Tollway F1, Northern IT Magic, Lienz Luxury

Tollway F1, Northern IT Magic, Lienz Luxury

Lienz, Brixen

Friday, 3 June 2011

Despite having the three window shutters down and the ear plugs firmly inserted, we woke before the iPad alarm and the church bells. This was a good thing because it allowed us to lie in bed and listen to the 7.30 bells from the church – 7 long bells and a different sounding chime for the half hour. Very special.

Despite the sumptuous meal that we had last night at Caffe Posta (a return to this delightful restaurant) we were both up for a leisurely breakfast in the dining room. It was a good opportunity to say goodbye to the staff that we had “shared” breakfast with over the past four days. We were also able to bid farewell to an Australian couple that we met yesterday here at Hotel Miralago.

With our stomachs relatively full we negotiated the staircase to the first level and returned to our room to pack for the trip to Austria – today we were heading for Lienz.

It didn’t take too long to pack our things or to sort ourselves out for the check out. Indeed, we were so efficient that we were downstairs before 9.30.

After checking out I went and retrieved the car whilst The Princess waited in the lobby. On return to the hotel (the car was parked a short distance along a side road) I was able to secure a park outside in the very narrow street so we didn’t have to carry the luggage too far. Happy back!

With the car packed we connected up the GPS and iPad (trialling it for use in the car on this trip) and sat waiting for the magic of technology to warm up before starting our guided trip to Austria.

Fortunately, the GPS took a little while to cage its brain because one of the staff in the hotel spotted us waiting and came outside to present us with a copy of a photographic book with pictures from photographers in the local area. What a thoughtful gift! It will take pride of place on our coffee table back in Hong Kong.

With “surfer dude” ready for some action (read – the talking GPS had warmed up) we pulled away from Hotel Miralago and set off for Austria.

It wasn’t long before we were entering the motorway south to Milan and onward to Lienz.

The first part of the trip went well despite having to negotiate a few toll booths without any cash (they took Visa). Between two toll booths (the Italian government must be making a packet from the many toll ways that seem to cross this part of Italy) I stopped at a service centre but came away only with a couple of coffees and no cash. Further down the highway I pulled over for some petrol (thinking that this might help to withdraw some cash) but again, came away with more coffee and still no cash. Note: If you are planning to drive through Italy and you intend to use the tollways then make sure you have plenty of Euro in your pocket or buy a telecard – it will make the trip a little quicker and stop you incurring the wrath of the locals when you can’t work out which way the Visa card is inserted at the unassisted tollbooth!

Fortunately the scenery along the way made us forget about our lack of toll booth experience and we enjoyed the beautiful mountain scenery and changing landscape as we headed further north toward Austria.

Driving through the seemingly endless acres of vineyards that lined the motorway and experiencing the sights of this region was very special.

The proliferation of churches with their brightly colored steeples set amongst the vineyards was like viewing a moving postcard. The terrain also started to change as we headed further north. Indeed, the towering Dolomite mountains rose out of the northern Italian plains quite sharply after we turned north off the motorway that headed east toward Venice.

We observed two interesting things as we motored along in the hired Ford. 1. If you can’t drive at 140kms/hr + then you should not be on the motorway. Either that or start driving a truck! 2. Several hundred years ago the population of norther Italy/Austria must have done nothing other than build spectacular churches and vineyards. At least that was all that we saw for mile after mile in this incredibly beautiful part of the world.

Of note, as we neared the Austrian border, was the change in the style of houses and the increasing number of road signs written in German. I was telling The Princess about some history I read about how Europe was divided up post World War Two and this story was confirmed later in the day when we arrived in Lienz. In short, Austria was much larger than it is now and the northern part of Italy (as it is known today) was once Austria. This explained the Austrian looking houses that were appearing suddenly at one point in the trip.

We drove for around 5 hours with minimal stops before our stomachs reminded us that it was time to eat (not sure why they thought this given our body clocks were probably still on Hong Kong time – meaning that it was around 3.30am!)

We pulled off the motorway at no particular exit and placed ourselves at the mercy of the travel God. When we travel we often just “go with it” and know that we will be guided to where we need to stop. Today was no exception.

We drove through a small town called Brixen and, despite being “knocked back” at the first restaurant, (lunch was finished) the staff assured us that we would find something open in the center of town.

Little did we know that the centre of town was the site of an ancient town that was home to the most beautiful churches and narrow winding streets. The atmosphere in this historically rich “hamlet” was magical. The temperature was around 25 degrees, the crowds were light and the air was full of a relaxed holiday feel. Perfect.

We walked the narrow streets and took some video and photo’s and paid a visit to the interior of two of the most stunning churches (cathedrals). Had it not been for letting go of the need to eat or stop somewhere in particular we would have driven straight past this amazing town and never seen the glorious sights it had to offer. It is always best to let go of defining how something should look and letting what needs to show up become the reality.

We left Brixen around 5.00pm and headed for Lienz. The 86km trip to Lienz took a little longer than expected due to some tight roads and quite a bit of slow traffic (camper vans). However, we were very happy to drive slowly and take in the stunning scenery along the way. The architecture of the villages and, in particular, the church steeples changed dramatically as we neared the Austrian border and some of the scenery was representative of a movie set. Beautiful!!

We approached Lienz around 6.30pm and found Hotel Haidenhof without any problems. We were checked in by Tamara, the beautiful receptionist on duty, and given excellent service from the time the doors opened.

With the check in formalities over, we unpacked the car and headed up to our 3rd storey room.

The room is bigger than our apartment in Hong Kong and the view from the balcony is spectacular – sweeping views over Lienz with the snow covered Dolomite mountains as a back drop! Wow.

On arrival we were given a couple of free drink vouchers for the in house brewery in the hotel cellar. After freshening up we ventured down to the cellar and sampled some of the excellent bier from the tap. The barman gave us a tour of the brewery before we tasted our first bier and knowing that we were drinking “freshly brewed” beer made it taste even better.

With beer (biers) in hand we went out onto the lower deck balcony and took in more of the spectacular view of the Dolomites before having a long chat with the manger’s wife. We spent around 20 minutes learning more about the area and the hotel and talking about Hong Kong, Australia and Canada.

With the second beer complete we walked upstairs and found the dining room – we had decided to “eat in” tonight. We were seated at a window table that allowed us to watch the sun set on the mountains – a very nice way to see out the daylight in southern Austria!

For dinner we ordered a white asparagus soup, two sumptuous mains (a pork dish and a ravioli) and a bottle of Austrian white. Needless to say, the meals and the wine were memorable and we were both very happy with the choice to “dine in” tonight.

With a full day behind us we are now ready to collapse into the very comfortable beds here in Hotel Haidenhof.

Tomorrow we are intending to take a walk around Lienz before driving across the Austrian Alps and into Innsbruck. We will keep you posted!

Until tomorrow!


Brixen Delight
Ancient Streetscape
Entering Lienz
Bier Garten Balcony

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