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September 10th 2013
Published: September 12th 2013
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MOUNTAINS! Austria, Germany and Slovenia

Sat 7th Sept Innsbruck to Berchtesgaden 110 miles

Heard the church bells chime at 5.00am, then loads of church bells at 6.00am, then cow bells from the cows along the lane at 7.00am so gave up and got up!! A beautiful morning after the heavy thunderstorm we had yesterday evening. After breakfast, opened my Birthday cards and presents including special nail varnish, earings and a kitch musical snow globe of Neuschwanstein Castle .......mmmmm.

We carried along the valley on the B171 to Worgl. Such beautiful scenery with mountains both sides, huge massive peaks in the distance and lovely wooden chalet type homes and hotels with masses of coloured geraniums and petunias!

Turned on to the 178 towards St Johann, steadily climbing all the time. Chris thought that the brakes felt a bit dodgy so we decided to stop at St Johann to see if there were any garages open (Sat morning!) Tourist Info said that nothing was open on a Saturday so we had a very quick walk around the town and decided to take it steady as we headed for Berchtesgaden!

About 3 miles along the road, just after Kirchdorf, spotted a lot of activity and cows dressed up with headgear so decided to have an early lunch stop and see what was going on! Still not quite sure but I think it was some sort of religious thing, where they decorated all the cows and then drove them, as a herd, along the somewhere else?!! It was quite hilarious to watch, at the poor cows expense, as, one by one they were caught and donned with headgear that they didn’t particularly like having on their head, Then a cow bell was put around their neck, some of the bells were absolutely huge, and then the cow was released where it charged around trying to remove everything! Eventually they would calm down and start eating grass again, some even gave up and led down so they got used to it quite quickly!

When they were all decorated, a few farmers with tasselled sticks called them all over and then they were ‘led’ in procession down the lane to the main road. Some of the cows were making a break for it and some went off the wrong way so it was a crazy 5 minutes and very noisy with all the cows bells going as the cows charged down the lane! Chris certainly knows the best places to take me on my birthday!!

Carried on a few more miles and then, by a stroke of luck, spotted a garage that was open....and a nice friendly mechanic who could speak English! He checked the tyres and the brakes and confirmed that they seemed hopefully no more problems!

Over the Strube Pass and then onto Konigsee by about 2.00pm ish. The place was heaving with people and loads of tourist shops and coaches! Certainly not how I remembered it!! There was enormous queues for the tickets for boat trips and then even longer queues for the boat trips themselves, so we contented ourselves with a stroll along by the lake and a double ice-cream!

Onto the ACSI campsite at Winkl, that was slightly disappointing as no restaurant, so a drive back into Bischofsweisen for a lovely birthday meal!

Sun 8th Sept Winkl to Berchtesgaden 45miles

Chris had promised me a relaxing day in Salzburg. We had sorted out the buses the night before and could either catch the 8.32 or 10.07am.......Mmmmm......guess which one we tried to catch???!!! Anyway – it wasn’t running or it didn’t turn up and at 8.45am we gave up and decided to drive into Salzburg! We also decided it wasn’t worth driving back to Winkl so we may as well change campsites to the other ACSI one at Berchtesgarden.

Immediate problem! Reception wasn’t open to check out! We tried ringing the bell as instructed but nothing!! Only solution we could think of was to give some money to another English couple and ask them to pay for us! They were a bit concerned we had a) used too much electric ( we reassured them we hadn’t) and b) how much the German taxes were on top of the campsite fee. Anyway we gave them 22 euros, so they should make a small profit on that (or an even larger one of they don’t pay the campsite at all!!)

So off we set into Salzburg......only about 12 miles or so, got parked and walked across the river to Mozart Square. Pleasant enough but we thought that the place seemed small enough we could finish exploring by lunchtime! However, its one of those places that you keep finding more and more bits to explore! Narrow passageways, squares, tunnels of shops, more squares, fountains, Mozarts house.........We also got a bit waylaid by a harvest festival parade with matching bands and a lot of women dressed in traditional Austrian dress!

We eventually made our way towards the castle and spotted a funicular railway ( I was all for it, but Chris said it was an easy walk up to the castle!) 30mins later, as I arrived on my knees, we paid the entrance fee to the castle, only to discover it included the funicular in the price!! Carried on upwards .....and upwards.....until we reached the tower that did guided tours (included in price!) Climbed up the spiral staircase for some amazing views back over Salzburg! (Chris – “ There, I told you it was worth the climb!!)

Back down in the funicular ( J) and a wander around the streets before crossing the bridge with many locks on it, to the Mirabel Gardens. These were featured in The Sound of Music and were beautifully laid out. Oh forgot to mention we also passed the Hotel Bristol – a fantastic posh hotel – no idea why its called Hotel Bristol?

It was 3.00pm by now and Chris had spotted earlier a trip to ‘The Eagles Nest’. We decided to try our Sat Nav and duly typed the post code in. Was quite impressed with her to start with but then “she” (the satnav) missed a turning Chris wanted to take, then tried to send us ip a non-existent road and eventually re-calculated and we ended up going up a 1:4 hill for 5 kms!! Absolute nightmare – for me anyhow!! Worse to come!! Paid for our bus tickets (16.10 euro pp) on the last bus of the day that took us up the highest road in Germany to Hitlers Mountain retreat – a 50th Birthday present from the Party !!!

The Kehlsteinstrasse (Eagle’s Nest Road ) is a fantastic feat of engineering - a 6.5 kilometre road up the side of the Kehlsteinhaus mountain, with 7 tunnels (total 277 metres) and only 1 hairpin bend. They then blasted a 178 metre long tunnel through the mountain, and also a 124 metre vertical lift shaft to house a brass-inlaid lift to take people up to the Eagles Nest Retreat., a height of 1834 metres. The building of the Road and Retreat only took 13 months in 1938/39.

We were in cloud at the top, so not many good views, but the experience of it all was enough!! Took the road down the same way as the coaches, which was a lot easier and was the road that Chris originally wanted to take, which took us back to the campsite (ACSI Familen Aktiv camping, Allweglehen).

Mon 9th Sept Berchtesgarden to Bled, Slovenia 162 miles

Woke up at 5.30am and it was raining! And it was still raining when we got up although the clouds seemed to be lifting a little and the sun was desperately trying to break through!

On to the Motorway A10 which was a fairly straightforward drive down to Villach, steadily climbing to start with, and then dropping down again! Quite a few small tunnels and a couple of 6km tunnels ( Tauerntunnel and Katschberg Tunnel) and a toll of 10 euros. The weather was still pretty murky so I’m sure we missed a lot of the views, although was quite atmospheric to see the clouds moving around the mountains!

From Villach we left the motorway and followed the A100, then A86 and A83 (all quite clearly signed) before turning off to go over the Wurzen Pass into Slovenia and avoid paying the 15 euro vignette for the Motorway! The Pass wasn’t too bad (1:5 at its steepest for 600 metres) ; the road was a bit bumpy, but not as steep as yesterday, and we reached the top (1073 metres) where there was a tank and the old Customs House, before the descent to Podkoren. We then drove along the valley, until we reached a signpost for Bled, and round to the north of the lake to the campsite. We decided to walk the 6 km (4 miles) round the lake, despite the rain, which was now quite heavy with a few flashes of lightening and thunder.

Lovely walk and some atmospheric photos of the Church on the island, followed by a meal at the campsite restaurant! Now sat in the Van listening to the relentless rain! Rain also forecast for next few days!!


Tuesday 10th Sept Bled

Woke up at 7.06am to Chris’ phone alarm! Somehow it had got set accidently! It wasn’t raining so we decided to walk from the campsite, around the lake to the Castle (Grad) Very steep climb with about 250 steps up (saw a couple of black squirrels) and then quite a steep hill up into the castle, but well worth the climb as we had some lovely views of the lake! (Would have been better if the sun was shining and there was a blue sky!!)

Walked back into the town and round to the tourist office who said that we had missed the bus to Vintgar Gorge but we could catch a bus to Spodnje Gorje and walk the 2kms to Vintgar, which is what we did! A fabulous walk along the 1.5km gorge, with wooden walkways and bridges and with the noisy river in full spate after the rain, absolutely crashing its way through the narrow spaces, creating waterfalls and rapids. Walked up and down the 68 steps to get photos of the waterfall and as the rain had still held off we decided to walk back to Bled via St Katarina Church and Zasip – about 3kms. The first part was up through a beech wood where we saw some yellow and black lizard type thing, before we came out at the top by the church! Sat and admired the views and played with the very friendly cat, before walking down the lane, through the old village to Bled.

The timing was perfect because it just started to rain as we reached Bled, so we stopped for something to eat and then caught the little train back to the campsite, by which time it had stopped raining!

We then decided to go out to the island on the lake but as we were unable to find any of the boatmen willing to take just two passengers (12 euro pp), we hired a rowing boat for an hour (10 euro) and Chris rowed out to the island! He’s quite a good rower! Lake Bled is fed by hot springs and the water felt quite warm. Walked up the 97 steps to the church and rang the church bells - I think its supposed to bring good luck (?) and also climbed the bell tower ( 90 steps up and then another 90 steps down!) which wasn’t really worth it unless you are interested in old clock mechanisms!

Back to the Van and now listening to the rain which has just started again, and is supposed to continue most of tomorrow. We were hoping to go to Bohinj Lake tomorrow but because of the weatherwill probably head directly towards Venice.

Additional photos below
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12th September 2013

The Bled arrival pic was mid afternoon!

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