Sunday, November 16, 2014

Großglockner

There was something funny going on just outside our tent. A slight buzzing noise. Looking outside I noticed the grass was being mowed… nothing funny about that you might think, it wasn't; until I noticed the lawnmower mowed it all by itself. There was no-one pushing or riding the mower! I had heard about them but never actually seen one. Husqvarna makes them and they are a clever piece of engineering, cost a few bob too. It mows it in a seemingly random fashion, stays neatly inside a predefined area and when it's battery is nearly empty it finds its way back to the docking station for a recharge…! How good is that? I had sort of expected to be woken up by cattle or sheep and their typical clanging bells, but not by a robotised lawnmower!

Of course I couldn't leave the thing alone and thus stepped into the field, let the mower try to run me over, to see what would happen. It bumped into me, reversed and then mowed neatly around me!

The start of the day was grey, not a good sign as we were about to ride onto the most famous pass of them all: the Grossglockner. The sun broke through them quickly enough though, which created spectacular images.

After a short sort of semi-highway ride, unavoidable unfortunately, we arrived at the beginning of the pass. It turned out to be a tollroad… Of course, I thought, not yet knowing what the actual toll was… A whopping 24 Euro per motorcycle…!!! That is a bit Groß! A car is 35 Euro, does more damage than 3 motorcycles and yet 3 motorcycles pay 72 Euro, seventy-two! I asked the lady at the tollbooth if we could pay for one car as we were a family of three that just happened to be on bikes, She shrugged and couldn't care less. Another one for 'the bastards that ripped us off…'


When you see this… it will be expensive!
We stopped just after the tollbooth, to blow off some steam, and then forgot it happened so that we would properly see the Grossglockner. The first thing we noticed were motorcycles coming from the other end, performing a u-turn just before the toll-booth and going back, getting two rides out of one ticket :-) The second thing was cars wrapped in protective plastic with hoses going to the centre of the wheels… Hmmm, weird.

It turned out the Großglockner is so hard on brakes that brake pad manufacturers use it as a testing ground. The clouds had cleared, we had a beautiful sunny day and were rewarded with amazing views. The Großglockner is steep in places, and narrow, and winding, but on a bike that's a good thing. The views are absolutely amazing! Signs warn motorcyclists not to speed… considering the absurd toll charge, I wondered what the going rate would be for a speeding ticket here… and hoped I wouldn't find out! 

The Großglockner is the highest mountain in Austria and stands at a massive 3,798 mtr. There is also a little brother, the Kleinglockner which is only 3,770 mtrs(!) The road past the Großglockner is just 48km long but takes you to a height of 2,504 mtr via 36 hairpin bends. From there we took the small and steep road to Edelweiss Peak and parked at Bikers' point at 2.571 mtr. The mountain tops, covered in snow, are majestic. They made me feel so small… As we grow older, we tend to be less easily impressed but mountains like this are amazing even when you're 103! So Mike, just being 18, was gleaming from ear to ear! This young man has seen so much in the past two years… beautiful!

Just on the other side, the 'Italian side', is a turnoff to the Kaiser Franz Josefs Höhe, as you can see  in the picture. We took some photos, enjoyed the moment and then went further south towards a campground we had found on our GPS. We arrived late, pitched the tents and had a late meal under the stars! A perfect way to end a perfect day…


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