Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wine along the Donau

Entering Austria was another one of those borders where everything actually changes. Suddenly we were now in wine country. Little tractors were queuing up at the factories to deliver there crops and all around us were wineries. We don't drink wine but it was a welcome change as the last day in the Czech republic was one marred by roadworks and pretty bad roads, with nothing much to see in between. Austria was beautiful, right from the border! The weather in the Czech Republic hadn't been all that fabulous but we entered Austria in glorious sunlight, another welcome change. 

Entering country 25 meant a new currency too, back to the Euro again. The Euro should be the common European currency but so far we have been through no less than 7 countries that still use their own coins. England, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic are all full members of the union but dislike the Euro. I can't blame them, it looks cheap and nasty and what's wrong with having your own currency? Instead of replacing all those beautiful currencies that have been used in Europe for hundreds of years with the Euro, they should have kept the history alive and simply equalised the value.

What also changed were the roads. The roads in the last 5 countries we had been through had, at times, been pretty bad. We found the Czech republic actually the worst. Austrian roads are the opposite, they are pretty much perfect. Bitumen good enough to play pool on! 
We followed the famous Donau river for a while, made some photos of the cruise boats that glide up and down and then looked around for a campground. You don't want to know what they charge a night for a bit of grass here. Ah, you do want to know! Well bad luck I'm not going to tell you as its embarrassing... Campgrounds in Austria are expensive, even by Norwegian standards…! I never thought I'd say this but we seem to have found a country that's as expensive as New Zealand. 

We had sort of thought they would be pretty much empty too, but we were wrong. The retirees have taken over from the school kids and the campgrounds are pretty full, even end September. We wondered why, until we realised most of them are about to close for winter and the campers thus go out there once more before the winter closure. One would think Europeans are pretty tough temperature wise, having a short summer and all that, but they are not. Europeans are wimps, as soon as the temperature starts to drop they flee inside their homes, next to the heater!

The only campers around end September are 'camping' in fully insulated and centrally heated vans or caravans! The RVs have everything they have at home too, including satellite TV (imagine missing an episode of your favourite soapie…). We haven't seen TV for almost 2 years and it's been a real blessing! To be honest, if I ever go back to a house… I still don't think I want a TV again. We haven't seen anyone camping in a tent for weeks now. The last ones I can remember is at the Lofoten. Further north we only saw a couple of camper vans. Down through Finland again only the odd camper van… in Helsinki there was 1 family in a tent from Germany, and further south from there through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Czech Republic we haven't seen any tents at all. Hardly any campers at all come to think of it. Imagine the surprised faces we received when we turned up with a tent… in Austria… end September…? We literally had to ask if it was still allowed to camp there with a tent :-)

Of course the sun didn't hold, but at least we could pitch the tents when it was still dry. I had an early night as I was exhausted. The Czech republic had apparently drained me. It's a country that most likely will not see me again. A friend from Romania had told us it was pretty much a drive-trough country and he was right; apart from the roads. To be fair, we didn't take the highways so I'm not sure how they are. That aside, what we had missed most were the friendly faces we saw in Poland, which is a country I would love to visit again. In fact we all do!

Thick clouds had gathered the next morning. It was misty and thus no point in going further up to ride some mountain passes. Yet non of us wanted to stay where we were as apart from being expensive, it was also noisy. Looking outside a woman wearing something that she probably calls a robe and poison-green plastic clogs walks past. What is it with women and clothing? When they're young, they want to look older. When older, they want to look younger, and when past retirement age they want to look hideous! I'm mean, why on earth would you want to wear a pink set of slippers, bright green floppy pants, baby blue shirt and sunglasses the size of frying pans? And now that I've brought up the subject anyway… why do you want to walk over a campground, in full public view, wearing nothing but an ill-fitting bathrobe and furry lumps as slippers? Talking about rude awakening! No wonder men die 5 years younger than women… they have to look at it!

Austrian folklore for a type of 'berry' festival
Time to leave! Riding mountain passes in thin fog is pointless, but so is staying here. We moved a bit closer to the base of the pass and took the campground there at noon. Time for a shower, some repairs and waiting for the sun to appear. Again we found ourselves in a mobile retirement village, but a very different one. Of course there was a happy hour and of course we were the only ones in a tent. But this time they didn't look at us in terror 'oh dear… bikers on our patch'. This mob is very friendly. It made me remember the good time we had in Lo de Marcos, Mexico. Although the temperatures and surrounding was very different of course… and truth be told the people in Lo de Marcos even friendlier… the food was much better too… as was the cost of it all… and the camping place… Why did I bring this up again? Grmbl. Still, the weather improved and I have finally managed to get our petrol stove working properly by stripping it down completely and getting rid of all the gummed up crappy fuel we've had in the poor thing.