|By Wayne Crenshaw, The Macon Telegraph, Ga.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Mar. 8--DUBLIN, Ga. -- At the end of a bumpy dirt road off Ga. 19 is one of Laurens County's best-kept travel secrets.
But Heinz Krassnig hopes it won't be a secret for long.
The Austrian and his girlfriend, Maria Runggaldier, opened Come Home to the County Bed & Breakfast Vacation Farm in November. With its remote location, the four-bedroom inn isn't well known at the moment -- there's not even a sign on the highway -- but Krassnig is hopeful the word will get out.
"It's a thing for people to come out here and relax," he said of his 30-acre tract that includes a swimming pool and horseback riding. "I think that's what most people are looking for, is some privacy and peace."
It would probably be hard to find a quieter place. Located at the end of James Currie Road, about the only sounds to be heard are birds chirping.
Krassnig worked as a consultant in Austria, Germany and Italy for several years and often traveled in the United States for business and pleasure. He has been all over the country but picked the Southeast to set up an inn. After a long search, he chose Dublin.
"I felt like it's a growing community and they are doing a lot, and maybe we can grow with them," he said.
His inn brings something unique to the community, which has only one other bed and breakfast, the Page House in Dublin. Krassnig aimed to create a place where European travelers could stay and be within day-tripping range of Georgia's attractions, including Atlanta, the mountains and the coast.
But he is quick to point out that everyone is welcome, and he has already had Laurens County guests who just wanted to get away for a couple of days.
He had a ribbon cutting two weeks ago and about 50 people attended, despite a cold, rainy day. One of those was Dublin-Laurens Chamber of Commerce Director Willie Paulk.
"I think it's phenomenal," she said of the inn. "They have a unique atmosphere, and it's very inviting. I think the concept he has of bringing the international traveler to the states, and particularly to the state of Georgia, is really good."
Drive up to the place and it would be hard to immediately identify it as an inn. The main part is a brick home, and the rooms are an addition Krassnig built on the back of the house.
The rooms look more like what one would expect at a place that charges $150 or more per night, but Krassnig is charging only $69 per weekday and $85 on the weekends until the business takes root.
Rates are $10 lower for a single person.
He and Runggaldier, a native of Italy, have higher ambitions for their venture. They hope to start a restaurant that will feature Runggaldier's Italian cooking.
Paulk has already gotten a taste of that at a special event held for a business group at the inn.
"She is just an excellent cook," Paulk said. "Really excellent."
They already serve breakfast for guests in a dining room with a view to the nature that surrounds the inn. But when they get the additional clearance from the health department, they are planning a restaurant that would also be for non-guests.
Other plans for the future include opening a bicycle trail.
But one thing they will not do is expand beyond four rooms. Krassnig said he does not want to disrupt his vision of a peaceful, quiet retreat with supreme personal service.
"If we expand, we would just do another farm," he said.
Krassnig and Runggaldier already feel at home in the South because they say it reminds them a lot of Italy. Krassnig is even a burgeoning student of Civil War history.
"The mentality is similar to Italian," he said. "Here it is a more warm, easier way of life than in the North."
For Krassnig, running an inn and being self-employed is a dream come true. He said he was looking for something to get away from the daily grind of the business world and to meet people from all over the globe.
"I'm very much interested in different characters and different cultures," he said. "I like hearing different experiences."
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(c) 2004, The Macon Telegraph, Ga. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.