 7. The 700-page catalog, with gear and details on guided trips, costs about $4 (plus $3 to ship to the U.S.); write to 48 Rue des Scoles, 75005 Paris. Luxembourg is one of the closest of several nearby Metro stops.

GERMANY: Munich. Sports-Scheck, Senlingerstrasse 85. One of two six-story sporting goods Goliaths in the city, it offers everything from wraparound cycling glasses to a racing windsurfer. An information desk near the main entrance helps you find the gear you want. Satellite shops are in the vicinity. This store doesn't ship to the U.S.

In the main store, note the cycling department and, in summer, an artificial wall for trying out climbing gear free). For pint-size outdoor clothes and gear, visit the KinderScheck department.

You may also want to visit Scheck-Markt, on the west side of the city (at Wettersteinstrasse 1, near the airport), featuring even more cycling paraphernalia as well as aerobics wear.

Hours are 9 to 6:30 weekdays 10 to 8:30 Thursdays), 9 to 4 Saturdays. The store is on the south edge of the city's pedestrian zone; nearest U-Bahn (subway) stop is Marienplatz. No credit cards, but traveler's checks and dollars are accepted. Sport Schuster, Rosenstrasse 3-6. Just up the street is this equally impressive store, with slightly more emphasis on clothing. Try on a pair of knickers if you want to look the part of a Bavarian hiker.

Stop at the information desk to get oriented and to pick up a catalog (about $6, plus $5 postage to U.S.); write to Postfach 330848, 8000 Munich 33.

The store, which has a putting green for testing golf equipment, is in the pedestrian zone just off Marienplatz; hours and payment methods are the same as for Sports-Scheek, but this store will ship gear back to the U.S.

SWITZERLAND. Basel. Kost Sport, Freiestrasse 51. On the main shopping street, this 125-year-old shop on three floors has a staff of 90. It specializes in hiking, tennis, and water sports in summer; snow sports (and has ski rentals) in winter. Nearby at Falknerstrasse 12, a smaller branch sells Bogner wear.

Hours are 8:30 to 6:30 weekdays, until 5 Saturdays. From mid-July until August 5, the store will close for remodeling.

TRAVEL PLANNER

Sri Lanka elephant pageant On July 19, join a 17-day tout of Sri Lanka. From Colombo, take a train to Kandy and the annual Esala Perahera Buddhist festival, featuring a 2- to 3-hour parade of elephants, acrobats, and dancers. Proceed to Hambantota to visit a game sanctuary, then to Hikkadua's beaches. See the fortress at Sigiriya, and ancient capitals at Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. Cost of $2,899 includes air fare from Los Angeles, hotels, transportation around the island, and most meals. Write or call Select Tours International, Box 210, Redondo Beach, Calif. 90277; (800) 356-6680, or (213) 374-0880 in Los Angeles area.

Cycling in Scotland's Border country Weekly May 20 through September 22, six-day tours take in the green and hilly Border country. You'll cycle up to 40 miles a day along the River Tweed, past castles and abbeys, to Melrose and Kelso. Lodging is at bed-and-breakfast inns; you dine on your own in local pubs. The $900 cost includes lodging, breakfasts, van support, and transport from Edinburgh; bike rental is $10 a day. Write or call Peter Costello Ltd., Box 23490, Baltimore, Md. 21203; (301) 783-1229.

Alaska: Katmai hike and kayaking June 22, July 27, and August 24, participate in eight-day outings from Anchorage to Katmai National Park. At Brooks Camp, see brown bear fish for salmon near the falls, and tour and hike the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. Then camp, hike, and kayak for three days near the Naknek Lake area, enjoying good fishing and scenery. Cost of 1,350 includes transportation from Anchorage, lodging, and most meals. Write or call Alaska Travel Alternatives, Box 872228, Wasilla 99687; (907) 376-9438.

Italian lakes walk

May through September, join one of six eight-day walks beginning in Lugano. You'll enjoy mountains and scenery on paths high above Lake Lugano, take hidden paths to small villages, and travel by boat to gardens and villas on Lake Como. The $2,480 cost includes hotels and most meals. Write or call Butterfield & Robinson Inc., 70 Bond St., Toronto, Ont., Canada M5B IX3; (800) 387-1147.

Manchuria, Siberia, Mongolia On July 3 and August 7, travel for 30 days through seldom-visited east central Asia. From Beijing, visit the Manchu tombs; take a three-day train trip through Manchuria to Novosibirsk, Siberia.

You'll then fly to Yeniseisk and take a five-day cruise to Dickson Island and the Kara Sea. Tour Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. Continue to the Gobi Desert and Ulan Bator, the capital of Outer Mongolia. Cost of $5,129 includes ground transportation (air fares are additional), hotels, and meals. Write or call Tiller International Inc., 209 Post St., Suite 1015, San Francisco 94108; (415) 397-1966.

Walks in southwestern England May 18, June 22, July 13, and August 31, join eight-day walks in Devon and Dorset. You'll stroll 6 to 7 miles most days and enjoy the expansive vistas of Exmoor National Park, the medieval village of Sherborne, the Dorset coast, Roman Dorchester, and the pastoral villages that inspired Thomas Hardy. Cost of $1,375 includes stays in country inns, travel by minicoach, and breakfasts and dinners. Write or call British Coastal Trails Inc., 150 Carob Way, Coronado, Calif. 92118; (800) 473-1210.

What a travel agent can do for you: provide information on destinations and tours; help you plan a trip; reserve space on air, rail, and cruise lines; make hotel and resort reservations. Travel agents usually do all this without charge, but they do charge for "custom" tour service. Enjoy low rates on BounceBack Vacations every day at Hilton resorts' For details or a free brochure on BounceBack rates or any Hilton resort, call 1-800-HILTONS.

ALABAMA

Perdido Beach Hilton Orange Beach) On the beach of the Gulf of Mexico.

ARIZONA Scottsdale Hilton Resort & Spa Near restaurants, shopping, nightlife.

CALIFORNIA Huntington Beach (Orange County)-The Waterfront Hilton A picturesque Mediterranean-style resort.

Palm Springs Hilton A Mobil 4-Star & AAA 4-Diamond resort.

COLORADO Breckenridge Hilton In ski area with indoor pool, saunas.

FLORIDA Clearwater Beach Hilton 1.000 of private beach on the gulf. Daytona Beach Hilton On the preferred end of Daytona Beach.

Ft. Lauderdale area Hollywood) Hollywood Beach Hilton On scenic intracoastal waterway Marco Beach Hilton (Marco Island) The only Mobil 4-Star & AAA 4-Diamond resort on the island Miami Beach-Fontainebleau Hilton Resort & Spa A Miami Beach landmark. Orlando (Kissimmee)-Hilton Inn Gateway Near Walt Disney World/Epcot" Center Orlando (Lake Buena Vista)Hilton at Walt Disney World Village An Official Hotel of Walt Disney World? Palm Beach Hilton On the beach, minutes from Worth Ave. Palm Beach area Jupiter)The Jupiter Beach Hilton A private oceanfront setting amidst coconut palms. St. Petersburg Beach-Hilton Inn Miles of white sand beaches. Sarasota-Longboat Key Hilton On the gulf, near St. Armand's Circle.

HAWAII

Honolulu-Hilton Hawaiian Village On Waikiki Beach, with tropical lagoon. Honolulu-Kahala Hilton Secluded atmosphere away from Mikiki. Kahuku, Oahu-Turtle Bay Hilton & Country Club 808 lush acres on Oahu's North Shore. Kailua-Kona-Kona Hilton Beach & Tennis Resort Oceanfront on the Kona Coast. Lihue-Kauai Hilton & Beach Villas In the center of "Garden Island" activities.

NEW YORK

Lake Placid Hilton Along the lake amidst shops.

NORTH CAROLINA Asheville-Great Smokies Hilton Resort & Conference Center Golf/tennis on 120 parklike mtn. acres

SOUTH CAROLINA Hilton Inn on Hilton Head Island On an island featuring 22 golf courses. Myrtle Beach Hilton Oceanfront rooms/pool and golf course.

WISCONSIN Lake Geneva-Hilton Inn On the lakeshore, within walking distance of downtown.

CARIBBEAN Barbados- Bridgetown - Barbados Hilton

On 1,000'of beach, near historic sites. French West Indies-St. Martin (F.W.I.)-La Belle Creole French seaside "village" ambiance.

MEXICO Hotel Conrad Cancun (open March'91) 5-star resort, ocean/lagoon front location *Limited availability Advance booking required.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Beyond the West: Europe
Publication:Sunset
Article Type:directory
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Words:1865
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