The hills are alike in Austria

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Europe » Austria
October 24th 2019
Published: October 24th 2019
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So Austria is so close, it seems daft not to ‘bag another country, oh have we mentioned the goal is to visit every European country. No timescale on that, and oh that number varies between 44-52 dependent on where you go for your advise!

Anyway we have visited Austria before but that was to Vienna some years ago, there is one thing I do know about Salzburg and that is the home of many of the locations of The Sound of Music, (oh and more notably the birth place of Mozart!?!) and whilst I do serenade Graeme with my version of ‘high on the hills ‘ as we make our way towards the city, I have assured Graeme that doing the Full SOM tour will not be on our itinerary.

Our first stop is to Hellbrunn Palace a 17th century invention of the then archbishop of Salzburg, Marcus Sittikus (great name by the way!) If you were that wealthy and had too much time on your hands what would you do? Build the mother of all water-parks of course! This lovely example of Mannerist architecture is the only surviving example of the water fun parks that used to be a common status symbol among the Italian aristocracy. I am sure his guests would have been slightly alarmed as Marcus had a faible for delighting his many guests with watery surprises. You would have arrived dry but leaving rather damp, as did many of the people on our tour. Their is some beauty though and one of the special pieces is that of a street scene from the 1600's, some 400 characters moving independently again with water pressure, how bemused would his guests have been. Although what the Archbishop did to many was a little too whimsical he was still buried in Salzburg Cathedral and some 400yrs his trick fountains are still working on water pressure alone, amazing! And when you know that it was ever only used as an entertainment palace and in fact no one ever slept there!

Our campsite for two nights is right at the edge of the Salzburg city and affords us great views across, well that would be if it did stop raining. Our second morning is a wander into the city by foot to admire some of its architectural treasure, and oh, some of those SOM spots, which I find myself unable not to stop myself taking a picture of.

The day is damp so a visit to an eatery is a must and it has to be Cafe Tomaselli, the oldest tearoom and still owned by the same family for the last 150 years. We check to see if they take dogs, and just like Exmoor it’s no problem here. Except for the people who keep giving Poppy funny looks, she eagerly laps from her water bowl, delivered by the same expert waiter who brings our treats.

The main reason for our location is that we see an opportunity for a special visit to Berchtesgaden and Eagles Nest (back across the boarder in Germany) but at a height of 1,834m it needs to be clear skies for the ascent. Our campsite is rainy on our day of arrival but has views of our target!

While waiting for clearer skies and armed with our free bus pass, issued when you pay the obligatory tourist tax, we take the bus to Konigssee Lake. Oh my, busy on a wet October afternoon, my hell on earth on a Sunny Summers Day. A walk to a viewing area and some patients gives us the long view to the lakes far end.

The following day we rise early, the skies are clear, we have a 1.5 hrs climb to the Documentation Centre, which was the so-called Fuhrers HQ's and also the point at which a bus twists and turns you up the last 6.5kms. It’s uphill all the way for us today but oh my what a view! After being dropped at the bus stop you walk through a 124m tunnel to a brass lift which rises 124m vertically into the Eagles Nest. All this commissioned by The National Socialist German worker's Party for the use of Adolf Hitler! The reality is that there is only 14 documented occasions of his visits as he was in reality afraid of heights so never enjoyed his visits here. We on the other hand spend hours taking in the views and drooling over our spinach dumplings. Our allotted bus time comes round too quickly and we decide again at the bottom to walk back to the campsite buoyed by the fact we know it is downhill all the way!

Europe is under a heatwave so we see another opportunity back across the boarder in Austria in the shape of the GrossGlockner High Alpine Pass. Graeme has memory of this road in the 70's when the Humber Sceptre driven by his Dad finished the pass with smoking brakes. Luckily this trip the Fiat Ducati brakes of Harvey suffered no such fate. The Grossglocker was conceived as a tourist attraction in the 1920's, “A picturesque high road for increasing tourism and to put all other high alpine roads technically in the shade” . its construction was difficult to finance however as a job creation opportunity, work started in 1930 economic crisis. After 5 years the 3200 workers completed the road of 48 km long rising to the height of 2571 meters above sea level and too many hairpin bends to count.

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