Saturday 27 June 2015

The Reschen Pass and the stupidity of a Traveller: Navigating Austria and Italy

Southern Germany to Northern Italy, 28th – 30th April 2015

Hello readers, Jo here.

The Wallet Incident

After our overnight stay in Ottobeuren, we were fairly close to the border into Austria, and so we could have quite easily crossed through Austria and been somewhere in Italy, our intended destination, before the end of the day.  So we got the pots washed, secured all the drawers and cabinets, closed all windows, and were almost good to go.  Shoes on, phones hooked up in the cab ready to charge, wallets ready if we need them—ah, wallets.

I checked the cupboard where I had been sure I left my wallet; it was nowhere to be seen.  I checked again, in case I missed it, but found nothing.  Okay, I tell myself, it's fine.  I must have confused myself about where I placed it.  I checked all of my usual spots, but they drew up a blank too.  It’s okay, I’m not worried, everyone places their belongings in stupid places from time to time.  The cupboards were emptied, the furniture moved, the cab checked.  The area around the outside of the van checked, in case it fell out of my pocket whilst parking the van up.  No cigar.  So, we start asking ourselves, when do we definitely know I last had it?  Well, that would be a hundred miles or so away, in Lidl car park.

This is the point where, as the kind of person who is usually double checking her pockets before leaving anywhere to make sure she’s not forgotten anything, I start to panic.  The Lidl shop was getting on for 24 hours ago.  We check with the reception at the sports park in case it was handed in; nothing.  We check the Lidl receipt to see if there is a contact telephone number.  Nothing.  I do another round of the van, checking all of the cupboards again, just to be sure.  I call my bank and cancel my cards, trying hard not to think about the missing driver’s license or the fact that I’d only just topped up the number of euros I was carrying around the day before.  We call the police near the Lidl to report the wallet missing; we are asked to call back later when someone with better English can speak to us.

With nothing further we could do right then, we set off along our way into Austria.  At some point, we stopped for a late lunch and called the police again; this time, we got hold of a policeman who spoke good English, and he asked us to send him an email with full details about the missing wallet and where we think it was lost or stolen, so after getting off the phone with him, we sent him an email with every detail we could think of.

Camping in Biberwier, Austria

Motorhome parking at Alpencamp Marienberg
The ski slopes were just behind us
By the time we were in Austria, I stopped sulking as we had more immediate concerns, such as where we were going to sleep for the night.  In the region of Austria we were staying in, there was only one permitted spot for free overnight parking, which was in a parking area near a railway track, overlooked by one of the main roads going through Austria.  It probably would have been fine for the night, but I wasn’t convinced.  We didn’t really like the idea of paying for a campsite when we knew we were arriving at night and leaving in the morning, but with a lack of alternatives, we came away from our route at the town of Biberwier and parked up at Alpencamp Marienberg (GPS N47.374297, E10.891375), at €15 a night (€10 plus €2.50 pp).

Alpencamp Marienberg is set right next to a ski slope; the snow had begun its summer meltdown a few weeks before we arrived, but had we been visited during the winter, it would be a fantastic place to stop for skiing.  We parked up and went into the reception, and I had to hide my delight upon hearing the man behind the counter yodel to get the attention of his wife to come and serve us; it served as a fantastic reminder as to exactly which region of Europe we were currently in.  Whilst he was chatting to us, he mentioned that from tomorrow onwards the weather was supposed to clear up, making way for lots of bright sun and clear skies.  The motorhome parking is a section just in front of the main campsite, but with access to the campsite facilities.  I didn’t use the facilities during our short stay there, but Matt did and found the toilet/shower blocks to be very smart and clean.

After a night in which we chased the cold weather away with the ever-so-British Bangers and Mash and utilised the van heating, we went for a walk around the village of Biberwier in the morning.  All was quiet during our visit, probably due to the time of year, but the village itself was pleasant enough.

Church in the town of Biberwier

The Reschen Pass and Supermarket Hunting in Northern Italy

Snow-capped mountain views in Austria
We didn’t have a vignette for Austria and didn't want to buy one, and so we were restricted to travelling by non-motorway roads only.  We decided to go in the direction of the Reschen Pass, which travels through the country to the southwest, narrowly avoiding Switzerland before it cuts down into Italy.  The sun was out and shining like the man at the campsite had said it would, and we had a very scenic route down through the country on our way, with lots of snow-capped mountains and lakes.  The route was twisting and there were quite a few points where we pulled over to let faster vehicles pass us by, but the roads were very good and we had no worries about travelling them in a larger vehicle.

Lake Resia, Italy
We had a brief lunch stop after crossing the border into Italy at Lake Resia, before carrying on through northern Italy.  Northern Italy was still very mountainous, but the main change we found in the roads was that rather than winding around most of them, Italy loves tunnels.  Coming from the UK where tunnels are few and far between—I can only think of Dartford off the top of my head—it seemed somewhat strange to be spending so much time underground.  But then again, why waste time travelling around the obstacle when you can drill into the depths of the earth?

We stopped at Bolzano briefly to fill up our water and empty our waste tanks (GPS N46.47417, E11.32617), before making a decision about which part of Italy we wanted to tackle first.  Venice prevailed, and so we planned to look out for somewhere to stock up on food before heading in a general vague Venice direction.  We drove around Bolzano until we found a shop that looked vaguely like a supermarket, called Metro.  Upon entering, we realised that we were, in fact, in a cash and carry, and given that there isn’t room in a motrohome to buy and store your cheese by the wheel, we decided we were probably not in the most appropriate place.  There was a Lidl in Bolzano, but this was on a busy road with a very busy parking area, and so a no-go for a big van.  We carried on our journey, setting Crazy Daisy to navigate to another Lidl en-route; this proved to be even more problematic in a van, as the main parking area was underground, and we didn’t really fancy the idea of having the top of the vehicle bisected.

It occurred to us that perhaps we should learn the names of some other Italian supermarkets and maybe—maybe—we should depend less on Lidls.  These thoughts disappeared from our heads when we made a food stop at Trento, where luckily there was a Lidl with three parking bays next to each other where we could squeeze the vehicle in and stock up, continuing our supermarket love affair.

Feltre and Venice Preparations

The Aire at Feltre, Italy
Priority number one was dealt with; now all that remained was finding somewhere to spend the night.  In our Camperstop book there was a place called Lago di Caldonazzo, where there was a parking area that was indicated as being free overnight parking at this time of year.  Upon our arrival, we found this to actually be a €10 fee, and given that the ticket machine was change only and we had less than €10 in coins, we had no way of paying.  It was gone 8pm by this time and getting dark, but there was a free Aire about an hour away in the town of Feltre (GPS N46.02013, E14.90792), fairly close to the way we wanted to be driving for Venice.  We travelled there instead, and pulled in for the night for a fairly late dinner before bed.

View from the walls at Feltre, Italy
We discovered, upon getting ready to turn on our mobile internet in the morning, that there was free WiFi at the spot we were staying at.  We figured that this would then make a good spot to rest for a day, and spend some time on the internet planning the logistics of Venice: where we would stay, how we would get there, and what we wanted to see.  We also, during the course of the afternoon, went for a walk around Feltre, where we wandered into the old parts of the hill town and walked along some of the old town walls.

The Wallet Incident Concludes

Whilst we were getting ready for the day in Feltre, I opened my cupboard to pull out a clean t-shirt, and what do you know?  Something drops out onto the bed.  Something small, and red, and remarkably wallet shaped, wedged between two pieces of clothing.  Suddenly, I simultaneously felt very relieved about the fact that the missing euros and driver’s license were accounted for, and annoyed with myself for having already cancelled my cards.  With the conclusion of the wallet incident, perhaps the two takeaway parts of the story are this: do not carry more cash than you would be upset to lose, and keeping a backup debit card somewhere secure within the van (which I thankfully did) is always a fantastic idea.

Next stop, Venice.

Until next time,

In the village of Biberwier
Outside Alpencamp Marienberg, Biberwier
The ski slope as seen from the van at the campsite
Lake on our route through Austria
Lake on our route through Austria
The old walls in Feltre, Italy

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