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Published: August 7th 2018
On the way out of Willi's Bauernhof we noticed this display of the farm's gold medals won for their Waldviertler Kriecherl, a jam made from the region's unique plums. I believe it was on the breakfast table but there were too many other temptations for me to try.
Today would be one of the “less good” days of the trip. It's not that we had a bad time. Au contraire. It was just that a couple of annoying issues happened along the way. In the end things righted themselves but they put a damper on our day.
The day started off with the clanging of the bell in the tiny village church at sunrise. I apparently fell back asleep rather quickly because we didn't make it downstairs to breakfast until after 8:00. Christina and her had mom created a delightful breakfast for us with a great assortment of treats one might expect at a 4 star hotel. The best part of it was the fact that almost all of it came from their farm. Fresh butter, milk, yoghurt, honey, cheeses and homemade breads. I suspect the fresh-squeezed orange juice may have come from elsewhere.
After saying our farewells to the family and thanking them for their wonderful hospitality we went over to bid adieu to the cows living at the other end of the house. I let them know how much I appreciated that great cheese and butter they had made for us.
Thanks for not waking us up this morning
I was surprised to see these ladies still in the barn at 9 am. I thought they'd be out in the pasture making butter for the next breakfast. I guess they didn't feel like moo-ving outside.
Two hooves up!
We knew we had a rather long drive to our first scheduled stop in Hallstatt, Austria. The overcast dreary day did nothing to make the long Autobahn drive seem any shorter. Truth is it was less than an hour but it felt like three times as long. I hate driving through the scenic lands of Europe using the boring highways. I don't enjoy doing it on our family vacations and I don't enjoy it on our summer bus tour trips with students.
We left the A1 at Laakirchen and headed South toward the mountains passing through some interesting little towns along the way. A little spritz of rain allowed me to turn on my rain sensitive wipers. They performed admirably. We stopped briefly in Traunkirchen alongside the huge Traunsee lake. All along the coastline were bait and tackle shops as well as restaurants advertising fresh lake fish on their menus.
After taking some pictures of the lake in the damp dank weather I walked back to the car and noticed a long gray mark alongside the passenger doors. At first I thought it was just dirt but when
Countryside of Aichau
We assume this is the co-op where Willi and his other farmer buddies bring their milk for processing. There is still so much open space in this corner of Europe and it;s all so pretty.
I wiped it I could see a three foot long scratch just above the rocker panel and along the curve of the lower body work. I fumed. I knew I hadn't hit or scraped anything at any point. We hadn't noticed it elsewhere on the trip so it must've happened the day before. As we continued to drive and as I continued to bemoan the situation Gail and I decided that it must have happened the night before when we parked in that free spot in Melk. The space we used had room for someone to squeeze past my car and the building with something like a rolling suitcase or shopping cart and subsequently scratch the doors.
What made me fretful was worrying whether I should contact the auto insurance company that BMW had contracted for our European Delivery. They would fix it for free but I didn't want to wait around for an adjuster to show up or to waste more time going to a dealership to have them take a look. Maybe I should wait until we return the car at Loginout at Munich Airport to say something? Or maybe not say a thing and
By the shores of the Traunsee
On a nicer day this would've seemed a nicer lake. Obviously it's rich in seafood as demonstrated by the scores of fresh fish shops and restaurants around here. I never thought of pike and perch as something people would order in a restaurant.
let Loginout think it got scratched parked at the airport or in transport to the USA? Obviously all it needed was to be repainted but this was my new toy. I was irked. Sometimes I seem to enjoy making myself miserable worrying about dumb stuff.
In the town of Bad Ischl I decided to stop at a Lidl to buy some of their local salt. One of the big German/Austrian brands of salt is “Bad Ischler” so I assumed I could get it cheap there. On our last trip through Germany we had brought home a couple of shakers full of herbal-flavored salt that I loved. I had convinced a friend to also buy herself a big container. She asked me to bring her more next time we visited. We walked around the store for a good twenty minutes and couldn't find any locally produced salt. I did buy a Coke and some chips just in case I got hungry later on our drive.
It wasn't long before we were driving through the middle of the Austrian Alps. These are the kind of roads I enjoy: lots of twists and turns, trees all around,
Where the mountain falls into the lake
The Traunsee is over 300 feet deep in spots and covers almost 10 square miles. It's much more crowded in the warm summer months.
changes in elevation and hardly anyone else around. We drove past piles of snow on a few occasions. I had read that when World War II ended this was the region where much of the art and gold that the Nazis had stolen was hidden. There are still old mines and caves where these treasures are believed to be hidden. We didn't spot any although I kept looking.
We arrived in Hallstatt just before 1 o'clock. We had some difficulty finding parking. Not because we weren't willing to pay but because the two big lots closest to the town were completely full. We had even driven into one that advertised that they had 4 spots open which they hadn't. We left immediately and weren't charged.
We found a place to park in a public lot about 5 blocks away. This was not a good sign. Even though this wasn't the weekend the place seemed packed with so many cars in the lots. We walked toward town and were further disappointed to see half a dozen buses parked near the entrance to the lakeside village. And two more were discharging hordes of Asians
Not up to scratch
I returned to the car after taking the previous two photos only to discover this immense scratch along the passenger side. I let it bother me far too much during the day. Upon redelivery back in the States the scratch was gone.
each toting umbrellas scurrying toward the narrow road that follows the lake's shoreline into town.
By now I was desperately in need of the men's room. There was a public rest room at the tourism office at the beginning of the pedestrians only zone (I love how almost every European city seems to have these no vehicle zones). Unfortunately the line was out the door.
We strode along the scenic shoreline with the alpine lake off to our right and distinct clapboard homes hanging off the mountainside on our left side. Even though we had been here on our previous 2015 European Delivery where we photographed every square inch of the charming village, we still stopped every few feet to snap pictures of the geese on the lake or the snow-capped
mountain peaks in the distance or the reflections of the buildings in the crystal clear lake water. Each time we had to wait for the throngs of tourists snapping selfies to get out of our picture frames. Nobody was loud and obnoxious like the summer crowds we often encounter in places like Paris, London or Rome, but there were just so many
Here come the Alps
We were headed to Hallstatt a town situated on a mirror glass lake nestled between the mighty mountains of the Salzkammergut region.
clueless airheads wandering about with no consciousness of those all around them. And coming from cultures where “excuse me” and “sorry” are unknown concepts it was becoming pretty frustrating. I was almost disappointed that Gail had recently adopted her “I'm done souvenir shopping” mantra and was not heading inside shops just so we might get away from the mob.
At the halfway point in the pedestrian zone I spied another pay restroom. Prices to pee seem to be increasing as it was a full Euro ($1.20) just to relieve myself. But I guess with all the tourists showing up in every picturesque venue throughout Europe there is money to be made in the toilet business. I should've bought a franchise.
There was a constant hint of rain in the air and once or twice we put up the hoods of our jackets as we continued our walk. Gail was snapping away with her cellphone camera just like she belonged on one of those Asian tour buses. My keen eyes spotted an open picnic table under the awning at the Bosna sausage stand. I had Gail grab two seats and then got us a couple
There's snow in them thar hills
It was already May but there were still traces of winter on the back roads we took driving through the mountains.
of beers and two of our favorite Austrian sandwiches. Every time we visit the Salzburg area we order these delicious mini sausages covered with onions, spicy mustard and curry powder served on a delicious flatbread. Better than any American hot dog anywhere.
While we dined under the protection of the awning the skies opened up for a few minutes. We nursed our beers until the rain subsided. Although that was the end of the rain the sky remained overcast for the rest of the day.
We spent most of the rest of the afternoon just taking pictures with a brief stop in the Benedictine monks' soap store so that I could replenish my shaving soap supply. We declined climbing up the staircases leading to the buildings resting higher on the mountain since we had done that last time and had found it only mildly interesting. There is a nice church up there but I was totally “churched” out at this point. We took a couple of looks in some of the other little shops but we felt that we finally have every souvenir you could ever possibly want already hanging on our walls or
Imagine what this looks like in good weather
I really enjoyed putting the new car through its paces on these quiet mountain roads. At this point I wasn't too worried about scratching her up.
sitting in my man cave.
As luck would have it we spotted another empty table for two at a beer garden right next to the lake. Time for a few more beers. There was no cover charge but the tourists passing by provided quite a show for us. The selfie sticks were out in full force that day. A nice perk to drinking at Bräugasthof was being able to use their bathrooms in the main hotel building. It was definitely very old and atmospheric inside. Definitely the kind of place you'd like to warm up in on a cold Winter's day. Instead we spent a good amount of time outside simply relaxing in one of the prettiest locales in the world. It's just a shame that so many tour companies have caught on to the beauty and charm of Hallstatt.
On our walk out of town we stopped at the local supermarket where I found plenty of the Alpine salts I was looking for. They had them in various herbal flavors so I stocked-up with a dozen shakers. As I lugged them back to our distant parking spot I was beginning to wonder if
After parking the car a good distance away we got to tour the less commercialized and un-touristy side of Hallstatt. If parking was this scarce on a crappy Friday what must the town be like on a mid-summer Saturday or Sunday?
my suitcase was going to be way overweight. I flew over to Europe at a mere pound under the limit. Something was going to be left behind.
There aren't a lot of roads leading into and out of Hallstatt so we were stuck retracing part of our route from earlier in the day. Our hotel for the next three nights was in the town of Maria Gern, a suburb of the village of Berchtesgaden. As we drove Northeast past Salzburg and back into Germany we passed through numerous little hamlets with quaint wooden buildings and flower bedecked hotels begging us to stop in. Most of these tiny towns featured a town square with a statue of a saint or distinguished citizen in the center. Again I found myself wishing to be young and in shape enough to do a bicycle ride through the area.
When we made it to Berchtesgaden I trusted the GPS to take us straight to Gasthof und Hotel Maria Gern. I almost had a heart attack when I saw the road it was telling me to take to get there. We had already driven about 500 feet up the mountain
I'm not inclined to go up there today
Maybe we should have ridden up the Hallstatt funicular just to avoid the masses in the old town. However, 16 Euro just for the ride and another 14€ per person to visit the salt mine seemed a bit "steep".
high above the valley where Berchtesgaden is situated. Now I was being directed up a road that rose so steeply that I couldn't see over the hood of my car. The road was built on stilts jutting out from the side of the mountain. Little did I know that the grade of this road would be nothing compared to what came up later.
Our route took us past the local hospital then through a half dozen hairpin turns and blind corners seemingly in the middle of nothing but mountain pastures. It was getting dark early due to the cloudy weather. I continued to trust the GPS and after even more farmland and twisty turns the navigation unit announced we were at our destination. We were a few yards short but I could see the oft-photographed Maria Gern church up ahead. Our lodgings were up on the same hill that the church sits upon. Another steep hill where I could barely see anything other than the sky above and we were in the main parking lot. Unfortunately the 5 parking spaces here were all occupied. I stupidly decided to continue up the hill to look for more parking.
A well fed swan
This wasn't the only white swan on the lake. There were probably a dozen more accepting snacks tossed to them by the crowds of tourists all eager to get a unique picture of them.
I actually felt dizzy as I drove up what felt like a 45 degree angle (it's actually a 15% gradient meaning it rises 1 foot for every 7 feet you travel). My heart was pounding when I realized there was not only no parking there but trying to turn around would be a real challenge on this narrow path. Honestly I couldn't see the road at all as I very slowly backed up and moved forward at least 5 times to try to turn around.
Once I was back on Mother Earth we drove off that God-forsaken hill. We parked in a lot down below the hotel. Inside the hotel we were warmly greeted by the innkeeper and shown to our room. It was your typical Bavarian hotel room with plenty of wood all over, nice big beds with fluffy comforters and religious decorations on the walls. But the most impressive thing was the incredible view that we had from the little wooden balcony just outside our room. I'll let some of the dozens of pictures we took demonstrate that.
By the time we had settled in at the hotel it was after 7:30.
Perhaps this looks familiar?
Until recently Hallstatt was just a photo one saw in ads for Austria or on airline posters. Usually the shot is taken from the opposite end of town and on a sunny day, either in the summer or when snow beautifully covers the mountains. On the left at the center of the picture those are not humongous swans. They are paddleboats for rent.
Rather than risk going into Berchtesgaden where we might have trouble finding a table, we decided to eat at the hotel. We were not disappointed. Of course we started things with a couple of big beers. The two German words Gail knows best are “gross Bier”. While we waited for our food a punk rocker girl came over to our table and spoke to us in English. It turned out she was actually Greek and had a grandmother living in Florida who she often visited. She was visiting the owner's family and helping around the Gasthof. In fact, she brought us our beer refills and cleared our plates after dinner. Very nice kid who we didn't see again for the next three days.
Neither one of us bothered to take a picture of our meals so I forgot what Gail ordered. I remember that my Jägerschnitzel was fabulous with lots of mushrooms on top. The sauce was perfect over the huge pile of Spätzl that accompanied it. As usual beer was the lone dessert.
Bed time came soon after but not before more WiFi usage to let everyone know we were OK and that
A magnificent view
When the sun is out the mountains are reflected perfectly in the still waters of Lake Hallstatt.
retirement living was even better than advertised. And like most every other accommodation we had chosen for this trip it was nice and quiet all night long.
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