And so, with full bellies and a good night’s rest, we set out on one of our longest driving days. We were headed for the Alps.
When most people think of the Alps, they automatically think of Switzerland (ok, that’s what I thought before I moved here anyway) but the Alps in one form or another are also in Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Liechtenstein, France and Germany (they are pretty darn big let me tell you).
We started to climb (much higher than we had already climbed) and things began to look very tall, and very pointy – and when you looked up, very white. Ok, so call it bad tour guiding but I hadn’t actually counted on snow at least not snow of the blizzard-like variety. I figured by April we’d be pretty much safe. What I should have done was thought back to the August we visited Switzerland and saw snow on the mountains… but I didn’t.
The strange thing about the snow was there was a distinct line that you could see when you looked up the mountain side… it wasn’t gradual, it didn’t taper off – just a hard line where there was snow and where there wasn’t. Literally in the same mountainside village you could have one home with a green yard and 50 metres up the hill they could still be covered in the white stuff. It was odd.
Back to that blizzard I mentioned – Ok, blizzard may be a bit strong of a term, coming from a Canadian, but it was snowing pretty hard at points. The twisty mountainside roads weren’t boosting my confidence any either – oh, and the huge trucks in the on-coming lane… those were great too.
Despite the hazards though, it was a spectacular drive. There was a lot of “Oooh, stop the car, stop the car,” so we could jump out into a snow bank and take pictures. Those little villages that you see perched on the mountainside in the Ricola commercials – they exist.
The other thing about driving through the Alps is you miss a lot of it, because instead of going around or over many of the mountains, you go through them. Much of the drive goes like this: Tunnel (5 km) Bridge with stunning view (1 km) Tunnel (10 km) Bridge (500 m) Tunnel (18 km)… and so on. We actually drove through several of the longest tunnels in the world. (After the first couple of kms the novelty starts to wear off).
And so this is how we made our way out of Italy, into Austria and to our hotel in Kirchberg.
Kirchberg is a little ski village, much like many other ski villages in the area. The town was enjoying a late season and there were still quite a few ski runs open. Our hotel, the , looked deserted when we got there. There was no one at reception but there was a note for us and a key (trusting folk the Austrians). Our room was actually more of an apartment. We had two rooms and a small kitchen with a balcony over looking the town and the mountains.
We had the ‘brilliant’ idea to cook supper. We thought sausages would be the way to go – they weren’t. The stove didn’t work very well and we ended up eating way too much grease. The wine that we picked up was so bad that between the four of us we couldn’t even finish it. (More penance for our fabulous meals with Nicola).
The next morning however we were treated to a great breakfast at the hotel across the street, included in the price of our room.
Then it was back to driving mountain passes and the slow decent out of the Alps.