So, guess what we did? Well, we found the Brenner Pass which I remembered from old war films, but it was a shiny new motorway through it so it’s a doddle to drive from Austria all the way down to Venice…

The first bridge crossing to the main island
The first bridge crossing to the main island

Oh yeah baby…about 5-6 hours or something and there we were! It was Jo’s first trip so she was up for it despite the drive, which we enjoyed anyway especially driving through the Dolemites. Again the scenery was magical for some of the way. I’d joined this club thing where you pay a few Euros to join, and all campsites are at 1 of 3 fixed prices. Out of season was really cheap so we booked in for a couple of nights at Camping Rialto. It was a down and dirty campsite, the toilets were absolutely minging as were the showers, so we used neither and we didn’t eat at the cafe place as it didn’t look much better than the showers lol
But it was cheap and a bus stop outside had regular buses going directly to Piazzale Roma which is the huge square on the landward edge of the main island. 

We settled in at the site and as quickly as we could set off for the bus. I’d been before to Venice but it’s one of my fave places, and Jo was excited to go for the first time so we were like 2 kids on an adventure trip. The weather was perfect to see Venice too. 

We went a bit mad and did the Rialto Bridge, a water bus or vaporetto, St Mark’s Square, a gondola (which cost us an arm and a leg even after the haggling) and a tragetto for about 50 cents which not many people know about. We also went up the bell tower, St Mark’s Campanile and fed the pigeons when we came back down. We saw the Bridge of Sighs apparently so called as it led from the magistrates office to the prison, so people with long sentences were heard to sigh heavily as they walked along it. And we found the most idyllic little pizzeria in the world hidden down a back street and then came and watched the sun go down, with our feet dangling in the lagoon and the Giudecca in the distance. 

Venice is a magical place, it is where I would choose to live if I could. There just isn’t anything bad about the place. Apart from the fact it’s sinking…

As you can imagine I took hundreds of photos so here’s a small selection of them for you. 

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Umhausen and the waterfall

So, what we’re doing is following the main A12 dual carriageway, but turning off each valley that we come to to explore. Today we’re in the Otztal valley and we were a bit excited about this one. I had watched a TV programme once about Otzi man. Otzi, also called the Iceman, is a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Otztal Alps, hence the nickname “Otzi”. This bloke died well over 3,000 years before Jesus was even thought of. And he was up a mountain so these guys despite being older than ancient were bloody hardy guys. 

Anyway, there is the Otzi Dorf Museum in the valley which is a museum set up to describe his life and how he lived and died. They said due to an injury that was clearly visible it was likely he was running away from attackers when he was shot by an arrow. Looking at where his quiver was it was entirely possibly he lost his footing and simply stabbed himself in the back with one of his own arrows. Who knows. 

Anyway we also found a brill waterfall which was a half a days climb to get to, and in a pub that evening we got chatting to a few French blokes who were travelling together. They recommended visiting a city called Bruges in Belgium which I’ve never heard of, but they said it was an amazing place. We had a lovely evening there and the beer was actually very nice.

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Kaunertal valley

View from a mountain pass
View from a mountain pass

Kaunertal valley is not that far from Pitztal but the drive is breathtaking. Up one mountain, down the other side, up another and down again and the Austrians made it look easy, speeding along as if it was a dual carriageway on the flat. The mechanics that look after their cars must be on double time permanently. 

It was made a little scary not just by traffic whizzing past, but also the lack of guard rails that we’re used to here in the UK. There were some little wood fences here and there but I felt strongly that if I was to lean on one heavily, it would not support my weight let alone the 3.5 tons of the van. 

I did stop at one safe spot to look over a drop that appeared to be sheer. Sure enough it was a sheer drop, that’s it at left, almost straight down, how high do you think that is? I guessed at 3,000 feet. 

I’m not really anxious about heights but I clung onto the van door behind me while I took this shot. I also slowed down even more as we made our way down that pass, I was taking no chances!

We’d actually seen a large lake behind a dam on the way down so that was where we were headed, and it proved to be a beautiful place to visit so we were lucky there. Of course I had to take some photos…

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View of the Pitztal valley at Plangeross
View of the Pitztal valley at Plangeross

Today we are at a place called Plangeross. Plangeross is situated in the Pitztal valley in Austria, in the Tyrol, and even just driving through the valley is an experience. We stopped on the way in a half a dozen times just to take in the scenery. 

As you can see in this photo the sun was out, the sky was quite clear, the view was tremendous, we could not have asked for more. Traffic was fairly light and surprisingly there was not a large amount of people around. 

We kind of fixated for no good reason on the mountain in the distance in this photo, and kept heading toward it. I mean there was a million places to stop during the journey and we did stop quite a few times but we were keen on moving on and seeing what else was along the way. This is the kind of stuff you see on movies and not in real life, and we could barely believe where we were. 

Later, we found that the mountain we had ‘aimed’ at was a sort of end to the valley, and we went up to find a lake at the top called Rifflsee. The lake was fed by the water run off from the glacier. We didn’t try drinking it as it was an odd colour!

We did however walk for almost 3 billion miles so we were very much ready for our bed that night! We stayed a couple of nights at a campsite called Mountain camp. It was excellent with a children’s area, waterfall, fire pit and right beside the most beautifully clear river I’ve ever seen. 

Here’s a few photos. 

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Up in the mountains

Up in the mountains!
Up in the mountains!

Today we were what we kept saying “Up in the mountains.” It was a private joke between us but we really were up in the mountains! 
Although it’s a very snowy scene it was quite warm, much warmer than you’d expect but there wasn’t very many people around. We checked out the cost of skiing but it was ridiculous money, it was going to be hundreds just for the day. We were obviously on a budget but even if I had that silly amount of money spare I don’t think I’d have spent it anyway. 

I don’t know how high we were but judging by the views of the valley floor I’d guess at least a few thousand feet up. You can see from this photo that it’s a very long way down and some of the drops were sheer so we stayed away from the edges!

It’s very humbling being so high, it makes you realise that we are so small in the grand scheme of things and to mother nature, we don’t matter.


As always here’s some photos

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More from Austria

Grazing meadow in the Pitz valley.
Grazing meadow in the Pitz valley.

After we left the glacier we moved around this area a little stopping in random spots, including Grossglockner, Plangeross and through the Pitz valley.

You can’t tell in most photos but the water in the streams and rivers is crystal clear and tastes as sweet as you could wish for. It was also bloody cold!

The scenery was breathtaking, with amazing mountains, huge waterfalls, and the most beautiful little villages almost straight off a chocolate box lid. 

We were a little stuck on decisions as on the one hand we wanted to see as much as we could before moving on, but on the other we wanted to stay in each place and really soak it up. It was greed that moved us in the end, the greed to see more and turn more corners and scale more mountains and speak to more people.

The most we actually spoke to people was Gruss Gott, which apparently means good day. It’s used for both hello and goodbye but primarily for hello. Everyone we passed while out walking said it so we said it back and it wasn’t til later that we found the greeting was heavily linked to the church. 

We’d found Shangri-la and we wanted to stay. 

As always here’s a few photos. 

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