Graz, Austria – Nov 2017

Very reluctantly left Enzesfeld this morning for Graz but if I’d stayed any longer I might never have left and I am already gaining too much weight. Many thanks to the Family Dedic for making me feel so welcome. Words cannot express…

Of course, having left my summer tyres with Profi Reifen, Leobersdorfer Strasse 153 (I record those details here because I know I’ll forget them), I will have to return in the Spring. Great stuff! See you then if not before.

The journey down the A2 motorway from Vienna to Graz went very well (it was brilliant sunshine and beautiful scenery all the way) and even the view from a motorway service station wasn’t bad. I did the necessary diesel stop and I also took time out at the village of Bad Waltersdorf to fill the Van’s garage with Gruner Veltliner. Well, there’s room now I’ve been able to unload the tyres that were changed at Colmar.

View from the motorway service station on the A2

View of the Bad Waltersdorf church from the local supermarket together with a photo of one of the Gruner Veltliner’s I bought.

Graz operate a camper van Stellplatz (which accommodates up to 160 vehicles although there are only 3 here now – GPS N47,02472 E15,39694) and it is a simple 15 minute journey by bus from this Stellplatz into the city centre. I popped into the town for a couple of hours to get my bearings and I will return tomorrow morning to see a bit more but what is left of this evening will be given over to the Gruner Veltliner I opened earlier and to determining whether I travel into Hungary, Slovenia or Italy tomorrow. Time will tell.

First view of Graz from a bridge over the river. Graz, like eveywhere else, seems preoccupied with putting up Christmas decorations but, upside down hanging Christmas trees?!?

I wouldn’t mind but these Christmas market stalls in Germany and Austria are spoiling a great many photos – Bah! Humbug! Interesting that the Opera House is about to show Verdi’s Il Trovatore which I last saw on my 50th at the Prague Opera House.

I’ll head back into Graz first thing tomorrow.

Vienna, Austria – Nov 2017

Walked in the cold air (it was cool this morning and there was some serious wind chill) and, Oh Vienna! Been here a few times but yesterday was truly enjoyable.

In keeping with my promise to take in some culture during this tour, I started the day off in the Welt Museum on Heldenplatz; staying almost two hours and learning more about Mexico (of all places) than I have in 9 holidays there – the Welt Museum is an ethnographic museum focusing on non-European cultures and Mexico just happens to figure in the current exhibition.

Welt Museum – one of a number of museums in the Heldenplatz and the adjoining Museumsquartier

The Natural History Museum  – one of two near identical buildings on the Maria-Theresien Platz in the Museumsquartier, the other being the Art History Museum

Empress Maria-Theresia Monument outside the Natural History Museum

The culture theme continued with Gerhard gaining us access to the Burgtheater (the National Theatre) Canteen where, rubbing shoulders with such artists & technicians as were around, we partook of a local pork dish and a couple of glasses of Gruner Veltliner  before setting off on some further sightseeing.

That door in the canteen separates the smokers from the nonsmokers – Austria refused to ban smoking in public places. The tv screen above the door serves to ensure diners remain aware as to what is happening on stage.

Heldenplatz is in the centre of the city and as good a place as any to begin a tour. In addition to the aforementioned National Theatre and the various museums and art galleries, the area is home to further amazing buildings including the Burgtor (an arch built to commemorate Austria’s beating Napoleon at Leipzig) and the Hofburg Imperial Palace (the seat of power of the Hapsburg dynasty) a part of which is the Neue Burg (where Hitler  famously announced the Third Reich’s annexation of Austria). Close by are the Rathaus Building (the City Council Offices) and the Austrian Parliament which perhaps don’t sound all that appealing but which are seriously impressive buildings. You need only look at the photos.

The Rathaus – City Council Offices

Also nearby (just a few minutes walk) is Graben, a pedestrianised shopping area that is home both to the usual designer stores, numerous schnapps bars (I like the apple schnapps best) and some great wine bars (of which The Black Camel stands out). Oh, and there is the ubiquitous Irish Bar.

One of Graben’s more picturesque arcades

Once again it was dark by the time we got back…

The Rathaus at night.

I could easily spend many more days here but I really should be moving on. Winter is coming and I want to be in warmer climes before then.

 

Enzesfeld, Austria – Nov 2017

Arriving at  Enzesfeld about mid afternoon I received a great welcome from Clare and Gerhard and their son Nikki (and later their daughter Alex and her partner Manuel) and then, over the ensuing ten hours, I must have put on about 3 kilos in weight through eating Clare’s seriously excellent pork dinner (see photo below – the picture doesn’t do the dish justice) and drinking an extensive range of beers, wines, schnapps and whisky with Gerhard and Nikki.  About the only drink we didn’t sample was Port.

Crack(l)ing pork dish served up by Clare that could compete with anything I’ve eaten so far on this trip.

…and then there’s Clare’s artwork. These are two of my favourites. We won’t talk about Schubert’s Unfinished…

The next day was mostly about a walk through part of the Wienerwald Forest which surrounds Vienna. There are countless routes through the forest (including a pilgrim trail that starts from Cracow in Poland and finishes in Rome – there’s devout!) but I favoured the route we took because every other kilometre or so we came across a Gasthof that served food and schnapps.

Inside a Gasthof that we paused at…

It was almost dark by the time we got back to the car but a short drive took us to the village of Sooss  and the Heurige “Weingut Steiner 67” for slices of thick bread smothered in pork lard (Smalzbrot and Grammelsmatzbrot, the latter has added pork crackling) followed by Wienerschnitzel (with something resembling cranberry sauce) and all accompanied by some seriously fine local wines, not the least of which was a nice Gruner Veltliner. What a place the Heurige is! It is primarily about producing and selling wine but this particular heurige has a restaurant which ranks among the best encountered on the tour so far. Another one for trip advisor.

It was almost dark by the time we got back to the car…

Vienna tomorrow.

Munich, Germany – Nov 2017

The plan was to move west from Zurich to Enzesfeld (not far from Vienna) to enjoy a day or two with longstanding friends Clare and Gerhard before then heading south to either Greece or Italy before the winter snows arrive. The journey to Austria went as planned. It was largely uneventful but I took time to check out a couple of very pretty villages on the way (you know the ones I mean – they look like something out of “Little House on the Prairie” except the cows and the sheep all have big bells hanging round their necks) and I stopped in Liechtenstein (for lunch) and Munich (for a couple of beers, dinner and an overnight stay) before eventually reaching Enzesfeld.

The less said about the campsite in Munich, the better. Although not expensive, it was the worst I’ve encountered so far. I’ll likely do an update on this blog tomorrow and name and shame it. No I won’t. If you cannot say something nice it is better to say nothing at all.

Zurich, The Zeughauskeller – Nov 2017

Left the Van parked up for two days and nights at a site by Lake Zurich and stayed in Tuffenwies with Audrey and Joao (thanks very much guys; it really was great). The first night we went for a traditional Swiss meal at the popular Zeughauskeller  Restaurant in the centre of town and the local beer, the food (veal in my case) and the service was really good. Equally important, the price was reasonable especially by Zurich standards. In due course I will do a Trip Advisor report but for the moment – the place is highly recommended. I would definitely go back.

The view from where the Van was parked up. 

The Zeughauskellar Restaurant (photos were taken the following morning – when we arrived to eat at about 7.15 pm people were already queuing in the street and it’s a sizeable place)

Zurich is an expensive city (hardly surprising when it has two Patek Philippe and two Hublot outlets on the one street) but it is the taxi prices that really shocked me.  A taxi driver quoted 140 Euros (I didn’t have any Swiss Francs) for the round trip from where I parked the Van in Seestrasse to where Audrey and Joao live in Tuffenwies.  That is about 9 or 10 kilometres each way. The public bus and tram services cost the equivalent of just 8 Euros and you can make as many trips as you like to anywhere in the city limits (including Seestrasse and Tuffenwies) for a whole 24 hour period. You really don’t need a car in this city and it is a fool that uses the taxis. My mate Mick would get embarrassed charging those prices.

I didn’t take too many photos. Zurich doesn’t inspire me in that way but I could easily live here and I’ll definitely be back.

Looking down the Limmat River to Lake Zurich

Zurich by night. Not sure who the lady is but she clearly enjoys getting her picture taken.

Thanks again, Audrey and Joao.

Zurich, Switzerland – Nov 2017

Today was mostly about getting the winter tyres fitted (would you believe it cost 860 Euros !) and, thereafter, travelling to Zurich for a reunion with a dear friend and her partner for dinner. The journey from Colmar took little more than two or three hours and I was soon parked up by the lake  in Zurich and then trekking and using the local tram service across the city  for our reunion but, more about that and Zurich later.

Colmar (and Eguisheim) was great and it wouldn’t be right to move on from such a charasmatic town without leaving a couple more photos (and a copy of a striking painting by the Baron Francois Pascal Gerard) that reflect some of the more  cultural aspects of the place. As you well know, this trip of mine  isn’t just about drink, food and pretty sights and/or sites…

Frederic August Bartholdi, a French sculptor born in Colmar renowned for designing “Liberty Enlightening the World” aka “The Statue of Liberty”.

Another famous son of Colmar was the Napoleonic General Count Jean Rapp who is shown in a painting by Francois Gerard presenting the captured Prince Repnin-Volkonsky to Napoleon during the Battle of Austerlitz.

Colmar Railway Station – I only show this because I passed it on the way to Eguisheim and it reminded me of the railway station in Gdansk, Poland.

Zurich tomorrow.

Eguisheim, France – Nov 2017

So I did it. I cycled from Colmar to Eguisheim.

More about Eguisheim in a moment (and the town is well worth a visit) but first some advice on getting there. Don’t cycle it or, if you must cycle it, do not rely on the sat-nav in your vehicle for directions. Before setting off I committed the route on my “top of the range Pioneer system” in the Van to memory and left feeling quite confident that I knew where I was heading.  All went well to start with (the cycle paths in this part of France track most major roads and are fantastic) but then, after a really nice fast bit coasting downhill round a bend and bombing along a wholly empty right hand lane I realised I was travelling along the hard shoulder of the motorway to Strasbourg. It was a very sheepish me that dismounted and walked back along the motorway to find an alternative route. I’ll probably figure prominently in the French equivalent of one of those “Cops” TV programmes where they show video from motorway camera. Oh well…

Eguisheim is a lovely place, renowned (at least locally) for it’s fine wines and flowers. Flowers were not much in evidence (it is winter) but I tried a couple of “verre(s) vin blanc de la maison” and they were most enjoyable. It’s not a big town but it is crammed with character as I think the photos will show:-

Needless to say, it is pretty much all pedestrianised. 

I won’t talk about the cycle journey back. There was a railway line and lots of ploughed fields and, honestly, it’s just a bad memory  but, it doesn’t detract from the fact that the town of Eguisheim is magical (and it is so close to Colmar).

Colmar, France (Day 2) – Nov 2017

Staying in Colmar for a couple more days. I need some decent winter tyres for the Van and they cannot be delivered until Wednesday morning. There are worse places to be while waiting for winter tyres but I should have had this done while back in the UK waiting for the house to be sold. My schoolboy French really doesn’t lend itself to a protracted conversation as to the merits of different winter tyres. At least the people at Best Drive Tyres didn’t laugh but I’ll not rest easy until I have seen exactly what it is I have ordered.

Tomorrow I am thinking of cycling (yes, cycling – they say you never forget how) to a place called Eguisheim, a few clicks from here. Eguisheim was recommended to me by a local guy I met today in the Irish Pub (of course there’s an Irish pub here!) as being every bit as nice a place to visit as Colmar. Well, I think that is what he said – He couldn’t speak English (and he was French, not Irish. Lol). Time will tell. I have to get to Eguisheim first without my sat-nav.

Meantime, a few more photos of Colmar:-

Colmar, France – Nov 2017

Rain woke me at 05.00 and prompted an early departure to Colmar (rain sounds much louder in the Van and will take getting used to). It ceased raining as I arrived at Colmar and found Camping de L’Ill (just a mile from the town centre).

Camping de L’Ill has all mod cons (although the swimming pool has been emptied for winter); is situated in very pleasant surroundings (close to a bar/restaurant) and; best of all, at least for the moment, I have it pretty much to myself.

A local, fly fishing on L’Ill

From what I could research and have been told about Colmar I expected something special and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m just back from a 6 hour walk around the town (except for a couple of hours in a very good bar/restaurant that will receive a mention in my trip advisor review when or if Will tells me how trip advisor works) and it is one of the most charming towns I have ever visited.

It was surprisingly quiet even though there was a 10 km fun run taking place which finished in the town centre. This is the advantage of arriving out of season.

No more words; just a handful of the 50 or 60 photos I took although they don’t do the place justice…

I think that is the River Lauch which is a tributary to the L’Ill

Freiburg (Freiburg v Schalke 04) – Nov 2017

Still in Freiburg but I’ll be moving on tomorrow.

I was going to climb a hill somewhere to the south east of here today but the weather was warm and sunny again (that’s four or five days in a row now) and, instead, after stocking up on some supplies in the city centre (the market was open again) I decided to chill out over a couple of beers in the local Gasthaus and then take in a football game.

Freiburg were hosting Schalke 04 this afternoon in a Bundesliga match and since the stadium is only 20 minutes walk from where the Van is parked I went to the game.  As is so often the case when I go to watch a new team, they lose (witness Partick Thistle, Darlington, Macclesfield, etc to say nothing of West Ham) and Freiburg duly obliged by going down 1-0. Typical. However, the match wasn’t bad and the two sets of supporters were outstanding throughout the game. Very, very noisy.

Managed to blag my way into the VIP Lounge at halftime and partook of a beer and bowl of pumpkin soup:-

That’s all for now.