Way back in 1994/1995, we’d discovered the Filzerhof Alpengasthof in Kirchberg and spent a few weekends and long weekends there. After toying with the idea of a trip to Japan (which we abandoned as being too complicated to arrange in the remaining time), we decided a trip to Austria in the Summer would be an excellent and more affordable option.
We kept a holiday diary of our trip.
Friday : 11AM crossing on Eurostar - Panic over Ryan’s passport, but it had simply fallen out of the bag in the boot, thankfully!
Fast crossing, onto empty French motorways, across Belgium to Pirmasens, just inside the German border - Everything closed, no meal, but night in the same hotel we used before (on the return from our holiday in Venice) was fine. Friendly night manager.
Saturday : Good breakfast, only people there, it seemed. New, faster road to Zweibrucken, but misses out some of the most picturesque sections of the old road.
Onto Autobahns - Large stretches with 120km/h restrictions, disappointing lane discipline - Things have gone downhill since we lived there.
Reasonable progress, arrived in Munich about 12:30 in time to eat lunch in Augustiner biergarten, near the station. Walked down to Marienplatz and then S-Bahn'd back to Hauptbahnhof.
Smooth drive onto Kirchberg, quickly found hotel, but greeted by blank expressions - Busy weekend, but they finally remembered us and the rooms were, fortunately, ready! We were treated to great views of the surrounding mountains and lovely weather.
We too a quick look around town, booked White Water Rafting trip for Tuesday and had a pizza for dinner.
That evening there was a candle display outside the Filzerhof and over neighbouring mountains. Downstairs, a band played until late, but we all slept soundly…
Sunday : After breakfast, we drove to the main lift and walked to the top of the Hahnenkahm mountain, famed for the ski race of the same name.
On the way up, the weather was great, but it started to cloud over as we ate lunch in the restaurant on top of the mountain.
We cable car-ed down to Kitzbuhel and it started to rain as we walked around. We waited for a bus for a while, but there was a long delay until the next was due, so we got a taxi back to our car and ate (an excellent) dinner in the Filzerhof.
Monday : Wet Bank holiday, so we thought we'd go to the nearby Silver mine – When we got there it was packed with people, no doubt looking for somewhere to shelter from the rain, so we drove to nearby Tratzberg castle. There were long, long queue (over an hour) to get in, but ,once in, the tour was excellent, with special tapes for the kids that kept them occupied and amused. Tratzberg is a very old castle, with many ancient (14th century) pieces of art and furniture - Highly recommended.
We arranged to drive back via the impressive Krimml waterfall, which some claim is the highest in Europe (although there’s a much higher one in Norway, is that not Europe? – Source http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0001781.html), but is definitely the tallest in Austria. This involved driving over the Gerlos pass, which is a toll road, and then down to Krimml. The falls were certainly impressive, being 3 distinct drops separate by short flat sections, but we’d all had enough of driving by then and only stopped briefly for a look before returning to Kirchberg.
Tuesday : We were supposed to go White Water rafting (in another day of torrential rain), but there was a problem on the Autobahn and it and the road through Worgl were both blocked solid. Fortunately, the people at the White water rafting centre were very understanding and offered to switch us to Wednesday.
We decided to visit the Swarovski Kristallwelt, but, although it wasn't a bank holiday, there were still hundreds of people looking for somewhere dry to visit and there were 3 hour waits to get in. We posed briefly for a photo by the green man fountain and then drove on into Innsbruck, where we visited the Swarovski shop and took in some of the sites, but, once again, the city was heaving with visitors driven off the mountains, so we drove back to Kirchberg.
Wednesday : We had a very early start (Frau Kreichammer, the Filzerhof proprietor, kindly giving us an early breakfast, despite it being their day off) and set off for the Imst valley to White Water Raft. Wednesday was a much better day, with increasing sunshine as we drove past Innsbruck and into Haiming.
We were kitted out with wet suits to wear on the rafts - Ryan’s comment was “This is going to be SO much fun!” once he was in his wetsuit.
Ryan went on special kids’ trip, down river on smoother water, whilst the rest of us went up river in a bus.
Got to the jump in point and did just that! The glacier fed Inn River was bitterly cold, even in August! We set off downstream, through some fairly tame ‘rapids’ first of all, which was good for practicing the techniques we’d been taught. Next rapids were faster and rougher and we all ended up with water down the backs of our wetsuits… We all got very wet and after 45 minutes were cold enough to be pleased to stop! It is something, though, that we would definitely do it again.
8 year old Ryan had great fun, too, despite his initial worries – His guide pushed him in the river and then fished him out and he was full of enthusiasm for his trip.
In the afternoon, we drove back to the Silver Mine and found it almost empty of people. We joined the next tour and traveled into the mountain on a small train. The tour was probably good, but, although they suggest it is good for English speaking visitors, our guide’s English wasn’t excellent and the (seemingly quite good) Audio Visual displays didn’t have enough translation ‘phones’ for everyone on our trip who needed one (there were some Italians, too). On our way out something fouled up and we sat and shivered for more than half an hour on the train before we were back in the sunlight. Not sure I could wholeheartedly recommend the tour if you don’t speak decent German, though.
Thursday : We decided to have another walk in the Mountains on Thursday and I fancied visiting the Kitzbuhlerhorn, which I have only been up once before, skiing in thick fog. We decided to lift up and walk down, thinking (wrongly as it turned out) that this would be easier...
We took the modern gondola to the middle station and then a traditional cable car to the very top, with fantastic views over the alps, to the Grossglockner.
It proved to be a long, long walk down, harder on the legs than going up! High up we passed through Alpine flower garden, finally getting to see some Edelweis. We stopped for lunch about halfway down, in a mountain gasthof and finally reached the car in the middle of the afternoon –It was very tiring, but a great walk, with excellent sunny weather and fantastic views of the scenery.
We drove to Schwarzsee and swam and sunbathed for an hour or so, before returning to Kirchberg and another Pizza down in the town.
Friday : Tired and stiff from Thursday, we set off towards the Grossglockner. We passed through the toll both and then made the long drive up to the highest point, stopping for a drink there, before continuing down and then back up to the actual Grossglockner glacier. We almost didn't go all the way and almost just looked from the car and drove back, as the place was busy, but, luckily, we spotted a parking space as we left and stopped.
Initially it was a bit disappointing, until we realised that the 20ft wide ice and trickle running from it were hundreds of feet beneath us and about 50 times bigger than they originally appeared. People moved around on the glacier like tiny fleas, barely visible to the eye. It was quite humbling, in a way. We spotted Marmots close to the shop, which the kids loved
We drove back down, with cyclist zipping past the more cautious drivers.
We drove onto Zell Am Zee. This is a beautiful lakeside town and we rented a motorboat for an hour and cruised around the lake, before returning to have a drink in the Grand Hotel on the lake (as seen in the TV series, Band Of Brothers).
Saturday : We said our goodbyes to the very hospitable Kreichhammers and their dogs and sadly left Kirchberg with ideas of how we could easily spend another week there.
Traffic was quiet until we got within 20 miles or so of Munich, when it ground to a halt, so we took a detour on D roads and rejoined after Autobahn junction.
It was better, but we still encountered heavy traffic and quite heavy rain, but made better progress (Touched 145mph at one point, 4 up with 3 crates of Weissbier and two large suitcases on board – Pretty good for a Skoda!) and decided to stop at Namur in Belgium, which we reached about 6:30.
However, all hotels fully booked due to conference in town, so (after an expensive curry) we drove another 30 miles to Charleroi and, finally at 10PM, found a very comfortable IBIS hotel by the airport. All 4 of us sleeping in a room for 3 (Ryan sleeping on a mattress on the floor, but by then, we didn't care...). It was a big-ish room, though and very reasonably priced at 60 Euros and certainly beat sleeping in the car!
Sunday : Saturday had been long and tiring, but it meant we were quite close to the ports and we had a gentle couple of hours drive up to Dunkirk, having some lunch(usual ‘cordial’ French service, sadly, after, generally, friendly Austrians) and then onto the EuroTunnel and home, reaching Fleet about 4:30.
Total mileage of around 2,300 miles, nearly as much as we'd done in the States a couple of years earlier. This included about 600 miles driving during our week in Austria.