June 5, 2010 Hallstatt to Graz Austria

10 06 2010

By the time I got up and showered Francis, Maggie and her sister were already out and about going to shoot around the town before breakfast.  Mrs D and I went out and I took Mrs D over to where she could get the “postcard” shot:

Hallstatt Austria Salt

As we arrived at the spot, there were the others, already trying various shots and angles as well as some portraits with the town as a backdrop.  We wandered down towards the other side of town and saw a swan taking off across the lake – (s)he was magnificent with the wing tips just touching the water enough to leave little circles with every beat.  Unfortunately I had the wrong lens. The 17-55 just wasn’t going to be able to cut it 😦  No worries.  The early morning walk and snap was still fun.

By 0830 we had all woken up and we gathered for breakfast in the hotel while overlooking the lake.   The day was sunny and promised to be hot.  Too bad we were losing three members this morning.  The last few days had been so cold and it was just promising to get better!  After our classic Austrian breakfast, it was last minute shopping for the three that were leaving us.  We had to get them on a 1107 train to Salzburg and the station was BACK in Obertraun.

With shopping complete, we started moving the luggage down from the top floor where we were down to the lobby.  After hauling down Mrs D’s an my bags, I went up to get the van so that we could load.  I whipped around to the end of the tunnel and then back so that I could get into the village and discovered that the gate which had been open when we arrived was closed – and you needed a ticket to open it. I didn’t have one of those…  Ack. To make matters worse, someone had come in behind me and was waiting.  I threw the van into reverse and let it slowly creep slowly backwards.  The car behind got the hind and moved right off.  Back into the tunnel to try and find my free parking spot and back down to the hotel get the ticket so that I can reverse the procedure all over again.  I brought Francis with me this time.  We came back around to the gate again, this time armed with the ticket and we watched as some small Winnebago-like vehicle had just experienced the same lesson we did.  The backing up and the rearranging of cars was quite comical.  I just pulled out of line and went for a spin in the handicapped parking area while the Winnebago dude played his game.  It felt quietly good inside to know that I wasn’t the only poor guy to have this happen.  some sort of signage would go a long way. I drove down the little windy road of the town and through the narrow clearance area and arrived to find that 3 other vehicles were loading in front of our hotel.  The town square was beginning to look like a parking lot.

We loaded the van and we all hopped in.  I made a loop around the town square (about 80 feet in diameter) and figured I’d go around the other parked cars and into the narrow passage.  Coming at the passage from an angle meant the already narrow passage got even narrower with plants and people all around.  I was just about there when another car came through from the other side.  Back out… try again.  Ugh.  By now, two other cars had left the area where we were parked, so I could get a nice straight run at the passage.  Success!  We were were on our way out of Hallstatt.  Thankfully, no mirrors scraped or pedestrians hit on the way out.  We made it to the train station in Obertraun with about 7 minutes to spare, so we took some pictures and said all our good-byes.  The train was punctual and was in the station for about a total of one minute and then it whisked the three women away from us as we waved them on their way.  We were sad to see them go.  It did mean one thing though… More space in the van!!!  We now had a van for 9 with only 5 people in it.  It was downright luxury 🙂

From Obertraun we drove the route up into the hills above and then along winding roads in the pre-alps that afforded beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. I found one opportunity to turn out and take some pictures, but for the large part there was no chance to stop.  The drive was about 2.5 hours and getting to our hotel in Graz was pretty straightforward thanks to the GPS.

The hotel was located right near the train station (far enough that you didn’t hear it though) and directly next to a strip club.  We had great jokes at Iris’ expense about her choice of hotel locations.  The hotel name was “Daniel” and it was a nice new “boutique” hotel.  The rooms were furnished in modern “Ikea” styling and there were big bean bags in the lobby with an iMac for surfing.  The one really odd thing about the rooms (and we wonder if the strip club proximity had anything to do with the design) was that the shower had a full length glass window onto the bedroom.  That’s right.  You could sit in bed and watch someone shower.  Weird.  The room with Francis, Maggie and Iris managed to work around this problem by stacking up their beanbag chair and some luggage against the window so that people could shower in private.  It really was odd.

We walked down to the old town of Graz shortly after arriving.  The was about 2km but it was hot and it felt longer.  Temperature had begun to creep upwards and was about 25-28C today.  We did our best to try and follow an old town walking tour as suggested by the guide book.  The second stop brought us to the Graz armoury.  The largest European collection of war items from pre 19th century.  30,000 items!  It was really cool.  The armoury is 4 floors high and on the 2nd floor we ran into a staff member that was VERY keen on cameras and was happy to talk about all the different armour and its design while also discussing the latest in Canon cameras.  He was super helpful, unlike the woman on the first floor that just kind of said “Hello” and “Don’t touch’”  What a difference.  It was cool to learn about the different type of armour you got if you were just a peasant fighting for the king or if you were someone with some money, in which case your armour had a bit more design involved and wasn’t jus a hammered out piece of metal.  On the top floor, they let you put on a couple of “prop” helmets (the real ones would probably have been too heavy) and wield a sword.  You could take pictures of yourself looking goofy 😉

We followed the old town route some more and we decided to veer off it and head up to the bell tower.  Of course, like any good part of any ex-castle, the bell tower was atop a hill which meant more climbing. Calves and thighs were reminding me of that.  The bell tower used to be part of a fortification here but when Napoleon came to town and ruled things he had the previous castle razed to the ground and the only thing that spared the bell tower was the townspeople paying a hefty amount to keep it there.  Typical government.  Everything is overpriced  🙂

The view over Graz from the Bell Tower was great.  We had timed our arrival with sunset so we enjoyed using the golden light of the setting sun for various portraits in the rose garden below the tower.  Some shots were great – others – not so much.  I managed a nice panorama shot of Graz but won’t know how it turns out until I get home and can stitch it together.

We headed back down from the bell tower and had another late dinner at around 2100.  More classic Austrian food, this time Styrian. Some good beer!

By the time we got back to the hotel it was quite late and we said our goodnights and agreed to be up and ready to go by 0830.

Sleep came easily again after blogging.

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