17.09.2010 - 26.09.2010
My first stop would be Austria to catch up with Alex and see some of the country that I have visited only briefly, with Vienna and Salzburg being only vaguely familiar to me. Luckily for me Alex met me at the airport and we drove off to the wine region to catch up with her brother (who just happens to work at a vineyard) and sample some of the Austrian cuisine (this would become a common theme for us), it was really nice to have a traditional Schnitzel and some excellent wine. Luckily for me it was also the season for another local delicacy Sturm, a special type of wine here that was very tasty indeed. After this we washed everything down with Schnapps (almost everything here seems to be done with Schnapps at the end!).
This was a great start to Austria and the next day we got up early to have a little road trip on the way back to her house in Klagenfurt, in the very south of Austria. The first stop was Eisenstadt where we had a brief look around the outside of the famous palace Esterhazy before indulging in some pastries at an Austrian bakery for breakfast. Next it was off to drive around the lake that borders Hungary, Neusiedlersee trying to find a nice place for a coffee, strangely it took us until half way around the lake before we found somewhere suitable. Here we had a nice coffee and chatted with some Austrians that were starting again after a big night, so we shared some Schnapps with them and said goodbye. After this and some ice cream for lunch we bought some more Sturm and headed finally to Klagenfurt.
The next day we took it easy as I recovered and left it until the afternoon to venture out to the nearby Woerthersee lake, walking half way around taking in the spot before indulging in a relaxing beer at sunset. The lake is such a beautiful sight with the fresh blue waters reflecting the sun beckoning you in for a swim whilst the surroundings mountain ranges, one more dominant than the other shelter you from the rest of the world. It is these dominant mountains that nearby provide the borders with Slovenia and Italy however as you walk around you feel like the rest of the world is miles away. The scenery is so different here, it is quite spectacular to see the clouds draping themselves over the mountains almost like a blanket and as the sun sets the yellow and orange hues come alive as the mountains provide a perfect natural canvas.
The next day we headed off to Velden, a little village over the other side of the lake with some lovely houses for the rich amongst us before heading up into the mountains once again. We visited a lovely castle on the hill that had a unique function as a bird sanctuary, specifically for eagles. The treat of the day was an eagle show which was remarkable with the birds being let off by the trainer and allowed to soar before returning back over the crowd. They were then given the chance to fly over (and in some cases very close) to the crowd or given the opportunity to hunt simulated prey, either by dive bombing mice or tackling birds in mid air – really cool to watch and some of the dive speeds were incredible.
The next day was a big day for Alex as she returned to the real world via a job interview, I returned to my real world by trying to navigate it. This time I was at least reasonably successful with the Minimundus allowing me to see replicas of most of the world’s sights in less than two hours, the strange thing for me was to count how many I had seen first hand, only about 30! After I had been round the world in 80 minutes (sorry couldn’t resist) and Alex had completed a successful interview we headed out for more sightseeing, this time taking a drive on an alpine road headed for a giant dam with a newly featured skywalk. The road was really beautiful to drive through and although I didn’t always appreciate the constant bends along it, you could not argue with the postcard style scenery that we were travelling through. In the background the mountains dominated the skyline as imposing figures that would not give way for you, you would have to work your way through them and in the foreground forests that in autumn had trees turning from green to brown and every shade between. Every so often you would also see a waterfall just to remind you that nature has a medium to display any colour it wants and you are but there to simply take it all in. After the drive we eventually arrived at the giant dam which was in an amazing setting with a restaurant in the shape of a boat and a glacier watching over it. We took the opportunity to walk out over the skywalk which allowed us to see into the valley below, some 160 odd meters very cool view! - . After this we sat down for a beer and some desert, I’m sure you can figure out who had what! A really amazing day was then capped off with a visit to the 4-D cinema that added mobility and compressed air jets to the traditional 3-D experience.
In what was becoming a very busy week for us we then headed off to a national park to do some hiking for the day. The walk took us through the forest with many of the berries if not the flowers on display. The centerpiece of the park however was a lovely little waterfall that we visited before hoping to catch the bus home, I say hoping because we looked at the schedule and found there wasn’t another bus for almost two hours! Well when you’re travelling…..so we decided to hitchhike the 10km back, I know what you’re thinking with an attractive blond girl it should be easy but no, I had to stick my thumb out and hope but luckily in about 10 minutes a Slovenian guy was nice enough to take us back to the car.
With the week rapidly coming towards the end we headed into town and climbed the tower at the church (trying to find some exercise is our new daily goal) which afforded us some great views over the city and incredibly some amazing views in the sky with plane patterns criss-crossing everywhere. Next it was off to do the other part of my Austria trip shopping (this is getting close to being the theme now!) for new equipment including hiking gear, a computer and camera, an expensive day indeed! Still it needed to be done and the quality here is really good even if the prices reflect this. With my new computer and camera the remainder of the day was spent setting these up, a job made slightly more difficult by the fact they were both programmed initially in German. Still with all mostly set up we decided to head out for a celebratory drink or a two, starting off at a place that is rapidly becoming our local for an Aperol (a champagne or white wine based drink). Later we caught up with her sister at a new nightclub to continue celebrating which took us well into the night, this ensured a lazy day for us both the next day but fittingly finished what was a busy but very good first week in Austria for me!