The Austrian Alps for the night

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September 19th 2009
Published: September 21st 2009
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Saturday 19th September
The Austrian Alps for the night
Oddly enough we both woke in the wee hours of this morning and noticed how bright the light was behind the chink in the black out blind on our skylight window.Gretchen got up to take a look out and remarked how clear the early morning sky was and for the first real time on this adventure there were dozens of twinkling stars.I had to get up to have a look as this might just be a one off as either the night sky has been cloudy or there has been too much illumination from the city or town lights where we have been staying.
The stars weren’t shining as brightly as we see in the Southern Hemisphere over New Zealand but they still put on a pretty good show against the stark rocky mountains rising behind B-M.
Enough of that though as still had an hour or so to daylight and a drive to somewhere high in the Austrian Alps for tonights accommodation.When we had been looking on the net for somewhere in the BBA budget to stay on the way to the Black Forest everything coming up on the sites we are using seemed too expensive.Then out of the blue we came across a farm stay in the Alps near the Brenner Pass.
The location didn’t mean anything to us and on the map it looked just a short run up from Innsbruck and although we were travelling further south than we had intended to progress our way to the Black Forest the price was right so we booked it.
Our stay here in B-G has been excellent and in fact we would have to say other than the times in our home swaps and hosting and also with John and Aileen in Scotland,this would have to be tops.The place has had everything and it has been a very comfortable stay and at a very good price for all that we have had at our disposal.However there are more places to see and things to do so time to move on.
With the fourth hearty breakfast in a row inside of us we set course in the general direction of Innsbruck on Route #21 retracing part of our path from when we arrived from Slovenia.
At Lofer the road changed to the #312 and ran down the middle of a moderately wide valley flanked by towering mountains on both sides.We were fortunate in a way that the traffic volume was relatively heavy and meant our progress was slow but that gave us plenty of time to admire and take in the majestic views.
Every so often as we passed through or near a town we would catch sight of a cableway heading up from the valley floor to the top of a mountain and in one place there was even what appeared to be a small train or funicular on a curved track climbing up a very steep incline.
It was a very pleasant drive with the mountains on either sides and in the foreground and the houses with their window boxes full of flowers on the road side or off into a meadow making it a lovely view.
Near Worgl we changed onto the #171 and then took a lunchtime stop at a huge Interspar store in Schwaz a little further down the road.We are not sure what will be available by way of a shop to buy in supplies or whether there will be a restaurant nearby for dinner so we thought we may as well cover all bases in one go inside this massive shop.The place looked as though you could buy anything you wanted here and we got all we needed including a salad for dinner together with some different cold meats from the deli.
Just out of Schwaz the traffic slowed to a crawl and we wondered what was ahead.It didn’t take long for us to pick up that cars were turning across traffic into a field and parking for a festival that was happening.Then a little further on we first saw a herd of cows and then heard the clinking of the bells around their necks as they were being lined up and prepared for a parade.They were resplendent in fancy colourful headdresses and we guessed it all symbolised the end of the summer season.It would have been interesting to stop and see a bit more of whatever was going to happen but we thought we had better push on not knowing just how long it might take to reach our accommodation.
We had thought about taking a brief stop in Innsbruck to walk the old city area but there were no signs pointing to where it actually was and the road we wanted to head up into the Alps came into view,so we gave it a miss and perhaps we can do it tomorrow when we have to come back through the city.
There were two options to reach the Brenner Pass which is on the border with Italy at 1374 metres.One is the modern and fast A13 motorway and the other is route #182 which we guessed was the original way of getting to the pass before the motorway was built.
The road starts out climbing from the city towards the tall structure that is a ski jump and then winds it way up to run along the side of a deep ravine.We passed under a very tall viaduct that carries the new motorway over the deep ravine.It was most certainly a very impressive structure and thank goodness they don’t have earthquakes in this part of the world....or do they?
Although it didn’t seem like it we were climbing all the time and passing through small villages.We were surprised by the volume of traffic on the road considering the much faster and more direct motorway was running up the hill and alongside.The motorbikes and serious looking cyclists we could understand as the twisting winding road was a challenge to them and we could only assume that the large number of cars using it were in the same situation we were in that we didn’t have a vignette to travel on the motorways in Austria.You pay a sum of money for a vignette for driving on the motorway and we guess that is why diesel is €0.15 to €0.20 per litre cheaper in Austria than it is in Germany where you don’t have to pay extra for motorway driving.
We had thought it might take about 30 minutes to reach the small village of Gries-am-Brenner just short of the pass but in fact we were nearly an hour due to the volume of traffic and the speed that you can travel on the twisting road.
Now we hadn’t had the internet while in B-G and so I was relying on what I thought were simple instructions from that the farm stay was on or very near the village and that by travelling through and out the other side we would find it easily.Not so!!!
We almost reached the pass when we realised that this place was going to take more searching.Again I got told off for not getting more detailed instructions while we had the net in Slovenia.
However all was not lost as the village had a large map of the area including all the little mountainside ‘suburbs’(for want of a better word)and we found the location on a side road with a drive of about 5 or 6 kms to get there.
Now we must say the roads in this high alpine and rural area of Austria are in excellent condition and although they are barely two way the seal is very good.So we made our way up the mountainside above the village passing what seemed like accommodation available at every second house.
We have experienced following farm traffic quite often in the UK and Europe but this was the first timw we had come across a herd of cows being moved on the roadway and so our progress again slowed to a crawl as the farmer and his worker kept the small herd of 8 cows moving and stopping them from wandering off down or up the hillsides to juicy looking green grass.There was no way pass and the farmer kept on giving us what we thought was a look of ‘don’t get too close’.Eventually on a corner there was enough room to get by and we were on our way again looking for Landhaus Mair,our farm stay.
We found the sign pointing up a short driveway to the Landhaus and went and knocked on the door of a newly built large home incorporating an area where a small number of cows could be kept in the winter.No one appeared to be home and then a guy appeared from down the bank and in halting English apologised for not being here and showed us to our room.
The house is set up for the family to live downstairs while there are 3 or 4 guests rooms on the upper two floors.We have a view from our window up the mountainside with a small stream running down beside the house and cows with their clinking bells happily munching the acres and acres of green pasture in the unfenced meadow.
We took a short walk further along the mountainside road and discovered a large alpine style hotel with restaurant but we think we did the right thing by buying in supplies and the cold meat salad looks quite appetising with a bottle of rose.


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