Friday 10 June 2016

Into Austria, In and Around Innsbruck


Austria, 3rd – 6th June 2016

We’ve been making our way east through the Tirol region of Austria in the area around Innsbruck which has involved having a nice meal out at a restaurant, socialising with fellow Europe-wide travellers and spending all but one night on paid overnight spots which was a shock to the system! There aren’t many free places in this area which we’re hoping will change as we get further east.

After crossing the border into Austria we pulled into the first service station on the main road we came in on after passing a sign about vignettes to confirm one wasn’t needed for the road we were travelling along. A check online confirmed the vignette was only for autobahns and specific “S” roads so we got on our way in the rain to Landgasthof Krone (GPS: 47.41935 10.83403), a guesthouse and restaurant in Lähn near Bichlbach that offers motorhome parking for €7 or free with a meal. After not getting to eat out in Switzerland we went here for dinner after reading reviews on CamperContact saying the food was good and cheap. After a walk around the small village which is really just a collection of houses we went for dinner. The lady running the place was very friendly and helpful, and I noticed when she wasn’t busy serving the several tables of customers she sat down at a table with an old chap that had come in just for a small carafe of wine, having a chat to him which was nice. The food was very good too, a salad buffet came with the meals, Jo had a mixed grill which was nicely seasoned with black pepper, paprika and herbs, and I had rump steak in a pepper sauce which I thoroughly enjoyed. We followed this with delicious apple strudel and a homemade chocolate cream cake that we shared between us, then a complimentary shot of an Austrian spirit while the lady chatted to us as she tidied up for the night as we were the last ones in there. It was good value, all in with 2 pints of Kaiser beer it came to €47 before we added a reasonable tip. Outside afterwards we heard music in the village so went to investigate, finding a concert in a marquee but with it being paying entry we gave it a miss and headed home for the night.

The stellplatz on the RHS, I forgot to take a photo until after
we'd driven out
Our first main place to see in Austria was Innsbruck where we tried a car park we had details for in the town but found it in use as a compound for construction vehicles so continued on to nearby Hall in Tirol where there’s a stellplatz outside Camping Hall in Tirol (GPS: 47.28474 11.49631, €15 inc Serv. pt., hookup, showers) which is within cycling distance. It would’ve been €20 with ACSI card inside the site so was a useful saving for being on tarmac rather than grass and not being able to setup camp outside. Whilst connecting up to the electric Stephen and Gayle said hello to us through the fence and we ended up chatting for a bit, they’re New Zealanders touring Europe in their Frankia motorhome that they bought in Ireland as they have family there, and are about 18 months in. We arranged to meet up later for a drink and had our lunch before cycling into Innsbruck which is a pleasant 11 km along cycle paths following the river. We couldn’t find the way to join the path on the way there though so took a more convoluted route. It started raining on and off as we cycled so we sheltered a couple of times and debated turning back. I decided we should stick at it and we were glad we did as we were rewarded with bright hot sunshine by the time we arrived in the town.

The old town is a nice place, we walked around the streets eyeing up the ice cream shops and restaurants finding prices reasonable after the Swiss ones we’d become familiar with; ice cream for €1.30/scoop, pizzas ran at €7-9 at a pizza place, and a sweet shop with a huge range of large bags of sweets were €3.80 for 500g. We ventured briefly into the shopping area before back into the old town where I got a frozen yoghurt where you could choose from a wide range of toppings, something I’d been meaning to try since seeing a lot of places selling them in Spain. I went for a wild berry sauce and chocolate shavings which made a nice combination. Jo fancied ice cream instead so next we went to one of the best looking gelato shops we’d seen and got a 3-scoop tub of different flavours to share which was very nice. The downside to the place is there were a lot of beggars about, which is something we’ve not seen since Spain. On the cycle back we got more rain towards the end but kept going through it and didn’t get too wet.

New friends Stephen and Gayle
Schwaz stellplatz
I went to see if Stephen and Gayle were free and we got talking about my previous work, I discovered Stephen was the CEO of New Zealand’s electric vehicle organisation so we got talking about common interests (I specialised in hybrid and electric vehicles). I invited them around for a drink where we worked through some beers for the chaps and a bottle of prosecco for the ladies whilst we talked about travels, families and allsorts. As none of us had had dinner Jo got some crisps and olives out for nibbles, and Stephen fetched some cheese and roasted pepper to go with it, so this kept us going. After we called it a night around 10pm, for a change Jo and I did then make food after late night socialising (we’ve learned from our mistakes after Morella) as we had some tortellini so it was easy to make that with a tomato sauce for a late dinner before bed.

After making use of our access to the campsite showers we had a tidy in the van. Stephen and Gayle were planning to go to Munich but had heard the weather was bad so asked if we would still be in the area and wanted to meet up later in the day. We found there was a stellplatz nearby at Schwaz so planned to see them there. First we parked in Hall in Tirol to have a look around the town, then moved on to Schwaz (GPS: 47.34652 11.70444, €6 + €2 water). When Stephen and Gayle had arrived Stephen, Jo and I went out on the bikes taking a marked cycle route along lanes through fields and by the railway line passing through neighbouring villages doing an 18 km route. We saw an info sign about an upside-down house so tracked that down and had a look.  It’s a tourist attraction that you can go inside and essentially walk on the ceilings of the rooms that have all the contents of a house hanging from the floors above. A look from outside was enough for us as it is €12 entry and was closed anyway. Stephen and Gayle kindly offered to make dinner so we joined them in their great Frankia van which has quite a unique layout with a front lounge but also a rear U-shaped lounge above a bike-sized garage, making one of the best living space layouts we’ve seen and it’s only 6.5m. We had a nice meal starting with tomato & mozzarella, then salmon, aubergine, asparagus and salad. Washing it down with beer and wine again we chatted mainly about our travels until gone 11pm this time. They’ve been to Morocco and Turkey so it was interesting to hear about their experiences here as they’re places we want to get to at some point, and both of these were their highlights along with Greece, so we’ll definitely have to include them in our future touring plans.

A few shots from Hall in Tirol
The upside down house
In the morning we said our goodbyes to Stephen and Gayle before heading to the nearby Lidl to replenish our beer stocks and picked up a couple of treats; some Swedish-style meatballs and some prawns. We drove cross-country in the direction of Zell am See, choosing the route via Gerlos but found that close to halfway along there was a Peage sign so we pulled in to have a look online about it. With poor signal we found limited info so just carried on. When we got to the toll booths for the Gerlos Alpenstrasse at least we were charged at the car rate of €9 so it wasn’t too bad. We stopped at a picnic area for lunch out on one of the tables before continuing the pass which was not particularly scenic and had parts dug up with roadworks. I would avoid it in future and wouldn’t recommend it, it wasn’t worth the money. We called at the Krimml waterfall along the way which was a popular tourist attraction, confirmed by the line of tat huts lining the path down to it. With only 20 mins of free parking before getting charged €4, or €8 for a bus, of which we didn’t know which rate we’d be charged, we didn’t go right down to the bottom of it.

A view from the Gerlos Alpenstrasse of Krimml waterfall

We stopped for the night in Bruck an der Grossglockner which is a small town at the end of the popular Grossglockner Pass. We parked up in a parking area by the river (GPS: 47.28568 12.82780), which was our first freeparking spot for several days. By this point it was very hot with the temperature in the high 20’s which we assume was due to a storm approaching, we had thunder and heavy rain, but at least the temperature dropped to a more comfortable level for the night.

From here it was on towards Salzburg which we’ll continue with next time.

- Matt

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