Posts Tagged ‘driving’

Goodbye Alps, Hello Flatlands and Motoring The Motorways

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Goodbye Alps, Hello Flatlands and Motoring On The Motorways

Interlaken, Beatenberg, Schmocken, Thun, Bern, Baden-Baden, Kelsterbach, Frankfurt Airport

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Our plan this morning was to be on the road by around 10.30am. The drive to Frankfurt would take around 5 hours and the car was due back at the Hertz rental return around 6.00pm.

We slept soundly during our last night at Gloria despite the very loud snoring from the room next door. We assume that the guy’s wife elbowed him in the ribs shortly after we settled into bed because neither of us heard the roof lifting sounds after our heads hit the pillows.

We had packed most of our belongings last night so this morning’s priority was to sort ourselves out and enjoy a casual breakfast and a long look at the alps and Lake Thun. We achieved this aim between 9 and 10am.

After our substantial breakfast we spent time talking to Bernhard and took some photo’s with him on the balcony overlooking the lake below.

With our planned departure time drawing near we returned to the room, grabbed our luggage and packed the car before completing the final checkout. After a short farewell to the staff we left the hotel and returned to the car.

I had prepared the GPS for the trip to Frankfurt so after getting our “travel setup” sorted we backed out of the carpark and started our trip down the mountain toward Interlaken – the time was very close to 10.30am!

We took it easy during the trip down the winding roads toward Interlaken because we wanted to enjoy the views of the alps and the last of our time in the spectacular mountains.

We made a short stop for fuel just before we entered the motorway that took us on the southern side of Lake Thun and north west toward Thun. We had not traveled this part of the lake before today so it was nice to look back, across the lake and up toward Schmoken. Indeed, we could make out Hotel Gloria perched high on the mountain to the north. Beautiful.

The light traffic meant that the trip around Thun and past Bern went without a great deal of delay. Little did we know that this pace was not going to continue.

We left Switzerland and entered Germany – a trip that took us out of the towering mountains of the alps and into relatively flat farming lands. We passed through the remaining low mountains of southern Germany then paralleled the Rhine for quite a while and enjoyed the seemingly endless vineyards and the views of distant castles perched on hilltops – we will return to Germany and tour the Rhein one day.

After close to three and a half hours we decided to stop for some lunch. The time was approaching 2.00pm when pulled off the autobahn and drove into the town of Baden-Baden.

We found a shopping mall close to the outskirts of the town and parked the car undercover – it was warming up as we headed north!

We enjoyed a light meal and some juice for lunch before finding a very well laid out grocery store in the mall. We decided to “eat in” at the hotel in Frankfurt so we bought some lovely salami, cheese and bread rolls and some red wine to wash it all down with. We have forgotten what a well stocked grocery store looks like and we had some fun walking around the store before paying for our treats.

We left the mall around 3.30pm and pointed the car in the direction of the autobahn. As we turned to join the autobahn we came to a grinding halt – there was an accident somewhere up ahead. Plan B – reverse the car (like everyone else was doing) and find another way to Frankfurt. This is where a GPS comes into its own.

Without any idea of alternate routes the GPS allowed us to quickly work out another way to Frankfurt. We gave “surfer dude” his Plan B instructions and despite the occasional ” new route is being calculated” order he eventually complied and we were on our way.

The Plan B route took us into France for short while – it was nice to spend 30 minutes or so reading French signs. The Princess and I start each year with the intention of visiting at least 10 countries. France was not on our agenda for 2011 however, despite the very short visit, we can include the land of bread and wine on our list for this year’s list.

On reentering Germany I made up for some lost time on the autobahn by making the most of the unlimited speed options in the fast lane. I am happy to report that the little Ford Focus was able to achieve the imperial 100 mph or 160 km/h plus. There is something to be said for being able to legally travel at this speed. Most of the trip was spent at 130 km/h – a more comfortable speed to travel at. Several times during the trip we felt like we were standing still when BMW and Porsche marques passed us like we were standing still. They must have been traveling around 200 km/h. Impressive. Mental note – next time we are in Germany make sure that we hire something that can travel at 200 km/h plus.

Driving conditions continued to be affected by roadworks and the occasional downpour from Mother Nature. However, we made good time on the alternate route and “surfer dude” gave precision guidance to our hotel in the little village of Kelsterbach near the Frankfurt airport.

We arrived at the Mercure Airport hotel around 5.30pm – a 7 hour trip from Schmocken. On exiting the car we both noted now warm it was compared with the alps. A lovely afternoon in/near Frankfurt. We checked in and took up residence in room 220 before I departed the hotel and drove across to the airport to return the car. Kelsterbach is located about 10 minutes from the busy airport but you would swear you were in the middle of nowhere. Wheat fields and country lanes defined the short drive to the airport.

After filling the car at the airport Shell service station I followed the signs to the rental car return area and handed the trusty and well used Ford back to the helpful Hertz agent.

The hotel’s shuttle bus ran every 30 minutes and the stop was conveniently located near the Hertz return area so it wasn’t long before I was on my way back to the hotel.

On the return trip the route took me past the incredible building that the Hilton hotel calls home. This stunning modern building looks like part cruise ship and part airship. It is an enormous structure that proudly stands out in the otherwise drab landscape around Terminal 1 at Frankfurt.

After the 7 hour trip we were both rather exhausted so we were glad that we had purchased something to eat and drink in Baden-Baden. After my return to the hotel I repacked my suitcase for the trip back to Hong Kong then The Princess and I settled in for a short evening of blog updates and a wind down.

The “lights out” for today’s events occurred around 10.30pm – an interesting day of traveling through Switzerland, Germany and France.

Side note: Whilst the Mercure hotel was comfortable, the service in a chain hotel is not a pinch on that of a family run establishment. We were blessed with the accommodation choices during this holiday and we both agree that we will be avoiding the chain hotel option in the future. A huge thank you to the incredibe staff and owners of Hotel Miralago, Hotel Haidenhof, Hotel Sonnenhof, Hotel Alpenrose and Hotel Gloria – very special indeed!

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Goat Tracks, Castles and Torquoise Lakes

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Goat Tracks, Castles and Turquoise Lakes

Beatenberg, Schmocken, Thun, Sigriswil

Location – Lake Thun

Maybe it was the fog. Maybe it was the cold mountain air outside (our room was toasty warm) or maybe it was because we had no where in particular to go. For all, or none, of these reasons we surfaced slowly this morning here in Beatenberg and, in particular, Hotel Gloria.

The very comfortable beds, the almost “impossible to extract yourself from” pillows and the silence pervading the hotel made for a wonderful night of sleep on so many levels.

When we did rise we took our time to get ready then headed down to the hotel dining room for breakfast – a delightful “spread” that would satisfy a team of hungry footballers. These two “bench reserve” team members didn’t need too many carbs or calories to satisfy them after the delightful meal we experienced in the hotel’s restaurant last night.

The view from the dining room window seat was not too appealing – rising fog, an obscured Thunersee (Lake Thun) and absolutely no sight of the mountains to the south. The balcony 5 feet away was about the extent of our view for breakfast. The sight of The Princess opposite me however was spectacular and, in reality, would have made even the most sensational view pale into insignificance!

Over breakfast we thought about the advice that Bernhard gave us last night and decided that we would take the precarious “back road” to Thun and spend the day walking this historic town.

After our light but fulfilling breakfast we prepared our cameras, the video camera and our warm weather gear and headed out for the day.

Despite our talking GPS trying to take us the “sensible” way to Thun we ignored his protestations and headed west along the narrow mountainside road. In reality, we were well prepared for this short trip having spent time negotiating the precarious roads around Lake Como when we arrived in Italy. Indeed the lack of Italian drivers (and drivers in general) made this road very enjoyable to drive along.

At one point on the journey our GPS took us on an interesting side step (or maybe we were too engrossed in the scenery) and we ended up driving down a lane that was barely wider that the car. In fact, the side mirrors were caused to retract by themselves at times! However, we know that “surfer dude” (as he is known) never lets us down and the views from the goat track that we drove on were spectacular.

After our short diversion we reentered the road west to Thun and felt like we had entered a motorway. We passed through several picturesque villages before arriving in the small village of Schoren – home to the lakeside Castle of Oberhofen (Schloss Oberhofen).

The weather at “lake level” was relatively clear so we parked the car in the not so full carpark and spent the next 90 minutes walking around the castle and taking quite a few photographs and some video. In addition to being able to view this beautifully maintained castle, we were able to enjoy the arrival and departure of the original paddle steamer that plies the lake’s waterways. Indeed, at one point the sound of the steam whistle (announcing the steamer’s departure) made us jump a couple of feet! A beautiful sound when you are expecting it.

From Schoren we continued our drive along the lake front into Thun – a short trip that took around 10 minutes.

Despite it being Saturday (market day) we were able to find a parking spot close to the city centre and, after sorting out the parking fee, we arranged our gear and set off to explore Thun.

It didn’t take too long for us to spot some things to take photographs of and so our day in Thun began.

As I mentioned above, today was market day in Thun and the streets were quite busy with tourists and locals alike. However, the weekend foot and road traffic didn’t stop us from taking in the feeling of this beautiful town.

The town is “split” by two watercourses that flow from Lake Thun and west/northwest to the city of Bern and beyond. These two watercourses form an island in the middle of the city and we spent time walking along the pathways that line either side of the watercourses.

Beautiful old bridges cross the two “channels” and historic buildings line the streets that front the banks of the channels. The Saturday afternoon market atmosphere, the turquoise blue water running swiftly through the channels and the beautiful old buildings lining the streets provided us with plenty to digest. What a wonderful way to experience Switzerland.

We enjoyed walking the markets and wandering past the many stalls that were setup on the “pedestrian only” mall. There was plenty to look at and buy but we were “good”. Indeed, we only walked away with memories and a few photographs.

From the market place we took in some more of the small inlets that Thun is built around. It was easy to find quite isolated places to take in the sheer beauty of the town and the lake despite the crowds that seemed to be in “town”. It was nice to stroll along almost deserted lake front walkways and appreciate the architecture of the old buildings that had “prime real estate” positions on the stunning lake. One could spend weeks in this place.

One of the main attractions of Thun (other than the lake) is the beautiful castle built on the town’s highpoint. From the lake we made our way back toward the castle, along the old cobble stoned streets, and up to the cathedral that is located near the castle.

We took photos from quite a few vantage points along the way and enjoyed experiencing some different parts of Thun.

Unfortunately the cathedral was closed when we arrived however, we both enjoyed the deep sounds resonating from the cathedral’s bell tower. The sounds rang out across the town below and seemed to go on for 20 minutes or more! A wonderful soundtrack to some of the video we took.

From the cathedral we took a short walk to Schloss Thun and viewed it from the outside as it too was closed. Schloss Thun, like Schloss Oberhof, is beautifully preserved and being near it makes you feel like you have stepped back in time. Short of guards and men on horseback the castle seemed to have a pulse. It felt very much “alive”.

With the temperature dropping in the late afternoon/early evening air we headed back to the car and set course for “home” – Hotel Gloria, Schmocken.

We opted to take the shore front drive back toward Interlaken then up the mountain road to the hotel. We were not disappointed. The road back along the shore line of Lake Thun was beautiful. We passed through some tunnels that must have been made back in the 1800′s (not lined or seemingly touched in anyway) and viewed some stunning scenery. The sun was getting lower in the western sky and this meant new arrangements of shadows and colours. Perfect.

The steep and winding mountain road up to Schmocken did not have too many cars on it so this meant that we were able to make good time back to hotel.

We arrived back at “Gloria” around 7.15pm and we were welcomed back by the Jacky (co-owner) as we entered the main door.

I ventured out on the the balcony to take in the cool mountain air while The Princess prepared for dinner. Jacky called our room to let us know that the restaurant was busy and asked if we could delay coming down for around 15 minutes. A very nice touch! We were not in a hurry so the delay in dining worked well for us.

After a little bit of “surfing the net” we made our way down to the dining room and took up “residence” at a window seat. The view from this place is superb and dining with a “bird’s eye” view is very special.

Tonight we sampled Bernhard’s cooking for a second time and, again, it was spectacular. We shared a mushroom risotto and a mediterranean salad and there were many “eye rolling” moments as we savored the meals. The preparation, presentation and taste of the meals at Hotel Gloria are something that must be experienced. Exceptional. The excellent service compliments the superb meals.

With our ‘bellies topped up to “just the right” level we made our way back up to the room and retired for the night.

I will finish up this blog then sink into the beautiful bed next to The Princess and make acquaintance with the inside of my eyelids.

Tomorrow we are aiming to head up to Niederhorn – the mountain behind where we are staying. We are planning to take the cable car up to the top of the mountain then hike back down.

A special request has been submitted to the Interlaken weather Gods so we are expecting high to nil clouds and warmish temperatures.

We will let you know if our request was accepted when we blog tomorrow night.

Gut Nacht!

Paddling The Lake
See You Thun – I’m Schlossed
Pondering Brass
Princess Opening Her Castle
Crossing The Bridge

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Torquoise Lakes, Vertical Landscapes – Schmocken!

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Torquoise Lakes, Vertical Landscapes – Schmocken!

Bregenzerwald, Zurich, Beatenberg, Interlaken

Friday, 10 June 2011

Our last night in the Hotel Alpenrose was marked by a solid sleep and a late’ish waking hour – around 8.15am (late by holiday standards when touring).

We didn’t hurry to get ready for the trip to Interlaken or to get down to breakfast. In fact, it was close to 9.30am by the time we exited the room and made our way downstairs to the dining room.

We were the only diners this morning (at least at the hour we arrived) and it was nice to have the dining room to ourselves. The excellent service that we had become accustom to continued this morning and we enjoyed taking our time to enjoy the sumptuous food and the newly decorated windows. Anna Marie, her mother and her aunties had been busy over the past 24 hours and the new decorations provided a lovely foreground to the mountain views outside.

We packed most of our belongings before we went down to breakfast so, on returning to the room, we finalised the last packing and headed down to the lobby to check out.

We really enjoyed our stay at Hotel Alpenrose and we valued the family hospitality and the wonderful accommodation and dining. This meant that our check out took longer than it would have in a larger chain hotel because we were not in a hurry to leave. There is something to be said for staying in the smaller hotels!

We departed the hotel around 10.45 and drove down to the local petrol station on the outskirts of town to fill the car up – petrol seemed to be a little cheaper in Austria (being on the Euro currency) than in Switzerland (Swiss Francs) so it was worth heading over the border with the tank full.

The drive to the Swiss border was the reverse of last night’s return trip from St Gallen – a now familiar drive through the beautiful mountains, past the lush paddocks and resting cows and through long tunnels. One could never tire of this drive. Today it was made even more spectacular because the cloud base had lifted and the sun was proudly warming the Austrian landscape once more.

Our friendly surfer dude GPS did a great job of getting us on and off motorways and through the border crossing and into Switzerland. Around 12.30 we were well into Switzerland and soaking up the sheer beauty of this delightful country.

We drove down the distinct border of Lichtenstein then past the beautiful shoreline of Walensee – our first view of one of Switzerland’s many stunning lakes. The almost turquoise water back dropped by towering mountains and the red pitched roofs of Swiss farm houses was amazing. A feast for our eyes. It doesn’t matter how many times one sees this sort of scenery, you can never stop appreciating the sheer beauty of it. More “wow” moments.

To make travel through Switzerland a little more driver friendly the Swiss have also perfected the art of burrowing into and through mountains. It would be a difficult and slow drive if it were not for the impressive tunnels that make mountain driving a thing of the past in this part of the world.

After passing we came out into what could be described as (relatively speaking) flat land. It didn’t last too long but the contrast of the low hills and “distant” mountains meant that our senses noticed this short pause in vertical landscape scenes.

We returned to the waterfront driving along Obersee albeit that we didn’t see too much of it because of the number of tunnels we drove through. This part of the drive took us south of Zurich and west/southwest toward Luzern.

Negotiating the transit of Luzern was made easy with the aid of our talking GPS and before long we were back into the tunnels and heading further west toward Interlaken.

Our next clear view of another stunning lake was during the slow drive past Lugerersee. Slow because of the speed limits and slow because it was hard to drive past this stunning lake at anything other than a “respectful” speed.

As we climbed up the mountain pass west of Lugern (one of the larger towns bordering the Lugerersee) we stopped at a roadside lookout and stood in awe of the sight that lay before us – a beautiful turquoise lake located between two towering mountain ranges with historic Swiss villages surrounding the lake. Just beautiful.

After snapping a few “postcard” shots of Lugerersee we continued our trip up the winding mountain pass. However, it wasn’t long before we stopped again. The Princess needed a “pit stop” and we were both ready for lunch. A wonderful opportunity presented when we passed a cliff top restaurant called Brunig-Kulm. It was perched on the edge the road overlooking the valley below. We opted to dine outside on the restaurant’s balcony. The stunning afternoon sun kept us warm although the view distracted us from eating the tasty broccoli soup and salami and cheese sandwich that we ordered. We were also distracted at times by the low flying Swiss Air Force turboprop trainers and fast jets flying over head. We didn’t realise that there was an air force base located deep in the valley below us.

After lunch we headed down the mountain side road and down into the valley where the air force base was located. Flugplatz Meiringen (as it is officially known) must be one of the most scenic airfields I have every seen. The valley it is located in is stunning and on one side of the valley is a sheer cliff with a huge waterfall running down the side of it. Part of the runway has a road crossing it so when the jets are ready to take off they simply close the road (like a train crossing) and let the jets take off. Not a lot of visible security in these parts. Maybe something to do with the neutrality of the country.

We continued our drive west along the Brienzersee (one of two lakes that sit either side of Interlaken) and made good time as we neared Interlaken township.

We are staying in an area called Beatenberg (just north west of Interlaken) in a town called Schmocken. Beatenberg is a beautiful area perched on a steep mountainside that overlooks the western lake of Thuner See. The drive up to Beatenberg reminded us of the roads surrounded Lake Como albeit that there were not many crazy Italian drivers on these roads!

Our ascent into the Beatenberg area was complimented by dozens of paragliders that were soaring the ridge lines of the high mountains in these parts. This area is famous for its outdoor activities and its views. Combining paragliding with these views makes a whole lot of sense!

We arrived at Hotel Gloria around 4.30pm – a little less travel time than we envisaged. The helpful staff had us checked in to our room with a view in no time. Before The Princess entered the room I asked her to close her eyes then lead her out onto the balcony. On opening her eyes her jaw dropped and she stood in awe of the incredible sight. A bird’s eye view of Thunersee, across the turquoise colored lake and south to “the top of Europe” as it is known – the Swiss Alps. Needless to say, we didn’t leave the balcony in a hurry.

We settled into our chalet style loft room quite quickly and then donned some warm clothes before taking a short stroll through the small town of Schmocken. Despite some light showers we enjoyed the slow walk in the cool mountain air.

We walked down to the Niederhorn cable car terminus and viewed the comings and goings of the cable car before returning to the hotel. We met some of the “locals” (noisy goats) on the way back to the hotel and enjoyed listening to their very loud “baa’ing” and the sound of their small bells.

When we entered the hotel after our walk we were greeted by the friendly hotel staff. They were preparing the dining room for tonight’s dinner. We ordered a drink and sat out on the balcony (despite the cool evening air) and spent time getting to know the staff.

One of the owners of the hotel (Berhard) came out and introduced himself to us as we were enjoying a “sundowner” and the view of the Swiss Alps.

Bernhard (a Swiss national) had spent 20 years in Australia and he and his wife Jacky (an Australian from Adelaide) came back to Switzerland and bought Hotel Gloria 4 years ago. It was great to talk with Bernhard. He gave us some wonderful tips on touring the local area and a short history of Switzerland – fascinating stuff that we will share with you over the coming days.

Jacky also introduced herself to us during our time on the balcony and we look forward to catching up with Bernhard and Jacky more during our time here in Beatenberg.

We finished off another wonderful day with a delightful meal in the hotel restaurant. We shared a very tasty pumpkin soup before experiencing (that is what is was) the most magnificent American seared scallops and some chicken and avocado salad. I washed my meal down with some smooth Italian red. The Princess’ alcohol intake is reduced to zero at the moment due to the antibiotic – probably not a bad thing. Maybe I should go out in support.

We will see how the weather shapes up when we wake in the morning before we make any solid plans. One thing is for sure – we will make the most of the day despite the weather and we will have another day of incredible experiences. Fact!

Until tomorrow’s blog.

Mountain Taxi
Luncheon View
Side House View
Decorated Local
“Luv… Where’s Me Boots?”
Seeing Lugurer See

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Seeing The Boden At Bregenz

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Seeing The Boden At Bregenz

Bregenz, Egg

Location – Austria

We had quite a sleepless night last night because The Princess was up most of the night coughing. She contracted a bug over the past week and it came to a bit of head over the past 24 hours. Today was the day to find a doctor and sort it out before it worsened.

The weather was rather inclement when we woke up so we were not in a particular hurry to depart the hotel (other than finding a doctor) so we took our time to ready ourselves before heading down for something to eat.

We enjoyed a very nice breakfast in the hotel’s dining room – a comprehensive “spread” that provided us with a good start to the day.

The daughter of one of the owners (Anna Marie) introduced herself while we were eating breakfast and we really enjoyed talking with her about her background and learning more about the local area. She is a perfect host and we appreciated the time she took to help us learn more about the region.

After breakfast we asked Anna Marie (the hotel manager) where the nearest doctor was and she directed us to the Ganthaler clinic just on the edge of town. We sorted ourselves out and headed off for an “walk in” appointment.

The waiting room was full when we arrived (around 11.30) so we didn’t get into see the doctor until close to 12.30. The staff spoke excellent English and we were processed very efficiently once we were called into see the doctor.

Plated Entry

Dr Ganthaler, an emergency medical specialist, was very thorough with his examination of The Princess. He took some blood and, before long, we learned that she had a serious bacterial infection in her body (probably in the lung cavities). Within about 15 minutes The Princess was having an intravenous injection of antibiotic and some steroid treatment. The doctor didn’t want to take any chances with the bug and was determined to get it under control quickly. The Princess spent about 30 minutes in the treatment room under the expert care of Arthur (the specialist paramedic) and then Dr Ganthaler. The treatment was completed around 1.30pm and we left the very well appointed clinic with a bag full of antibiotics and some natural remedies too. The Princess was feeling 100% better after the injection of antibiotic and steroids and we headed off to Bregenz for lunch.

The drive into Bregenz takes around 45 minutes and the road into the small city winds its way through some beautiful little towns and alongside of towering mountains. The low clouds were hugging the tall mountains and rising from the lush green valleys and this made the scenery appear very mystical.

We stopped in the small town of Egg (that’s right – Egg) for an early afternoon coffee and a locally baked delight before continue our drive into Bregenz. Shortly after leaving Egg we saw a sign for the town of Hard and we were wondering if this is where Hard boiled Eggs originated from!

Our wonderful talking GPS made light work of guiding us into the city center and to an undercover parking area that was conveniently located near the main plaza of the old town.

It was raining lightly as we exited the car park and started our walk around the historic streets of Bregenz – an Austrian city located on the Bodensee (or, in English, Lake Constance). It has some lovely historic buildings and a beautiful water front.

Despite the light rain we persisted with our photography and video efforts and managed to get some reasonable photos between the showers.

After a short stroll through the city’s outdoor malls we made our way down to the Boden See shorefront and took in the misty views of the lake across to the German side of the lake. We were able to sense the beauty of the lake and enjoyed strolling along the treelined pathway.

It was around 3.30pm when we decided to eat lunch and we chose a lovely restaurant located on the waterfront. We chose to eat inside Wortshaus Amsee even though there was very good outdoor covers – The Princess didn’t need to sit in the cool air today!

We chose a tuna fish salad and a cream of tomato soup for lunch and, even though that choice sounded rather plain, the servings were certainly not. The tuna was mixed with a delightful balsamic vinegar dressing and full of black olives. The soup was full of croutons that melted in our mouths. Mmmmm. Another gastronomic feast that was complimented by the wonderful waitresses that helped us to learn some more German – “E Zut Deer Wreck Nung” (not the German spelling but it is how is sounds to us). It should translate to: “I would like the bill please”. Any advise from the German readers would be appreciated!

Wounded Warrior

Our waterfront stroll continued after lunch. As we walked a short distance to the sight of the spectacular Bregenzer Festspiele water stage we thought our eyes were deceiving us when we saw three naked men swimming in the Bodensee. It took us a few glances to realise that they were indeed naked. Two things that were surprising about this scene – 1. It must have been very cold in the water and 2. No one seemed to be too concerned about three grown men “mooning” in the shallow water beside the busy waterfront pathway. I guess there wasn’t too much to look at because their combined anatomies must have been rather shriveled up in the cold water!!

We approached the very impressive Bregenzer Festspiele stage and readied our cameras and videos with a view to capture this wonderful sight. We learned that the stages change every two years and, during summer, are the pride of the Bregenzer Festspiele.

The festival has been running since 1946 and, as it turned out, we met an elderly gentleman that had worked on the festival as a stage hand when he was 18. This lovely Swiss man and his wife were visiting Bregenz to check out the construction of this year’s stage (a new one). He shared the story of the Bregenz Festspeile and explained the theme of this year’s production – an opera about one of the main characters responsible for the French revolution.

The Bregenz tour continued after we left very impressive waterfront although we quickly realised that we had seen the highlights of the town. With the rain increasing and the highlights of Bregenz covered we returned to the shopping centre where our car was parked. We planned to relax with a bit of retail therapy however, the shops were closing (it was approaching 6.00pm) so we returned to the car and set off for our accommodation in Au.

On the drive out of Bregenz we stopped off at a small shopping village on the outskirts of town and bought some fruit, salami and cheese and fresh rolls for tonight’s light dinner.

The trip back to Au took us around 40 minutes (it always seems quicker to drive a road again after driving it for the first time) and we arrived back at Hotel Alpenrose around 7.30pm. Anna Marie was still working the front desk when we walked into the hotel (a long day indeed for her) and was most interested in how our day went and, of course, how The Princess was feeling. Staying in a family run hotel makes you feel like you are a part of the family – particularly here in Austria where the people are so very friendly and welcoming. A wonderful country on so many levels!

We are planning an early evening tonight. The Princess is feeling 200% now and she is looking forward to a solid sleep tonight.

Tomorrow we are aiming to visit the tiny nation of Liechtenstein and the Swiss town of St Gallen so we want to have a reasonably early start. Early starts mean early finishes and this is tonight’s plan.

We look forward to reporting on tomorrow’s activities when we return from our three country tour tomorrow evening.

Smoken In Bregenz
Waiting For Summer
The Death Of A Revolutionary
Bregenz Water Dragon
Spring Goslings
Scrambled, Fried or Boiled?

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Nothing Mutters To Nutters

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Nothing Mutters To Nutters

Mutters, Natters

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

It was our last day in Innsbruck (Igls) today and we had only a relatively short drive ahead of us to Au (near Bregenz) so we allowed ourselves to ease into the day when we woke this morning.

Our p!an was to take in breakfast in the hotel, check out around 10:00am then spend some time in the two small villages of Mutters and Natters. With names like that how could we not pay a visit to them.

The plan went according to our design and we departed Hotel Sonnenhof around 10. The short drive to Mutters took via the impressive autobahn that by passes Innsbruck then back up some country lanes and into the sleepy village.

We didn’t have any problem finding a car park on this clear and sunny weekday morning so it wasn’t long before we were walking through the streets of Mutters in search of some photographic opportunities. We were not disappointed. One never tires of the stunning gardens and beautifully prepared window boxes that every house has. Most of the houses are in the “traditional” style of the region and some are very old. “Postcard” shots present every few steps that you take through the small towns and Mutters was no exception.

From Mutters we drove to Natters. Making statements along the way like “nothing mutters to nutters” (you had to be there!). Natters is much smaller than Mutters and it didn’t take long to take in the atmosphere of this little hamlet.

Before leaving the sleepy hollow of Natters we bought some mid morning delights at the small bakery then paid a visit to the little delicatessen across the road. The”deli” had some excellent home made produce that was too good to refuse and, after a brief chat with the helpful owners, we were walking out with a bag full of treats for a picnic lunch.

We saw a sign for the “natterer see” (the lake of Natters) while we were walking the streets of Natters and decided to drive there for our morning tea. We were glad we did.

Arriving at Natter see we learned that it was a privately owned lake surround be a caravan park – but not just any caravan park. This family owned park is now under the direction of it’s current visionary and is one of the top parks in Europe.

After a sharing our morning treat beside the lake we took a look around the park and met the manager of the eurocamp onsite cabins. He showed us some of the brand new cabins before taking us on a tour of this beautifully designed and comprehensively appointed park. The show piece of the park is a 3 million euro community building that is impressive in design, functionality and location. The views from this futuristic toilet block justify the development costs!

We completed our tour of this “impressive camp ground on steroids” by purchasing a coffee at the well appointed restaurant. Then we returned to the car and set off in the direction of Bregenzerwald.

The initial part of the trip (on the autobahn) to Bregenzerwald took us past some lovely villages and more stunning mountain views before we “went underground”. The Austrians obviously worked out that they can’t move mountains (literally) but they certainly know how to move through them. Indeed, they have perfected the art of tunneling to the extreme. We drove through tunnels that went through mountains for up to at least 8 kms. If you joined the numbers of tunnels in Austria they would extend across the country! Very impressive indeed.

It was nearing 3.30pm by the time we pulled over into the small village of Burs for some lunch. Despite the light rain we savored the delights of the food we bought back in Natters and enjoyed the quiet setting we had selected in this small riverside hamlet.

Before departing Burs we programed the GPS for the trip to Au (pronounced Ow) and set of in accordance with “surfer dude’s” instructions. As we set off we were both a little concerned with the directions the GPS was giving us but, he hasn’t let us down to date, so we went with it despite our reservations.

We turned off the main highway and headed up into the mountains. At times the road became quite narrow and the terrain quite rugged. However, at times, we travelled through lovely mountain villages, and this restored our faith in the GPS. We learned later that we were being taken “the short way” to Au but we were concerned!

The GPS took us to the programmed location we had put into the unit but it certainly wasn’t the hotel – it was a wood mill. Our concern increased somewhat at this point. We drove onto the next small town, restarted the GPS and tried again – same result. We even drove up into a nearby residential development to see if we were close but had no luck.

Plan B was to ask for some guidance from a local so pulled into a car park and went into a nearby sportswear shop. We walked out about 20 minutes later with some new shorts for The Princess and the instructions to the hotel! It turned out that the GPS was correct but the address was not – our fault not technology’s problem.

The drive to the Hotel Alpenrose took less than 3 minutes so we were checking in shortly before 6 pm and taking up residence in our very nice room shortly after.

The Hotel Alpenrose is a family hotel that is run by 3 sisters – the Moosebrugger sisters. It was built in 1972 and it is beautifully appointed and obviously well run..

After a short break on the balcony to enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding mountain ranges we went down to the restaurant bar and met up with the family members. Despite our lack of German we were able to learn more about the hotel and the history of the family. A lovely family that were very patient with us as we asked questions about how the hotel came to be.

We ordered some hot chocolates and a lovely Austrian white wine and took up residence in the hotel lobby. We were hoping to connect to the internet however the hotel’s wireless was less than kind to us and despite the assistance of one of the owner’s sons, we were not able to connect to the web.

Obviously we were being told something – relax and enjoy. We listened to the “advice” and took time out to enjoy the ambiance, the wine and the opportunity to listen to the family banter that was taking place in the room joining the lobby. At times they were in fits of laughter that emanated from the room had us laughing. A wonderful way to pass the evening.

The day of driving, photography and navigating tight mountain roads meant that we were ready for an early night so we returned to the room around 9 pm and readied for bed.

Tomorrow we will take a drive to the town of Bregenz – a old town located on the shores of Boden See – a lake that shares its shoreline with Germany, Austria and Switzerland. No doubt it will be another wonderful day out.

Little Prayer House
Cliff Hanger
No More Talking
Pinky Smile
Flowering Windows
Reflecting On Roey

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Grossglockner – Over The Top!

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Grossglockner – Over The Top!

Lienz, Igls

Saturday, 4 June 2011

It may have had something to do with the co-joined bed setup that they have here in Austria or maybe it was the delightful Austrian white wine that we had with dinner – either way, we slept like babies and woke to the iPad alarm around 7.30am.

The view from the balcony this morning was not as spectacular as the one we saw last night. The cloud was low in the valley and there was some light rain falling. However, we put our faith in the weather Gods and trusted that the day would fine up as the sun rose over Europe.

We made our way back down to the hotel’s restaurant around 9.00am and shared a light breakfast with a few of the other guests. It was a bit like ground hog day when we walked into the dining room as all the guests were sitting in exactly the same seats they were in last night at dinner. Habits are easy to form!

We enjoyed the view over the town of Lienz from the window seat that we chose for our breakfast. The weather was improving slowly and we kept on visualizing the clouds lifting and the sun shining through onto the spectacular Dolomite mountain range that we saw yesterday when we drove into Lienz.

A quick repack after breakfast had us down in the lobby and checking out around 10.30. The staff were wonderfully efficient in getting us on our way and before long we were driving out of Hotel Haidenhof’s driveway and down into the centre of town.

The narrow streets in Lienz didn’t offer too many parking options however, we managed to find a tight spot close to the town square. The space was so tight that I had to climb out over The Princess’ seat to get out of the car because I couldn’t open my door! We discovered later that we were about 50m from a huge public car park. So close yet so far away.

When we entered the town square area we discovered that the weekend markets were in full swing (we didn’t even remember that it was Saturday). The majority of market stalls were selling freshly grown and made produce and we enjoyed drooling over the array of cheeses, salamis and fresh fruits.

We broke up our market experience with a bit of retail therapy in some of the excellent local shops. In fact, we purchased some new hiking shoes and shorts in one of the many sportswear shops that were in town (this area is very big for hiking, mountain biking and white water activities). Despite the hundreds (thousands) of sports shops in Hong Kong we still buy shoes and clothes overseas.

Before we left the market stalls we stopped at the very end stall. This one was run by an Italian couple from Verona. The owner spoke quite good English and he explained that he had spent some time in Australia. He was very happy to tell everyone that came to the stall that we were from Hong Kong and that I was from Australia and The Princess was from Canada. They were a lovely couple and we really enjoyed sampling the cheeses and salamis that they made on their farm. Indeed, we purchased a bag full of outstanding food and two bottles of their wine too.

On our way back to the car we stopped at a bakery and bought some fresh rolls as our plan was to stop beside the road on our trip to Innsbruck and eat fresh bread rolls with the salami and cheese we had just bought!

Before returning to the car we found a whole new area of Lienz and took time out to take some photos and video of the beautiful streetscape in this part of town. The history in Lienz (like Brixen yesterday) is quite amazing and hard to get your head around at times. To think that this little town alone was a thriving hub hundreds of years before Australia was claimed by Captain Cook is difficult to comprehend.

Some of the locals we met in the market place told us that we might consider taking the quick way to Innsbruck instead of driving across the famous alps road – the Grossglockner Road. This high alpine road crosses the alps at heights of up to 9000′ and the locals were concerned that a. we wouldn’t see anything and b. we might encounter some snow falls and road closures. We took their advice however, we put our faith in the travel guru and set of for a couple of hours of zig zagging our way through the alps of Austria.

Just outside of Lienz we stopped on the side of the road at a picnic spot that looked out over the lush green valley and south to the Dolomite mountains. We broke out the rolls, salami and cheese and sat down to a most beautiful lunch. To try to describe the taste of this fresh produce would be impossible. Suffice to say that you have to come to Austria and experience it for yourself!

The weather continued to improve as we headed higher into the alps and, at times, the picture postcard shots you have seen were presenting before our eyes. The towering snow capped mountains loomed over the green foothills and deep valleys and brightly colored churches broke up the green and white patchwork. Fast running rivers carved up the valley floors and were feed by waterfalls tumbling down the steep mountainsides. Absolutely stunning.

The four cylinder Ford struggled a bit in the high mountain air and, at times, we had to negotiate the switchback turns in first gear. The thin mountain air didn’t have the same affect on the dozens of bikes we had pass us as they roared up the mountain in pursuit of the next corner – we preferred the more leisurely pace.

The last of the snow drifts were melting in the warm (around 13 degrees at 8000′) air however we were still able to enjoy the view of the higher snow covered peaks above us.

We stopped many times and took in the sheer beauty of this place and I was even able to get my hand wet (and cold) by making snowballs and throwing them at The Princess – gently of course!

The drive across the alps took around 2 hours (with stops) and the descent into the northern part of the alps came with a marked increase in temperature and a vastly different sky – high clouds, lots of blue sky and no rain! The weather Gods did indeed smile upon us!

After returning to relatively lower altitudes we headed for Innsbruck – around 90 minutes from the national park exit. The drive west to Innsbruck took us past the lower mountain ranges that make Austria famous for skiing. Indeed, at one point the ranges were covered with ski hills as far as we could see into the distance. The extensive range of skiing locations obviously attracts thousands of winter sports people from all over the world (maybe we will come back and see this part of the world in winter!) and they are obviously well catered for.

Fortunately the little Ford Focus was more suited to open road driving at lower altitudes so I was able to push along the autobahn at speeds of up to 140km/h and this meant that the time to Innsbruck was reduced a little. As a side note – we were still passed by cars that must have been pushing 160-170km/h. Impressive.

Our talking GPS accurately navigated us to Igls (pronounced like eagle) and into the driveway of Hotel Sonnenhof. This family run hotel at the end of a country lane in Igls is the perfect spot for us to stay while we get to know more about Innsbruck. It is quiet and quaint and the view from the balcony is spectacular! White snow capped alps lining the not to distant horizon and Swiss style houses in the foreground – very easy on the eye!. It all seems like a bit of a dream.

We took time to settle into the room before walking the short distance into the village and looking for a place to dine. We settled on the Sport Hotel – an historic hotel right in the centre of town. We sat down on the balcony over looking the town and distant mountains and ordered another delightful meal. Tonight’s fare consisted of a cream of rocket soup and cream of asparagus with smoke salmon soup for starters then some beautiful veal in tuna sauce and some local ravioli and a carrot sauce. Superb. This trip is becoming one of sampling some of the most wonderful menus in Europe! I guess we will have to do a bit of hiking in the alps over the coming week!

We returned to the hotel just as the sky was turning from dark blue into black and we witnessed the quarter moon setting over the western alps. What a wonderful way to close out another spectacular day here in Europe.

We plan on some more high altitude sightseeing tomorrow here in Igls and we will keep you posted with a summary of our activities in tomorrow’s blog.

Gut Nacht from Austria


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