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A Late Story of Austria

Trip July 18-21

Written Oct 6.

Dear Friends and Family,

Last summer, was busy. It was impossible to keep up Diaries but we don't want one of our best road trips to slip away unrecorded. So, here's the three-month old story of our top-down travels through the Austrian Alps.

In early spring, we had left our car outside Graz, Austria's second-largest city. Now that we were successfully settled in Frankfurt, it was time to find out if our garage owner Johannes was as reliable as we had always hoped.

We planned a train trip down and a not-too-hurried return through the mountains of Austria and southern Germany. However, when we tried to reach Johannes to say we were on our way, we could not get an answer on his always-reliable (and in use) mobile phone. Oops. Eventually, we remembered his "office number", at his wife's hair dressing salon and tried there. We were told that Frau and Herr Schatz were on vacation in Croatia, but he might return in a couple weeks. Oops again. We didn't want to wait and we pleaded for a solution. We spent several days waiting for an answer and finally we were told that "the driver" would meet us at the hotel and drive us out to our garage. Excellent service after all, even if we were worried for a few days.

So we started our three-segment train trip, with a fast train from Frankfurt to Nurnberg. Well, the train would be fast, but the departure was not. We left 45 minutes late and still had two connections to make: in Nurnberg we were to have 12 minutes to catch the train to Linz and in Linz, 6 minutes to catch the last direct train to Graz. So much for German punctuality.

We asked the conductor what our alternatives would be. He said we should not worry, our connections would still be possible. We were skeptical but, in the end, it did seem that German and Austrian trains lived up to expectations and our trains stayed coordinated, even if that meant each one was late. Twice, we ran from one train, jumped on another, and heard the leaving whistle before we had cleared the train car door. Alls well that ends well and we managed to sleep in Graz exactly as planned.

The next morning, Johannes himself met us at the hotel. He had driven back from Croatia a bit early so we not only had a ride to our car but a session of stories about summer on the Croatian coast. Johannes spends the summer there on his boat with his wife and two girls. His picture of the place made it another of our must-see destinations. Johannes claims it's cheaper and safer than Italy: Cheaper because it's still a bit underdeveloped; safer because the resort areas cater to Mafia and those folks insist on family safety. Next summer perhaps.

Our car was exactly as we left it. We reconnected the battery and fired it up without a hitch. We threw most of our bags into the trunks and were on our way into the mountains in beautiful sunshine. An hour later, we were headed back to meet Johannes and pick up the camera we had left in his car. Oh well, we were looking for a pleasant drive so repeating a couple hours of it wasn't such a problem.

We spent the next two-and-a-half days driving on back roads, working our way west in Austria and then north home to Frankfurt. It was perfect driving. As we write this months later, the details of the trip have faded but the overall impression remains. Every time we saw a new farm or town or river or mountain range, we were sure it was better than the last. Perfect and precious ("p and p") became our favorite catch phrase.

We first stayed in a roadside hotel in a tiny family ski resort of Untertauren. It was in a "p and p" setting between granite mountains, next to trout streams and ponds, surrounded by Alpine valleys. The next day, we made it to Hall in Tirol, just outside Innsbruck after hours of top-down driving through spectacular mountain passes and quaint villages. This may have been the best driving day ever.

Eventually, we crossed the northern Alps into Germany. Along the way, we stopped at Oberamergau, the p and p town that is home to the famous Passion Play, an Easter celebration.

Finally, we put the top up and settled in for our final run on the German autobahns. Our car fits better on Austrian back roads. Our experience has been that autobahns are either filled with cars going slowly or spiced with cars going very fast. Fast is better I suppose, but I still am not used to going a hundred miles an hour and being passed by a stream of German drivers in big and little cars.

So there it is. Our car-recovery trip. The memories are wonderful, even if this story would have been better if it were captured at the time. That's a lesson: write soon after the event or things fade, no matter how p and p.

Take care. Write diaries for yourself before it's too late.

John and Marianne



Picture Album







We started our trip in a very nice waiting room in the Frankfurt train station. This was our first time travelling in the luxury of the Inter-Country Express oe ICE trains.

Our ICE train had a dining car, almost like the elegant trains in movies. Actually, the food and service were good and the views unbeatable.







Austria was filled with farms that seemed created for Hollywood sets. Someone must have drawn the slight curves in this driveway simply to make the entrance more inviting.

Johannes gave John excellent directions for our passage through the northern Austrian Alps.







This was the view back towards Graz. We were able to drive this twisting road three times: Once up out of town and then down and back again after we had to return to get a forgotten camera.

Our first stay was at a family resort, complete with trout farm. The setting was lovely and, yes, there were plenty trout in this lake.







In one Austrian village, we visited a World War I vintage cemetary. The heroic carvings along the wall were strangely ambivalent about this "war to end all wars" that succeeded only in ending the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The Cute Austrian Towns (CATs) continued one after the other. Unfortunately, the names have faded in our memory. I guess this was CAT 32.







And here is CAT 35. Does anyone know the name?

This is Hall in Tirol, just outside Innsbruck. The grey granite mountains looked almost snow covered.




Yet another CAT. This one had a tramway glistening in the sunlight as it spanned the gap from the town to the nearby mountain top.

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Created October 27, 2002

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