Our pandemic dog rescue story… part three

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When we take trips, I usually take a lot of photos, even from the car. Before a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of Kransjka Gora, and had no idea of what we were in for. I did remember how beautiful Lake Bled was and had been wanting to visit Slovenia again. But Bill and I are getting older and it’s hard to drive for seven or eight hours straight, so that means it’s best if we can break up the trip. And, as most Americans know, there’s only so much leave a person can take. When Bill worked for his first company, the pay wasn’t as good, but they were very generous about letting him take time off. His current employer pays very well, but it’s not as easy to go away for longer trips. Not that we’re complaining. Six years ago, when we first came to Germany, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. I managed to pay them off two years ago, nine years ahead of time!

While I usually like to take a lot of photos on our trips, I was more preoccupied this time. I didn’t think to take any pictures until we stopped for lunch at a KFC. German KFC is not like American KFC. And American KFC is not like the Kentucky Fried Chicken of my youth, which used to be a lot better than it is now. We decided to stop for chicken, even though it’s not as quick and convenient as other fast food is. I was kind of astonished by the rest stop where we pulled off. It had an amazing assortment of choices, especially for Germany. There was a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a KFC and a Subway!

And right next to the Subway was an enormous “adult” book store, complete with blow up dolls outside the entrance! I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the erotic book store. I wish I had. In the United States, the adult book stores aren’t quite as prominent as they are in Germany, although I do remember repeatedly passing Club Risque in North Carolina many times as I drove back and forth from Virginia to South Carolina to and from graduate school.

I guess the erotic book stores are intended for the lonely truckers who traverse Germany from all over Europe, especially the East. I notice that they are well catered to in this country. Many rest stops have showers, as well as pay toilets that are clean. Where I come in the States, the rest stops are a little bit nicer than the free ones in Europe, which are really bare bones. But they don’t usually have restaurants (except in the Northeast). In Europe, the rest stops that aren’t just a place to pee have restaurants, fully stocked convenience stores, gas stations, and yes, something for the truckers who need a little distraction from the road.

Lunch was pretty filling. We ate it in the car, mainly due to having Arran with us and because of COVID-19. I watched people going in and out of the restaurant, ignoring the request to exit from the opposite side of the entrance. I also noticed in the ladies room, that someone had dumped pasta all over the bathroom floor. I couldn’t tell if it was cooked or not. It was an odd sight.

Once we got lunch sorted, we got back on A3 and headed south. I had forgotten how long the drive to Austria by way of Salzburg is. It seems to take forever to cross the border because you have to keep going east. I always enjoy driving over borders, but on this first day of our trip, we were about 90% in Germany before we arrived in Salzburg. We made another quick stop at an excellent rest stop not far from the border so Bill could buy an Austrian vignette (toll sticker). They are required for the Autobahn and you can buy them for ten days at just under 10 euros.

That’s another interesting thing about Europe. Many countries over here either have systems where you either pay for a vignette to use the motorways or you pay tolls. In Switzerland, you buy a sticker for the year and it costs about $40 (40 Swiss Francs or 30 Euros). In other countries, they are for shorter time periods and cost less. Many of the countries that have vignettes also have tolls for when you go through a long mountain pass. Germany is the only country I’ve seen so far where the Autobahn is free. But we don’t know for how much longer it will be free. Of course, you still have to pay 70 cents to use the bathroom at the fancy rest stops. That’s why it’s not at all unusual to see people peeing on trees here. They’re pretty brazen about it, too.

The proprietors at the Haslachmühle B&B had requested that we check in by 6:00pm. We arrived there at about 5:30pm, having driven through Salzburg’s traffic and passed by a guy driving a carriage pulled by two white horses. The horses spooked Arran, who barked and startled us both. I wish I’d had my camera, though. Those horses were a lovely sight.

So… about that B&B. It’s a winner. Getting to it is a little bit tricky, since it’s located on a very narrow “goat trail” type of road. But it’s a very charming place, with six unique rooms and a small free parking lot for guests. The lady in charge, along with her very sweet female dachshund “Luezy” (pronounced as if you were rhyming it with “noisy”), met us as we pulled up. She was quick to check us in and show us to the beautiful room I rented for the night. We stayed in the Room City View, which was just awesome. It had a big bed, a huge balcony that offered a view of the city, and a gorgeous masonry heater. I especially loved how the walls had built in bookshelves loaded with books (in German, of course). It was really unique and lovely. I was sorry we could only stay one night.

We were tired from the drive and still full from lunch, so we had no need for dinner. However, the B&B has a fridge where guests can get wine, beer, or soft drinks, as well as snacks. You just write down what you took and pay on checkout. Our room came with two bottles of water (looked like they came from a Penguin), mini Ritter Sports on the pillows, and three apples. Adding in some crackers and wine, we were pretty much set for the night. I enjoyed watching the sun set over the mountain. We also watched some network TV, which we rarely have the chance to do.

If we had needed food, we could have ordered from Lieferando.at or, if we were feeling determined, driven into town. There aren’t any restaurants near the B&B that I could see.

Breakfast in the morning included the usual buffet spread, with cheeses, cold cuts, fruits, juices, and breads. The proprietor made us coffee and scrambled eggs. While we were eating, Arran started pitching a fit. We hadn’t brought him into the breakfast room. I was very pleased to see that the proprietor didn’t mind Arran’s howling and even said we could bring him into the breakfast room, which we ended up doing. Another couple also had a dog with them and Arran behaved like a perfect gentleman.

After a leisurely breakfast, we loaded up the car and checked out. I would definitely go back to Die Haslachmühle B&B, next time without any canines. However, I am happy to report that they are very welcome there, even if children aren’t (according to Booking.com, anyway). We weren’t even charged extra for Arran. I was expecting a pet fee, so that was a really nice surprise. Below are some more photos from our stop in Salzburg. It really is a beautiful city. I would love to go back and do another tour of it when we don’t have business to attend to.

By late morning, we were heading south to Slovenia, which isn’t that far from Salzburg. I think it was about a three hour drive. I managed to get a few pictures of castles from the side of the Autobahn… again impressive sights. We really should come down and actually visit sometime. We had a chance to tour Salzburg when we did our very first Space A hop from the USA back in 2012, but that was just a day trip that we took from Munich. We had a great time, but it wasn’t long enough. Time to look into visiting again. We’ve been to Salzburg three times and still haven’t done the Sound of Music tour. 😉

More on the drive to Slovenia in the next post.

A whirlwind trip to Austria, Italy, and probably Switzerland, part 4

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Yesterday morning, we got up, again our joints creaky from the mattress and our increasing ages.  We packed up all our stuff and put it in the car.  I was excited about the prospect of visiting Italy again.  Our last visit was in May 2013.  We flew to Venice, then took a train to Florence and Rome before we picked up a weeklong SeaDream cruise in Civitavecchia.

The visit before that one occurred in July 2009, when Bill, his mom, and I literally got stuck in Italy.  I had published the story on two different Web sites that have since gone *poof* or I would link to the story.  Long story short, Bill and I decided to take his mom on a whirlwind trip through five countries.  We ended up getting stuck in Italy after a summer storm flooded the autostrada near Lake Como.  We did manage to get out, but not before we spent the whole night trying to find an opening to the Swiss border.  It was a bit of a disaster.  We still talk about it a lot, though…  It’s not often that you can see Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Italy in less than 24 hours.  And on the way home, we went through France and had lunch, just so my mother-in-law could say she’d been there, too.

I think it’s safe to say that we like to travel by the seat of our pants.  So I was definitely ready to venture back to Italy and see this place called Vicenza, which I have heard so very much about.  Bill has a conference all week, so I pictured myself wandering around the city and making discoveries.  But first, we needed to stop by the Spar again.  I needed toiletries.

I picked up some toothpaste, lotion, and conditioner and we went to the checkout.  A strikingly pretty and surprisingly chipper young lady with dark brown hair and big expressive eyes was working the register.  We didn’t even have to open our mouths before she switched to English, with an apology, no less!  She asked if we were British people on holiday.  We said no, we came from Germany…  Then added that we are Americans.  She smiled, displaying two rows of perfect white teeth and said, “Oh, so you’re Americans who live in Germany and have come on holiday to Seefeld?”

“Yes.” I said…  That about summed it up, alright.  She wished us a pleasant day as we gathered my toiletries and headed for the door.

Just as Bill was about to climb into the RAV4, he realized that he had forgotten to turn in the hotel key.  He went back to the lobby, where the hotel owner had just arrived.  In German, he said he’d forgotten to give back the key.  The two snickering ladies who had been making fun of us for two days suddenly realized that Bill spoke some German.  I wasn’t there to see it, but Bill said their eyes got big and mouths dropped open in shock.  It was probably a fine Kodak moment.  All told, our two nights at Hotel Diana, including beer bath, two bottles of wine, and half board, came to about $450.

We got on the road and I entertained myself taking lots of pictures of the beautiful scenery.  As I mentioned before, Seefeld is up in the Alps, making it great for those who wish to ski.  However, good brakes are an absolute must because they will be taxed coming down the mountain.  There are many emergency escapes on the way down that are no doubt there because people have died or been hurt by brake failures.  I would not want to try driving up there in snowy or icy conditions, though I know people do it.  I can’t even imagine what it must be like for truck drivers bringing goods to the two Spars in Seefeld.  Must be a nightmare in the winter!  Anyway, the following pictures were taken on the way down.

One of the more obvious emergency pull offs…

Innsbruck in the distance.

I had to take a photo of this WC.  Back in 2009, I took a couple of tours through Edelweiss Lodge.  One was to Innsbruck and Crystal World and the other was to Bolzano and Vipiteno.  I see they have changed up some of the tours since then.  Anyway, we did stop at the rest area and I did use the bathroom with the big sign.  It was closed yesterday.  I noticed a sign in the restaurant next to it that read that anyone not eating or drinking has to pay 50 cents to pee.  

 

The area around the rest stop is absolutely stunning.  The mountains are very dramatic and gorgeous. But they do get you with a nine euro toll…

Italian border.

We stopped a little ways into Italy so I could have a pee break and we could both enjoy a cappuccino.  Sud Tyrol is as lovely as its Austrian neighbor.  And I was very impressed to see what was being sold in the convenience store.  There was bacon, ham, wines from the region, and cheeses.  I didn’t see any of the usual crap sold in truck stops/convenience stores.  I did get a kick out of the old guy who was collecting money for the freezing cold toilet.  Bill said he even patted him on the back because he managed to get the hand dryer working without assistance.

About an hour or so later, we decided to stop for lunch.  We were in a little town called Avia.  To get to the town, we had to go through a tunnel which allowed traffic to go one way at a time.

We were stuck behind this guy, who waved to a couple of folks passing by.  I figure he probably knows everyone in the town.

We had lunch at a trattoria called Statzione.  It was located right by the train station, hence the name.  We walked into the place and it was clear that it was full of locals.  Everybody stared as we took a seat in the corner.  It turned out it was one of those places where they serve a special and a couple of other choices.

Bill ordered a half liter of house wine… and a bottle of sparkling water.  The wine came in the pretty carafe.

Bill looks handsome as heck.  

I had a plate of penne pasta with bacon cream sauce (hello arteries) and Bill had penne pasta with cheese sauce, kind of like Alfredo…  We could have also had salad, but opted not to.  The cost for lunch was just 18 euros!  Cheap!

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the colorful toilet seat in the ladies room.  The men’s room also had one.

A shot of the outside of the trattoria.

 

We got back on the road and headed further south.  From Austria to Avia, we paid 13 euros in tolls.  We got another ticket for the rest of the way, making only one last pee stop at an Autogrill.  It was free to pee, but they made you walk the gauntlet past all the shit they were selling.  Everything from wine, to chocolates, to dehydrated mushrooms!  I didn’t mind, though.  In fact, I was a little tempted.

We arrived at Hotel Victoria in the mid afternoon.  I had already read some disturbing reports about this hotel.  Now that I’ve been here a night, I see it’s basically a big PCS hotel… the kind of place where Americans stay while settling in Vicenza.  It’s not far from the US installation.  Still, it’s not the kind of place I would have booked.  We are here because it’s convenient and what Bill’s work will pay for.

This picture is over our bed.

The furnishings are dated and a bit depressing, but the hotel has a self service laundry, a nice restaurant with good food, decent breakfast which is included and, in the summer, there’s a big pool with lifeguards.  More on this in the next post…