31 August 2006

Austria

With WUOC over, Liis and I headed out on a short holiday together. Armed only with a tent, cooker and map of Europe (which I later left in a train station) we set off from Kosice. The only firm plans were that we were going to go to Wien (Vienna for English people) and that she was heading off to Italy 'at some point' to see some friends, and at the same time I would head over to Switzerland to see some of my friends.
So having failed to find a lift to Bratislava (or anywhere at all), we caught a train through some beautiful countryside. We were immediately confronted at Bratislava station by several representatives of youth hostels in the city, and after a short failed attempt to find a better alternative, we agreed to one of them. Hmm.... I guess you get what you pay for, and it was pretty cheap. There was a bed.... Best just leave it at that.
Anyway, the centre of Bratislava was quite nice for a morning stroll, and then we caught a boat up the Donau (Danube for English people) from the centre right into the centre of Wien. This took about 75 minutes and was pretty cool.
We then spent about an hour trying to use the 'Info' terminal on the street which is very clever and very frustrating at the same time. Eventually we found a suitable pension (low key hotel) just outside the centre. We map memoried it across the centre and found it almost first time, only to discover that the info terminal had in fact lied, and there were no spare rooms. Luckily the lady was nice and found us another place close by for the same price, and despite her not knowing her left from her right, we found that eventually too.
Now Wien is a beautiful city, and I can imagine Hannibal Lecter enjoying his retirement there, feasting on waiters and enjoying the Mozart and Strauss, but we both wanted to get out into the countryside. We spent a day in Wien, went on the big famous Ferris Wheel that James Bond went on once, got very wet in the thunder storm, ate ice creams and had a nice morning run round a lot of the famous sites much to the surprise of the hordes of tourists.
We also encountered the funniest waiter in the world, who basically took the piss out of all the patrons and put on a bit of a show. I only understood the bits in English, but he made me laugh anyway.
We had no idea where to go after that, so we went to the train station and looked at where the trains went. Comparing that with our 1:500,000 map, we found a place in the hills in roughly the right direction (Italy and Switzerland ish) that looked nice, and we got on the next train. As it turned out, completely by chance we managed to end up in the Semmering area which is one of only 8 World Heritage sites in Austria (or something like that) and famed for it's beauty and it's railway. We didn't know that until we got there though.
Actually we didn't even go on the famous bit of railway. We got off just before it and hiked for hours and hours in the hills in roughly the right direction (again based on the 1:500,000 map with none of the very small towns or roads on). It was beautiful and nice to be out of the city, but with a heavy rucsac it was pretty tiring, and eventually we had to camp on the side of a hill in the middle of nowhere (nice view though).
Then we had to find out where we were exactly, so we kept walking and eventually came out at another railway station. Which was nice.
Then we found another random place on the map in roughly the right direction and took the next train. This place wasn't quite so good. After walking round in a thunder storm for 2 hours we decided we had had enough of Unzmarkt and got on the next train out. Now I'm sure its a lovely place, and I would have no objections going back, just I would rather enjoy it without one of the heaviest storms I have ever encountered.
So then we headed to Villach, quite a large town close to the Italian border that neither of us had ever heard of before. We both loved it. We found a nice friendly campsite just out of town (although just out of town turned out to be over an hours walk). We went walking in the hills (one day we went out for a short brisk walk and accidentally got carried away and walked for about 5 hours). We explored the town centre (which is very nice). We had a fantastic Mexican meal (and got a little drunk).
Then it was time to go our separate ways. Liis got onto a bus to Udine, and I took a train to Innsbruck. I spent the night there and had a morning walking around the city (so now I have been to 3 out of the 8 World Heritage sites in Austria - lucky me). Then it was off to Switzerland.

2 comments:

rocky said...

sounds like fun. We went to Villach for pre-JWOC in 2001 and it is very nice as i remember it, struck me as the sort of place where James Bond would hang out waiting for a bad guy and having to put up with hot girls and martini's until hopping on a jet-ski and chasing a bad guy across the lake.

gg said...

didn't see the lake but I'll take your word for it, i can imagine him driving round the bendy roads in the mountains very fast though