From Austria to Germany

As we left site today we noticed this German camper van demonstrating how it should be done, spotlessly clean with full-width awning and ground cover, bikes carefully positioned one side and a barbecue the other. They even have a beer crate for empty bottles.

Only 150 miles covered today and we managed to make it last 7 hours. John was determined to enjoy the drive by avoiding motorways. We did and the drive would have been even more stunning if the skies had cleared.

It started with Google taking us an unexpected route out of Natterer See, we thought there was only one way in and out so this was a surprise.

We followed the D171 Tiroler Straße through pretty Tyrolean villages and past the Stams ski jump.

Followed by the D189 which was fine other than rocks the size of footballs started rolling down the hillside into the road. Luckily we were able to avoid them but it was rather a shock.

Elevenses was at a remote mountain top restaurant in Biberwier, overlooking Blindsee, where a cup of tea was eyewateringly expensive. There was a chance for an atmospheric photo though

Past Ehrenberg Castle and it’s 400m footbridge suspended across the gorge. The footbridge was an amazing site as we drove under it and we were too surprised to take a photo, sorry.

We arrived in Friedrichshafen to visit the Zeppelin Museum. We’d failed to do so last year having been spooked by low bridges and unable to find anywhere to park last year’s monster van. No such problem this year with Kim’s new friend, the Campercontact App.

The museum was fascinating, charting airship history from early 18th century with the first powered flight taking place in 1852.

Scale replica models accompanied the history and it was interesting to see how airships were further advanced than aeroplanes of the same era.

Sections of omega shaped aluminium were still being riveted together by hand until the 1990’s although the latest airships now use carbon fibre.

During WW2 the Zeppelin factory was used to produce V-2 rocket propellant tanks resulting in the town of Friedrichshafen being heavily bombed by allied forces. It seemed surreal looking at photographs of damage to the town we had inflicted.

Our next couple of nights are at Hagnau on the Bodensee. Hagnau’s a 15 minute walk along the lakeside and is very pretty. We have high hopes of some sunshine.

A day in Innsbruck

Firstly, we’ve had our most comfortable night by far. Who knew that leaving the heating on overnight would keep you warm?!?!

Our van was abandoned at the campsite as we caught a bus into Innsbruck, with a map of the city and no real objective other than to find a riverside cafe and make a plan.

John held on tight to Kim to stop her disappearing into the shoe shop. Prices were eye watering but the shoes were very sparkly.

Situated on the outskirts of the old town, the cafe we found was opposite Markthalle.

There has been a market on this site since 1460. These days you can have a Tyrolean breakfast which seems to consist of bacon or cheese dumplings while watching local farmers sell freshly picked fruit and other produce with each stall offering free samples. We opted for delicious Apfelbrot, a soft dark bread with apple and walnuts.

John liked the idea of visiting the Anatomy Musuem and the Tyrolean Railway Museum. Both were closed, so the Bell Museum located at the Grassmayr Bell Foundry became our destination, via the Triumphal Arch.

Grassmayr has been casting bells since 1599 and obviously have the hang of it. As museums go it was tiny but fascinating. John was disappointed to see that the first bell ever cast was by the Chinese even if it was 5,000 years ago. We watched a short film showing the casting of a commemorative bell in 2017 and wandered into the foundry. You would not have been allowed to do this at home…

Bells could be struck with mallets to hear different tones and notes!

And view a selection of bells displayed in a small garden.

John then turned his attention to the Bergisel Ski Jump, which we could see towering above the city. Google Maps said a 20 minute walk so we were off, hard work as of course it was all uphill.

We bought our tickets and took the small funicular up to the viewing platform at the very top where the ski jumpers make their descent.

‘Why would you do this?’ is the question that sprang to mind and it became more incomprehensible the higher we went!

Those of you who know Ken and Jacky will appreciate, plans often have a habit of changing, and following yesterday’s tearful farewells in Italy we’re all still together. Ken is walking almost upright although it takes him most of the day to achieve this and he has purchased a walking stick to assist.

We leave for Helmsdorf on the Bodensee tomorrow and wait to see what happens next.

Life is short….

Please forgive any repetition, we stayed at Ferienparadies, Natterer See last year and just had to come back. It is the land of magical showers (underfloor heating, spotlessly clean – the list goes on)

We are on the same pitch as last year and here’s the photos to prove it

It’s a shame we don’t have the weather but underfloor heating more than compensates!

P.s. other campsites in Austria are available (apparently).

A change of plan

Sadly, Ken and Jacky have made the difficult decision to head for home. Ken’s back is worse, there’s a 45 degree roll to his walk and he does look rather comical. We’ve been very good and not laughed.

Before leaving Sistiana, we spoke to a Scottish couple, Brian and Shirley, who are on the road for 4 months and heading to Croatia. There was a long chat about vignettes in Slovenia (we hadn’t paid!) and the merits of different size motorhomes. The small Rollerteam Rainbow has been by far our best choice but even Kim doesn’t want to own one anymore!

The seaside town of Grado had been recommended to John and was only a 30 minute detour on our way to Lake Garda.

En route, we were distracted by the plant seller at the roadside and Kim couldn’t resist purchasing an Oleander.

She’s researching if it will have to be abandoned before leaving Italy, because it carries a risk of Xyllela pathogen and we’ll have to disinfect the van. It’s currently living in the van’s garage.

The drive into Grado was worth the effort but the walk along the seafront was completely underwhelming.

To recover from our disappointment, we stopped for elevenses in a small bar.

The route out of Grado had us reconsidering our view of the place, the lagoon side was rather nice.

We had a decision to make, should we head for Garda as planned or try and meet up with Ken and Jacky who were going straight to Innsbruck. We checked weather and campsite check in times and crossed Garda off our itinerary! 5 hours across the Dolomites and through the Italian Tyrol it was.

John wanted a more interesting drive so we left the motorway north of Udine and followed the SS52 along the valley of the Tagliomento River. It was raining hard but the villages were pretty. The little Fiat van breathed in as we squeezed round some very narrow roads. Alarm set in when we started to see cars with snow on them.

It got considerably worse, and there was no other way through. Temperatures dropped and rain turned to snow…

We followed a snow plough for miles- John was having the time of his life, wondering if we were allowed to overtake it.

The roads cleared for a while so we thought the van deserved a photo. There wasn’t as much snow on it as we had hoped.

Then we got to the point that a snowplough was behind us, we wished it was in front and even John was becoming alarmed by the conditions and wishing we had snow chains. Kim had been in a state of alarm for at least an hour!

We survived and re joined the motorway just south of the new Brenner Pass and, through heavy rain and snow, made it to Natterer See campsite just after 6.

Beer and chips in the campsite restaurant beckoned as a reward.

The biggest success of the day, apart from not crashing, is the van’s heating system is working. We are tucked up and toasty!

Natterer See

This campsite deserves a post all to itself. It’s very special with breathtaking views, fantastic facilities and we’re considering staying here and making a mad dash to Calais on Sunday!

This is the view we woke up to.

And the showers left Kim speechless. She came out with warm, dry feet. John’s taunting chant of ‘communal showers’ is now redundant as a threat.

Finally, for when we get home, a couple of motorhome projects have been identified

If John is smart, he’ll track down the Citroen D model otherwise expect a conversion to be appearing on a driveway in Clophill soon! Of course, Matt would prefer the version with Maserati engine!

Lake Garda to Natter See (Innsbruck for those less well travelled than us!)

150 miles for us today. The aim is to meet up with Jane and David who are re-joining us for the rest of the trip.

Kim took a final walk down to the lake and the view was less hazy

John was a man on a mission, we were packed up and out by just after 9. The aim was to drive along Lake Garda as far as we could before joining the motorway for the rest of the journey.

We stopped for a cuppa and a photo opportunity. JustGo run a competition for the best photograph which could win a free trip next year. John is hating the thought of another trip but is also a man who likes to win

How could we fail to win? Snow, mountains, Lake Garda, trees and a JustGo van!!

We headed for the motorway and were making good time when Kim’s phone gave us an option! We could take a route over the top of the Dolomites’, rather than around, and it would only take an extra 38 minutes. We checked it on Colin’s special motorhome satnav and a good old fashioned map. It was a ‘main road’, what could possibly go wrong?

As an aside, Ken and Jacky are en route to join us, woohoo!

We left the motorway at Bolzano, and headed up towards Pennes Pass. We were cutting a chunk off the journey and amazing views beckoned. We weren’t disappointed and more competition photos presented.

An hour after leaving the motorway, this was what we saw

The blooming Pass was closed! We like to think we missed a sign further down but we did drive past one in disbelief! We had snow chains so debated whether or not to give it a go but common sense prevailed and we could at least turn around!

It was painful, but we re-traced our steps back to exactly the same place we’d left the motorway. Two hours lost and now it was a race against time to get to the campsite before Reception closed at 5.

It was embarrassing, everyone else had started behind us and arrived before us. John hates to finish last.

The site is amazing

And we’re all safely back together. Cheers!