Waltzing through the old Czechoslovakia south into Austria


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Europe » Austria
July 30th 1974
Published: September 27th 2021
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We were up early due to a lousy night’s sleep, attributed to the van being parked on an angle on the side of the road – lesson learnt! We made the last few kilometres to the Polish-Czech border by 9am, where we had a relatively hassle free crossing, although it took some time to persuade them to change zlotys back to US dollars. We were away again before 11am in bright sunshine, and we weaved our way through some beautiful mountain scenery as we descended from the Tatra Mountains. The roads were poor, but there were some great rock formations up high along with many attractive little villages (each with its own church) tucked away in the hollows. Rip-off petrol prices, and low octane fuel to boot, caused us to change our planned route (we were originally heading to Prague but needed to find some higher octane fuel asap) and head towards Bratislava, taking a few side routes to take in various attractions. Unfortunately, the castles and ruins were a bit disappointing – most notable was a real botched effort to renovate inside a castle at Zvolen. We put in another couple of hours after dinner along amazingly deserted roads and towns – ‘big brother’ must have ordered everybody to bed early! We stopped beside the road just short of Nitra after some 80 km drive.

We made an early start next morning on an immaculate sunny day. It was really hot even at breakfast time and stayed that way most of the day. We made the final 100 km into Bratislava via the wine districts of Pecinok and Modra. However, we were ripped off again by Mr Fodder as no one invited us into their wine cellars for a sampling! We got considerably lost several times around Bratislava before we finally located the campsite, out on the Senec road a few kilometres. The campsite was obviously a very popular holiday spot for Eastern Europeans, with its swimming and sunbathing facilities around the lake. We grabbed another shower before trekking into town for a couple of hours of sightseeing, including St Martins Cathedral and the distant Bratislava Castle, followed by a couple of beers beside the Danube and a slushy meal of dumplings. We then took in a late night movie of “Doomwatch”, an overrated piece of crap, before heading back to the campsite at 11pm, a late night in these parts.

It was so warm that we slept outside and both had a remarkably good night’s kip. We stayed around the campsite till around 10am, washing the van and weathering a short rainstorm. We then took into town for a further grocery stock up and to look at the castle before taking our final departure from our beloved Socialist countries. We got rid of the last of our loose cash in petrol, much to the chagrin of the proprietor. We got right through both border stops in around ten minutes, but those travelling in the other direction weren’t so lucky as there were around 50 cars queued up. Driving into Austria was like a breath of fresh air again. We stopped off after lunch for an hour or so beside the ‘not so blue’ Danube before being driven away by the mossies. We ended up pulling off the road just short of Wien for the night. We managed an improved dinner, with spuds ‘n all, but were again plagued by mosquitoes. We finished off with a pleasant couple of biers after dinner at the Karpatenskeller, a few kms out of the city.

Next day, we were greeted on a bright sunny morning by a police car wondering what we were about, but fortunately they weren’t really interested in us. We had the usual navigational hassles before we found Campingplatz Sud der Stadt Wien. After an early lunch, we ventured into town where first stop was at Bohler Stahl for a 30 minute chat with a Dr Isner on potential job opportunities there. He was most helpful, but not optimistic – especially at 2,500S (around AUD100) a month suggested salary. We then took a general stroll around the Inner Ring, checking out the Opera House, St Stephens (gothic) Cathedral (357 spiral steps to the tower) and the main shopping streets of Karnthev and Rotenturmstrasse. We headed down to Stradtpark around 4pm for the Strauss Orchestral Concert to be greeted by a heavy downpour following on a very sticky afternoon. It soon cleared however, for a first-class concert, especially enjoyed by an eccentric older gent all decked out in yellow. We all got a pleasant surprise when Bob was spotted by an old friend Marg as we were all leaving. So the boys ended up joining the Amtrek team for dinner, before heading into the Vienna Woods in their bus for a wine bar crawl around Grinzing. It wasn’t a particularly big night out at any particular tavern, but I enjoyed plenty of fun repartee with a Dutch girl named Thea. We missed the last bus back to camp Sud at midnight, so instead headed back with the bus to Camp West. A poor night’s sleep on a leaking air bed resulted, but it was a change from the norm and the company was great.

We were up next morning around 7.30am not feeling that flash after a poor night’s kip. We partook of an Atrek brekkie before heading into Schonbrunn Schloss with them. From there we headed to Zentrum and then back to camp by midday for a cleanup and to book out of the site. We made it into town again after lunch to check out the Fine Arts Museum (some great paintings) and had a wander round the external part of the Hofburg Palace. Then we strolled down to Stradtpark at 4pm for another 2 hours of the mighty Strauss music and a nap on the grass, prior to a great Wiener Schnitzel (most appropriate!) unt salat meal down in the canal region. We met up again with Thea and Marg at 9pm and after a couple of beers and some further Strauss (complete with genuine waltzes!), we strolled down to the Magic Disko in Volksgarten. An interesting place - not very wild, but good music, and a fascinating evening with Thea. Back to sleep outside Camping Vest by 3am.

We had crashed after a big night out, but woke to a stinking hot Kombi by 9am. We drove into the campsite for a cold shower before making our way down to the local swimming pool for the morning. It was still hot as hell when we visited the Schonbrunn Schloss in the afternoon, but we had a stroll around the grounds and a guided tour through the Palace rooms. We finally made it out of Vienna on the Sudautobahn about 5pm when it was finally beginning to cool down. The Kombi began to perform badly – sounded like it had a shot cylinder – and we had a lot of trouble when climbing into the mountains. However, we were greeted by some magnificent scenery, with fir-lined forests and little villages, all covered by a heavy haze. We took in a beer and a meal midway, then drove on till around 9pm, reaching Leoben, which is about halfway to Salzburg and at the start of the pass. It ended up an early night camped just off the side of the road.

We managed to catch up on the lost sleep of the last couple of nights and didn’t get going next day until around 8am. It was an overcast day as we made it through the Schober Pass, which was a disappointment in itself, but not so the surrounding countryside. Our first autobahn for some weeks ironically gave us our slowest trip, as there were mammoth holdups due to a landslide some 40kms from Salzburg. We finally reached the city by about 3pm and made straight for the old city to get tickets for the evening’s Music Festival “Serenade”. Then we booked into Camping Grugl, not far from Zentrum, before making it back into town for a schnitzel meal and stroll around the old city. The concert, in the Residenz enclosure, lasted around 90 minutes, with 5 composers including Mozart and Haydn represented. Fortunately, the threatening skies held and the acoustics were excellent. We were back to camp by 10.30pm.

For our final full day in Austria, we were able to grab another hot shower and be back in town by mid-morning. We took in various attractions, including Mozart- and Residenz-platz and the Cathedral, as well as checking out the elevated Fortress and Monastery from a distance. After a bit of a photo stop, we enquired about the salt mines, but after deciding it was too expensive, we decided to split from Salzburg after lunch. An easy drive to Innsbruck took us less than 3 hours. We took a cut across West Germany for about 25kms, including a late lunch at Bad Reichenhall (which wasn’t that bad at all!). The weather was overcast, but still very hot and glary, with the mountains enshrouded in a very heavy haze. We had a quick wander around Innsbruck before making it some 5kms up the mountains to Igls for a free evening concert from the Georgia (USA) Youth Chorale and a Tyrolean band and folk dance group – good contrast and both good entertainment. We parked the van for the night not far away.

We were back into town by around 10.30am for a general stroll around, including the main drag, Maria Theresienstrasse with St Anna’s Column, and also the Hofburg, Hofkirche, and Schloss Ambras, all from the outside. We also took in the sights of the Winter Olympics with its long ski jump, but it lacked in appeal without the snow and the crowds. It was a warm sunny day, but the sheer mountains above Innsbruck were still hazy. We decided to split from Innsbruck around midday and drove for an hour before a stop for lunch, along with a sunbathe and swim in the River Inn (bloody cold!) which we had followed along the road. The Tyrol countryside is pretty special – many small villages, each with their characteristic high church spire, tucked away in the mountains. The road from then on was pretty slow due to the presence of many heavy trucks as we headed to the border with Liechtenstein.


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29th September 2021
Tatra Mountains

Stunning beauty
This is why we travel... and to meet nice people and eat good foods.
29th September 2021
Tatra Mountains

People
You're absolutely right, MJ. Almost the major highlight for me in all my travels has been the two categories of people met - 1) fellow travellers who usually have great stories to tell, and 2) locals, who invariable have offered amazing hospitality, even though in many cases they have very little to give. Wrt the latter, I have a great 100 page photobook full of over 300 pics of the most interesting locals (usually young kids or very old people) that I have met in all my travels. I'm sure you two would love to see it. I've called that photo album 'Faraway Faces' and it is a complement to my other two 100 page albums called 'Faraway Places' and 'Faraway Spaces', showing the best scenes and particularly fascinating sights respectively.

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