The month of May is an early season in the Alpine area we are travelling through. Yes, all is green and it looks fantastic but the temperature is still cold. The small towns we visit on our bikes are just waking up from a sleepy winter. Tractors are plowing the fields; hay is being cut and laid out to dry. Cows graze and look at us with their bovine features. Life is good in Austria.
The ADAC map takes us to the really local places. The roads are not outstandingly stunning. This ADAC map is not only a layout of the high passes. We did the Grossglockner Pass last year and some of the Italian curves and dangerous sections I wrote about in 2009. This year with the new map, we are rolling along gently. Not that the roads are easy, but these are not the extreme sections one can find in Austria. If you like to meet the locals, this is the tour for you.
We rode that day until we had enough and found a bed for the night in a local Austrian Gasthaus in Fischbach (www.strudlwirt.at). The owner was cutting the lawn but stopped to show us our room. Dinner was cooked for us downstairs in the tavern, the bikes had to be pushed into the back yard under an overhang and we were good for the night.
I had asked around town for a private Zimmer, a place in a private home but while the signs are on the wall, the owners were not yet set up to receive guests. It is too early in the season, I guess. Life progresses in a certain rhythm. Between 1 and 3 PM all stores are still closed. Sunday is a day for church. Neighbors say hello and chat a little when they meet someone they know. Prices are not that low, however. A room for one night with breakfast is $ 60 or 70 Euro. Gasoline is 1.44 Euro per liter for regular; at least that is what we paid. I did notice that the octane rating starts at 91 Octane. Not the low stuff one gets in the U.S. I have seen gasoline of 99 Octane at pumps. Lots of people drive diesel cars and one needs to watch out when filling up the bike, since the diesel hose hangs right next to the gasoline hose. Don’t be asleep and put diesel into your bike. I did this in reverse, years ago, I put gasoline into a diesel car and I can tell you, it was an expensive experience. I had to pay for the repair of the rental car and it took days to get the car fixed.
There are differences in language, in Austria. In a restaurant, I had to ask what a Jause was. We do not have this word in German. The server in the hotel could not explain it, so I ordered it anyhow. Well, it is a cold meat platter. The plate I received had blood sausage, smoked ham, salami, and one or 2 slices of cheese thrown in, a pickle, a radish and some farmers bread. It made a good evening meal. We typically do not try to eat that much while on the road. Most rooms over here come with breakfast and we eat a good breakfast. Typically we have one or 2 hard rolls with cold cuts and cheese. An orange juice, one cup of good coffee and we are set for the day. Lunch we try to skip but since it is so cold at the moment we stop for soup mid-day if we can find it. Sometimes the soup is part of the menu daily special and then Carol gets the soup and I have the rest, which could be anything, from fish to sausage. In a small tourist town named Mariazell, we arrived at about 3 pm, way after the lunch hour and too early for dinner. We asked a guy in the street if he knew of a place that was open and he just looked at us and said, come. We followed him and we stepped into his restaurant and he cooked something for us, just so we would not be hungry. His place was not officially open. In fact, the cleaning stuff was still all over the place, chairs still on the tables, vacuum still plugged into the wall. We really interrupted the staff’s routine. The fish this man cooked for us was very good and, yes, we received a soup, too. I noticed people go out of their way if asked in the right way.
Our trip through the true, old time, authentic Austrian Country side was a pleasure. Nothing earth shattering yet it was extremely pleasant to find good hospitality, wonderful roads and pleasant people. We crossed Austria this way in two days and finally entered the Balkan, starting with Slovenia.