Post 9 Last days part 2 – Italy and Austria!

We like to ensure that our travel days are holidays as well, so we look for interesting things on, or near, our route. At the NE corner of the Adriatic, in Italy, we found 3 little gems.

Firstly, the Riserva naturale della Foce dell’Isonzo is a bird reserve where a 2km walk took us past summer breeding scrapes, and wetlands where wintering birds were starting to arrive. We have also never had such great views of snipe, and, bizarrely, Carmargue ponies!

Then, the drive to the pretty town of Grado, and across the causeway, waving a sad goodbye to the azure sea. The next seawater we encounter will be the colder, and greyer, English channel!

Just north of Grado is Aquileia! This was once the Roman regional capital, and main trading port, long before Venice existed. They are still uncovering ruins, revealing remains of a huge city. They are only ground level ruins, but a short walk revealed the site of the forum, and the vast remains of the Roman wharves, dock ramps and warehouses.

Best of all is the church, or Basilica, which was built in 1031 on the site of an early Romano christian church . Bishop Poppo, in 1031, had a red tiled floor laid over the original 4th century floor. That has been uncovered and is stunning! It is the largest paleo christian mosaic floor in the world. The detail is remarkable.

But look up too. The intricate wooden carved ceiling is 15th century!

The basilica had another treasure – the crypt of frescoes. More stunning wall and ceiling frescoes, painted in the 12th century, preserved because they are away from light.

Really worth a visit, and it set us up for our long journey north into Austria.

Being us, we don’t do things the easy way. We chose to go due north, taking the less used route over the beautiful Carnic Alps. Autumn colours were everywhere. Gorgeous.

Having reached Austria, we decided to take the route over the Gross Glockner pass, as it was a glorious day. Be warned. This is not for the faint hearted, nor a dodgy vehicle. You climb, and descend, steeply up to 9000 feet, with 38 hair pin bends! Just short of the highest point, Boris appeared to give a little hiccough. We had visions of spending the night up thete, but thankfully a few minutes rest to cool down and he was fine. Stunning, if bleak views from the top!

Then down to the glorious scenery of the lake at Zell am See, and the luxury of the Seeland campsite, which had a super restaurant – I had the best fresh trout I have ever eaten, while Chris went for a meatier option! Then the luxury of hot showers, with underfloor heating!

Next morning, we walked around the Lake to the town. Our amazing luck with the weather continues!

Zell am See is in the very traditional Tyrol, so no shops open on Sunday. St Hippolyte church was built in 1514, and is worth a visit.

Then we set off on our long drive through Austria to Switzerland. To use motorways and some other main roads you need a Vignette. Austria do a 10 day pass, costing 9 euros, for vehicles under 3.5tons, like Boris!

Beautiful scenery all the way.

Post 2 if it is Wednesday it must be Austria…or is it Slovenia?

Our objective on this trip is to travel to Southern Croatia, so Germany and Austria are, on this occasion, serving as interesting stopovers! Our night in Germany was… chilly. So glad I packed the 10.5 tog duvet. It dropped to -2 degrees C in the night, but we were on a site with electric hookup AND an all night electric blanket. Best camping tip I can give anyone!

A gloriously clear day for our drive south east, past Munich towards the Austrian border . The Alps gradually appeared, and the scenery became stunning.

We arrived at Camping Nord Sam, on the outskirts of Salzburg, at 14.30. We had a quick snack, and caught the very convenient bus to the town centre. The Mirabelle gardens around the old palace are beautiful… and where the children in Sound of Music sang Do, Re, Me. (So I am told. I have managed to get this far through life without seeing it!)

We sadly opted to skip the 4 hour Sound of Music city tour (was it a sing a long tour I wonder?), and did our own walk. Crossing the river to the Aldstadt, the whole city centre is stunning 17th and 18th century architecture, with lovely narrow streets, and ornate metal shop signs. No Golden arches here!

The baroque Cathedral was impressive, but we loved the little chapel and cemetery of St Peter, and the hermitage chapels and catacombs in the cliff face.

Mozart was born and lived in Salzburg, and much is made of this. Mozart chocolates, liqueurs, Umbrellas, aprons, rubber ducks…. you get the idea. No music though!

Our final visit was to the Augustinian Brauhaus, a monastery brewery since 1621. A huge, traditional hall has expanded into 4 halls and a terrace holding over 5000 people! You collect your stein, get your beer dispensed…7.2% proof, and then find some yummy, if very meat based, street food at the indoor stalls.

It was a great experience, rounded off with the bus back to Boris and another very chilly night!

Another bright start and we crossed Austria on route 8. We had bought a vignette for 9 euros to allow us to travel on the motorways. Route 8 had tolls as well, for the 2 huge tunnels which meant we did not have to climb high over the Alps. We were in Slovenia in 2 hours, and 45 minutes later had found Camping Bled, on the shores of magical, glacial Lake Bled.

Another quick lunch, then off to walk the 4 miles around the whole lake, plus a long climb up to the impressively perched castle.

Fantastic views and some very interesting historical exhibitions. The castle has never been beseiged in it’s 900 year history. I wonder why.

The lakeshore is dotted with beautiful 19th century villas, one of which was taken over as a summer home by President Tito, the communist ruler of the then Yugoslavia.

An island in the centre has a lovely church of the assumption. Visitors can ring the church bell to ask for a wish to be granted, so our walk was regularly punctuated by slightly discordant chimes!

The only way to reach the island was to row yourselves.. maybe tomorrow…. or go in a traditional Pletna boat, propelled by a gondolier with 2 oars!

Great views at every turn on this walk. I am so glad I have a camera phone. A 12 shot reel of film would have been woefully inadequate!!

What an introduction to Slovenia. Magical, and the most photogenic place I have ever been to.

Tomorrow I am determined to eat the local Bled cake… a very very very unhealthy custard and cream slice!