We started Week 2 waking up in Baden-Baden where the weather wasn’t too baden but wasn’t too gooden either. It started in a chilled manner with a little bit of light rain. A short flat cycle ride into the town centre allowed us to explore when a very old German lady came to talk to us realising we were tourists. (Guess speaking English, with a back-back and a map give it away!). She was lovely and made sure we knew where things were – so following her tips we found the spa and Christmas market and a few other gems before heading back the van for a hair-cut. My recent lessons paid off (cheers Mum) and Mels hair looks pretty good (considering).
With a hairy back we ventured into the spa for a long soak (and needed bath no doubt) and watched the sun set in the outdoor pools. Followed by a tour of the festive market with warm wine and chocolate pastries, finished off by the old-lady recommended “traditional” eatery for for beer and traditional Bavarian food which was rather good and festive.
After eventually rolling out of bed the following morning, we headed deep into the Black Forest, firstly via Gutach to Freiburg. We didn’t explore Freiburg but from our tour through it – it appeared to be very similar to towns in East-Germany like Leipzig. There may well have been a lot to see there but we had plans to enjoy smaller towns. Via some scenic mountain roads we ended up in Todtnau to explore the forest and to find their famous waterfall. Our guidebook mentioned the waterfall SE of the town whereas the one signposted and we found was NW…
On the hill adjacent to the town there is a massive down-hill gravity based toboggan/roller coaster – similar to the one we had a go in at Thale (On our first trip also in Germany). But this one looks bigger and badder and so as it was closed after our walk the plan for the following morning was set….
With trepidation Mel got out of bed – but after breakfast she was keen to go on the toboggan ride. Till we started getting higher and higher on the ski-lift! The ride is about 3km long with loads of loops, bumps and twists. We shared a car with me “driving” – and I was kind to Mel but still got “Christ!” “Sh*t!” and various other comments – okay we did go a bit quick round one corner but that was due to Mels elbow preventing me from applying the brakes! (Honest!). I’m sure she enjoyed it and the “Don’t ever ask me to do that again” comment was meant in jest.
Leaving Todtnau and Heidi country (what ever happened to her – did she ever escape her nasty aunt?) we stopped at an aire in Singer to top up tanks and then passed a disappointing place called “Titisee”. It looked rather good from the road but didn’t look up to its namesake – maybe it was the weather. After Singer we followed the road north of lake Constance though to explore the towns. All very nice but not as spectacular as we expected and not up to, say, Como standards. Maybe the Swiss side is better. We had lunch in Überlingen which was pleasant enough and continued through to Lindau where we wild camped next to the lake and enjoyed a run round the rather nice old town where there was the best Christmas market we’ve seen so far.
Waking and leaving early (e.g. 9am!) we headed towards Oberstdorf where there is a spectacular cable car ride with unbeatable views. However today it was snowing and raining and the clouds were in so Oberstdorf was also like a ghost town – it appears to cater for both summer and winter-ski trade but not offer anything for late autumn/early winter. This also meant the ski-jump centre was closed much to Mels relief. As the weather wasn’t great we decided to move on and head to Fussen then Innsbruck. Fussen wasn’t really that special but it is worth a detour as the town is nice, tidy, and full of colourful buildings. Though saying that we forgot and thus didn’t see the tipped Neuschwanstein Castle! DOH! We had lunch there then filled up with Diesel and headed towards Innsbruck. Much to our surprise we entered Austria almost immediately and then found diesel was 10% cheaper! Damn. Having not bought a vignette for Austria we kept to the A roads and enjoyed the stunning scenery, turquoise rivers and lakes, and headed into Innsbruck where we found a quiet place to wild camp about 4km walk from the centre. We walked in, got lost, and briefly explored the old town and Christmas market, listened to the band, enjoyed more coffee and apple strudels, and got back to the van eventually soaked though planning to cycle in the following day.
The cycle ride was much more sensible and made us wish we didn’t walk the previous day! Innsbruck is well worth a visit, both the old and new towns are picturesque and the horizon too would have been a great view bar the clouds. After a morning and lunch there we opted to leave Innsbruck and head further east into Austria and into Schwaz which is a typical non-touristy town. We planned to just chill for the afternoon and find a laundrette to do some washing. We could not however find one, and upon asking were told they are rarely found in Austria! Oops. A quick stock check showed we needed to get to a laundrette in the next couple of days and also we needed to get some more LPG as we were playing Russian Roulette with it as the needle has been off the scale for a day or so…. (running out in below-freezing conditions would not be nice!) Neither of which are readily available in Austria so a plan was set to head to the Berchtesgaden National Park in Germany (Berchtesgaden and Königssee) along the smaller non-motorway roads and just see what we see.
The route to Berchtesgaden took us along some roads with stunning Austrian views and were a pleasure to drive. Berchtesgaden held one of our “must do” viewings – of the Eagles Nest (Hitlers mountain top retreat on top of Kehlstein) – and also the unique “Panoramic Highway” of stunning views over the Alps and mountain ranges. The day could not be better – fresh but clear blue skies and sunny. Our route was glorious and from Berchtesgaden centre we went up into the mountains over the snow line and up a 24% hill (with old summer tyres; wet; fully laden and FWD) it was a challenge. But then all signs vanished. After half an our or so we found the entrance to the Panoramic Highway and after sliding our way to the entrance found it was closed…. On returning to the town tourist office we were informed its only open from mid May to mid October and closed for the entire winter! We were gutted, so after lunch we headed to Königssee sulking.
Königssee is just a full tourist village next to a lake, and it has to be said the lake looked absolutely stunning and the views were well worth a visit. That said the rest of it was next to deserted so we would expect a much better atmosphere in the summer months. Finally before the sun set we opted to go to Bad Reichenhall near the Austrian border for the night and just take a tour of the rather pleasant town and get our laundry done!
The following morning was glorious as we headed to Salzburg parking about a mile from the centre and walking in. Salzburg is a stunning city and fairly unique with a cross of Cambridge, Berlin, Rome etc which make it a lovely (and fairly small city) to walk around. The old town, river and part of the new town are well worth a wander. The Christmas market was massive and, as usual, we enjoyed another treat! Deciding it wasn’t ideal to stay there we moved on towards our next planned stop just seeing what we’d find, and we stumbled across Sankt Gilgen on the Wolfgangsee lake. The town is tiny and looks reasonably authentic though of course is geared for tourists. Though the Christmas market (another one!) was friendly enough with some fires to keep us warm and a re-visit in the evening was lovely with a small amateur brass band playing to a very small crowd!
So after 2 weeks we’re in Austria. This week seems to be one of those weeks where we’ve just seen and done loads – and looking back its hard to believe what we’ve squeezed in! The weather is below freezing but mainly snow free and the van is doing superb considering we’ve only wild camped/aires so far so been fully self sufficient. It is quite snug inside and the heating and insulation is doing its job and the tank defroster has cut in and appears to be working!