The Grossglockner to the Almabtrieb

September 30, 2011


La Villa, Italy landscapeOur main objective for today was to take a scenic route to the Almabtrieb festival in Mayrhofen, Austria.  I had explained to Bill that we’d either have to back track a significant distance or add another 3 to 4 hours on to the day by driving the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, the most famous road in Austria.  I have to say this, Bill is a good sport.  He was up for it.  Though neither one of us had slept well the night before we did manage to get up and on our way at a reasonable time.  Church in La Villa, Italy

We left La Villa via the Val Badia Gadertal and drove past spectacular ski slopes on the way to the base of the Grossglockner.  When we were on top of the world the day before, the bikers from Great Britain told us that the road had been closed part of the week before due to a foot of snow.  The great weather we’d been having had allowed for clearing and a melt; we were good to go up.

This road is not for folks who get motion sickness, or for folks who are in a big yank to get from Point A to Point B.  Forget it.  If you are not committed to appreciating where you are at any given moment you will not enjoy the Grossglockner.  We stopped in beautiful Heiligenblut to stretch our legs.  Church in Heiligenblut, AustriaIbex carving HeiligenblutWe did get mildly confused upon driving to the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Hohe.  We thought we were still on the main drag.  When we attempted to continue we realized we’d gone as far as possible.  For a panicked few moments I thought we’d have to back track the whole way to Innsbruck!  Not the case.  From the aforementioned place, there is a good view of the Grossglockner Peak and glaciers.  The visitor’s center there is at 2,369 meters (7,778 feet?) above sea level.  Oh how I wish we’d rented a more sporty car than our little Hyundai.  It reminds me of The Little Engine That Could.  Yes it can, but not very doggone fast!  Bill spent much of the day in second gear.switchback after switchback

It was nearly 6:45 p.m. before we arrived in Mayrhofen, Austria; almost dark.  We found our hotel and a kind of creepy parking garage below then made our way up to our room.  Grossglockner viewHot damn Sam!  We have a little suite; well, compared to our B&Bs anyway.  There is a separate room for the toilet.  Separate room for the sink and shower.  Large bedroom area and a balcony with plenty of space.  Our view is of a chairlift and the mountain to which it leads.  We are in a tight little valley but the city seems pretty big and well equipped for tourists.the receding glacier

After getting our bearings we took off walking to explore.  We ended up on the other side of the river at a place that I believe was adjoining the Hotel Brucke (bridge).  The building was a large, two-floor party hall with some seating on the second floor and the rest open to accommodate a huge ball – that’s right, think disco ball.  There were rows of picnic tables and some smaller tables; one of which we claimed back against the wall.  Our entertainment for the evening was a guy with an accordion and one with a guitar.  Oh, and did I mention they were wearing lederhosen?  This was one huge party.  Bill and I grabbed a beer and sat back to watch.  The locals could really dance.  It was so much fun to watch every polka.  We realized fairly quickly that the tunes the guys were singing were popular Tyrolean tunes because most of the time, everyone but us (it seemed) was singing right along.  Okay, we took that logic one step further; this wasn’t something just set up to bus in a bunch of tourists.  It was the real deal.  A genuine local party without the mussels!

After perhaps an hour, I saw another guy with long gray hair; not a common site.  He and his buddy were with two very pretty women dressed in dirndls; the women’s folk dress associated with the area.  In about 3 heartbeats the two couples were at our table where they remained for the whole evening.  They were vacationing from Munich and would be on the way to Italy for a week after this festival.  Honestly; does it get any better than this?  We partied the night away.  The owner of the establishment seemed to know the guys – or perhaps he was just friendly as well.  Beats me, but he did bring over a round of schnapps; the specialty of the area.  Whoa baby!  Was that stuff strong.  No more for me. Bill at glacier

The ladies took lots of pictures of Bill and the other guy with the long gray hair (Bill2). We discovered that one of them worked for a newspaper (as does Bill) and the other one works with senior citizens (as I almost do).  I’m ashamed to admit that their names were so unusual I couldn’t imprint them into my head.  They did promise to email some photos upon return from their vacation.  Bill and Bill2 were definitely soul brothers, that’s for sure.  As midnight approached I convinced Bill it was time to stagger back to the hotel.  What a night!




Church in Heiligenblut, Austria
Church in La Villa, Italy
Bill at glacier
Ibex carving Heiligenblut
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