Posts Tagged ‘hotel haidenhof’

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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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

R&P.

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Tollway F1, Northern IT Magic, Lienz Luxury

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

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!

R&P.

Brixen Delight
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Ancient Streetscape
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Entering Lienz
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Bier Garten Balcony
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