Diary of a nice trip to Austria, entering from Tarvisio and returning from Brenner, visiting Vienna and other beautiful Austrian cities.
1st August 2004 8.15 am
After two weeks of postponements, Enrica and I finally leave for Austria; as always, we have broadly thought of the goals to be achieved, but we will decide the details day by day. We leave Chioggia, where Enrica lives, taking the SS Romea towards Venice, then take the A4 motorway towards Trieste and the A23 towards Tarvisio. For some years now our means of transport has been my petrol Fiat Punto 60S. We cross the border entering Carinthia (Karnten) and stop near Klagenfurt at the Minimundus, a park that collects 1:25 scale miniatures of some world-famous and Austrian monuments (about 170 reproductions). One of the most beautiful and surprising miniatures is the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Very nice are the Austrian model trains that run around the park. Warning! In Austria the motorways do not have toll booths, but if you want to use them, you have to buy the “vignette”, a sticker valid for 10 days and costing € 7.6 (there is also the one for two months but costs € 21.80 … we should take two for 10 days).
To get to the park you go along the Worther See, a well-known seaside resort, with intense blue waters.
Klagenfurt did not impress us very positively, perhaps also due to the gray and rainy weather, but the high cost of parking certainly impressed us: an hour for € 3.40 !!!
Leaving Klagenfurt we stopped in Friesach , the only Austrian city to still have the moat full of water that runs around the walls. Before ending the day we went to Burg Hochosterwitz , but it was already closed and we were able to admire this particular fortress, perched on a hill, formed by 12 towers, only from the outside. Tired of the journey, we stopped for the night at the Wieser Campsite in St. Georgen am Langsee , very quiet and welcoming even if without any extra service besides the essentials.
2 August 2004
The first stop of this day is Piber, a place made famous by the Lipizzaner horse breeding (Bundesgesetz Piber). Here the horses that will perform at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna ( Spanische Reitschule ) are trained . We are unlucky and the visits are closed, we just take a tour outside the complex.
We continue to Barnbach, a town known for the St. Barbara Kirche , truly unique church with extravagant architecture. The building is completely covered with colored tiles. Each “line” is not straight but curved. A path that surrounds the church with 12 portals representing the different religions is very beautiful on the outside. The church was designed by the Viennese artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
In Barnbach the fountain of Moses (Mosesbrunnen) is also very beautiful and is also very colorful and unique.
We were struck by the many capitals that meet in the streets of Styria (Steiermark), different from each other but with a single style that unites them. This second night (and also the following one) we spent at Camping Central by Gratz. The campsite’s swimming pool is great! It will be a hundred meters wide, and the bottom is made of pebbles: it seems to swim in a stream. In the middle of the pool, small geese swim happily among the swimmers.
By public transport we easily reached the city center which was very lively with outdoor shows and many people in the streets as well as many lively crowded places. We dined outdoors at Gamlitzer Weinstube on Mehlplatz and as always, the Lonely planet suggested us very well.
August 3, 2004
We continue the visit to the city of Graz . The huge regional arsenal ( Landeszeughaus ) dating mainly from the 17th century, with 30,000 pieces of armor and weapons is truly impressive, definitely worth a couple of hours to visit. The Schloss Eggenberg is a castle overlooking the city, on the hill next to the old town. From here you can see the famous red roofs of Graz. In addition to the castle on the hill there is also the clock tower (Uhrturm) symbol of the city. Going down you arrive at the river, you can cross it on a strange floating pedestrian bridge in the shape of a transparent shell. Very original. Before taking bus number 32 which brought us back to the campsite we visited the three main churches of Mariahilfekirke, the Stadtppfarrkirke and the Domkirke.
4 August 2004
Dismantling “the camp” we left for Vienna (Wien) entering Burgenland, a region bordering Hungary. The guide indicated the area of Lake Neusiedler (Neusiedler See), the only steppe lake in Central Europe, as interesting. We wanted to stop for lunch by the lake, but every access to the beaches was fenced and paid access. We went through Morbisch quickly and had lunch on the border with Hungary. Even Rust, another town on the lake hasn’t told us anything, the only curious point are two storks on a roof. We then arrived in Vienna, where we pitched our tent at Camping Wien South; a nice shady campsite, convenient enough to reach the city center (bus + metro), equipped with a kitchen with hobs, sink and tables. There is a large supermarket next to the campsite. Convenient but with “Austrian” timetables! Returning from visits in the afternoon, we always found it closed…
Once in the center, the city immediately fascinated us a lot, there is no building that is not cared for and that does not remember the majesty of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
We took a first tour from Stephansplatz to Michaelerplatz, where we moved to the University district by metro. Here with a pleasant surprise we found in front of the Rathaus (town hall) a splendid lyric-gastronomic event. On a big screen, like a cinema, a different work is projected every night. Alongside, many food stands, set up by various Viennese restaurants, serve typical Austrian dishes or dishes from the various cuisines of the world. The place is full of young and old alike, intent on tasting delicacies or simply listening to good music. We couldn’t avoid tasting something, and we got the top fenknodel (???): a huge white ball covered with melted butter!
August 5, 2004
The second day was dedicated to visiting Schoenbrunn , the former summer residence of the emperor. We bought the ticket at the campsite, and this allowed us to skip a big queue!
The palace is immediately austere and sumptuous, it consists of more than thirty rooms, some of which are striking for their decorations that cover the walls. The large gallery, used for celebrations, is the most impressive. After the guided tour of the palace (with audio guides in Italian included in the price) we enter the very large and well-kept park. Inside the park there are various museums, depending on the ticket you choose you can visit more or less attractions. Beware that the tickets that offer everything cannot be used fully, for too long a visit. We went into the palm house and the carriage museum. The latter contains a few dozen old, but well preserved, carriages that belonged to the Austrian emperors and nobility (there is one used by Napoleon).
In the evening we went to the Prater , where we couldn’t miss a ride on the famous Ferris wheel. At night you can see many lights but only the neighboring buildings can be distinguished, probably at dusk the view must be much more fascinating. The wheel is inside the Vienna amusement park (Volksprater), but the rainy weather and consequently the few people, made the atmosphere not exactly that of an amusement park.
We were very negatively impressed by the classic carousel with horses running around in circles with children in the saddle. What’s wrong? That the horses were real, in flesh and blood! These poor beasts were forced to stay, above the carousel, in a small lane dedicated to them to trot continuously in circles! Really cruel and absurd!
August 6th 2004
Our visit continues with ancient Vienna, the Jewish quarter and the Hoher Markt. In the middle of the day, looking for a bench to have lunch, we ended up in the botanical garden ( Botanischer Garten ) where there are many benches to rest in the green (admission is free). Here there are many birds and holding out his hand with bread crumbs he makes them run, they lie quietly in the hand and eat! Beautiful, even two or three together! From the botanical garden we passed to the Upper and Lower Belvedere complex . We did not visit the interior of the buildings, which houses art galleries, but only strolled through the garden (Belvedere garten). From here we then arrived in Karlsplatz with the baroque Karlskirche, the French embassy, the polytechnic and many other majestic buildings.
August 7, 2004
The last day in Vienna we started by visiting the Hofburg area (imperial palace). The museum of sacred and secular treasures (Schatzkammer) is truly impressive. The crowns, jewels and precious objects of the Austrian empire are kept. We have not seen the apartments because in common opinion those in Schoenbrunn are more interesting. After a quick snack at MacDonald’s we visited the Opera. In the guided tour in Italian (excellent guide!) We walked around the great palace, even behind the scenes! During our stay in Vienna we used the Wien-Karte which allows you to use public transport (essential for getting around the capital) and access and discounts to the main Viennese attractions (cost 16.90 Euros for 3 days).
August 8, 2004
We liked Vienna very much, but unfortunately it is time to leave. We take the Danube Valley (Donau) and stop for a short tour of the quiet town of Krems an der Donau . The Danube valley is very beautiful, with vineyards and orchards on either side of the slow flowing river. For lunch we find a kiosk along the road that cooks fish on the grill: really tasty. Also along the way, we buy some apricots that the farmers of the area are harvesting; fresher than that! In the afternoon we are in Melk, a small town famous for the Benedictine abbey ( Stift Melk ). The complex is very large and well preserved. The library is truly beautiful and is still active and alive. In the evening we stopped at Camping Linz Pichlingersee, nice but noisy due to the proximity of the motorway, the showers are without dividers.
August 9, 2004
We arrive at the splendid Augustinian Abbey of St. Florian . We are the only visitors and we have a personal guide who accompanies us around the monastic complex. From St. Florian we head to Mauthausen, one of the unfortunately famous Nazi concentration camps. Upon arrival at the camp, the atmosphere is strange and gloomy. Even if there are many visitors there is a lot of respect and a strange silence reigns. What happened in this place is truly tremendous, and the guide of Italian origin manages to illustrate the complex, but above all what was happening there, with a lot of tact and discretion. We recommend everyone to visit Mauthausen even if it is a very strong experience, but we must not forget certain atrocities that man managed to conceive only a few decades ago.
In the late afternoon we arrive in Salzburg where we find, for a stroke of luck, a “half” pitch at the Camping Nord Sam campsite , to share with a cheerful family from Sansepolcro. Yes, because here the pitches are only given to you if there are many people, or if you have a camper, so they earn more! Not exactly Austrian in behavior.
If on holiday you don’t want to find fellow countrymen, to completely “disconnect”, Salzburg in summer is not for you: Italians everywhere!
10 August 2004
We decide to spend the day in the National Park of the High Tauern (Nationlpark Hoeh Tauern), and more precisely to make the tour of the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse (Grossglockner High Alpine Road), probably the most spectacular Austrian itinerary to be done by car or motorbike. The Grossglockner road is a toll road (26 Euros per car) that takes you up to an altitude of 2503 meters between glaciers and snow-capped mountains. Really spectacular. The period, for the high number of visitors, is not the best and sometimes the traffic is a bit disturbing …
11 August 2004
Visit to the city of Salzburg. We bought the Salzburg Card at the campsite , a card that allows you to enter most of the monuments of Salzburg and use public transport (very efficient). It is not cheap (26 Euros for 48 hours, but 24 or 72 hour passes are also available), but if you do the math and want to visit palaces and museums it is worthwhile. We started the visit with the archbishops’ fortress ( Festung Hohensalzburg), which overlooks the hilltop city. To get there we used the funicular. The fortress houses the apartments of the archbishops, weapons and instruments of torture. Also always in the fortress, we entered the puppet museum (included with the Salzburg card) but it was really a disappointment. If someone enters it paying for it really gets a rip off: there are only two small rooms with some puppets. And they call it a museum! I went down to the center and entered the Residence (Residenz), the Duomo, the Duomo Museum and Mozart’s house.
The visit to Mozart’s house was also included in the Salzburg card; if you don’t have it, it’s not really worth going in to visit four rooms (unless one is a Mozart enthusiast…).
The center is really nice. Unfortunately for the large number of tourists present, we were unable to fully grasp the beauty of the city of Salzburg.
A painted egg shop in the central Getreidegasse is truly incredible. Eggshells are collected from food companies, sent to housewives or students, who decorate them with a skill, in some cases, truly remarkable. They are grouped by shades, and the shop is full of them, there are thousands of them!
We were very perplexed by the strict closing time observed, not only by the grocery stores frequented by locals, but also by the classic little shops full of souvenirs for tourists. The afternoons close at 18.00-18.30 and on Saturday even earlier. The streets are full of tourists eager to spend and the shops are closed! Crisis…?!?
12 August 2004
We leave by public transport to Schloss Hellbrunn, a palace famous for its water games (Wasser spiele), but the visit has just begun, we have to leave it. We absolutely have to go back to the city center in search of an internet / fax center, to satisfy the sick Italian bureaucracy (no comment).
However, we manage not to waste all the morning, and always by public transport we go to the Stiegl brewery (Stiegl’s Brauwelt), the largest private Austrian brewery. Admission is included in the Salzburg card and includes a visit to the museum, which illustrates the entire brewing process, two wonderful beer tastings with a brezen and a gift (a glass or a limited edition bottle of beer).
We couldn’t say we were in Salzburg without visiting the salt mines. So in the afternoon we entered the Salzbergwerk of Bad Durnberg in Hallein. Before entering you must dress in white overalls and helmets to protect yourself. You get on a little train and enter the salt hill, luck of Salzburg. Once you get off the train, you take a long walk, sliding on slides and navigating the inland lake. The visit is really interesting, it seems impossible but the hill is almost entirely made up of salt. A curiosity: during the visit, walking through the galleries of the mine you cross the Austro – German border entering Germany.
August 13, 2004
We leave Salzburg and arrive in Innsbruck we pitch our tent in the beautiful, clean Camping Hall in Tirol , with a modern Olympic-size swimming pool and managed by a nice grizzled gentleman who loves Italy. We dedicate the rest of the day to visit the city of Innsbruck, a very lively city with a center full of shops. We visit the Hofkirche church which houses the empty sarcophagus of Maximilian I. a wonderful example of German Renaissance sculpture. The sarcophagus is surrounded by truly impressive bronze statues of Habsburgs and other dignitaries.
14th August 2004
Day dedicated to the visit of Neuschwanstein Castle, the famous “fairytale” castle in Germany. The weather is very variable and the continuous rains slow down traffic. It seems that all the Germans and Austrians have set out on a journey together. Well, it’s Saturday, August 14th, maybe it’s also normal… We arrive at the castle no earlier than two and we discover with great disappointment that the first chance to visit the inside of the castle is in the late afternoon! The castle is in a strategic position, and exudes a fairytale charm but the crowd is really great… We are content to see the castle from the outside with the promise to return sooner or later. In the evening we return to the Hall in Tirol campsite.
August 15, 2004
We lift the tent and leave for Italy, this time for the Brenner pass. We have an appointment with Enrica and Francesca’s brother at Camping Vidor in Pozza di Fassa. The campsite is very nice, the bathrooms are perfect but above all it has a wonderful view. The only drawback is the price: it is more expensive than Austrian campsites!
We prepare a dinner with dumplings, polenta with melted cheese and mushrooms, to celebrate all together, the holidays now over in the shadow of the majestic Dolomites.
16 August 2004
Day exclusively dedicated to the journey from Val di Fassa to Chioggia.
Total kilometers traveled approximately: 2,800 in 16 days
Maps, guides & useful bibliography:
Michelin n. 730 – AUSTRIA – 1: 400.000
Salzburg – City Map – 1999 Italian
Vienna – City Map & Museums – 1: 25.000
Places of Interest in Graz (map) – Italian
Across Austria – Map 1: 800.000
Camping & Caravaning – Austria – Map 1: 500,000
Lonely Planet – EDT – AUSTRIA 2nd edition 2002
The Peugeot guides – City Book – VIENNA