Dave the motorhome is parked by the side of the road running around Klopeinersee, a lake near the Slovenian border in Austria (N46.60201 E14.57236).
Last night we celebrated four nights of free stops (which hasn’t happened since Italy) with the meal in a small restaurant in town, the waitress was very forgiving as we practiced our German on her. The food was great and at €20 for both of us, including a glass of wine, not too expensive.
Before we left Deutschlandsberg we nipped round to chat with our motorhome neighbours, a German couple from Dusseldorf. He’d mentioned yesterday about cycling world champions, so we took round our photo of Charlie and Mark Cavendish at the Giro d’Italia a few months ago.
Despite the fact that they spoke no English and we spoke little German we had a topical discussion about cycling, bike weights and doping. We’re pleased to report that he believed ‘Gentleman Wiggins’ is leading the Tour de France without any substance assistance – I should think so too! It turns out that the cycling world championship is taking place in the Tyrol, and our neighbour has won three German titles for his age group. His cycling top and bike both have rainbow hoops on them, and as we left we were unsure if we’d just met the OAP version of Mark Cavendish!
The fastest route to the motorway was via Weinebene Satnav assured us, what she failed to mention was it was a 1668m high col. Dave the workhorse charged his way up to the top with no problem, I sat back and admired the views out across the valley to Slovenia, or was it Hungary – they’re all so tightly packed together around here.
At the top we pulled into the car park so Jay could have a good look at the views, while driving he keeps his eyes on the road most of the time. Rising up above the tree line were the last 200m to the top of Handalpe, a sea of green with the odd rocky outcrop jutting out, inviting us to go and stand on them.
A quick change into something more suitable, flip flops aren’t the best on ascents, and we head off past the cows who sit on the lower slopes keeping the grass short.
Once we’re above the tall pine trees, the grass carpet changes to heather, moss and little rubberised plants. The winters here are harsh and anything living up here needs to be tough to survive.
The views from the rocks are amazing, and we sit and watch the clouds casting shadows across the pastures below.
On the way back down we teeter around stepping from rock to rock, while Charlie walks straight through the mud until his legs look like they’ve been dipped in chocolate. A handy water trough provides an icy cold bath, which he’s not very happy about.
We descend, Dave taking the bends in his stride. We pass a sign for a 13% slope ahead, it goes on for a while, the smell of warm brakes drifts into Dave’s cab. Just when we think it’s ending a 14% sign greets us, the stench gets stronger. Spotting a narrow bridge we pull onto it, smoke billows up from below the windscreen.
A quick inspection tells us it’s a good job we stopped. The road continues to drop away below us with nowhere to stop. We cross the narrow bridge and park up next to a fast flowing mountain stream. Out of the way of the traffic we have a game of pooh sticks – Jay wins – and a spot of lunch. Still the brakes are hot. Jay pours ice cold mountain stream water, gathered in a water bottle, onto the wheels to speed up the cooling process.
A little while later we gingerly make our way down the rest of the descent, hazard lights on and first gear engaged, Dave’s engine whines louder than Charlie ever could.
With a sigh of relief we reach flat ground, soon followed by motorway. We’re shattered from our walking and nerve wrangling descent. Driving through a couple of towns, one of which centred around a huge factory – so now we know not everywhere in Austria is picture perfect – we head for the nearest lake on the map.
I don’t know what I expected, maybe something like Lake Balaton in Hungary with lots of open space and free parking. Here lakeside is at a premium, mainly owned by guest houses and restaurants. We’re lucky to find a gap in the string of cars lining both sides of the road. Jay goes for a look around, but we’re not going to get any closer without paying to go on a campsite.
As the day time sunbathers leave we move over to a flatter space on the other side of the road. If I stand up in Dave I can see over the fences to the lake, but it’s just a free place to stop, eat and sleep. Cars are filling in the spaces either side of us again, as the evening crowd hit the restaurants. We’ll explore the resort up the road after dinner (in Dave) , but I think it’s the lake that’s the draw here.
Ps – if you’re interested in what we’ve been spending our money on you can find out more here.