Europe Trip day 2: The hills are alive…

I was up early on Wednesday, leaving my little roadside motel behind after an inexpensive breakfast at the neighbouring services, and onto the autobahn heading South toward Munich.  

Whilst the most direct route toward my final destination (Sofia, Bulgaria) was via Passau, and Linz, I had always held a desire to explore Austria, especially in the Springtime when the snow is still lying in places and on the peaks but the valleys are pristine green and full of life.  So my plan was to get to Salzburg ASAP, then take a more leisurely route South through Bad Ischl, Bad Aussee, Admont and Leoben.  Once back on the motorway, I could then head towards Vienna and onward.

So, south on the autobahn, and past Inglostadt.  Mmm, Inglostadt I thought – that’s where Audi is based. Vorsh Sprung Technik and all that.  Then a sign pointing to the Audi Motor Museum.  Well, what could I do! A quick trip around the museum couldn’t do any harm, so I took a detour.  What a great place!  Just 2€ to gain entrance, and some fantastic exhibits from the 100+ year history of Audi and it’s predecessor, Auto Union.  It’s a fantastically modern building, with superb architecture, and really interesting ways of presenting the cars.  In particular, I was amazed at the vertical rotating display of ten or so modern Audis that has the cars suspended 30m or so above the ground. Very cool.

Image:Europe Trip day 2: The hills are alive...Image:Europe Trip day 2: The hills are alive...
Image:Europe Trip day 2: The hills are alive...Image:Europe Trip day 2: The hills are alive...

If you are any kind of car nut like me, then the museum is well worth a visit.  They also offer a trip around the factory, but I had already spent far too much time on my detour so I declined and headed back to the Autobahn.

The motorway skirts Munich, but I chose to head through the centre to catch a glimpse of some of the famous Munich sights, but the aim was always to get through the city at reasonably high speed.  The limited amount that I did see conformed to my pre-conceived notions of splendid architecture and fabulous German organisation.  I must make it back for the Oktoberfest some time soon and spend more time exploring.

So, on into Austria and to Salzburg.  Now I had high hopes for this city – nestling in the Salzach valley within sight of the mountains, scene of the famous “Sound of Music” movie and home of Mozart.  It is certainly in a beautiful spot, and when the sun is out and the air clear, I am sure it is a great place to be.  However, in the drizzle it seems a bustling, slightly tatty city, that didn’t really have much to offer beyond the “Sound of Music tour” and the medieval Hohensalzburg fortress.  I am sure I missed the real spirit of the place, so will have to come back for a longer stay in the future.

Leaving Salzburg to the East, I eschewed the motorway toward Linz, and instead took a windy single-carriageway route upwards toward Bad Ischl.  Climbing up above 1000m, it fast became obvious that a month or so earlier and there would have been plenty of snow around.  The houses alongside the road were classic Austrian chalets, the views of the snow-laden peaks stunning and the road challenging to drive.  Whilst at times the journey was slow-going, the sight of the mountains, the Wolfgang See, the lake at Bad Aussee all made it a wonderful trip.  In all, it took about 3 hours to make it from Salzburg south-east to Leoben, a distance of approximately 230km.  Whilst in the context of the trip, this was probably a luxury, it was definitely worthwhile.
Image:Europe Trip day 2: The hills are alive...Image:Europe Trip day 2: The hills are alive...
Image:Europe Trip day 2: The hills are alive...Image:Europe Trip day 2: The hills are alive...

So, the scenic bit done and dusk beginning to fall, it was back to the purpose of getting some serious kilometres under my belt.  The plan was to head NE toward Vienna.  However, the traffic was heavy (my goodness mainland Europe suffers with haulage clogging up the roads!), and suddenly my plan to spend the night in Vienna before heading through Hungary and Romania seemed a very long way round – yes it was on fast roads but seemed an excessive distance to travel.  So instead I carried on South into Austria’s second city, Graz, before heading on to Budapest in the morning.

I quickly found a decent hotel, the Hotel Europa, and dumped my bags before heading out for some well-deserved dinner. I was looking for some classic Austrian fare and so searched high and low for a good inexpensive local restaurant.  In between the pizzerias, kebab shops and Irish bars, I failed dismally!  Of the limited selection on offer, an “all you can eat” Sushi bar seemed the most promising, so it was with that and a Japanese beer that I finally turned in for the night.  850km covered so far, 700 in the day and still plenty of distance to be travelled…

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!