June 2, 2010 Salzburg to Sankt Wolfgang Austria – Via Innsbruck???

6 06 2010

It was finally time to get our our vehicle and be the masters of our own destiny.  No more having our schedule dictated to us, it was our time to make decisions about when and where we would go.  Today we were destined for Sankt Wolfgang by the Wolfgangsee in the Austrian alps.  It would be a 60km drive and we would have much of the day to relax.  Perfect.

(Sound of record scratching…..)

Or so I thought.

Last night the screws were getting put on pretty tight (actually just a lot of whining) and everyone (except me apparently) wanted to head to the Swarovski factory in Innsbruck.  So, by popular demand we would be heading about 150km out of our way so that we could come back those same 150km to go the new total of about 360km to Sankt Wolfgang.  How do these sorts of things happen to me?

The wake up routine the same and we were packed and in the lobby by 0845 ready to have the reception call for the rental car.  “I’m sorry sir – you’ll have to go down and pick up the car”

“Oh, the lady yesterday said that they would come and pick us up.”

“No, sir, the rental car company requires you to come down.”

And – On that note we had them call a Taxi for us to take us down to Europcar where our transportation awaited us.

Francis, Mrs D and I got down to the Europcar office about 7 Euros lighter and around 0930 with a pretty constant rain falling. Rain.  More of it!

The process of rental was painstaking. I had the feeling that the poor girl that ended up with us had never had an out of EU rental before.  There was a lot of paper shuffling and typing of stuff into her terminal.  At the end of the process, however, we came out with a lovely silver Porsche 9 passenger van.  We would be the envy of the Autobahn.

Our first test was to tell the GPS unit to get us back to our hotel.  Programming was pretty easy.  The stupid thing seemed to be stuck in a 2D – North is up mode though which really wasn’t the way I was used to seeing my GPS.  Oh well.. perhaps later.

Back at the hotel, the rest of the group had been bringing bags down to the lobby and would be waiting anxiously for our arrival.  I pulled up in the “Hotel” zone and we loaded up the van… I swear it felt like we were loading up for a rock band road trip.  So many little things and so much HEAVY luggage which was getting heavier by the day.

It must have been about 1100 by the time we finally pulled out and were on our way for the Innsbruck detour to St. Wolfgang.  The rain was coming down pretty hard and the GPS in it’s weird orientation was winding me through morning traffic on my way to the highway.

Once on the highway things were wonderfully monotonous.  While trying to keep up at 130kph we were left standing periodically by vehicles passing us.   I wondered if they simply had a direct withdrawal system with the various police forces along the way.  Nonetheless we managed to book it pretty well in the van.  I noticed that the speed on the speedometer was generous.  It appears that someone has tires that are too small on the vehicle.  I learned to trust the GPS speed more than the speedometer.  The rain came down so hard at times as to be deafening on the large steel roof of the van.  My efforts to find any sort of either decent classic rock or quasi top-40 station to combat it were in vain.  Next time – bring CD’s.

After driving in the tiring rain for about 2 hours we found ourselves at the Swarovski factory near Innsbruck and the Swarovski Kristallwelten.  We paid 9.50 Euros each with the potential of a 2 Euro refund if you bought something in the store at the end.  (That’s like telling a Vancouver home buyer he’ll get $1000 off his new home price – Whoopee!)

The Kristallwelten was a collection of various modern art that was put together with Swarovski Crystal included in the process.  Kill me.  Please.  Or at least give me back my 9.50 Euros.  It was odd.  There were VERY few examples of significant amount of crystals being used.  It was odd.  There was some crap quote from CNN about it being just as fascinating as one of the seven wonders of the world.  Perhaps if you’ve never left your basement.  My opinion of CNN as a reputable source of info just plummeted.  We wandered through the various exhibits, and to be honest, the driving thought within me was “There has got to be an end to this god forsaken underground labyrinth.”  The words “You are in a maze of tiny passages that all look alike” came to mind at one point.

Thankfully I found the end.  A GIANT Swarovski store.  Ugh.  I hid in the cafe having a 3 Euro 250ml sprite and a 6.50 Euro Maraschino cherry sundae.  Boy, things weren’t exactly looking up :(  About 45 minutes later the gaggle of shoppers came out and some crystal on some ledger in Swarovski’s books shone just a little brighter.  They had contributed to the European economy, and not in a small way.  We ate an outrageously expensive lunch (like having my left nut for a piece of glass wasn’t enough) and got out of there before I had to mortgage the house to buy something.

Back down the road.  In the rain. No good music.  Everything looked familiar – it should…we were backtracking about 90% of the way.  Finally as we approached Salzburg in rush hour we veered south and headed toward Wolfgangsee to vacation among the Salzburgers that call this their summer home and the rest of the tour groups that want to be like the Salzburgers too.  The road was winding and fun.  I’m sure the drive would have been lovely if the rain hadn’t kept coming down in buckets.  It seemed like there might be some nice views if the clouds would lift from the current ceiling of 10 feet over the top of the van.  Francis and Maggie had been here before.  The GPS and the state of Austria also had a good idea of where St. Wolfgang was.  As we drove down past the scenic little towns full of “pensions” and B&B’s we got to the point (somewhere past St. Gilgen) where Francis and Maggie diverged from the GPS.  While I like Francis and Maggie very much, I had to overrule them and go with what the Austrian Highways department and our GPS were telling us about where St. Wolfgang were.  I don’t think it was a popular decision, but hey – you gotta trust the government not to go around moving their towns.

We did find St. Wolfgang and it appears that the Maggie/Francis route would have been faster.  Why did the GPS and Government want us to go the other way? Who knows.  Perhaps it was fate protecting us from having to swim part way there with all the water on the various roads?  After a couple of loops through a 1km long tunnel, we found the hotel.  A lovely little place next to the dark ominous lake in the downpour of rain.  Goodie ;)  Unload, check in, park.  Relax.  We were here!  The hotel didn’t have stairs (why have stairs in a 100 year old hotel?) so we hauled our bags up to the absolutely highest rooms in the place.  They were lovely rooms.  Overlooking the lake on one side and the top of St. Wolfgang on the other.

We agreed to have dinner in the hotel at 2015 since the kitchen would be closing by 2030.  Francis and Maggie went out in search of some snacks and water as it had also been decided that there would be some Big 2 later in the night.

The bulk of us arrived for dinner on time and the hotel owner told us that our friends had recently driven off and that they would probably be late (with a disapproving tone).  We told him that we would order without them and that they no doubt would be by soon as they were just getting some drinks and snacks for later.

“A party?”

“No, just some cards.”

“OK then…”

I felt like we had to get approval to stay up late even.  The atmosphere was that of a very conservative Christian Austrian home.  Light reading on the third floor was the New Testament.  Wow.

During a couple of pop-bys to determine how dinner was, we determined from the owner that tomorrow was a holiday.  Some long German name.  Still don’t know THAT name.  It was Corpus Christi and it was an actual holiday in Austria.  There would be celebrations down by the church at 0830.  This should be fun, we thought.

After dinner, I headed back to my room to work on my blog and photos.  No WiFi so I did some prep work and then passed out for the night.  Mrs D came back from the other room around midnight and joined me in my slumber.

May 31, 2010 Cesky Krumlov, CZ to Salzburg, Austria

3 06 2010

The day began like the previous departure days.  We got up and packed, then headed down to have breakfast with the group.  I made sure I got my OJ early as yesterday they ran out.   Yesterday’s eggs had seemed powdered so I wasn’t going to venture forth and try them today.  Francis was a bit more daring and told me that they were good.  I decided to pass still :)  They were out of flavoured yogurt so I tried the plain yogurt.  Last time.  Ick.

We were to catch our minibus down by the bridge at 1000 so we bumped along the cobblestones out to the meeting point in time for 0950.  It was cold.  About 10 degrees C cold.   Wow – nice summer vacation ;)  The minibus showed up about 3 minutes late.  It was a nice sized bus that could hold about 13 people, and there would be 11 on the trip to Salzburg.  Our luggage went into a little steel box on wheels calling itself a trailer.  I had visions of our luggage spewing forth on the highway.

I don’t know if I mentioned it previously but the original plan was to take the train to Salzburg.  For 6 of us it would have been included (as they had purchased their Eastern Europe rail pass) while for Mrs D and I, it definitely made more sense to take the shuttle.  The pickup was much closer to our hotel and the cost was actually about the same or less than the train.  The others had decided to join us on the shuttle because for the $20 they were going to have to pay, it was worth the convenience to not have to drag their luggage back UP the cobblestone streets!

Well, back to our shuttle.  The driver was a really nice guy and relatively talkative.  He asked about where we were from and what things are like back in Canada.  We talked about the Olympics and hockey.  The Czechs having just won the worlds this past week – it made the national paper front page.  There are many Czechs that are as hockey crazy as Canadians.   After our discussions about the weather, environment etc, I slowly nodded off.  I probably managed to grab about an hour’s sleep on the three hour trip.  The others in the back of the bus seemed to just live in a state of sleep.  Every time I turned around I saw 10 people with their eyes closed.

As we approached Salzburg, the weather took a definite turn for the colder.  It was cold, windy and at times the rain came down HARD.  Oh goodie.  Just like winter back home.

The minibus dropped us off at the train station despite my plea to drop us off a kilometre down the road at our hotel.   My pleading skills seem to have fallen off as I’ve aged.  We found ourselves at the train station and really no idea as to where we had to go next.  Francis and I ventured forth to find some information.

We came upon a booth with a big “i” on it (like one you’d find on an info booth)  and figured we’d go in to get some information.  Once inside, I read a sign that loosely translates to “No tourist information” and I could here a woman repeating it to some poor traveller.  Yikes.  I approached the other person at the desk and decided to take my chances.  Apparently street directions are OK.  He pointed out that we were already on the street that I was looking for and that we simply had to walk down about 1km.  Excellent.  We bundled up against the rain and the wind and headed down to our hotel for the next two nights, the hotel Stiegelbrau – a Best Western hotel.

The hotel was surprisingly busy for 1400 and we were told that we’d have to wait for a while before we could get into our rooms.  That was find for us, we were hungry so we popped into the hotel restaurant for a bite. Wow… sticker shock!  8 EUROS for a club sandwich!!!.  We shared 4 club sandwiches among eight of us and put some food in our stomachs. 

We returned around 1500 to get our rooms and were disappointed to learn that two of the rooms were ready and that our room would take a while longer again… “Perhaps 30 minutes.” said the clerk.

I explained that I had already waited 30 minutes up to this point and that this is what the LAST clerk said.  He seemed fairly unfazed and offered his apologies but no deviation from when the room would be ready.  Since the other two rooms WERE ready, we left our luggage in one of them and then as a group we headed down to the old town.

The old town basically is a piece of Salzburg that sits in the shadow of the fortress of Salzburg, and is comprised of very narrow streets, churches, cemeteries and historical buildings.  Today we would find ourselves doing some window shopping and then deciding to purchase the “Salzburg” card, 24 hour version for 25 Euros.  We promptly started using it at 1630 for a visit to Mozart’s birthplace.

The museum was nice and showcased various historical aspects of Mozart’s life.  It was interesting, but I don’t know if it was really worth the 7 Euros that they wanted for admission.

Next we went shopping.  Wonderful.  It was cold, wet, rainy and we were shopping.  What more could I ask for?  Interestingly, all the shops along the street had little signs that hung outside their shops much like in the olden day.  The cool thing is that even McDonalds had one!  After shopping for what seemed to be an eternity, we stopped for dinner at a place called “NordSee”.  It was all about seafood.  I was really tired and probably more than a bit dehydrated.  My only desire was for a rest.  While the others determined what dinner would be, I sat upstairs and enjoyed some peace and quiet.  The actual food was quite nice, but I just was so tired it was hard for me to enjoy.

After dinner, Mrs D and I walked back to the hotel while the others shopped some more.  It turned out to be about 7C on the way home.  Man was it cold.  I was so happy to get back to the hotel.

Finally, our hotel room was ready!!!  We took our stuff from the other room and moved into ours.  It was quite nice and quiet despite the construction going on just outside our window. We settled.  I got myself logged into my laptop and had planned to get my photos copying.  4000ms pings and dropping 2 out of every 3 packets meant that any dreams I had of using the internet just vanished in horrendous latency.  Damn.

I gave up on the Internet and Mrs D and I headed out to find a Laundromat to wash our clothing from the past week.  The hotel clerk said it was just across from the train station… Off we went.  Shouldn’t be too hard we thought.  Upon arriving at the train station, we realized that “across” could mean many different things and none of them seemed to be what we we expected.  Bummer.  I asked at a “sports bar” (basically a sports betting establishment with TV’’s showing different bettable events) and they didn’t know.  We tried to ask two women and they actually started running from us.  I was beginning to wonder if we’d EVER find the Laundromat when we asked at the Burger King.  The young man working there didn’t know either but he asked his colleagues and one knew where and gave us directions… Saved by BK.

The Laundromat was located in a mall complex with a group of cinemas being the dominant feature and the Laundromat being off to the side.  There was NO way we would have stumbled upon this place.  We went in and stared somewhat dumfounded at the machines.  It all seemed much more complicated than “put your money here”.  Luckily a family from Winnipeg was there doing their laundry and had already learned the laundry routine through trial and error and walked us through it.

4.50 Euro for the wash and 1.40 Euro/10 minutes later we had clean, dry clothing and had enjoyed a good conversation with the Winnipeggers.  Even more strange – we ran into a Singapore couple that we had met on the Train to Cesky Budejovice (actually during the bus shuttle between stations).  It was nice to talk to them again and see how their vacation had been going for them. It really is a small world (cue the music)

On the way back, the rain had subsided somewhat and it was good to get back into our warm hotel.

Little did I realise that it would STAY our warm hotel, despite setting the thermostat to 14C.  The room stayed warm – very warm.  Sleep came happily, but also with great warmth.  My watch was showing the room temp as 26C.  Morning would be coming too soon, so I didn’t fight the temperature, I just passed out.

Pictures from some of the recent 40th Marpole outings

22 10 2007

I’ve managed to find enough time to post up some photo galleries from recent Scout trips.

Not all the photos are “great”, but the purpose of the gallery is to give parents and friends an idea and a memory of the event, rather than to produce gallery quality images 😉

A weekend visit to a fish hatchery and then a sleep over at our Scout Hall:

Our first camp of the 2007-2008 Scouting season:

This past weekend’s “Apple Days”

I hope you get the sense of the fun (and rain in one case) that we had 🙂

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