Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Hills Are Alive

We had our first day apart in ages here, as my primary purpose for making Kent drive all the way here (I don't have an international permit) was to see the sights from The Sound of Music… he reluctantly agreed to come, but refused to go on the tour with me, something about it being a girls’ film. Fair enough, as it left him with time to wander up to the Fortress that overlooks the city, and to be honest, much as castles are great, I can have too much of a good thing.
The other four people on the tour were horrified that I was unaccompanied, but the driver was very spirited and had us all chatting in no time. Am disgusted with myself for admitting it, but I did nearly cry when I saw some of the sights (yes, am well aware of how pathetic this is). In my defense, it is one of my favourite films, and as a fairly latecomer to travelling, it hadn’t ever really occurred to me that I would ever be anywhere near the gazebo where Ralph and Leisl sang ‘You Are 16, Going On 17”… Ahhh. The tour was fabulous, going past the lake where the children and Maria fell in, the tree lined lane where they hung as Captain Von Trapp drove past, the house they used as the façade for the house, etc etc etc. We finished up in the lakes district, well out of the city in Mondsee, home of the church that Maria and the Captain get married in. After that, our tour group convened in a café eating apple strudel…mmmm!
Don’t think Kent’s exploits were as great as mine. He disagrees.

We met up in the afternoon and wandered around the old city, took in Mozart’s birthplace and some other stunning buildings (there are just so many of them and they’re everywhere, but somehow we stay interested) then walked back up the hill (366 steps) past the Fortress he went to in the morning for a lookout over the city – again beautiful, if only we’d had fine weather!
Our trip to the guesthouse was almost as eventful as the previous evening, as we opted to take the bus, which went near (or what we thought was near) to our street, and then walk the rest of the way. ‘Near’ was probably a bit of an exaggeration, but the exercise on the hike home was probably good for us.
We left the next morning in quite thick fog (notice a common theme here?) and figured that the scenic route we’d chosen to Lake Constance in Germany, via Innsbruck, would be anything but… but we were wrong. Pretty much as soon as we cleared Salzburg, the fog lifted, the sun blazed and we were treated to a breathtaking drive through the Austrian Alps! We lost count of the number of ski fields we drove past, many of them with lifts starting from the road – that is my kind of skiing… no perilous mountain roads to navigate before you get there either. The only downside to the drive was the unannounced toll at the top of an alpine pass (which neither our 2009 driving atlas nor the TomTom picked up…grrr). You might think this sounds a bit cheap of us, but there are tolls right throughout Europe and some of them are pretty steep, so we had been doing our best to avoid them… it ended up being one of two that we paid for the whole trip, so it’s not so bad.
The sun was still shining when we got to Innsbruck, but there was still quite a way to go before we got to our accommodation, so after a quick drive up the hill to see the ski jump that they used at the Winter Olympics in 70something, and a look at the cemetery, which was the first thing the skiers saw once they left terra firma on said jump, we took off again, bound for another location I had begged to add to our itinerary… Neuschwanstein Castle, back over the border into Germany. It’s the one Walt Disney based the logo on and all the guidebooks point to it being very picturesque… although it wasn’t ever finished, so we didn’t bother with the interior tour. Instead, we aimed the car up the hill and drove past all the suckers who opted to walk. The fact there were no other cars up there (and the filthy looks from walkers) would suggest perhaps we should have joined the masses, but there were no signs saying ‘KENT AND ERYN: LEAVE YOUR CAR AND WALK UP, YOU LAZY BASTARDS’, at least none in English, so we did it anyway, and no one said a word. Rebels, huh?
It was pushing dark now, so we roared towards our ‘open all year’ camping ground on Lake Constance, only to find it closed. So it was more a case of ‘open all year, except for when we’re not… which is now.’ It was a very small town, with not a lot of options, and our guidebook was all out of solutions, as so much of this part of the world closes down for the off-season. Luckily, Kent had thought to come up with Plan B, a hostel in a town about 20K away, so we programmed the satnav for Fredrichschafen and found it… only to discover it was the world’s most expensive hostel, but beggars can’t be choosers, so there we stayed. Despite it’s pricy-ness, it didn’t have a kitchen for guests to use, which meant we ended up cooking on our camping stove at 9pm in the freezing – oh the tales we have to share with our children!
Something you might not know about Fredrickschafen (go on, admit it, you’d never heard of it till now) is it’s where all the Zeppelins were made (the balloon-y kind, as opposed to Led-variety). It’s on the border with Switzerland too, so the Allies were a bit hesitant about bombing it. There’s a pretty good museum, with English translations, all about them… including some actual bits from the Hindenberg, which was well cool.
We indulged in our second bit of misbehaviour that afternoon, deciding that the Rhinefalls would be a good place to visit (I suspect the main reason Kent wanted to go was that he’s been there before and he loves to remind me how much more travelling he’s done than me…). The only bad thing about this is that it’s in Switzerland, which in itself isn’t a problem, but you need a special sticker to drive in the neutral land, but we refused to get one as you have to pay for a whole year and we were only planning on it being about 40 minutes. The Germans at the toll point said they thought it would be ok – at least that’s what we think they said, them not speaking English and us not speaking German. Thankfully, we managed to break into and back out of the country without being pulled over by one of their scary military conscripts at Swiss Army knife point.
We crossed another border (it’s still a novelty to get into another country without leaving the comfort of our car) and stayed that night in Colmar, France.

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