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Emma & Maneesh on the Big OE


AUSTRIA | Tuesday, 22 September 2009 | Views [2844] | Comments [3]

Us in Hallstatt.

Us in Hallstatt.

September 16th

We wanted to get to Vienna (Wien) at lunch so we left our camp earlyish, and drove south east to Vienna. We made slower than expected progress, but made it to our campground at 12:30pm only to be told by a fairly abrupt older lady that they were closing for the season 'today'. This was not what our camping guide book said, so suspected that they simply did not want us in their campground for some reason, not sure really. Anyway it took another hour to get to our next option, which was a typical city camping ground, with everyone pretty much just crammed in. After a van lunch of tasty rolls, we caught the bus then train into central city Vienna. When we arrived, we found our way to info centre. After doing some research here we set our afternoon schedule, and purchased tickets to a Mozart and Strauss concert for the evening. We wandered around admiring the elegant buildings which reminded us a bit of Paris. They were extravagantly decorated, and there seemed to be so much history. However to Em and I it did not seem to have quite the grandeur of Paris overall. For dinner we went with a recommendation from our travel guide book which has not always been reliable, but we were not disappointed tonight. We went to a place called Schnitzelwirt Schmidt, who specialised in Wiener Schnitzel. What better place to eat Weiner Schnitzel than in Wein. So we walked in, and after some great help from the waitresses we ordered. About 10 minutes later we were served the massive meals, which looked fantastic and tasted even better. It was quite funny because Julie, who is quite small ended up with the most massive meal that would have doubled her size in one sitting. We all managed quite well, although no one managed to quite get through all of their meal. We were all hooked – this meal began a love affair with schnitzel. Once we were well and truly stuffed, we were running a little late so we had a fast walk to train station, then trained to our performance of Mozart at the Schonbrunn Palace. The palace was spectacular inside, it was a very cool setting for this kind of entertainment. It was a really good concert by a small orchestra of about 15 people. There were also a couple of Opera singers, and ballet dancers who joined the musicians on stage intermittently. It went for nearly two hours. We all felt a bit more cultured after the experience. Afterwards we trained home, and went straight to bed as we were exhausted from our long day.

September 17th

We were up at 6:30am to get ready and head into town early as we had a full day of Vienna exploring planned. Our first stop once again was the info centre where we bought tickets to a rehearsal session of the Lipizzander Spanish Riding School horses. We walked around, visiting a few points of interest (St Stephan's Cathedral; the memorial Plague Column) until 10am when it was time for the Spanish horses.We found the venue easily, it was the spectacular Hofburg Palace building. We did not expect a full performance but thought since it was a practise session we would see a few formations and tricks. Well, it was a complete flop! This was probably exaggerated by the fact that none of us are 'horse-heads' so subtle tricks we not as obvious to us. That was a little bit disappointing, but our day did not finish there. The real evening show probably would have been good to see.

Once we left the horses, we trained to the River Danube, where we had great fun dipping in our feet, whistling 'Blue Danube', and taking some photos. By the time we were done here we were all rather hungry and wanted the safety of somewhere we knew would give us nice food... so we went back to Schnitzelwirt Schmidt. Again we got gigantic meals that were fantastic. Julie coined the phrase “Schnitzel makes us happy”, and it's true.

After lunch we walked to the Nascht markets. It was hard work being around all of the nice food there on such full tummies but we wanted to pick up a few supplies. Once we were done here we had one more stop, a cemetery where many musicians are buried (Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms to name a few). We caught the first train to the station where we knew we had to catch another one, but we were all pretty exhausted by this stage and knew that if we went on we would be at least another 2 hours until we got back to the van. It was already 5pm, so we decided to catch the train back to the camping ground instead which was probably a wise move. We were all happy to be back at the campground and enjoyed the comfort of the van. We were still full from our schnitzel lunch, so had a nice fruit salad for dinner, from the fruit at the markets.

September 18th

It was our earliest start of the trip, we were up at 5:30am and on the road by 6. We had a pretty good drive to get through, so thought we would get up early and miss the Vienna city traffic, and our plan worked. We had a smooth trip out of the city on the warm, foggy morning. We drove for a couple of hours before stopping for breakfast in the van in a hotel car park at a small town.

We left there, and shortly after this we started to get into the Austrian countryside that this place is famous for. It was still quite foggy, so we could not see the peaks clearly, but the rolling green green hills, blue lakes and what we could see of the mountains was exciting and great to see. I was wondering whether it was just a big myth, but Austria was starting to look like what I had expected. We passed through Salzburg at about 10:30am, and made it to Werfen just after 11am. This is a small town 40km south of Salzburg. The attraction: The worlds largest accessible ice cave. On our way we got distracted by a fantastic castle on a hill top in the town of Werfen. After pictures, and standing to admire the view, we got in Sven and started the 5km drive up the hill to the car park of the ice cave, which had a 20% gradient. This was Sven's toughest hill climb yet, but we had no problems, it was just slow going. Em got a bit nervous in the back – spooked by the steep drop-off beside us. By the time we got to the top, and took more photos we were startign the ascent to the cave at about 1pm. We walked for 20 minutes, then caught an extremely steep cable car up, which took 3 minutes. If we were to walk that stretch it would have taken 90 minutes! Then from the cable car we had another 20 uphill minute walk. The fog had burnt off and we had a beautiful day, with amazing views. It was great. By the time we got to the entrance of the ice cave we were at about 1600m above sea level. We went through the cave on a guided tour (the only way you can go through it). It was about 0°c inside, it sometimes gets to -10 in the winter. Our tour took 75 minutes and it was great! So much ice, and some amazing formations inside. The guide was really good as well which always adds to an experience. Inside the cave there were 700 steps up, and 700 back down, and we all had shaky jelly legs at the end of it.

Once we were done and back out into the warmer air we walked down, caught the cable car down, then walked back to Sven. It was a really cool thing to do, especially after pounding city pavements for a couple of days. We had worked up a great hunger as it was after 3pm and we had not had lunch, so we went to a place at the bottom of the hill and all had (guess!) Wiener Schnitzel, which was very much enjoyed.

This finished off our afternoon and we drove to a campground and set up camp for the night. We had a late dinner and played cards before thankfully getting into bed to rest some worn out legs.

September 19th

After a sleep in until 8am we were up and had a relaxed start to the day. Em, James, and Julie planned their day of exploring Salzburg and left just before 11am to head into town. I was feeling quite worn out and wanted a break from exploring another place, so stayed behind in the van and cleaned the van, went for a walk to the supermarket, then mucked around on the computer. It was not exciting, but this is the first full day of the trip I have had like this it is was a nice break.

The others conducted their own 'Sound of Music' tour in Salzburg. They visited the Mirabell Gardens, which were beautiful, and the Abbey where Maria was a novice Nun. They also visited Mozart's place of birth, and another house he lived in, until he moved to Vienna. Salzburg was a really pretty city, nestled beside a river in a valley, with mountains in the distance. In the evening, they came back to the van, we made dinner, then all went back into town to visit the Augusteiner Brauhaus – a monk's brewery with a lively beer garden outside. We all had our first one litre steins, to build up some arm muscles in readiness for Oktoberfest.

September 20th

It was a relaxed start to the day, after a small sleep in. We were on the road by 10am, and drove Southeast to spend the day exploring the nearby lakes district – the Salzkammergut. It did not take long until we started to get into the true Austrian scenery; high mountain peaks, blue lakes with the clearest water any of us have seen in our lives, and lovely alpine wooden houses dotted down the slopping hill sides, with overflowing colourful flowerboxes at all the windows.

We spent the first few hours passing through small villages, with lots of stops to get out and admire the scenery. We had a slightly nerve-wracking drive down a 25% gradient hill which had road works reducing the road to one lane, with a rough rock wall on one side of it! We made it through without incident, and shortly after came across Hallstatt, a village clinging on to one of the many mountainsides, with a lake in front of it.
It had been a very warm day and we decided that we had to go for a swim, so after eating lunch in the van, we all got in our togs and made a mad dash into the water. It was freezing cold, not sure what the exact temperature was but we guessed about 10°c, so it was chilly! We managed about 10 minutes before hopping out and returning to a nice warm van. It may have been cold, but it was extremely picturesque! After getting changed we got back on the road and drove 5 minutes around the lake until we got into the village of Hallstatt. We had heard it was touristy but it was not bad given it was Sunday afternoon. We spent nearly 2 hours walking around the village and admiring the picture perfect view that we were privileged to be surrounded by for the day. One strange thing there was the Beinhaus (bone house) which was at one of the churches. It was a room full of skulls and long bones from people who had been exhumed to save space in the tiny cemetery. You can express your wish to have your bones dug up (after at least 15 years), bleached in the sun, decoratively painted with motifs and your name, and placed in the Beinhaus. It was quite odd, but a unique way to make space in the graveyard!

We left here at about 5:30pm, when we thought it would be time to get on the road to a campground. After consulting with our GPS as our books were of no help, we found one and drove west. Thankfully the campground at Aptenau was open, so we parked up and enjoyed a scrumptious dinner in the van, made by James and Julie, before hitting the sack.

September 21st

We were up early and left Aptenau at 8am, driving south east to Innsbruck. We made good progress and got to our first stop, Krystal Welt (Crystal World), at 11:30am. Krystal Welt is place run by Swarovski Crystal. We were expecting almost a factory tour and information on crystal production. After a quick snack we paid and went in. The first sight was very impressive, a face created from a hill side, covered in grass, with crystal eyes and a waterfall coming out of it's mouth. It was something we had seen photos of before and was the main reason I wanted to go. After we entered we discovered that Krystal Welt was actually a modern art museum. I thought it was very strange, and was less than impressed by it all. Em and James enjoyed it, and Julie was not a big fan of it. It took almost 2 hours to go through. I enjoyed a couple of things, but overall was not a high point of the trip. As with any 'branded' type exhibition at the end there was a shop. It was spectacular, well some of the figurines were, and the prices of some items were amazing. We saw one chandelier priced at around 45000euro! The items for sale were amazing, but not really our thing I guess. Em and Julie bought some nice earrings but the purchasing finished there. We will come back for the chandelier another time.

We left Krystal Welt at about 2pm and drove into Innsbruck city centre to find out some information on the Olympic Ski Jump that we knew was in Innsbruck. After driving around the the city centre for a while and not finding a park we decided to get out of the city, and drive to our campground. On our way to the campground we noticed that the signs we were following had a cross through sign. We decided to continue anyway and thankfully spotted signs for another camp. On our way to the campground we made a much needed trip to the supermarket for supplies. Afterwards we made our way to our campground and decided not to head into Innsbruck as it did not look too appealing during our drive through the city centre. Instead we had an afternoon in the camp, did some washing, played frisbee and cards, and just relaxed. It was a nice afternoon. We were all keen to have one last schnitzel in Austria, and the pizzaria at the campground had offered to cook us schnitzel for dinner (even though it wasn't on their menu anymore), so we headed across to the restaurant at about 7:30pm, and within 5 minutes we had our meals and a complementary home-made herb liqueur on the table which was fantastic. It was another large meal, but all of us managed to pretty much look after the meals. Once we were done and had sampled the rocket fuel complimentary liqeuer we were given, we headed back to the van and had a game of 500 before going to bed. Through the night there were loud bangs on our roof which woke us up. In the morning we discovered that walnuts had been dropping on us!

September 22nd

We had missed the Olympic ski jump yesterday but after some research last night it was a good thing we did. It turns out that between 10 and 11am there is a practice session. So we were up and away early, to arrive at the ski jump just before 10am. Surely enough, we saw the ski jump team (including some Olympians!) from Slovenia doing practice jumps. It was incredible. After watching a few rounds of jumps from the bottom we got on the cable car and headed up to the top. In the cable car ride up we shared the lift with a few of the jumpers and they told us that generally people would start at 7 years old from a 10m jump, then progress to the current jump (125m) over the years, which is a 135m jump. The jump itself obviously was not covered in snow because it was the end of summer, so they were jumping onto the under surface. It looked like astroturf from a distance, but up close it looked like old stringy green mop heads laid in rows. It was watered after about half an hour as well. The bottom area was real grass.

The view from the top of the jump was not great, so after admiring the views of the surroundings briefly we went back down to the side of the jump and watched until just after 11am. It was something I did not expect to see during this trip, but fantastic to have seen it. There is no way this sport would entice me, but I have to wonder why New Zealand has not taken up this sport given the natural surroundings that are available.

We had a deadline as today was Pick Up Hamish Day (Em's younger brother). After we had finished at the ski jump we got on the road and drove up to Munich. We had a good drive up, and arrived at 2:20pm to pick up Hamish who arrived at 2:30pm. Em and Julie went into the station (the main Munich station) and James and I went and found a place to park Sven. By about 3pm we wanted to know why they were not back, so James went in to look for them. There was no sign of Emma and Julie, let alone Hamish, and we had not had any contact from them. Then by about 3:30pm I had a call from Hamish, who had hopped off the train one station too early! He said that he had talked to Emma (whose phone had run out of credit), and she was trying to find James and I. We also managed to get the name of the station Hamish was at, and told him to sit tight and wait for us to come. We then split up and went about searching the station. By about 4pm we went back to the van to thankfully find Emma and Julie there who had found Sven in the car park, and made us some rolls for lunch (we were starving!). We left them there and went back to the info desk with the station name, found one that matched, and went there thanks to our GPS. We got there by about 4:30pm, and thankfully Em walked back out with Hamish about 5 minutes later. So in the end, all ended well. Amazing how much we have become dependent on mobile phone technology without realising it. Hamish was well, had had a good flight over and a good night in Frankfurt.

We continued to find out about his trip over on our drive north east of Munich to a place called Erding. James and Julie have a favourite beer, Erdinger, which is brewed in Erding. After finding the campground, which was a place designated for free camping, we set up camp. After dinner it was dark enough, and given how rural we were and there were no houses nearby we thought this would be an ideal place to let off the last of our fireworks. They were spectacular. Some of the best fireworks any of us have ever had.

Just after we let off the last one a car pulled up. We were not sure who it was initially, but we soon learnt that it was two police officers. After a small moment of tension, they quickly established we were letting off fireworks, and that we were New Zealanders. After a few questions, checking our passports, and filling in a few forms they let us off with a warning, rather than giving us an on the spot fine. It turns out in Germany fireworks are illegal apart from around New Years time. That finished off a rather 'different' day for us all, and we went to bed, Em, James, Julie, and I in the van, and Hamish outside the van under a bivouac he had set up.



Hi Guys
I have just finished catching up with August and Septembers exciting events. It was great to read about some of the places I have been to in the past. Maneesh you are becoming quite the prolific author. Hope you guys are still having a great time. I don't think my phone is working very well to text you guys back sometimes. Talk/see you soon
Love Jodes

  Jodi Oct 10, 2009 5:39 AM


Hi there the travellers .. what a wonderful blog we've been reading this morning, from Vienna, Salzburg etc. and leading up to meeting Hamish in Munich!!! Fantastic accounts, thankyou. Look forward to next
epistle. LOTS OF LOVE from us xxx

  G&G Oct 18, 2009 9:43 AM


Hey Team! Great work on the blog, you have beaten us to it! Still makes me smile thinking back on the trip. Absolutely awesome times...thanks for letting us join you.
Love Julie and James

  Julie Oct 26, 2009 3:31 AM

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