We would have made good time packing up were it not for Norman the Borman. An English guy who had travelled in Croatia decided to tell Mark what he should do.
While advice about travel in Croatia is useful, since we are going there, being talked at and told “You don’t want to go there, you want to go here!” is never going to go down well. Norman had been there and my goodness, he had done it ALL!
I have heard that the definition of a bore is a man who opens his mouth and puts his feats in it…
We were still in Camping Paradijs in the Czech Republic. After the mega thunderstorm last night, the power was out and there was no running water in the main block, which made my advice to Mark about disposing of the chemical toilet sooner rather than later quite poignant – and a lot less revolting… Then we set off!
We meandered for miles up the river Vltava in secret forests, through beautiful villages and past fairytale castles, watching the rafts and canoes on the river. Every time we said “This MUST be the highest launch point…” we saw more. Boating is clearly a National Passtime! The Czech Republic is beautiful and unspoilt, so it was a stark contrast when we entered Northern Austria, where the scenery changed immediately to a much more open and agricultural aspect.
We drove through Linz, on the Danube, not that anything looked particularly blue or even slightly attractive, apart from the wedding party we saw wearing traditional Lederhosen. It wasn’t until we started climbing into the mountains at Gmunden that the more traditional Austrian scenery came out of hiding. It was a lovely day to travel. Although it was raining for much of the way, the mountains looked very moody and mysterious, wearing swathes of mist like diaphanous veils. Wooden chalets abounded, with one that looked exactly like the chalet on which my Grandma’s cuckoo clock was modelled!
We stopped at a couple of campsites at Wolfgangsee. The lake is beautiful, surrounded by dramatic mountains, but as Florian had warned us, it was busy and commercial. The first campsite was full and after a bit of faffing, we went to another. I think I accidentally managed to queue jump, which is amazing for a Brit, obsessed as we are with correct queue etiquette. But even after enduring the trauma of being so uncomfortably close to another couple in the tiny reception that we all but mounted each other, I refused the campsite’s kind offer of €36 without electricity to pitch by a shed. And that was after they had given us a discount for the dogs. The charge was officially €3.60 per dog, per night!
While I had been belying my Britishness and queue jumping, Mark had already checked out another site in the mountains, which was much quieter and had spaces. We moved on and, as ever in these situations, were glad that we did. At least initially!
Camping Temel in Altaussee was gorgeous. I was taken aback at being checked in by a 7 year old, although her English was perfect! I took the hounds for a walk and eventually found the lake, Altausee. It was a bit of a drama as I followed a Forestweg, not realising that it was a road.
I was stooping to pick up a poo when I had to leap up and stand in the middle of the road with my arms outstretched to stop a mad Austrian driver from mowing down the dogs! She drove over the poo, so despite the shock, the up side was that it saved me a jobbie!
It started to rain hard, but you could see that the clear waters were very blue. I am not sure that dogs are allowed off the lead here; there was a sign but I couldn’t understand it. No-one said anything, not that there were many out braving the rain!
I was so glad to get back to the caravan to get warm and dry.
The landscape inspired me to write a song. “I love the rain down in Aus – tria…” I was told that I might get done for breach of copyright, but I have to point out that my song is geographically very different from the one by Toto, who ‘bless’ the rain in Africa, rather than loving it in Austria. Totally different, you see.
The Return of The Small Black Dog…
Oh dear. Eviction looms. We have fallen foul of it again. “The small black dog ran across the grass to the caravan…”
The warning signs were all there. Literally! It is a beautiful campsite, but when we checked in, we were given a list of 21 rules. There are also signs up all around the campsite forbidding all kinds of behaviour, including a disturbingly anatomical diagram forbidding you to stand up to pee – even in the Ladies!
So when the dogs ran back to the caravan after their walk, the conversation with the lady proprietor went thus;
“Vee hef a problem!” she said. “Dogs must be on the lead!” “OK.” Mark replied.”No! It is not OK.” She asserted, very sternly and a little too loudly. “But they just ran back after their walk. They stay on the lead on the campsite.” “Dogs must be on the lead not just on the Kempsite but in the whole of Altausee!” she pronounced. “OK” Mark replied “NO IT IS NOT OK!” she repeated. “I meant OK as in…oh whatever. Do you know what, we will leave tomorrow.” “Gut.” She replied in the spirit of customer service – and off she stomped.
So my diary entry for Austria will be very short. ‘Wilkommen in Österreich’ – ‘Welcome to Austria!’ said the sign at the border. I don’t think so! So as it stands, the trip to Salzburg tomorrow is off in favour of the Julian Alps in Slovenia.
Which is nice!
We chatted to a German couple on the campsite who love Scotland and are keen Caledonian travellers. They got married in a Scottish castle and instead of champagne, served up their favourite wee dram; ‘Aberlour’ for the toast. They said they liked Scotch whiskeys, although they were not too keen on the very smoky, peaty ‘Islay’.
We told them what had happened with the dogs (their dog had been off the lead too. Shock! Horror!) and they asked if that was why we were leaving. We said that it was, but we found it funny and weren’t going to get upset about it. “But it is not funny!” the man said angrily. He was utterly indignant on our behalf, which was very sweet. Later we saw someone run through the campsite. We should report them. Jogging is verboten; Rule 14!
We chatted for a while; one of the chaps was wearing an AC/DC T shirt. “The first band I ever saw.” I volunteered. “I have seen them 17 times!” he said. “And Motorhead – 11! When did you see them?” he asked. “1978!“ “Ah, Bon Scott. I was born in the DDR (Deutsche Democratic Republic – East Germany) so I couldn’t see them until 1991. Bon Scott had died by then.” Once again, the international language of music – and a sharp reminder of how lucky we are to have always enjoyed the freedoms that we take so much for granted in the West.
The lady gave the dogs some home-made treats. ”Cooked meat is not in nature” she said. “The stuff you buy is shit. It makes them – do you understand ‘barf’?” Ah, the wonderful international language of breaking wind!
We excelled ourselves – and even my Dad – by not getting out for our main walk until 6pm! It was such a joy to have reliable internet for the first time for weeks, so we spent time catching up on route planning and other bits and pieces.
Then we drove over to Hallstatt, which is very picturesque and lakey. En route, we saw a man in an Austrian hat with a gun. “That’s for shooting dogs off leads…” I was only half joking.
In Hallstat, we actually found a ‘Hundstrand’ – a ‘Dog Beach’; It had a sign showing a dog off its lead and was a place where Hunde could bathe unmolested in the lake. It also claimed to be a Hund WC; something which I have never seen before!
Unfortunately, the Hundstrand was just that – a short stretch of beach and grass which was great for a chase, but you couldn’t walk around the lake. A British windsurfer in a blue van, who parked next to us, told us that there was a cycle way that went around the lake further back in town. We managed to park, but it was 18:45 and after walking to the road and finding no lake, we decided to give up! The pups weren’t too disappointed as we drove back, stopping briefly to take a photo of a band in full National regalia and the sunset over the limestone mountains.
I felt a little bit cheated. It was very beautiful, but no good if we couldn’t let the dogs have a good run. As is so often the case, however, beautiful is a bit commercial and there are so many other places that will be just as beautiful and, we hope, a tad more friendly.
Even as we left, I saw whole extra pile of ‘Do not…’ signs sitting with an electric drill, all ready to be erected around the campsite! I had been worried because it was 11am and I had failed to see the sign on the reception which said “Payment is only between the hours of 8:30-10:00.”
I managed to pay (I think she was anxious to see the back of us) and we got a very cold “Auf Wiedersehen” to send us on our way.
We were near Salzburg and since The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music, we were inspired to write a song in honour of our erstwhile hostess.
Join us next time and sing along with our first ever Musical Campsite Review!