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 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.

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.

Then I put my bag on 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 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 n 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? 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 2 rear brake cylinders 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.

Hello Innsbruck, I’m coming to see you!

Vienna, Austria

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

I haven’t written 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 ‘now’ factor for me. Linz, Salzburg, even tiny villages such as Wals and Gois all have that ‘now’ factor and make you want to look round to see what they have to offer and go back repeatedly to enjoy it.

Vienna on the other hand made me not want to explore, I had to force myself. The most interesting thing I found here 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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. 

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 just as 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.

Pass problems

I was going to say you may not believe it but, you might…my brakes burned out on a pass in Austria lol

It was a 16% hill and in 2nd gear the rev counter was going over 5,000 so I went into 3rd but then had to continually brake on and off most of the way down. The brakes got so hot that by the half way mark there was smoke coming from the wheels and the stench was awful. I pulled into a restaurant car park that offered itself and noticed a camper about the same size as mine but about 10 years older pull in after me. They didn’t have problems 🙁  Here’s the car park: MK3_2601

So, I decided to sit here and have some lunch. It’s blazing hot and I have no idea how much of the hill is left, I suspect a lot. I may not even reach Italy tonight grrr

*Update: I had to stop once more on the way down but from then on it was flattish so no problem. It’s concerned me though so I’m getting the brakes checked out when I return to UK.

**Update 2: I was chatting on a motorhome forum and a guy gave me this link http://www.brick-yard.co.uk/VehicleSpecific/T3/info/brakefluid.htm It’s an article that basically says brake fade is due to old and poor condition brake fluid and not pads. Bad pads cause brakes simply not to work. I am dubious as to the authenticity of this but I’ll be checking it out.

I decided that as it was over 2 hours quicker using the toll roads through the Brenner Pass, I’d pay the fee. It was €19.80 to get through the first few miles of the pass, but the next 150 miles or so of Autostrade into Veneto was only €5.60. Total tolls paid since leaving Calais including the French ones is a wallet busting €71.90 Thanks in part to my SatNav which although I told it NOT to use toll roads, it did. So after the second time it did it in France I bought a map and stopped using the TomTom. I’m heartily fed up with TomTom’s unreliable mapping so that’s my finish with it. It’s useful for marking POI’s and that’s about it.

Total mileage covered from Dover is 1006, which equates to about 156 litres of diesel which at the average price is just less than £250 or so.

Anyway, I got into Mestre and headed for Punta Sabbatini as I’d been told there was a sosta there. I found a free car park and parked up and went to bed shattered.

Oh update on the money card. I rang them and they said the last transaction had not worked as he had not sent it through as the correct transaction type. It needs to go as chip and pin and not a swipeable card. Well he managed to do my Visa card OK…anyway, the stop before that she said did not work as the Money Card does not work at automated fuel pumps and it says this clearly in the terms and conditions. What about the previous time near Strasbourg? Oh wait, it doesn’t matter, just put all the money back on my bank card as this has cost me dearly in time and stress so far and failed to work so I don’t want it any more. Yes Sir, that’ll be up to 5 working days to go into your account, or £21 if you want it immediately. I wish I could say “You useless, greedy robbing bastards!” but it wasn’t her fault she simply works there.