Dachstein Krippenstein and Hallstätt, Austria

Day 50, Tuesday, October 15, 2019

It is a 11/2 hour drive from Salzburg to the Dachstein Krigppenstein region.  The trees along the way are turning colour and the sun is shining. We pass many little farms and villages on the way. The Dachstein Krigppenstein area has three cable cars which take us from the base to the top of a mountain, at about 2000 m.   There is the base, way down there, and we aren’t even at the top of the first cable car. The second cable car takes us higher… and even higher. We walk from the second cable car to a viewpoint high above the valley lake below.  There are several arrows showing the distances to  places around the world.  We have visited Stonehenge (1200 km away) and the Drakenberg Mountains in South Africa (8,800 kms away).  We are surprised that Stonehenge is that close.  Here is a 360 degree video I took from this platform.
We have tea and rest on these curvy benches to enjoy the fantastic views and sunshine. This is called the Five Fingers.  Five viewing platforms at the very top of the mountain!  Bob goes ahead so I can get this photo.  This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then I head out on one of the platforms.  It isn’t too bad…as long as I don’t look down! Bob has another turn on one of the fingers. A nice young man takes a photo of the two of us.  You could stand behind the picture frame but to do so your heels hang over the edge! There are sinkholes all over the mountain top.  These are formed by the collapse of underground caves.  There must be a lot of caves in this area because there are lots and lots of sinkholes.
As we take the third cable car down into a valley, our shadow follows us. We are headed way down to the building you can just see on the right side of the tower, about 2/3 of the way up.  The wind has picked up so we decided to eat our lunch down here where it isn’t quite so windy. Back at the top of the mountain I notice what looks like ghostly faces peering down at us from the cable car building!  So, are they ghosts? Here is a photo of the five fingers taken from a photo in the cable car building.  I realize that I forgot to look down when I was up there… I can’t believe I forgot to do that!On the way down from the mountain top we can see far up the valley.  We drive to Hallstätt, a town which exists because of the nearby salt mInes.  The town is squeezed between the mountain and the lake.  There is only room for espaliered trees, which are grown against the sides of houses. The setting sun lights up the yellow trees on the side of the lake.  Notice the middle mountain in the distance.  Then take a look at the top of that mountain…and the close up of the top of the mountain.  That is where we stood on the five fingers!  Maybe it is a good thing I forgot to look down! There are swans on the lake who are happy to share some of my dried fruit and nuts.  I give most of it to a young boy so he can feed them and I take photos.  I would have liked to sit and draw these beautiful birds but the sun is setting…and we are still far from home. The houses are piled one on top of the other, as there is not much land available between the lake and the mountain.  The flowers in the window boxes grow so big and lush.  I think it must be that the growing season here is so much longer than ours at home. I see this mask in a window and wonder out loud what it is.  A lady walking by stops to tell us it is a Krampus.  The Krampus shows up in towns the night of December 5, known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night to swat “wicked” children, stuff them in a sack, and take them away to his lair!  They look pretty terrifying to me.

The scenic town square with more flowers and espaliered trees… and one last view of the lake…  before we walk back to our car, parked way on the edge of the town, and head home.

The Grossglockner High-Alpine Road, Austria

Day 48, Saturday, October 12, 2019

We have a beautiful day for our drive on the Grossglockner High-Alpine Road located about an hour and a half south-west of Salzburg.   We drive through many tunnels on the way to the beginning of this highway.  There were several 2 and 2.5 km long tunnels.  On the way home we drive through a 5.5 km long tunnel!  The toll for the tunnel road is 12 euros!  Soon we are in the mountains.

The Grossglockner High-Alpine Road has an altitude of 2,504 meters at the highest point and it is the highest surfaced mountain road in Austria. The 48 kilometre road has 36 hairpin curves and two side roads to spectacular vantage points. There is a 36 euro fee to drive this road. At one of the first stops along the road I find this water trough that reminds me of the one my grandfather made years ago. The views are amazing. We see a couple gathering something. When I ask them what they are picking they give me a handful of tiny tart cranberries to taste. The road winds steeply upwards.  We are amazed at how fast we are climbing. We stop at what looks like a giant stone table and seats. A composite view showing the beginnings of fall colours. Looking far down to a deep valley. There is fresh snow up here. These devices point to and give the names of the mountain peaks.
There is a little museum with a great film about marmots and some of the other animals that live at these high elevations.  Take a look at the Snowshoe Hair’s feet! There is also a display that lets you see what it feels like to be a small creature on a mountain hillside.These are a bit hard to see, but there are cyclists on this road, lots of them!  Because we stop so often we pass the same bikers several times.  They don’t stop and just keep climbing.  I am in awe! We take one of the side roads to the very top of the mountain.  If you look carefully you can make out the narrow steep road that winds back and forth to the top. Getting close to the top!  The road continues up by that blue railing! The view from the top.  See that road way down there? Here is a close up, that shows the road climbing again up into the snow covered pass. More hair pin turns on the way down from the viewpoint at the mountain top.
We stop at the parking lot at the bottom of the side road to the summit viewpoint… where we have our lunch in the sunshine. Here is the road just below our picnic spot.There is a big valley on our way to the snow covered pass…
and a giant marmot!This tunnel is at the top of the road. There are large chunks of ice forming on the inside of the tunnel, and some workmen busy breaking them off. This is a view of the road on other side of the tunnel. Before long we are back in the trees.  These larch trees are starting to turn colour and glowed in the sun. We take the second side road up to the Pasterze Glacier. A jet stream makes it look like the mountain is smoking! We see some tunnel-like construction on the hillside but can’t figure out what they are, as there is no path to reach them. We then discover there is a tunnel that enables hikers to walk to the glacier. Those tunnel-like constructions we saw are viewpoints along the way.Here is our view from one of the viewpoints looking back to the glacier information centre.  We only walk 500 metres into the tunnel. Walking back to the car we see these stairs that lead way down to the lake at the base of the glacier. The sun is starting to set as we start our drive home, which is still 2 1/2 hours away.  The alpine highway is only 48 kms long but it took us five hours to go those 48 kms! We have never seen a hay ride like this going down a highway back home!

Salzburg, Austria

Day 46, Thursday, October 10, 2019

Today was a quiet day.  Bob went for a walk to check out the transit system and neighbourhood and I worked on my blog, caught up on some emails and took it easy.  The big excursion for the day was going for a few groceries before dinner.

Day 47, Friday, October 11, 2019

Walking to the bus I notice many houses have very attractive front entries. We can see Hohensalzburg Fortress high on the hill above Salzburg.  Tour guide Bob informs me we will visit there on Tuesday. We can see beautiful green alpine meadows in the hills above Salzburg. We pass dairy cows right in town just a couple blocks from the train and bus station.  The advertisement above the cows gave me a chuckle.  We pop into a downtown church when we get off the bus.  It looks like a community church from the outside, with big cheery murals on either side of the door.  The inside is much less ornate than many of the churches we have visited and there is lots of information on community programs and events.  Nice to see. We stop at some  food stands selling wine and beer, and have a bit to eat.  These giant doughnuts look interesting but we pass.  They are as big as small plates! The gardens around the Mirabell Palace are beautiful.  In the movie ‘The Sound of Music’ Maria and the children dance around this Pegasus fountain and sing ‘Do Re Mi’. The grass contains elaborate knot patterns decorated with flowers.  These are freshly planted pansies, hundred of dozens of them! The Zwergerigarten is a surprise.  It is the oldest ‘Dwarf Garden’ in Europe and was built in 1695.  Yes, a Dwarf Garden!  We had no idea there was such a thing.    This fellow insisted on trying on Bob’s baseball cap! The collection of 28 marble dwarf sculptures was sold at auction in 1811.  17 of the sculptures have been recovered and put back into the park in their original positions.   Here are some of these curious sculptures. We have tea and cookies in the garden and then I draw for a while. I used a new brush pen that I got just before we left for holidays.  I think it is going to take a while to get used to.  I used a water brush to create value with the water based ink in the pen.

I sketched the mountain this morning waiting for the bus.  Drawing these dwarves I was starting to get a feel for how to use this pen.  A water brush and white crayon were used to add some value.Walking through the garden there are some more knot designs created with flowers in the grass. There is a small Orangerie…with some goldfish, a turtle and a few birds. Looking back towards the Mirabelle Palace. The two towers in the background belong to the church we visited earlier. These young girls were enjoying the Pegasus Fountain, and I enjoyed watching them. There seems to be several unicorns here in Salzburg. I have time for a quick sketch of a beautiful enormous tree while waiting for Bob. There are a lot of big trees here. We have never seen a giraffe quite like this before! We walk along the river heading towards the Old Town. The Old Town and the Castle on the hill make a striking view.
People are out enjoying the warm weather. This is the house that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived in with his family until he moved to Vienna in 1781. His family occupied the entire top floor.  We were looking for a free film and somehow ended up in the museum instead, so we had a quick look around. This street was the inspiration for the song ‘Silent Night’.  It is a long street so no idea exactly where this inspiration transpired.
This door had interesting marks scratched on it that looks very old.Here is the entrance to the “Silent Night’ street.
As we explore some of the side streets, we pass this ‘House of Pleasure’, and yes, it seems to be that kind of pleasure! We also see some graffiti that I quite like.  Note how the little ledge is incorporated into the image.  Very clever!This little sidewalk fountain had red roses stuck in small holes in the paving.  I wonder why? We check out the Marionette Theatre, but unfortunately there are no performances while we are here. While we wait for the bus home I notice an empty store front where someone has written on the glass windows with a black felt pen.  It is an interesting different sort of graffiti.

Hörshching, Austria

Day 43, Monday, October 7, 2019

Here are the drawings I did yesterday.  I found these sheep quite a challenge to draw.  They move around a lot and they have quite a different shape from other animals I have drawn. There are none of the usual landmarks to use when drawing an animal, as their boney bits don’t show at all. Even their faces are soft with few angle changes to define their shape. I did really enjoy the afternoon with them and by the end of the afternoon I felt I was starting to figure out how to approach drawing them.

I asked our host, Peter, about the history of the  house so he takes us on a tour.  This is the old living quarters, where his wive’s two aunties lived.  They didn’t have much money so they never renovated, like so many of the other houses in the neighbourhood. The door leads to two bedrooms and the stairs to the attic.  These rooms are not being used now. The date 1705 is carved in the ceiling beam, but Peter tells us that the cottage is actually 400 years old and was originally a fisherman’s cottage.  He says this is a typical farmhouse.  I never got a chance to ask him if the original fisherman’s  house was always this big, or was it added on to over the years? I would love to be able to poke about in this attic!  There are spinning wheels, a sewing machine, old chests and trunks, baskets, containers of all sorts, and lots of boxes filled with who knows what? The entry area between our apartment (which used to be a stable), and the living quarters has this big metal door behind the stool.  Upstairs is another  enormous attic that runs the length of the building.
Here there are even more interesting things: old fishing nets, more chests and trunks, old baskets and wooden buckets and vats, and all sorts of interesting things that have probably been there many years.  Now I look at all the houses we drive by and wonder what is up in those attics!  I wonder what treasures might be hidden away in all these old houses?This is only some of the huge woodpile Peter has cut and stacked, ready for the winter.  We think that the air quality here must be very poor in the winter with all the wood burning that takes place.  Most of the houses around here have enormous piles of stacked wood just like this. I went out to pick a few apples to cook for dessert and noticed a pear tree. Most of the pears had fallen and weren’t good to eat but this one pear had landed on a branch and was sitting balanced there, just out of my reach!. One more view out a pretty window.  Bob went for another bike ride this afternoon and I did a bit of blogging and relaxing.  We are both finding it a nice change staying in the country.  It is so quiet and peaceful.  We have enjoyed our time in the cities, but this is a relaxing break from that routine.

Hörsching, Austria

Day 42, Sunday, October 6, 2019

This is our Airbnb in Hörsching, Austria.  After a lovely lazy morning Bob goes for a bike ride on a very old but still serviceable bike.  Our bnb has a lovely wild flower garden out front and there was a little bouquet of the pink roses on our table inside. The green door leads into an entry area, and the three smaller windows are in our apartment. The inside view of the two windows by the green door.  I think the shutters must be original.  The building is 400 years old and our apartment was originally a stable. This is the door opposite the green door, looking out to the back yard. The two big windows of our apartment from the back yard. The farm buildings are connected to the house.  The buildings form a square with the interior yard area you see here.  There is a short fence with a wide gate on one side of this yard.
Everywhere I look there is something interesting. I did get a bit of a shock meeting this fellow in one of the barns. There is a little sitting area if it gets warm enough for us to enjoy it. I spent the afternoon with my three new friends.  It took a while for them to get used to me, but they love bread!  A few slices helped convince them that I was pretty harmless. I spent a couple hours observing, drawing and taking lots of reference pictures.  These sheep do not have wool that is useful for spinning.  The fibres are too short, so they are raised for their meat.  I had never seen sheep with undocked tails before.  I had no ideas their tails were so long.  At times they looked quite dog like.  They are also very fidgety models! When Bob gets back from his ride he makes friends with this fellow but the other two want nothing to do with him.  This sheep is nine months old and the poor guy doesn’t realize he will be butchered soon. His new buddy follows Bob, hoping for just a bit more bread. Years ago I found an old copy of Henry Moore’s Sheep Sketchbook and I have wanted to draw sheep ever since.  I just had no idea how difficult they would be to sketch.  Seems like my idea of what a sheep should look like just isn’t what these sheep actually look like!

Schwechat to Hörsching, Austria

Day 41, Saturday, October 5

We planned some sightseeing along the way to our next destination.  First stop is the town of Krems.  We walk the old town, looking for a place to have our picnic lunch, but when we finally find a bench it starts to rain.  We eat our lunch under our umbrella and then it clears up enough for a little stroll down the main street of old town. It is a long street lined with mostly modern shops.  Not really what we were expecting. This is the gate that leads onto the shop lined street.  I do wonder why the geraniums grow so well here,  Everywhere in Germany and Austria there are window boxes spilling over with blossoms.  Mine at home don’t do nearly as well! We wander through the gate, and decide it is time to leave. I do see these lovely prints in a little window inside the gate.

Next stop is the Dürnstein Castle.  The castle was built between 1140-1145 and in 1645 it was demolished by Swedish troops.

The castle became famous through the legend of Richard the Lionheart. The legend of Richard the Lionheart says that when he returned from the Crusades, the English King tore up the Austrian flag and refused to share his spoils of war with Leopold V.  As a consequence, Leopold V held King Richard prisoner in the castle from 1192 – 1193.

We can see the castle high above the town. While we are getting information on how to hike to the castle the clouds get very dark and threatening. But just as quickly they start to blow over and in less than ten minutes the sky is relatively clear. On the path towards town from the carpark we pass vineyards with lots of green grapes.  They look ready to pick. We find the path and start our climb…and it is definitely a climb!  I am so glad I have our hiking poles, they really help climbing these big uneven steps that seem to go on forever. A view of the town from a much needed little rest stop.These little blue bells are the same kind that I have growing at home. My oldest daughter brought me seeds from Dawson City many years ago and they grow quite happily in our flower garden.  This gorgeous blue beetle glistened indigo and cobalt with touches of turquoise. He, or perhaps she, was about the size of my thumbnail and paused in its travels long enough to let me take its photo.It is hard to see, but this old gentleman and his wife (you can just make out her bandaged leg and green skirt), were being helped down the trail by some kind hikers who stopped to help them.  We have no idea how they managed to get this far, as they were having difficulty walking here where the ground was fairly flat.  Someone at the bottom of the trail had told us to “Look out for two old Brits on the trail…I don’t think they are going to be able to get down and will need to stay up there!”  They were very fortunate that kind strangers stopped and came to their aid.  I think they will be exhausted by the time they make it down, or maybe they will need even more assistance? This sign explains what the castle used to look like.  We are able to make out a few of the areas but most of the castle has been destroyed. Some views of the castle.The views from the top are wonderful and well worth the climb.
We see a riverboat cruising by on the Danube far below. It is starting to get very windy up here. The valley is dotted with village after village as far as we can see.I was looking for Bob and couldn’t find him… till I looked up.
We wonder if this is where king Richard was kept prisoner?

No one knew where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned. It is believed that Richard’s faithful minstrel, Blondel, travelled from castle to castle looking for his king. Richard was a poet and he wrote some of his own songs.  Blondel found King Richard in Dürnstein by singing a refrain from a song Richard had written which the prisoner then sang back.

Richard the Lionheart was finally released after the payment of a ransom of 150,000 silver marks.  Hmm, I wonder how much I need to pay to get this prisoner released? You can see the castle walls stretching all the way down to the town.

We are lucky enough to have a little impromptu concert.  I really need to learn how to edit video so these are raw footage, but you will hear a bit of what we heard. Here is another short clip. We head down to town on a different path, one which is a bit easier than the one we climbed up.  There are displays along the path explaining about the history of the Castle and King Richard the Lionheart. The path ends back in town. We see black grapes growing along the road and hanging on houses.  They are quite tasty. The castle walls go through the town all the way down to the river!
As we make our way towards Hörsching and our next Airbnb we pass lots of terraced hillsides where grapes are grown. Then we see a very large chair! The sky is quite dramatic and it is getting dark by the time we arrive in Hörsching, our home for the next three days.

Schwechat, Austria

Day 40, Friday, October 4, 2019

This is the view from our apartment window.  It is a fairly busy street but as long as our windows are closed the apartment is very quiet. Austria has a “vignette’ sticker for travel on their highways.  It costs 24 euros, instead of charging tolls on each highway.. So, we went to put it on our car and surprise, we have a parking ticket! No one else parked on the same street has a ticket and it is where our host told us to park!  We can’t figure out why we got the ticket.  We contact our host and he says we are legally parked.  He thinks that maybe whoever issued the tickets doesn’t ‘like’ our Slovakian rental car and gave us a ticket!

We try to go to the Council office to fight the ticket but it closed at noon, and it is already 12:30, so we decide to just pay the ticket and not worry about it.  These things can happen on holidays and it isn’t worth getting upset over.

After we sorted all that out, Bob went for a walk to the Danube River and I stayed home and do a bit of my blog and just take it easy.

It is about an hour walk to the Danube river.  There is a hydro-electric dam across the Danube.  Bob was able to walk onto the dam see some of downtown Vienna in the distance.  He also watched a ship go through the locks beside the dam.  It took about 20 minutes for the water to fill the lock so the ship could pass upstream.

I have mentioned before that this blog is a great souvenir for us as well as a way to keep in touch with family and friends.

I have a favour to ask.  If you enjoyed reading a post could you ‘Like’ it or perhaps post a comment?  It is kind of nice to know others are enjoying our blog too.  Thanks so much to the people who have taken the time to comment.  I  really appreciate it.

 

Prague to Vienna by Bus

Day 38, Wednesday, October 2, 2019

We take a Flixbus to Vienna today.  We were going to take the train but Bob read reviews and they all said to avoid the trains!  Service is terrible, the bathrooms are filthy, the seats you reserve are often not even on the train, and so on.

We have used Flixbus before and they are affordable, clean, comfortable and efficient.  We take our very first Uber ride ever to the bus station.  Our driver, who was originally from Azerbaijan, had a university education and spoke five languages!  Bob had thought we could walk, pulling our suitcases on the cobbled sidewalks…I am so glad we changed our minds on that.  We drive by the train station we first arrived at in Prague five weeks ago.The National Museum at the top end of Wenceslas Square.  I didn’t recognize it at first from this angle.  I drew one of the corner domes at the Urban Sketcher’s Meetup last week.
Not sure if I have a photo of the trams we used here in Prague so I snapped this one from the bus window.  They run every few minutes and are a fantastic way to get around the city.Soon we are in the countryside.  It always surprises me how quickly cities transition into rural areas in Europe. You are in the city and then suddenly you are not. The views here are quite similar to the countryside around home in Canada.  There are those big round hay bales, and… then something we do not see at home.  We see several huge haystacks of loose hay piled high.  They must have a machine that throws the hay up onto this haystack?
No idea what was planted here but it was the brightest green!

This big double decker bus drives through small villages on narrow roads.  I like being up high as I can see over fences into the yards of the houses we pass and sometimes into windows.  I am always curious and love these little glimpses into people’s lives.

I also do some sketching today, standing outside waiting for our bus and then later on the bus. I forgot to post this page from yesterday so here it is today.  Most of the museums charge a fee to take photos.  That is what the big yellow sticker is about.We pass several fields of pumpkins, all lined up ready for harvest.  Halloween is coming!

When we arrive in Vienna we take an Uber to our new Airbnb.