Tyroling along

Trip Start Mar 29, 2006
Trip End Feb 28, 2007

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Flag of Austria  , Austrian Alps,
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

WEDNESDAY, 18th October
The new car was loaded with our luggage (nicely hidden under the rear security cover which until now I had considered a  useless accessory), farewells were made to the neighbours with exchange of email addresses [Not that we will ever send messages to these kind people. Like the exchange of addresses with fellow bus tourists they are forgotten almost immediately. A courtesy almost as futile as the exchange of greetings such as, "How the hell are you?". Who really cares, unless it is your sick aunt in a hospice bed...but then you already know, don't you] and off we drove into the mist, somewhat sad at leaving our comfortable home.
It was really, really misty this morning as we took the Konstance road via a last look at Radolphzell. It was not as busy as I had imagined for that time of the day but traffic was much slower due to visibility or lack of it. However, by the time we reached Rorschach along the southern shores of this enormous lake [Yes, that ink blot man was born in Switzerland but I am not sure whether this town was named after him or not. Of course as time has passed and the ink well has gone the way of the Freudian slip I wonder how we are supposed to be tested now for our deep seated fears and obsessions. Women's Weekly quizzes I suppose!] it had lifted and we could see across some of the waters at this, the Swiss/Austrian end of the lake, which, surprisingly, is not the largest body of inland water in Europe but I have yet to discover which is.
We turned south to join a motorway which took us north of St. Gallen, across the upper Rhine and up into the hills above Dornbirn. We were determined to retrace our steps over that mountain pass we had crossed on our previous trip when we returned from the Romantic Highway with L and which had been covered in mist and rain. Today was the complete opposite. As we ascended route 200 we had a wonderful view back whence we had come. We stopped at an hotel on a peak overlooking craggy hills and green valleys and had morning tea taking in the Sound of Music countryside. What a great spot and the sunshine too. But we had to push on. It had taken two and a half hours to get to this point.
From then on it was magnificent. We wound up and up towards the Hochtannbergpass travelling between hills and mountains whose trees had all turned browns and oranges. Around every corner were different hues in a patchwork of colour. The pass itself was quite spectacular. It was the part we had missed in the mist and I was so glad we had come back because it was picture perfect. The peaks were silhouetted against the blue sky like a high resolution photo. In the distance we could see snow below which were dotted homes and villages. The green fields were homes to small groups of cattle [ I could not call them herds. Sometimes there would be less than a dozen and at others just one lonesome cow.] all with bells around their necks. As we drove past there was a constant jangle as they grazed. Alongside we were frequently accompanied by a fast flowing stream which as we progressed flowed into the River Inn. The road was well paved with little traffic until we met the 197 at Arlbergpass.
The car purred along. Once we hit the A12 or E60 we encountered many tunnels some of which were 6 and 7 kilometres long. To my mind they were engineering masterpieces but then again man has been digging tunnels for centuries. Here on the continent they were as common as the endless country roads in Australia which often cause European visitors to gasp in awe and/or boredom and thirst.
About 70 km west of Innsbruck we exited the autobahn to take lunch. Bad mistake. Not the lunch idea but the town we now found ourselves in. First of all it did not resemble a town and secondly the only eating pace we could find was set back off the road among the run down houses and called the Barbarossa café. It was run by a big mama with kids in the background watching TV. It had an eastern aroma about it...the local drinking place and meeting place of the local Lebanese or Turkish. We were the only customers. We ordered two things from the menu of which we had no idea what they were. A Turkish dish translated into German/Austrian.[ I have yet to work out the difference between those two languages. Maybe just a subtle difference in dialect as in Switzerland.] But we ate it all up. 
The valley now flattened out as we approached and entered Innsbruck. We drove up the main street, parked underground and walked across the road to what looked like it might be the older part of town. I had not expected much in Innsbruck but it was lovely. The street in which we found ourselves was very touristy but the buildings were once again decorated with murals depicting historical scenes and balconies or bay windows covered in flowers.
We could not resist the shops which carried huge ranges of steins, figurines and jewellery. In particular there was the largest gallery of Swarovski crystal we had ever seen. It was spread over three floors and included their Xmas range of ice crystals hanging from the ceiling and snow scenes in its winter wonderland with sleighs and reindeer in their inimitable crystal style. I am pleased to say there was not a Swarovski Santa. But they are now into every conceivable object that can be created in crystal. Jewellery was the most prolific line together with larger animals. The small delicate animal creations were now passe.
I bought myself a hip flask in which to carry my afternoon slug of whisky and ginger wine. Lugging those two bottles around was not really very smart.
We had not planned to stay in Innsbruck so after a quick look at the river we continued east to find a town called Terfens. In days of yore when Anne was but a young teen and still controllable, she accompanied her older sisters to this small village in the Tyrrol for a two week summer holiday. She remembers it well...not! She has images of a mostly good time had by all but not of exactly where this bloody place was. I drove up and down the hills, over and under the autobahn and railway until just as we were to give up we turned a corner and there it was...the town sign. But, there was little there. Certainly nowhere for us to stay which I had considered as an option so we waved, took a photo and continued on our way east.
Next, a town called Schwaz, where we found a terrific looking guest house which looked perfect for us but they were full up. I was very disappointed. I had had enough by then and needed a noggin from my new flask. They advised us that most of the hotels in that area were full and that we would have to seek accommodation several kilometres east. We rejoined the main road, continued for a few kilometres and turned off at Rotholz where we saw signs to hotels. The Esterhammer Gasthof had plenty of rooms. It was not as exclusive as the previous one but it had a charm that reminded me of some of those old barn like hotels in the blue mountains with carpeted hallways and staircases leading to much abused doors that opened into modern en suite bedrooms. Our room was large with high ceilings and weird lights shaped like flowers. I don't know what century they came out of.
The hotel was on the corner of a busy intersection but we could not hear anything from our corner room on the other side which looked out over the valley up which we had just driven. The only downside was that the car had to be left in a public car park about 100 metres away and there was nowhere to eat except in the hotel. Soup and salad for both of us. My soup had pancake strips in it whilst Anne had a simple vegetable broth. We both had the turkey salad which turned out to be too much for the both of us. The TV, as in most of the hotels we stayed at,  provided either, but not all, CNN, CNBC, BBC or SKY. We watched Martina Hingis win a match in Zurich...the Swiss miss in her home town.[ Why doesn't she play mixed doubles with Federer. Now there's an a unbeatable combination I would have thought . Not that you hear much about mixed competitions these days...except at Wimbledon.]
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