Published: September 10th 2008September 10th 2008
We left Budapest, and drove North to Vienna/Wien. After a long anticipation, arriving in Austria was great. The smell of cow manure filled our noses, the sounds of Mozart our ears and our eyes the beautiful green grass and mountains. Our first stop was Salzburg; home of Mozart (and Mozart Balls), The Sound of Music (and the real Von Trapp family), lots of salt (salz), lakes, mountains and churches. We stayed in a tent in the local campsite, which gave us our first taste of being cold at night in over five months (go thermals). We spent our time in and around Salzburg actively visiting various Sound of Music movie locations, architectural sights, lakes and mountains.
First priority (for Jane) was The Sound of Music sights. It was one of those films that had been played since childhood and although there were various guided tours, Jane had no problem leading a DIY tour through the city and surrounding lakes. We went to the lake where the Von Trapp mansion was, the other mansion used for filming the scenes in the gardens, the gazebo where Leisl sang ’16 going on 17,’ the gardens/statues where the kids sang Do-Re-Mi and ran around
fountains, the church in Mondsee where Captain Von Trapp and Maria got married, the abbey where Maria was a nun (and in real life) and various other awesomely geeky sights. Matt was surprised at how much there was to see, and how much Jane knew about it!
Once we had done this fabulously cute tour, we travelled through the nearby Salzkammergut Lakes district. This a beautiful area with perfectly green fields, sparkling lakes and dramatic mountains - used in the movie for many scenes. We slowly got used to the Austrian speed limits (none) and the fact that it feels like the whole population cycles everywhere. Walking through Salzburg was great, finding Mozart’s birth house and residence house (where he lived later) was fun, and a highlight for Matt was watching film archives on his life and travels through Austria. There is Mozart everything in this town; chocolate, t-shirts, magnets, postcards, alcohol, pens, books, plates, mousepads and even perfume! Wanting to hear some classical music we looked around for performances (found none under 20 Euro) and almost gave up on our quest to hear some live music, until we walked up to the Nonnberg abbey, sitting above Salzburg. Walking
into the chapel we were greeted with pure singing and saw that the nuns were singing their hymns with accompaniment. The acoustics of the church and harmonies of the nuns sounded angelic and we felt privileged to walk in at such a great time.
Driving across the country we found ourselves a few km out of Innsbruck, in a small village called Neustift. We had heard that Austria had one of the highest standards of living in the world and didn’t appreciate that so much until we came up to the alpine regions. Driving past BMW’s, Audis, Porsches and Merc’s while looking around at the perfectly cut grass, the window box gardens and other pure Austrian sights is very different to driving through Bosnia. We found a guest room in a typical Austrian ‘haus’ with a very Austrian couple, who had stuffed stouts, ferrets and squirrels hanging over their entrance (right next to paintings of Jesus). They were so friendly and gave us hearty breakfasts of cheese, meat and rolls (in Austria it’s MEAT, MEAT, MEAT!).
Our time up the Stubai valley was great. Arriving the first day we thought we would hit the tramping straight away and
get out our boots and other walking clothes we had neglected. Looking around to the nearest peak we thought we would leisurely walk up until we got tired. 800 metres later we had arrived at the top of a peak (also reached by gondola) with a great view over the valley, not to mention other more lively sights such as female deer, squirrels, goats, cows and sheep. After some poor planning we descended in near darkness, but had a great chance to test our muscles and change the routine. The next day at around lunchtime Matt decided that Jane had to see her first glacier. So we thought we could walk to a ridge near the base of the Stubai glacier, which is in place year round with the opportunity to ski in summer. After walking up for a couple of hours we realized our viewpoint wasn’t nearly as close as we thought and so kept going for another few hours. This is going well and we are surprised at our ‘fitness,’ until we reach the top and start heading down. We made it to the base of the glacier after walking 1200m straight up, and saw the blue ice
at the base of it. The swirling wind brought temperatures to near 0C, and our thermals were piled on. Heading down at around 5.30pm was a bit late and our muscles decided it was getting a bit much. We realized half way down that the carpark shuts at 6pm and so Matt decided he better run down to try and save our car from being towed (with all our luggage and passports). Running and walking down this steep route was very intense and Jane almost gave up half way down, but realized a night with the mountain goats was not going to be fun. Finally we made it down after almost 8 hours walking, to our car still in the carpark and the daylight gone. We had resolved to buy some meat for tonight’s dinner but could hardly make it home and settled with the usual pasta on the gas stove deal. Waking the next morning was intense, with our whole bodies sore from being jarred for so long the day previous.
Our last day was fittingly a Sunday, which we spent indoors looking after our muscles, watching some DVD’s on the laptop and sleeping, which is great when
the rains start and the temperature drops to 8C.
So long farewell, Auf Weidersehen goodbye!
Going to Switzerland was a last minute decision - we were planning on heading to Germany, as we had heard the Swiss prices on everything were terrible. But after finding a cheap chalet under the Eiger, we headed into Schweiss. The moment you drive over the border you realize the rumour is true - you really do pay to breathe. But at least that air is so fresh and clear, just like home.
We drove through Lucerne and Interlaken into a small village called Lauterbrunnan. Lauterbrunnan is one of the few villages under the Jungfrau/Eiger region. We can see the beautiful mountains from town, and were fortunate enough to find a swiss chalet with very budget rooms. The first day of our stopover we decided to walk up to Kleine Scheideg, a stopover on the way up to the Eiger. There is a train trip that goes up to Jungfrauch - the highest train stop in the world (with the highest price - $150 Swiss Francs each). Instead of doing any gondola or train trips up, we walked up through Wengen, Wengernalp, until
we got to the base of the Eiger, which was about eight hours total. The trip was a steep climb for some of the way, but the views at the base of the range were stunning. Matt also managed to spot a Lynx on the hike up (which ran away from him). The night previous we met a Kiwi (our second!) who’s a pro base jumper (freefalls before the parachute is pulled). His Australian friend is supposedly the best in the world, and they have come here to jump off the Eiger.
They are not the only adrenaline junkies in town - skydivers, canyoners, extreme skiers, mountain runners and other sportspeople come here year round to test themselves. If you are from New Zealand everyone expects you to be jumping off the next plane or bungying off a canyon….so when we told them we were going on day walks they were probably pretty unimpressed.
We spent the rest of our time looking around the small villages and eating pasta and bread (meat has never been so unaffordable), with of course the only cheap thing being chocolate. We are now heading to Paris to drop off our rental car and
catch our flight to Iceland.
PS Excuse the huge number of photos of Jane posing in front of Sound of Music scenes….
There are more photos below