Monday, December 18, 2006

Central Austria

Salzburg to Vienna. Originally we were thinking of catching a train west to east from Salzburg to Vienna. Upon learning the price of two tickets however we decided to hire a car and drive, which ends up being the same price, including petrol.

We get off the A1 at Mondsee, where we saw the Sound of Music wedding church the other day. The road winds around Mondsee and over the mountains between there and Traunsee. There is a heavy frost on much of the road and on the southern sides of the lakes. Basically anywhere that doesn't get sun has a very heavy frost. It is a very cool sight. The lakes and mountains district of Austria is beautiful. There are large mountains that drop straight into the lakes, which are crystal clear and cold.

The drive takes us through Ebensee, Traunkirchen and Gmunden. Ebensee doesn't have much except spectacular views of the lake, mountains and valley. There was an outpost of the Mauthausen concentration camp here. Traunkirchen has a church and a perfectly placed chapel on top of a rocky outcrop into the lake. Gmunden has a castle built on a rocky island, accessible by a traditional wooden bridge.

It was a really great detour off the A1 with spectacular views of the mountains and lakes.

Back on the A1 we drive through to St Florian. Just before Linz we hit very thick fog and the temperature drops from 3 degrees to -1.0 in one kilometer. St Florian has a large abbey, Augustiner Chorherrenstift, which we look at in the dense fog.

Just north is the Mauthausen concentration camp. In this camp over 100,000 prisoners died from 1938 to 1945. Some of the original barracks and buildings still remain. It is very eerie looking around the camp with the fog as you can see from the photos. The woman at the ticket desk was just amazed that anyone wanted to walk around in -3 degrees, heavy fog and light drizzle to see the camp. To add to her amazement was the fact that we were from Australia, in Austria for a week and wanted to dedicate such an awful afternoon to this camp. We topped it off by mentioning that we saw Dachau camp just a few days earlier. (Sometimes it is easier to not straighten out some details with the language barrier!)

We spend the night in St. Polten, which has Christmas markets and a nice B&B. On the way to St Polten we are pulled over by a nice policemen who wanted to check all of our car papers, passport etc! Our first encounter with the police since we left Australia!


Continuing on our trip to Vienna we drive through the Danube Valley. This is one of the prettier areas of the Danube, with the river being flanked by vineyards and cliffs. It is quite similar to the Moselle Valley in Luxembourg. Of note in the valley is Stift Melk, the Benedictine abbey of Melk. This is a massive building looms over the town of Melk. The church inside has a magnificently painted dome and all of the walls are dripping with gold.

Fantastic find of the drive - Schloss Schallaburg, a Renaissance castle set away from any large towns. The castle is supposed to be shut so we want a look at the outside. When we arrive the first, second and third car parks are overflowing with cars. There is a Christmas Advent market on this weekend. Despite the number of markets seen already it provides a nice place to get some lunch.

Sights in the Danube Valley include castle ruins where Richard the Lionheart was incarcerated for a year and the site where a 25,000 year old sandstone statuette of Venus was discovered.

Our final stop is Krems an der Donau which is a nice town to walk around. From there we head straight for Vienna, to find a train to Bratislava in Slovakia.

Click on the photo to see more of Central Austria

1 comment:

Tasciovan said...

It's all so beautiful, thanks for sharing