A mostly mountainous country in the central part of Europe. This popular country is well visited in summer and winter. Famous for skiing and Apres Ski this country caters for those on holidays must see areas are The Grossglockner (3798 meters) The states of Tirol, Salzburg, Carinthia, Vorarlberg are must see destinations in both summer or winter. 60% of Austria is covered by Forest and meadows. This makes Austria the densest forested country in central Europe. Austria is blessed with some of the Alps’ most beautiful peaks and most skiable resorts. A revered destination for winter sport enthusiasts, but beyond the perfectly prepared slopes lies a region with an ancient history and a culture all its own. Nestled between the majestic ridges. Our neighbours in Australia are from Austria (Elizabeth) and Germany (Peter) We had been invited to their house and arrived in Forts late in the afternoon. We passed the villages of Villach and Klagenfurt, before arriving. That night became a long night in the local pub as we had a lot to talk about. It was here that we met the local population and Peppi the Red Bull, he just loves blond woman, so Clary had all the attention. What did we have for dinner? Wiener Schnitzel (when in Rome do what the Romans do) like only the Austrian can make them, served with Kartoffel Salad and a few schnapps. Following day was set for more sightseeing Clary required a haircut and Peter and I had a few beers while waiting for Clary. That afternoon and night became a repeat of the night before but this time we also were invited by local farmers we met last night. Again, platter after platter of local delicatessen and homemade schnapps made it a memorable afternoon. From here we continued at the local pub where we met all the local hunters (Peter called them murderers) all in good spirit. Another late night
After saying goodbye to Peter and Elizabeth we left for Vienna a 3-hour drive and as we got closer the weather became colder and snow started falling. In Vienna the roads were not cleared so it became quite slippery. We arrived at the campground at the western side of Vienna early afternoon. Our main reason for visiting Vienna are the Christmas Markets and Schloss Schonbrun Starting at the end of November lasting till Christmas Day you can find “Christkindlmärkte” on nearly every corner of the city. Small huts provide you with potential Christmas presents, food and most important hot punch and “Glühwein”, heated sweetened wine. The city of Vienna (Wien) is glamour, glitz, excitement and a wonderful place to indulge yourself in culture. The circular road of the Ringstrasse is lined with beautiful and at times slightly ostentatious buildings, Vienna is famous for being the birthplace of the waltz, and where Austrian cuisine is at its very best. Viennese delicacies and pastries are available at many restaurants around the city and Vienna’s very own Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) soon becomes a must for us while having Morning Tea, Desert after Lunch and afternoon Tea. The next best thing is the Wiener Schnitzel with Kartoffel Salad and next are the Austrian Brotchen (bread rolls) for breakfast. Anyway in between eating and drinking we had an important landmark to visit Schloss Schonbrun, well known from the Dutch entertainer Andre Rieu who uses a replica during his shows. Schönbrunn Palace together with its ancillary buildings and extensive park is by virtue of its long and colourful history one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria. Scheduled as a listed monument, the whole ensemble, including the palace, the park with its numerous architectural features, fountains and statues and not least the zoo – the oldest of its kind in the world – was placed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 1996. In the possession of the Habsburg dynasty since Maximilian II, the palace passed to the ownership of the Republic of Austria at the end of the monarchy in 1918 and was subsequently administered by the Schlosshauptmannschaft Schönbrunn. In 1992 the Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. (SKB) was founded and entrusted with the administration of the palace as a modern, limited-liability company. Late in the afternoon we returned to the city to have one last look at the Christmas markets and the Christmas decorations. The snow kept falling and overnight we must have had at least another 45 cm last night. The batteries are having a hard time with a minimum of -18C last night. The weather report is not that good, and many roads are closed, or snow chains required. We decided to take the freeway as at least they are cleared of snow first. It took us around 35 minutes to get out of Vienna in slippery conditions, before we arrived on the partly cleared freeway. It was going to be a long day, but the scenery is picture perfect. It is only 1 week before Christmas and one thing is for sure we will have a white Christmas.
Late that day we arrived at a fully fitted out winter camping, catering for the many skiers. It even has a 32-degree heated outdoor pool in the snow. Heated amenities with floor warming, satellite TV connection, water and gas at every site. After all those months bush camping in Africa and the Middle East we do love this. They even deliver real Austrian bread rolls in the morning. Alpbachtal is in Tirol and only 30KM from Innsbruck and a few kilometres from Kitzbuhel both well know winter sport areas. Innsbruck hosted the 1964 winter Olympics and Kitzbuhel is host of the yearly Hahnenkamm ski competition. A great place to spend a few days
The sun came out and despite being -10 degrees it feels a lot warmer.
We went for a walk through a winter wonderland, had a swim with -10 degrees in an outdoor swimming pool heated at 32 degrees and had lunch in a real Austrian Stube that served the best Goulash Suppe (soup) ever. Our next destination was St Anton a world renown ski resort. It includes the villages of Lech, Stuben, Zurs, Sankt Christoff and St Jacob St. Sankt Anton has always been in the top 10 resorts in the world. St. Anton is renowned for it’s challenging skiing, spectacular scenery and lively Apres ski. With 86 skilifts-39 chairlifts-10 cable cars covering 280KM of ski runs you have enough choice, for snowboarders it also has a snowboard park. And we were surprised to see so many Aussies work here. bustling village with its attractive pedestrian area, is lined with sports shops, boutiques & cafés. First class après ski continues well into the small hours at the resort’s discos, bars & nightclubs, which is bustling, lively and sophisticated. As the village includes a large amount of 5-star resorts and attracts also non-skiers it offers plenty of other activities away from the piste including: · Ice skating · Curling · Bowling · Tobogganing · Sleigh rides · ‘Arlberg-well.com’ leisure complex. The 4.2 km long illuminated sled course from Gampen via the Rodelhütte to “Rodelstall” in Nasserein must be the best in Europe! In the heart of St. Anton lies a leisure oasis built for the 2001 World Alpine Skiing Championships. Within the luxurious leisure and spa facility there is a swimming area with both indoor and outdoor pools (you swim between the 2 via a man-made whirlpool), waterfalls, as well as a separate children’s section with slide and play stream. Other elements include a fitness centre, sauna section with Finnish and Kelo saunas, solarium, steam room and relaxation area. The large area in front of the leisure complex consists of a frozen lake for ice-skating and curling. We loved St Anton. In line with all this it also caters for the Caravan, Motorhomes and Campers. Again, a fully fitted out campsite for those who camp in the winter it had private heated facilities with every site, it had a Restaurant, Indoor Swimming Pool, Sauna, and Supermarket. It even had a free Ski bus which stopped every 15 minutes at the site. Our last stop in Austria was Ischgl like St Anton is one of the Premier Ski Resorts in Europe and attracts entertainers such as Elton John, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart etc. It has Champagne bars where the cheapest bottle goes for 300 EURO, For the next 2 nights we decided to stay in a hotel.
After we checked in we first went for the famous Goulash soup. That night we went for dinner, court up with our friends and had a few to many.
After breakfast, Rowalt, Leo, Annemiek Karen and Marleen took us for a day via the ski-slopes to Switzerland. John and Ingrid had to go to Innsbruck to pick up Tessa who was arriving from Holland.
Ischgl is a superb ski area with 68 lifts, able to move 120000 people per hour, who enjoy 351km of ski runs which allows you to cross the border into Switzerland. It even has a double decker cable car which from memory carries 150people. Some chairlifts have heated seating, 14 restaurants with seating up to 500 people each, outdoor restaurants and bars full of live entertainment, entertain the people every day. You even can use your GPS on the ski runs so you never get lost.
The steepest run in Ischgl is 70% and can only be prepared by a special snow machine which is coupled onto a winch. The longest run is 11 km in length and starts at a Hight of 2872 meters.
After Lunch we returned to Austria with the double decker cable car, to get ourselves involved in the famous Apres Ski. Around 7PM John, Ingrid and Tessa returned from Innsbruck. After the Apres Ski we went for dinner. We are already starting to get used to the European structure and all the luxury and facilities to entertain the tourist.
Breakfast, say goodbye to our friends and it was time to start the last 1000KM to get to our end destination for part one of our World Safari. It was around 10AM that we left Ischgl and despite snow being forecast it was dry and sunny. If only we would had known what was coming.