Three Countries, Two Castles, One Great Day Out!

Three Countries, Two Castles, One Great Day Out!

Bregenzerwald, Vaduz, Saint Gallen

Thursday, 9 June 2011

I am please to say that The Princess slept well last night – the doctor’s prescription of antibiotic and some natural remedies worked very well.

The alarm woke us at 7.30 but we had some additional time in bed before surfacing – easy to do after being on the go for 10 days or so.

On looking out the window we noted that it was another overcast day here in Bregenzerwald. However, we were not going to let that stop us venturing out to enjoy more of the local region. Three countries worth of travel was our aim today.

The breakfast servings had some room to fill in our stomachs this morning due to fact that we had only eaten a light meal last night before retiring. Not a bad thing given the amount of food we seem to be consuming on this holiday!

We aimed to be on the road around 9.30am and I noted that this was exactly what we achieved as we pulled out onto the quiet street next to the hotel. Our talking GPS guided us out of town and onto the mountain road that we drove across when we arrived two days ago.

The drive up the mountain was quite slow because the higher we went the thicker the fog became. To make things more interesting the roads were wet and there were quite a few repairs in progress after the long winter here.

Fortunately, as we descended on the other side of the mountain we left the fog behind us and the valley we descended into was relatively clear.

We both wondered how the locals made their way to and from these mountain villages during winter – it was hard enough to negotiate the narrow winding roads in today’s conditions.

Our first stop for today was the country of Liechtenstein and, in particular, its main centre – Vaduz. After descending the mountain we drove across the border into Switzerland before quickly exiting Switzerland and entering Liechtenstein – no real border between the two countries.

It was interesting to note the number of light commercial buildings in Liechtenstein – one of the spin offs from being a popular tax haven! Indeed, the populous here in this small principality enjoy an envious standard of living – the spoils are certainly shared.

We found a place to park in Vaduz and went in search of a place for a morning coffee. We found a cafe opposite the car park and settled in for a nice coffee and green tea. A young British couple sat down at the table next to us and we had a chat with them for a while before we all continued on our way. It was unusual to hear some English being spoken!

From the cafe we took a walk around the very small and tidy town and captured some shots on the cameras. We both felt that the atmosphere was a little sterile and commercial for our liking however, we did enjoy taking some distant shots of the castle and in and around the beautiful cathedral.

The rain started to set in a bit so we headed back to the car and set course for St Gallen in Switzerland.

Before leaving Liechtenstein we photographed another mountaintop castle in one of the small towns on the edge of the principality. This little town sits on the border with Switzerland and is close to the autobahn. It wasn’t long before the hire car was pushing 120 km/h (plus) on the beautifully constructed motorway.

Beautiful hamlets built on the side of steep hillsides passed us by (or is that the other way around?) as we drove uninhibited in the direction of St Gallen. Some of these hamlets had two to three churches in them. It appears that the Swiss were just as busy as the Austrians a few hundred years ago! The catholic church had (has) an impressive “capture” area!

The trip to St Gallen took around 30 minutes so it was not long before we were exiting the car in another underground car park (handy in winter no doubt), preparing our gear and setting off to gain an appreciation for this beautiful Swiss town near the Bodensee.

Mother Nature (who has been very kind to us thus far) must not have been told of our plans for the day and she had forgotten to turn off the rain. As we ventured out onto the streets of St Gallen, we put a request in with the weather Gods to have a chat with Mother Nature and ask her to turn of the showers. She received the request!

The showers abated and we were able to walk around the streets of St Gallen without getting wet. Nice one MN!

In a photographic lighting sense it is actually nice not to have a sunny day. The diffused lighting stops the shots being washed out and provides less of a challenge for getting the exposure right (not that we claim to know much about photography or, for that matter, how to get the correct exposure).

The historic buildings in this town (along with the new ones) were beautifully kept and, at times, it felt like walking through a movie set. Narrow cobble stoned streets lined with brightly painted buildings that were complete with beautiful flowering window boxes made for some great photo opportunities. It is easy to see why hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to this area every year – rain, snow or sunshine!

One of the highlights of St Gallen was the cathedral. “More churches?” I hear you ask. Yes. More churches. Like so many other cathedrals, this one was something to behold. From the huge heavy wooden doors at the entrance through to the magnificently painted domes St Gallen cathedral was impressive. It seemed like nothing had changed inside this cathedral since it was built. The smell of the wood and incense played on our senses and we could gain a real sense of the age of this place.

The perfect acoustics in the cathedral meant that you could hear a pin drop – not a good thing for those “under breath” comments about the lengthy sermons given from the imposing pulpit!

We enjoyed photographing some of the flower beds and statues that surrounded the cathedral before we left the church grounds and returned to the narrow streets of St Gallen.

As we returned to the main plaza area we spotted the first Starbucks for this trip. The Princess was most excited about the prospect of downing a Chai Tea Latte so we decided to return “for a brew” after some retail therapy. The Princess had spotted some clothes that she wanted a second look at so we retraced our steps and found the store.

Neither of us found anything we particularly liked in the dozen or so shops went into so we returned to Starbucks and had a hot drink while we took a load off our feet.

Whilst the Starbucks coffee doesn’t compare with some of the great Italian and Austrian brews we have been drinking over the past week, it was nice to sit in “familiar” surroundings and down our hot beverages.

We had an 80 minute drive back to Au ahead of us so we returned to the car and, after finding our “misplaced” parking voucher, we navigated our way out of St Gallen and back onto the motorway.

There was no peak hour traffic to contend with on the motorway so we made good time back to the turn off for the Bregenzerwald area. The trip slowed a little was we crossed the border back into Austria and started back into the mountains.

We were keeping an “eye out” for a roadside restaurant in one of the many small villages that we passed through however, neither of us saw anything that appeared to be open (it was approaching 7.45pm) so I kept driving onto Au.

As we passed the “welcome to Au” sign we spotted a brightly lit restaurant (Ur Alp) and pulled into the car park. Fortunately the kitchen was still open so we took a window seat in the cavernous dining room and reviewed the menu.

We were served by a lovely lady of Bosnian heritage and her efficient service meant that it wasn’t long before we were coating our taste buds with a delightful cream of cheese soup! The cheese used in the soup was produced in Au.

Our soup was complimented by two pork dishes and some salad for the main. Both main meals tasted delightful however, despite not having any lunch, our stomachs told us that we should have shared a main or not had the soup. We were both “Ho Bow”(“very full” in Chinese) about half way through the substantial meals.

After paying our bill and thanking our lovely server, we waddled out of the restaurant and drove the short distance back to Hotel Alpenrose.

We were greeted by Anna Marie and her mother when we opened the main doors of the hotel and they were most keen to learn about our day of touring. What a lovely way to finish our day of touring three countries.

Tomorrow we are off to Interlaken in Switzerland. The drive will take around 5 hours so we aim to be leaving Au around 1000am. We will be staying in Interlaken for 4 days and we look forward to touring this beautiful region near some of the most stunning mountains in the world.

We will let you know how the trip through Switzerland goes in the next blog.

Stay tuned.

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