Border guards, squealing trains and ticks!

So, last night I left Innsbruck after not really seeing anything. Why? Cos I booked my ferry ticket for Sunday night. So I have to get all the way to Calais and also get Jack sorted by a vet for the worming thing. By the way I used my Tesco vouchers for the first time for the ferry. I’d found the link somewhere ages ago so I logged on and used almost all of the ones I had to make up to £60 of credit. You can’t book online when using vouchers so I rang the lad and he had it sorted in a couple of minutes flat. In fact it took him longer to go through the legal stuff than it did to book the tickets!

I booked into the Calais sailing which I’ve never used before. I’ve always travelled from Dunkirk. Not from preference, I just tend to use whatever is cheaper. I doubt the journey is any different anyway, it’s matterless to me.

I filled up with diesel, set the sat nav, and within a few miles was climbing the biggest bloody mountain ever. It honestly went on more than a Tory minister and of course since Berchtesgaden I have a morbid fear of hills cos when you go up them you can guarantee you’ll be coming down them again and that’s when the brakes fail. 

Now I’ll stop my story and explain something here that not may know. When your brakes fail it isn’t the actual brakes themselves. I learned about this when I first had brake failure going through the Brenner pass in Switzerland. What happens is everything gets hot and if there is any moisture at all in the brake fluid or if it’s simply old, it prevents it working properly, and the hotter the fluid gets the less it works. That’s basically brake fade. 

What can also happen as well is if the rubber bits of the brake pipes are in poor condition, they swell, taking the pressure from the brakes. 

Steep bit
Steep bit

Now, I’ve supposedly had mine done twice since I was in Italy, (once here and once here) but clearly they’ve not been done.

However, coming down the other side wasn’t as bad as I thought, certainly not steep enough to make me need to use the brakes loads. It was madly twisty which you can see on the map, although some of the bends are way worse than they appear on the map. 

Also on Google map it doesn’t show that the whole journey was in deep forest. It’s actually a beautiful route to enjoy, perhaps I’ll do it again one time when I can actually rely on the brakes. When I get back to the UK I’m going to strip them all down and rebuild them properly that way I know it’s all done. Apparently all brake fluid needs to be changed every 5 years.

The rest of the journey into and then out of Switzerland was gorgeous. I went through Zurich and Basel and although I only saw them from the motorway I definitely want to visit them at some point in the future. 

Vaguely in the back of my head as I drove, I remember a sign I’d seen and it was only just dawning on me now what it was. It was a reminder that to use the class 1 and 2 roads in Switzerland you must buy the vignette. It’s much like Austria’s except you can buy only 1 year which runs from December 1st til Jan 31st and it doesn’t matter when you buy it, it runs out then. Personally I can’t get my head round how this works. If it is valid between December 1st and Jan 31st of the following year, that’s 14 months. So what if you buy it in February? Does it then run out the following December? It’s a barmy system to be honest but the vignette is only €38 so it’s not worth missing it out. 

Except I had. Oops. Let’s trust to luck that no cops stop me then!

The border guard

But come on, given my luck, we all know it was going to end in tears and sure enough I got to the Swiss/French border to find police active there and stopping all vehicles as they went through. Bugger. 

It would not have mattered if I’d come off the motorway and taken a lesser route through, it’s only class 1 and 2 roads that the vignette is needed for. Unfortunately I was on a class 1 road, the motorway. And so they stopped me and instantly looked at the windscreen in front of my rear view mirror, which is the place the vignette is supposed to go.

I quickly started thinking of a story, so when he asked me where I’d come from I said Innsbruck and that I was heading for Calais. He instantly asked where my vignette was and I pointed to the Austrian one which was still valid. He said “No you are not in Austria now you are in Switzerland yes?” I nodded. “So you need a Swiss vignette yes?”
So I hung my head in shame and said “I am sorry, I saw the sign as I left Austria and it didn’t register and I then forgot about it.”
He nodded but smiled and said “You know the fine is 200 Francs?” (€185)
I said “Yes, I can pay you now if you have a card machine?”
Then the most curious thing happened. An angel came down from heaven and tapped the policeman on the shoulder, and whispered in his ear. The policeman smiled and looked at me and said “The angels are looking after you tonight, so I am not going to fine you, but please make sure you pay when you return.”

Now I know what you’re thinking…did angels really come down and whisper in his ear? Well my friend sometimes you just have to believe…

He waved me through and on I went and honestly, I don’t begrudge €38 so when I return I will indeed buy that vignette.

Squealing trains

I was more tired than I thought I would be so I looked for the next stop on my route which turned out to be an aire in Thann. I got there about 1am and it was deserted so I found a spot in the massive car park, 4 other vans were already there. It looked nice enough but I just needed to be able to work the next day so I checked I had an internet signal and went to bed. 
To be woken at 5am by screeching banshees from hell right outside my window. 

Ok, a train going through the points, but it sounded like screeching banshees. Or how I imagine a screeching banshee would sound, because I’ve never heard one, but anyway it was bloody noisy. Jack of course decided it was a threat to us so he set off barking ferociously at it and I did have to have a chuckle when he coughed, made a massive yawn and then carried on barking for all he was worth. Bless him.

That was it. I managed to get back to sleep but another train came 15 minutes later, and another 15 minutes after that. Until about 6:30am which is 7:30 their time when dozens of screeching school kids wandered past on their way to class. I knew I had no hope of more sleep so I took Jack out and we wandered around for a half hour. It turns out the railway is about 20 metres from the van and crosses the road and through the town. A bell rings whenever a train is due and once it’s passed the cars engines rev as they pull away. Noisy Nora!!

Anyway work was uneventful, the weather was incredibly hot and muggy, but I found a vet in Moosch about 3 miles up the road and rang to see if I could get an appointment after work that afternoon, to do the dog’s tablet for his passport. I was pleased I conducted the entire conversation in French and I thought everything was fine until she was saying something I simply could not grasp at all nor guess what she might have been wanting to say. 

Eventually she got a colleague to come and talk to me and she simply wanted to know how long we’d been in France. 

After work I found the vets no bother at all, parking out front, and the receptionist I spoke to answered in English so that helped. 

What’s more difficult than not speaking much French is when people speak to you and you continually have to tell them that you don’t speak French. In my case the truth is my French is limited but passable but I can’t understand what they say. So the young woman who came in after me and sat beside me and tried to ask about Jack just smiled when I said “Je ne comprends pas, desole.” I hate having to continually say that but, learning to speak French is difficult enough, far more difficult than reading it, but listening to it is the worst. 
I swear the French have a secret language that they only use between themselves!

Ticks

The vet was very thorough though, Jack had a good going over and she asked relevant questions. She even confirmed that Frontline was no longer adequate protection for ticks in France and I should use Seresto instead. The collars are only about £20 and last for 8 months so it’s a much cheaper option than Frontline. France has a bigger problem with fleas and ticks than the UK does so if Seresto is good enough for France then it’s good enough for my dog.

I was happy that the bill was only €42 as well, because that chat she had with me constituted a consultation and they always charge for that. Just for the tablet alone the vet near Calais charges €55.

So all done, I set the satnav for Calais and headed off but we got about 200 miles short of Calais and I spotted a sign for an aire, the aire d’entrange so I decided that as I was working overtime today I’d pull in and get a decent nights sleep. 

After work I got another half hours sleep, and then sat wasting time on the internet, just because I could. 

 

Where I stayed: Haut-Rhin [68], Alsace, France, 68800, N47° 48.523′ E7° 6.341′ and Aire d’entrange, 57330 Thionville, France, N49.404965, E6.112637

Gois, Austria

Gois from Wals
Gois is a couple of miles distant from Wals but can be seen clearly over the flat farmland.

I discovered Gois while I was waiting for my van to be repaired in the garage in Wals. I dropped it off at 7:30am so I had the day to kill til 3pm which is when they said it would be ready.

Wals is tiny so it took me one hour to explore the village so I crossed the main road and set off for the foothills of the mountains I could see.

I walked through a group of a couple of dozen houses then came out the other side and could see more houses and a church about a mile away. Halfway there was a lone tree by a field, with a bench underneath and I thought to myself ‘That’s perfect for a sit in the shade to cool off. ‘

And sure enough it was. The sun was scorching at about 35 degrees that day so to get a little shade was great for me and for Jack.

So I took my pack off and gave him a drink and I also had one for the first time from the Bobble bottle I bought. I first saw them in Tesco: plastic 75ml bottles with a filter cartridge in the mouthpiece. You can buy replacement cartridges and I thought at the time what a brilliant idea! However Tesco wanted £14.99 per bottle and £8.99 per cartridge. Lol I was never going to pay that. The idea was excellent but the product is simple and cheap.

A couple of years later I saw them again one day in Tesco, very much the same price except for some weird reason the blue opaque ones were cheaper. £4.99 and £2.99 for a cartridge. Supposedly you get 300 fills from a cartridge so that’s not bad value at all. I love the idea of not needing to buy overly expensive bottled water, and not creating yet more waste for landfills. But come on Bobble, you’re not exactly using brand new highly developed technology so I don’t get the silly prices.

So I bought one anyway and 2 cartridges and had filled it from a public fountain in Wals. I’d watched the council come around at about 8am and fill about 40 litres of god knows what chemicals into the fountain: bleach? Most of these types of fountains are not mains fed they use the same water over and over so they need to keep it clean. Anyway I filled my bottle more to try it out than anything, the water was warm, but sweet and fine so that was money well spent. It lasted about 3 fill ups then the lid split totally rendering it utterly useless. *sigh*

I note PC World of all places sell them too but they want about a tenner each pfft. Not that I would buy a thing from them ever again!

Sandwiches anyone?

Shade
On a day of 35 degrees I had been walking for hours when I spotted this lone tree shading a small bench. A perfect respite from the scorching heat. The village of Gois is in the background.

Anyway I digress. I was sitting minding my own business, watering the dog, making sure he was in the shade, checking his paws as we’d been on a hot pavement for a while, and answering the phone when suddenly this bloke comes out of nowhere and speaks in German to me.

I shrugged “No sprecken zie Deutsch.” And he says in lovely English “Do you mind if I sit with you?”

Well had this been the UK I’d have been suspicious and wondered if he was a dogger or scammer or something. But I noted the sandwich bag in his hand so I moved my stuff to make room and asked him to sit.

He of course had to fuss Jack a little, mainly cos Jack wasn’t going to let him get away without doing it. But he seemed happy to so I let him have his emotional fix and only intervened when Jack smelled the sandwich. The man sat and started eating it and Jack got bored and started digging a hole by the tree. He loves digging holes.

That sarnie looked mighty tasty so I said “Yum that looks nice!”

He laughed and said it was, although he’d have preferred chicken if they’d had it. And so we talked about sandwiches for about 15 minutes. Yes, 2 grown men, complete strangers, sitting in the shade of a single tree, in the middle of farmers fields, in blazing sunshine chatting about various sandwich fillings and then onto types of bread.

We agreed that Schwarzbrot is one of the best breads going and the American Max Super Soft sandwich bread which is all over Europe was about the worst.

I picked my rucsac up and got the dog and said bye as he was finishing his sandwich and he waved as we walked away and you know what? I felt amazingly relaxed and content after having a completely unexpected but innocent and pleasant conversation about nothing more than bread and sandwich fillings!

How odd life can be!

So we continued down into Gois and the little church on the little hill was looking rather pretty so I decided to have a wander up and see if it was open. They usually are not I have found here and I don’t know why that is, as God’s house is always supposed to be open. Anyway I wanted to try but on the way I found some horses in stables. They were beautiful, obviously not your normal old nag, more your classy equine.

I stopped to feed them cos like, if you pass an animal you have to feed it right? I have no idea why, I just know it’s true. How many kids have grown up feeding the ducks before they can even say quack?

Jack says hello
Jack really cannot contain himself when there’re other animals to greet. The horse was unsure about going for a full blown kiss but had Jack been 6 inches taller he’d have been over the wall.

Of course Jack wanted in on it as soon as I started to feed them. He made a very good effort to get over the little concrete wall so he could give the horse a big slobbery terrier kiss, and then probably tease it into having a little playful run around. Cos that’s how Jack thinks and that’s what Jack does.

Ask me to see the videos of him and the lambs. Go on ask me…

Anyway, feeding time was over so we continued on to the church and as we got closer to the dozen or so houses that surrounded it an old lady hove into view holding the hand of a little girl about 3 years old. Her other hand was dragging a little kiddies trike along behind her and I felt a pang thinking yup. All parents have gone through that ha.

Well dogs are really popular for some reason over here so I know they’d come over to say hello and they did. And Jack licked the little girls hands and face cos he knows they taste of yummy sweet things.

And she thought it was fabulous and laughed and danced. And the old lady laughed, so not to be left out I did too. And Jack was grinning.

Now people say dogs can’t smile. Load of horseshit. Ask anyone who has a dog and they will tell you they smile all the time. And Jack was smiling cos we were all laughing and we were actually having a really nice day.

So I continued on to the church getting a couple of photos of it from the bottom of the hill, then walking up the steep grass to have a look inside.

The main doors were open but there was a very substantial metal grille which locked the entranceway. I have no idea if it is a result of crime or respect for God that they lock the churches.

I snapped a shot off and then the old lady was there again with the little girl.

I baptise thee in the name of the Lord

She spoke no English and I speak no German but she managed to indicate that the child was baptised here. Oddly the font was in the porch, before the metal grille so I mimed baptising the little girl and we all laughed again. Apart from Jack. He was outside digging a hole.

So I pointed inside the church and told the old lady that it reminded me of the Italian chapel on Orkney. She seemed to be surprised and then made a face as if to say “Why yes, now you’ve said that I see the resemblance.“ Of course she had no clue what I’d said.

Anyway that was fun chatting to someone who has no understanding at all of your language but making yourself understood anyway, so I rewarded her by calling Jack over and asking him to give a left paw, then a right one to the little girl, who thought that was the best thing ever. So good in fact that she dropped her dummy.

I stopped Jack of course before he slobbered all over it and waved to the little girl and said “Bye bye” and she said clearly and strongly “Bye bye” as she waved a hand. Awww. No language, but loads of communication.

My little visit had been nice to Gois but it was almost time to move on now. I walked down the hill and past some new apartments, built in traditional style but modern materials and each block had their own underground parking. How cool?

Unexpected art
Another bench in the shade, another rest for me and my dog. And there almost in the middle of nowhere is an art structure. Talk about unexpected.

I found another tree with some seating underneath. The Austrian councils seem to actually care about their citizens unlike most UK councils. It was lovely once again sitting in the shade and cooling off.

I noticed a piece of artwork installed next to the seating. This is in the middle of agricultural land, with the nearest large town about 6 miles away. I was most impressed. A very small village but a beautiful one, some really do know how to live.

I spent a little longer watching the farmer set up some automatic sprinklers for his lettuce and then set off back to Wals. I’d finished the water so getting some more was my next priority.

 

 

 

 

Wals, Austria

This tiny village sits at the foot of the mountains in Walsberg Austria.

Wals…a nickname for Wall-E from EVE? Nope, a small town in Salzburg, Austria as it happens. I found it by simply doing a google search for Peugeot dealers so that I could get my radiator repaired. And the back brakes. Anyway, I’d rung them and luckily they spoke English cos I speak no German at all and as it turns out later, not one of the other 4 garages I’d emailed around the Freilassing area replied.

Anyway, they said drop the van off at 7:30am which, because I’m running on UK time here was 6:30am to me * sigh * Never mind I’ll just be happy to get it sorted as I’ve wasted days now with not being able to move.

Anyway, he said it’ll be ready by 3pm which to me is 2pm so I have 6.5 hours to kill in a town that has a population of about 2,000. Hmmm.

I set off to walk around the town, it was already 22 degrees so I was slathered with 50 factor and I had a bottle of water and some food for the dog. Walking along the main road I spotted a nice little village a couple of miles away which I visited later. But my first stop was at a little shrine by a field of lettuce. As I’ve written before these shrines are everywhere and some are very elaborate. This one was quite substantial but had a bench next to it so it was nice to sit in the shade of the shrine and watch the sprinklers for ten minutes.

I’m always conscious of Jack’s paws when walking on tarmac or concrete. In that kind of heat they can get sore really quickly. I’m getting him some boots when I get back to UK. I know you can get some which are good for both summer and winter. I bet he hates them but…

Church of no name
Many churches in Austria appear to have no specific name, this one even on it’s website being called the Parish Church of Walsberg. It was the cemetery I’d come to see with it’s very elaborate and well kept graves.

The parish church of Wals, Walsberg, Austria

Anyway, so I find the little parish church in Wals. Beautifully kept, the most lovely gravestones every one of which was well cared for and some quite elaborate. Back in Stazi UK none of that would be allowed. Plain old boring nonsense for the Brits.

As usual the church was locked and a thing I’ve found over here is that many churches don’t appear to have a name. They’re simply known as the Parish Church. I noticed too that they chime in a different way to the UK. There’s a low, single note which denotes the hours, and a higher toned, single note which denotes 3 of the quarters of the hour. So 2 low, 3 high is 02:45am 

I did spot something though I’ve never seen anywhere before. A candle vending machine! Yes for 1€ you can have a candle in a coloured plastic jar, or for 2€ you can have a candle in a coloured plastic jar that has a printed design on. Ingenious. There’s also the most perfect public loo here, cleaner than in most houses I dare say! And an outside sink with watering cans so you can tend to the graves easily. Everything is pristine and perfect and fairly new by the look of it.

There’s a lovely public fountain which was nice just to be beside and I did consider dunking Jack in but wondered if someone might complain: they wash their faces and hands in these fountains.

Kiss and Go
I loved this official school drop off point which indicates in the nicest possible way that there’s no waiting.

Kiss and Go

The thing that made me smile in this little square though was the sign saying “Kiss and Go”. It was the drop off point for the school. What council do you know would consider a sign saying Kiss and Go to hint that there’s no waiting? I love the idea and I love the attitude.

Another thing that struck me was that sometimes it’s difficult to determine which buildings serve what function. From the shots I took you can see that a dairy farm, a horse farm, an apartment block and a normal house all look almost identical. I love the chalet type style that is predominant around Austria and even modern built properties still try to adhere to the same style. But my first wander around Wals left me with the impression there were no shops or other businesses.

My second trip around it showed a cafe, deli, bank, hotels, garage, garden centre, DIY store, restaurants, farms, plumber and a wide variety of other businesses.

I suppose I can be guilty sometimes of walking through a place quickly and thinking I’ve seen it all, whereas if I look harder or go through twice I might find hidden gems.

Anyway, I went back to face a bill of almost £730 for a radiator and a rear brake cylinder (which I don’t believe was faulty) and a few feet of brake pipe. Absolutely massive bill for fairly simple jobs and that’s what I get for using main dealer. I do actually know better than to use dealers and to go to independents but sadly I have to go with what I can find out here as I don’t speak the language. As it turned out not one of the other 4 places replied to my emails so I suppose at least I got the work done and am back on the road now.

Later on I found that of the two radiator top brackets the bush on one was worn and split, and the other was completely missing! So much for quality work from dealerships grr!

Hello Innsbruck, I’m coming to see you!

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg is probably the second best Austrian city I’ve visited after Linz. Getting there on the train was easy from where I was staying at Golling but the walk into Salzburg itself was a little boring, through a housing estate and industrial area. Hey ho it was only about a half hour and by the time I got to the riverside I realised I should have headed straight for the river, then walked along it as it’s much nicer than the shorter route. Lesson learned.

The day I visited was a hot day in the high 30 degrees so leaving Jack behind simply wasn’t an option. It’s good that he was allowed on the train although I had to pay €2 for him, which I found out just in time.

An elderly couple were struggling with the ticket machine at Golling, and there was no staff around to help so eventually they stood back to allow me to get my ticket. They indicated they wanted to watch so I showed them how to but a ticket and it barely registered in the back of my mind that I had seen an option for a dog for €2. I got my ticket and set off for the tunnel to get to the other platform for my train.

It preyed on my mind and after 10 minutes, with only 5 remaining before the train was due I went back to the machine, just to check I had the right ticket. The elderly couple were still there but happily managed to get their tickets after a minute or so. I checked and sure enough it was €2 extra for the dog! So I quickly bought a ticket for him and ran out to see the train pulling in. I scooted through the tunnel and got on the train with a minute to spare…phew! 

I think the main thing I liked about Salzburg was it’s sense of age. The city is modern in parts of course but the old town is left untouched. Wherever you go world wide there tends to be an old town. There is clearly a reason for this, people like to visit to see how traditional cities used to be and for me, how cities ought still to look, even if constructed in modern materials.

I do find it slightly amusing that the legendary Mozart's birthplace is now a Spar shop. Great marketing?
I do find it slightly amusing that the legendary Mozart’s birthplace is now a Spar shop. Great marketing?

There are many locations around the world where cities build new buildings using older style designs but with new building materials. Troyes in France is an excellent example of this and you have to actually touch those buildings to be able to convince yourself they are not ancient. Surely this says something about modern architecture and it’s unappealing aesthetic to the majority of people?

It’s almost comical and slightly incongruous to see that such a world wide famous composer like Mozart lived in a house that is now home to a Spar. Spar in the UK is synonymous with crowded shops selling a limited range of goods at very high prices mostly in run down council estates. To see the logo of Spar and then the sign saying “Mozarts birthplace” is odd but at least they have retained the old style of the building from the outside. 

Another interesting thing I didn’t know was that the cemetery used in the Sound of Music where Rolf finds them hiding was a set built at a movie studio in America. The cemetery really exists as you can see in my photos and though it inspired the one in the movie it was not used for filming. Also the opening scene where Maria sings the Sound of Music while dancing on a hill was actually filmed in Germany. Only a few miles from Salzburg, but such is artistic licence.

I was lucky enough to arrive at St Peters Basilica as a carriage arrived to carry a bride and groom who had just got married to their reception. It was lovely to see the marching band in full dress and how the wedding party accepted the public around them and did not mind at all people milling around and taking photos. It reminded me of a wedding I saw in Florence. Apparently it is custom for the bride and groom to walk through the city hand in hand and passersby will clap them and congratulate them. It was absolutely joyous to see such public love and respect and the wedding in Salzburg reminded me of that. 

There was one odd encounter. A lady approached me in the cemetery and stated that dogs weren’t allowed inside. I found that really odd because there were at least a half dozen people at that precise moment wandering with dogs. We all had them on a leash so quite why she chose to challenge me I have no idea. I was very respectful but explained that there were no signs anywhere at all that disbarred dogs so I would wait for an official to tell me that it was not allowed. 

She then proceeded to tell me a story about an American air force pilot who fought during the war and was given the honour of being buried in the cemetery, a high honour not usually given to people not native to the city. I’ve no idea if it’s true but it made a lovely story. She also told me that once buried there someone must pay rent every year, and if it doesn’t get paid you get dug up and reburied in a municipal cemetery! Incidentally dogs aren’t allowed in the catacombs so I missed that trip sadly, something to do in the future methinks 🙂

Although there is lots to do in Salzburg I’d limited myself to visiting the old town and I would definitely visit again and do the same thing.

As always, this is not a travel blog, this is more like a personal journal. If you wish to know what to do in Salzburg just google “What to do in Salzburg” and there are a hundred ideas, you don’t need me to tell you where to go and what to see. My blog unlike some was not designed to be a travel guide, but is more about my recollections of travelling on a more personal level and the interesting people and experiences I have while travelling.

Where I stayed: Golling an der Salzach, Hallein, Salzburg, Austria, 5440, N47.595879, W13.171677, €9.90 per night, €1 for 80 litres of water, max 5 nights. Train station 5 minutes away.

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

David's hat in front of the view I had at Golling where I was parked.
David’s hat in front of the view I had at Golling where I was parked.

Salzburg was an utter joy and my second favourite city in Austria after Linz. This opinion is based mostly on the old town and does not include places of interest such as museums and art galleries, as normally they don’t allow dogs in. 

The day I visited was a hot day in the high 30 degrees so leaving Jack behind simply wasn’t an option. It’s good that he was allowed on the train although I had to pay €2 for him, which I found out just in time.

An elderly couple were struggling with the ticket machine at Golling, and there was no staff around to help so eventually they stood back to allow me to get my ticket. They indicated they wanted to watch so I showed them how to buy a ticket and being distracted by the couple it barely registered in the back of my mind that I had seen an option for a dog for €2. I got my ticket and set off for the tunnel to get to the other platform for my train.

It preyed on my mind and after 10 minutes, with only 5 remaining before the train was due I went back to the machine, just to check I had the right ticket. The elderly couple were still there but happily managed to get their tickets after a minute or so. I checked and sure enough it was €2 extra for the dog! So I quickly bought a ticket for him and ran out to see the train pulling in. I scooted through the tunnel and got on the train with a minute to spare…phew! 

Linz, Austria

Linz, Austria

The hat at Linz
From the north shore we look across the Danube at the city of Linz, capital of Upper Bavaria.

Linz is the 3rd largest city in Austria and the capital of Upper Bavaria. Like many major European cities the Danube runs through it.

Adolf Hitler spent most of his youth here, as did Adolf Eichmann and after the war the city spend decades shedding it’s links to these people. There remains a balcony in the city centre where Hitler gave a speech from, but there’s nothing at all to advertise which one it was.

Most of the touristy bit of Linz is on the south side of the Danube and consists of ancient areas including old Roman ruins, old squares and buildings dating back centuries, and modern buildings with glass and steel. Enormous pleasure boats dock here and testify to the amount of tourists who flock to the city.

I actually prefer it to Vienna for several reasons: it’s smaller so easier to get around, it’s less expensive, it’s a more down to earth city where real people live, it’s actually got more to see.

Predominantly Roman Catholic there are numerous churches and a cathedral, and religious iconography everywhere. 

There’s art installations and centres around the city, technological centres, museums and some beautifully kept parks. I’m staying here for a little while. Like Rouen and Amiens, it’s just one of those places that you want to stop and relax for a while.

The photo of the hat was taken on the north bank where I was parked and where there is an enormous park which was well used by people for all sorts of leisure activities. I decided one day when it was warm but not bright to picnic here and let the dog roam around a bit while I read a book. I like to think David was enjoying relaxing and watching the world go by. 

What do you do for ten dollar….

I pulled into Bratislava about 5:00 am. I was up early and decided to make the move to find an early parking spot. So right on the edge of town I parked near some houses and got out my phone to check a couple of parking apps. 

I did notice a young girl walking past, partly because there was no-one around at that time of the morning and partly because apart from a long t shirt, she obviously wore nothing else: not even shoes. Odd for that time of the morning.

She was quite pretty and I idly wondered what she was up to as I went back to checking my apps. I realised after a moment though that she had stopped and turned and was heading back to where I was parked. I watched her out of the corner of my eye and sure enough she came up towards the van.

So obviously I checked my nostrils were clean, sucked my belly in and sat up straighter…as you do. 🙂

I opened the window as she got level with the van and said “Good morning.”

To which she replied by yanking up the T shirt to show her lady bits and saying in quite good English, “You can have it for €20.” I vaguely wondered if she meant the lady garden or the T shirt…

I was very tempted to grab my camera but I decided not to and simply had a very good gawk before shrugging and saying…”€10?”

Blonde in T shirt
Blonde in T shirt

I actually was not interested really, because although I don’t see a problem with prostitution in general, I’ve no need nor inclination to take advantage of it myself. But I was really just being playful by bartering for what I’m sure would be a lovely time. Or maybe it would not be and it would be 10 minutes of digging into a diseased pit of germs and filth, you never really know do you and especially in the odd circumstances…

 

Anyway, clearly €10 was not enough to plant seeds in her cherished garden so she said something foreign that sounded incredibly like “Fuck you!” and dropped her T shirt. 

I could not help but reply “You can for €10!” but she was walking away by then, barefoot, her lovely little bare bottom waving goodbye to me as she stomped off in search of the next mug. 

Only the second time in my life that I’ve been propositioned by a prostitute, and it made my morning lol Don’t you just love odd experiences, especially when they’re unexpected? 

Sorry there’s no photo for this story, but as a consolation here’s a googled image just for gratuitous sexual content 🙂

 

Once I’d parked I came back and wandered around the town for a while taking some photos. It was a beautiful day even though I’d got there about 5 am, the sun was up and it was warm and there was even a drunk still asleep on the floor in the middle of the path! So, in an hour I saw a drunk a whore and a nun. I also saw a bronze Napoleon but he wasn’t real…

Bratislava is nice enough I suppose, although 5 am on a Saturday morning isn’t the best time to see any town, as the council hasn’t finished cleaning up yet from the night before.  It’s not what I thought it was going to be: I expected old and dignified. Instead it was old and not dignified at all. It was pleasant enough to wander around the streets but if it was really busy I’m not sure how I’d feel about it. 

I much prefer the countryside of Slovakia and the nice little towns I came through on the  journey from Poland. Anyway, as ever here’s a few photos I took. 

Where I stayed: Petržalka, Slovakia, 48.136669, 17.113909

Vienna, Austria

The Kunsthistorisches Museum
The Kunsthistorisches Museum is an art museum in Vienna, Austria.

To access Vienna I parked in an aire in Kritzendorf and it was very handy as the aire was beside a train station and it was only a few euros to go into the city. I didn’t write anything about Vienna for some time, I’ve done other places first. That’s partly because I was busy, and partly cos I was thinking about what to write. 

You see, and I know some trolls will castigate me for this but, I wasn’t that struck on Vienna.

Don’t get me wrong it’s a beautiful city, some of the buildings are amazing. But then so is Liverpool, and Newcastle on Tyne, and I think parts of London are way nicer than Vienna.

Admittedly I only spent one day there and there was lots I didn’t do, but really I didn’t do them because I wasn’t inspired to.

My overall impression being quite honest is that Vienna is trading on a name it had for being a top cosmopolitan European destination 100 years ago. It just doesn’t have that ‘wow’ factor for me. It’s undoubtedly beautiful and if you could spend a whole day just walking around beautiful buildings you will love Vienna. There are of course some things to see like the Spanish riding school, cathedral, museums, art galleries and the palace but a quick look on Google or Trip Advisor would give you an idea if you might like it. Linz and Salzburg for me are much nicer partly because they’re smaller but seem to have just as much to see, but way more character and without eye watering prices. In Linz I went out every day with the sole purpose of waking the streets and exploring the city from end to end and corner to corner. Vienna on the other hand made me not want to explore, I had to force myself. The most interesting thing I found there was that it costs €150 euros to park overnight in the Rathausplatze. Yes one hundred and fifty euros. Nuts eh?

I would probably go back at some point and go in some of the museums etc, but I’d want to see other places first and would only go back if I had spare time.

Where I stayed: Kritzendorf, Austria, 3420, N48° 20.15′ E16° 17.917′

Linz, Austria

Rural village
Nestled at the foot of some hills in the Austrian countryside this village looks as quaint as can be.

Motorways are great to get where you’re going and I paid the motorway vignette at the border with Slovakia which was I think €9.60 for 10 days.

However a large part of the journey was through a fairly flat rural type of landscape so I set off slowly down the back roads and enjoyed the drive. 

There’s lots to see, pretty little villages just off the road side, large houses built on the top of hills and locals going about their business which for me, is the heart of travelling.

House on a hill
This looks like it could be a monastery sited on a hill above a small village. I never did find out what it was.

Stopping at some of these small villages to fill with diesel, buy a loaf, or let the dog out for a wee is great fun as you get to see and chat to real people living real lives in their own environment.

Saying that one thing I noticed is that I think less people speak English in Austria than maybe any other country I’ve been to. Luckily they’re very adept at body and sign language and I’ve not been stuck at all over here when trying to understand someone.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…European drivers in the main are much more considerate than British drivers. Oh dear…I expect a backlash for that especially from the pot-bellied sage who spends his life telling everyone how mental it is in France or Italy when in fact they’ve never been and are unlikely to ever go. 

Framed sunset
During the journey from Vienna to Linz I stopped at a motorway service station and managed to catch this sunset.

All of their wisdom is received rather than first hand and they can spend all day every day elucidating on all sorts of topics that they have no direct knowledge of but someone told them, or they read it somewhere, or there was a programme on TV, or perhaps they just think it…

In fact as long as you spend a short time familiarising yourself with the road signs, the driving rules and the way people behave you’ll find driving much more of a pleasurable experience. Roads in the main are better kept and better designed than the UK and you hardly ever experience gridlock. 

Anyway, I was weary and wanted a shower and I know that the motorway service stations usually have them for €1 for 10 minutes so I joined the motorway and within 5 minutes had found a ‘Raststation’. No limits on length of stay or rip off charges like the UK so I was able to have my shower, make a sandwich and then watch a glorious sunset with my coffee. Oh what a life. 

 

Arriving in Linz

I got to Linz fairly late but found the car park beside the river quickly so took Jack for a wee and a leg stretch and then had a cuppa and a quick check of the news before bed.

Bed was interrupted by the screeching tyres of small fast cars driven by small but loud young men. *sigh* It went on til 4am and I kept thinking “They’ll get bored soon…”

Chain man
I found this odd looking statue by a boat on the river. He must be the captain of the ship.

However the next day was beautiful, sunshiney but not too hot as it had been in Vienna, and not that sticky humid where you can’t move or breathe. We set off and it took less than 10 minutes to walk alongside the Danube, cross the bridge and reach the city proper. 

Linz is the 3rd largest city in Austria and the capital of Upper Bavaria. Like many major European cities the Danube runs through it. Adolf Hitler spent most of his youth here, as did Adolf Eichmann and after the war the city spend decades shedding it’s links to these people.

Despite that dubious link I liked it instantly. I liked that the bridge was wide and allowed trams through, and there was barely any traffic around, and that almost the entirety of the city centre was pedestrianised. Vienna in parts was a mass of revving cars, snarling motorbikes and roaring buses. It really puts you off and given there’s tons of out-of-city parking there is no real need.

Like a lot of other European cities and towns many of the buildings were painted in pastel shades which are not only attractive but peaceful. Sadly there was still graffiti and tasteless advertising, it’s a shame we have to live with these two scourges. 

Dining out…

The Ubiquitous McD's
It doesn’t matter where you go in the world you’ll find a McDonalds.

I noticed global brands such as H&M and McD’s and 3 network shops, but there was a wealth of local chain type shops and independent ones so that was a pleasure to see. I almost had a McDonalds because most of the fast food was based around either croissants, bagels or sausages, none of which I fancied.

However just as I was about to give in and dine on the devil’s fare, I found a lovely little sandwich shop which sold a beautiful fried fish and salad sandwich. Who’s ever heard of one of those before! It was only €4 for the sandwich and a drink so much cheaper than a McDonalds, much tastier and much more filling. 

I sat in a lovely little park of which there’s a few but I had to share the space with several homeless people. Homelessness is a global problem and it was apparent that most were suffering under the influence of something too. 

Some of the public places reeked of stale urine. This was a huge shame for such a beautiful city especially when there are public toilets.

Pleasure cruise
When you look at the peaceful view across the Danube it’s hard to believe that Adolf Hitler spent his youth here and always considered Linz as his home.

Most of the touristy bit of Linz is where I was on the south side of the Danube and consists of ancient areas including old Roman ruins, old squares and buildings dating back centuries, and modern buildings with glass and steel. Enormous pleasure boats dock here and testify to the amount of tourists who flock to the city. I actually prefer it to Vienna for several reasons: it’s smaller so easier to get around, it’s less expensive and it’s a more down to earth city where real people live.

There’re art installations and centres around the city, technological centres, museums and some beautifully kept parks. I’m staying here for a little while. Like Rouen and Amiens, it’s just one of those places that you want to stop and relax for a while.

As always here’s some pictures of my first day in Linz.

 

 

 

Tick that box, and that ear!

Tick. Ewww. Awful things. Remember when Jack’s face got covered with them? I’d never seen so many ticks!

Well there he was hanging out the window looking so sad, and feeling sorry for himself cos I would not let him out. Despite the fact he’d been out on the tether for an hour and sat in the direct sun the whole time until he was almost too hot to touch!

So finally I feel sorry for him and take a break from work and let him out. And he spends the whole 15 minutes digging holes in the ground. *sigh*

Anyway we come back in and he cleans himself up for a change, then comes and sits next to me while I was working. 

The biggest tick I've ever seen.
A normal sized tick and a huge one that I got out of Jack’s ears.

I idly rubbed his ears and something felt ‘off’. So I looked and this is what I found…

The small tick is the type I normally find, they’re sort of ‘standard’. But the big one, never seen anything like it. 

I put it next to the coin for scale. 

I got them all out (there was 5) with the large tick puller and I squished the big one out of curiosity. It burst and the amount of blood that came out was amazing. Very thick and dark red too, almost purplish.

Jack gets Frontlined every month but clearly that isn’t putting ticks off so I may now have to find something different to treat him with. These things don’t tick my box!