Spinning Austria: Culture, Coffee and 37 Little Numbers

Austria is home to some of the finest casinos in Europe, second of course to Monte-Carlo (but we’ll save that for another post). This was always going to be one destination that I had to visit during my Spin 2014 trip!

I was in the country for the first time ever, so naturally there was only one place to start: Vienna. With its postcard-worthy cobbled streets, brightly painted houses and seemingly never-ending supply of cafes overlooking the many boulevards and squares (I love a bit of people watching), I instantly took a liking to this city. Best of all, the people are genuinely friendly and eager to strike up a conversation, be it in German, Italian or English. I just kept to English, with my tattered phrasebook not making an appearance this time.

While my two days in Vienna were mostly filled with culture, coffee and wandering around gazing at the architecture like the unashamed tourist that I am, my nights were spent – you guessed it – in the casino!

First up was a visit to Casino Wien. A friend had tipped me off about this place before, and for some reason I had imagined that this was some kind of insider’s knowledge. Turns out that Casino Wien is the number one tourist casino in town, with three floors of action and not much of a dress code. There are a good few reasons for its popularity, though. First of all, its location couldn’t get any better, right in the center of Vienna’s buzzing pedestrian zone. It is also worth noting that the casino is housed in a wonderful old building, while the interiors are brought up to date. Over two nights on the roulette table, I can definitely say I had a good time; friendly staff, others players of all nationalities and a bit of luck is a recipe for success.

Moving on from Vienna, I had one more stop to make in Austria. This time, my destination was the western city of Salzburg, which sits right on the border with Germany.

First impressions… wow! Admittedly, Salzburg doesn’t compete with Austria in terms of the number of attractions like museums and galleries, as it is far smaller. But in terms of the landscape, it’s actually more impressive. You have the Salzach River to one side of town marking the German-Austria border, an ancient castle sitting on a hill overlooking the whole city, and the chiselled mountain range all around forming an impressive backdrop.

Salzburg is famous for two things: Mozart and the Sound of Music. Well, three things if you count that scenery. I wasn’t here to see Mozart (even if it was possible) or reenact the classic film – I was here to spin my way through the magnificent Casino Salzburg!

From the outside, this is truly one of the most beautiful casinos I have ever seen. Housed in a Baroque palace and surrounded by some spectacular gardens, you really do feel like a VIP before you have even entered. Needless to say, I was in my best suit and tie, adhering to their ‘smart’ dress code.

I spent two evenings on the roulette tables, taking in the glamorous surroundings, glamorous people and of course, trying to inflate my bankroll! The good thing about this casino is that your EUR 30 entrance fee buys you EUR 30 worth of chips to play with. They also throw in two free number bets (I had no luck), a free drink upon entrance and free chocolates. If you win big, you can skip on the chocolates and order a fillet steak from their swanky in-house restaurant.

That concludes my Spin 2014 journey in Austria – hope you enjoyed the read!

Spinning Germany: From Berlin to the ‘most beautiful bonus casino in the world’.

Germany is one of those places that I find so much more appealing in the warmer months. The thought of visiting late in July conjures up images of sipping chilled Weissbier from a comically-sized glass while overlooking a sun-drenched lake. The idea of Berlin in winter? Grey, cold and probably wet. At least you still have the culture, even if the weather isn’t on your side.

Fortunately, my Spin 2014 trip saw me hop over to Germany at the start of September, just in time to catch the last few days of Central Europe’s mild summer.

Where to begin the spin?

I was already armed with the knowledge that Germany is home to some 50 bonus casino sites (or spielbanks) all dotted around the country, with the highest amount found in the capital, Berlin. Most of these aren’t particularly spectacular, often attached to a four or five-star hotel as a bit of an afterthought. Others, on the other hand, are the very definition of spectacular.

A prime example of this is the glamorous Baden-Baden Casino, located in an idyllic southwestern spa town of the same name. Naturally, I wanted to save the best for last – so we’ll get to my time spinning at Baden-Baden a little later.

My first stop took in Berlin, partly because I wanted to check out some of the interesting attractions, and partly because I wanted to try my luck at the famous Potsdamer Platz Casino. Named after the busy intersection it sits next to, the first thing that struck me about the Potsdamer Platz is how modern it is. Turns out it’s only 14-years-old, but has quickly made a name for itself thanks to its plush (not cheap looking) interiors and glamorous, cosmopolitan clientele. Oh, and the places is huge, with no fewer than three different floors.

Of course, I was here for the roulette.

The tables are mostly located on the ground floor; you’ll see them as you walk through the door after paying the small EUR 2.50 entrance fee. For those spinning their way through Berlin looking for other smaller, less formal casinos, try the Fernsehturm or ask your hotel/taxi driver where the nearest one is – there are plenty located around the city center. If you can’t actually physically make it to a casino you may also want to try one of the new breed of Mobile sites. It’s now possible to play live dealer casino table games from your mobile, tablet or computer. It’s very realistic too!

Waking up the next more fresh, excited and slightly up on my money, the time felt right to do a bit of sightseeing. And if it is sightseeing you’re after, Berlin is definitely the right place. I am more of an odds-buff rather than a history-buff; museums have never been high up on my list of things to see when abroad. But without experiencing at least a little bit of culture in Berlin would be a sin. My afternoon trip took in some of the most famous sites such as the Reichstag Building, Museum Island and, of course, a quick visit to the Berlin Wall.

Dortmund calling

I had planned to move my Spin 2014 tour onto the Bavarian capital of Munich. However, due to time constraints and the fact that there isn’t actually a proper casino anywhere in Munich, this one was skipped for next time. Instead, I decided to head east to Dortmund – a city home to the famous Borussia Dortmund FC, plenty more museums and, more importantly, the largest casino in Germany.

The Do-Hohensyburg Casino, located in the heart of town, goes big on the slot machine games, which are cordoned off in a separate area and have no dress-code. In the mood for a session of spinning, I made a beeline for the classic games area, which requires more formal attire (men need shirts and jackets). With over 35 tables, around 12 of which host roulette, the Do-Hohensyburg Casino offers everything you would need in a casino in a spacious, modern environment.

The great thing about visiting Dortmund is that several other interesting cities and towns are just a short drive away, such Munster to the north as well as Cologne and Dusseldorf to the southeast.

Last stop: Baden-Baden

After some time spent travelling around and away from the roulette table, I was ready to head further south for my final stop in Germany: The Baden-Baden.

Frequently described as the most beautiful casino in the entire world, this historic building was erected by the Romans and then later converted into a fully-operational casino during the 19th century – also making it the oldest in Europe.

Stepping inside Baden-Baden, and I quickly realised that everything I have read in my pocket guidebook is true: The place is devastatingly handsome. From the ornately carved marble statues, to the golden-framed floor-to-ceiling mirrors and blood-red wallpaper, no wonder it’s been featured in many a classic novel and film scene.

I had arrived in the morning, which meant no spinning for me for a few hours. The Baden-Baden actually closes all tables to allow guided tours. Turns out that lots of tourists like to look around a casino but not actually like to play!

The roulette wheel here starts spinning at 2pm prompt. Needless to say, I was at the table – alongside a few other players, tourists and the croupier – at 2pm prompt. Do note that formal attire is required for both men and women (shirt and tie or smart dress). Registration to play is EUR 5, while minimum bets here are EUR 2.