6th October 2016. Gries am Brenner, Austria.

It was freezing in the van when we got up this morning, colder than it’s been during the whole of our trip.  Darren went out to put some more money in the electricity meter and came back inside saying “There’s snow on the mountains!”  I thought he was kidding but when I looked out of the window the mountains that had been shrouded in cloud yesterday were showing clearly and they were definitely covered in snow!  I don’t know why but I feel really excited, I’m so glad we saw snow before we left Germany.

We’re off to Austria today for an overnight stop and then on to Italy tomorrow, we want to find somewhere warm now, we’ve gone through a whole bottle of gas very quickly since it’s started getting cold.

Darren went over to the cabin and collected our rolls for breakfast and a while later went over to use the showers (we had managed to park over 200 metres away from all the facilities) only to discover he needed 1 Euro coins for the meter and he hadn’t taken any (I’d been sitting on the seat in the shower cubicle waiting for the washing to finish the previous day for what seemed like hours, you’d have thought I might have noticed then, but no!).

We both decided to just wash in the van and go for a quick walk before we left.  We wandered over to look at the cable cars leaving and arriving at the cable car station for Mount Wank.  I know this is completely infantile but ……  Snigger, snigger!

I was on the look out for animals while we were walking around, I saw a few birds that were unidentifiable (to me!) but they either flew away or they would hide behind a leaf every time I focused the camera on them there was also a brown squirrel that raced across in front of us with some food in its mouth.  I don’t know where it disappeared to, we assumed it would race up the tree but it must have veered off somewhere because it suddenly vanished from sight.

The air was absolutely freezing up there but we felt very hot when we were standing in the sun, how does that work?  We went back to the van and set off for our next stop.  We’d decided to spend the night in Gris am Brenner in Austria.  I stayed there for a week when I went skiing with my school when I was 15.  I wonder if I’ll recognise any of it.

We didn’t get far before we realised the air suspension wasn’t doing its job as the van kept bottoming out on roads that looked very smooth so we had to find somewhere to stop to sort it out.  Luckily it was an easy fix, I had visions of being stuck in Austria until we could get it repaired, instead Darren used the traditional method of repairing electronic gismos, he turned it off and turned it back on again, et voilà, the air suspension was as good as new again.

Our SAT NAV then took us on a ‘Magical mystery tour’ through very narrow but extremely pretty streets.  I’m beginning to wonder whether we upset her sometimes and she does this in revenge.  It was so narrow we began to think we were on the wrong route when just at that moment a lorry trundled towards us.

Further into the journey we found a garage selling LPG and decided it might be a good idea to fill up as we were making our way to the Austrian Alps.  Of course Sod’s Law came into force then, instead of being a relatively straight forward procedure it turned into manoeuvre that involved nerves of steel from both Darren and the driver of the car who had unfortunately chosen that moment to start filling his car with fuel from the pump beside the entrance to the LPG pump.  Unsurprisingly the driver looked extremely worried when Darren started reversing our motorhome through the narrow gap between the hedge and the front of his car.  I could see the look of relief on the driver’s face once Darren had passed his car.  He would have been even more relieved that his car had escaped any damage if he’d noticed that our van had come to a halt with its rear corner touching the garage’s guttering!  Luckily our van had touched it so gently that it didn’t damage the guttering.

Bye bye Germany, we’ve really enjoyed our stay.  Hello Austria, we’re looking forward to our brief visit.

Darren had programmed the SAT NAV to take us through Austria on the old main road.  The weight of our van meant that if we went on the autobahn we’d have to buy a box for 100 Euros and also pay tolls.  It was a good move driving along the old road, it ran alongside the autobahn a lot of the time but it meant we drove through lots of pretty little villages and were able to enjoy looking at the scenery without huge lorries thundering past us.

We found a large lay-by at Seefeld in Austria where we stopped for a break, it turned out to be a good place to stop, although the man having a wee beside the monument probably wouldn’t agree, excluding the man we had a lovely view of a very fancy schloss AND an eye catching spiky monument, what more could we ask for.

We became a little nervous as we made our way down the road towards Innsbruck, Darren had made up his mind that the warning light for the brakes had only come on the other day because they were very hot.  He was more than likely correct but I didn’t want to discover he was wrong as we were hurtling down the mountain especially when we saw the escape slopes at the side of the road, I can’t imagine how a lorry manages to turn into one of those, the turnings were so tight it looked as though you’d end up stopping not because you’d come to a gentle stop on the ramp but because you’d run into the concrete wall at the side!  The advice we were given by Jo and Stuart in Sulzmoos, Germany, flitted through my head too, from their hairy experiences of driving through mountain ranges, they suggested it may have been easier without a full water tank (naturally ours was full to the brim!)

We drove through Innsbruck which looked very big and we exited through a part of the city where we could see large ornate buildings.

We had a moment of sheer panic as Darren turned off the roundabout an exit too soon and the road he started driving up looked both narrow AND steep, not a combination we enjoy.  There was no one in front or behind us so he began to reverse and that’s when Sod’s Law kicked into action yet again and two cars drove up behind us so it was onwards and upwards.

The added grey hairs from that journey were worth it in the end for the entertainment value.  We went through two villages on that short detour, the first one was called Mutters, a village which MUST have been named for Darren (Mumbles would actually have been more accurate but that sign will have to wait until we visit South Wales) and the second village as we started our much gentler descent was called Natters which is most definitely a village I should be living in!

Sheer terror kicked in when we started our assent to our stëllplatz.  Darren had seen it on the map and it looked like it was near the autobahn, which I was a bit disappointed to hear, however as we started driving up a mountain along a single track windy road worrying about what would happen if a vehicle came hurtling around a corner I was hoping against hope that we would get to a car park beside the autobahn very quickly.

When we eventually finished the white knuckle ride and parked on the top of a plateau beside a hotel and a teeny church,  we walked across a field and down in the valley you could indeed see the autobahn we just happened to be WAY, WAY above it!

The stëllplatz had the most beautiful views of snowy mountains however there was very little information about where to park or any other information about the stëllplatz for that matter so Darren went into the hotel and was abruptly told to move the van to the land by the farm building (we discovered it was the milking parlour later when the cows came home either that or as Darren pointed out someone had gone to the trouble of getting a siren that sounded like a cow!)

After he’d moved the van we had a quick walk to look over the valley, the view from the top was jaw droppingly beautiful.  We were just making our way to the hotel to see whether they served coffee when a coach came steaming up the road from the opposite direction we’d come up (we immediately decided THAT was the route we’d be taking down whatever the SAT NAV told us).  It’s amazing how quickly we moved suddenly realising that there was likely to be a huge queue for coffee in a few moments.

We ordered coffee from the same lady Darren had spoken to earlier, she looked very serious, maybe it was because she was having to wrack her brain to understand what we were asking for, she managed a weak smile when I carried the coffee cups back to the counter later.

It was lovely and warm in the hotel with big comfortable armchairs and we stayed inside for far longer than it took to drink a cup of coffee, we were both suddenly feeling absolutely exhausted.

We had intended going straight back to the van when we left the hotel but I suddenly heard cow bells and went to investigate.  All the way through Bavaria I’ve been trying to video cows with their jingling bells so I went down to see them.  They were very cute.  I took loads of photos of them because you can never have enough photos of cows!

We walked a bit further along the lane and then a bit further, then noticed we could see the valley going into the mountains so went a bit further still.  In the distance I’d spied a tree smothered in red berries with birds swarming all over it so I headed over that way to try to photograph them, however the little blighters saw me coming and they all flew over to the fir trees and started flitting from tree to tree.  It kept me entertained for ages trying to photograph them.  I’d love to know what type of birds they were (if only we’d had our binoculars with us!).

We headed back to the van as the temperature started to drop, it was fine in the sun but a lot of the road on the walk back had become shady and it was absolutely perishing.

When we got back to the van we discovered we had neighbours.  Two other vans had parked, one on either side of us.

We had dinner and were so tired we went to bed at 8.30 p.m. which is most unlike us.  We must have been in a heavy sleep because I woke with a start a while later to the sound of someone knocking hard on the van door.  It was pitch black in the van but the knocking continued, Darren shouted out “Who’s that” but we didn’t get a reply so I got out of bed and looked through the window on the door.  It was 9.50 p.m. and standing outside was a man with a notepad.  He spoke pigeon English, asked me for the van number plate (I was still half asleep) I told him I didn’t know so he wandered round to the front of the van, wrote it down and asked me if it was correct, I would imagine so!  He then put his hand out and asked for money.  Considering both our camping books said it was a free stëllplatz I had no idea what he was talking about.  He eventually told me in his halting English that it was 10 Euros for the night.  I eventually found some money but we only had 20 Euro notes so he said he’d come back with the change.  He then started banging on the van next to us, which was in darkness, he asked where our neighbours were and I told him we thought they’d gone into the hotel for a meal.

A while later he came back from the hotel with our change and said our neighbours weren’t in there and went and banged on their door again.  They refused to open their door to him and I think they might have told him to get lost but as their exchange was in German I’ll never know for certain, however when they finished speaking he did wander away.

The whole situation completely threw me and I couldn’t sleep for hours afterwards.  I really do wish I could speak German, I desperately wanted to go into the hotel in the morning to tell them that was really out of order.  We’d been into the hotel twice during the day and they’d never once mentioned that they’d started charging to park in the stëllplatz, and to top it off the promised water and drainage didn’t exist.



Leave a Reply