“Yeeeaaaaaahhhh, your brakes are on fire” was playing in my head, to a certain ‘Kings of Leon’ tune, as we descended the Mittenwald/Scharnitz pass towards Innsbruck. We have literally only travelled 43 miles from Garmisch to our new site Natterer See, near Innsbruck. Until the song started playing in my head it was a very pleasant scenic trip, and we were also being very pleasant to our fellow travelers, peeling into picnic lay-bys and judging our road re-entry to perfection to allow people to pass us. To be honest, we weren’t holding anybody up, The Boss doesn’t hang about whilst towing and we were making good speed up the hill, he was just in a good mood and doing his bit for pro-caravan, pro-British relations. Be aware though, friendly indicator, hazard light or waved responses are rarely mirrored in Europe, is this a British phenomenon or just anti-caravan, anti-British relations, a shame, we carry on being friendly regardless, we can’t help it.
“Yeeeaaaaaahhhh, your brakes are on fire”, oh yeah let me explain, the descent is signed at 16%, sounds no worse than some hills at home, but constant 16% over 4 kilometres (km, we are turning Mainland European) is having significant impact on our brakes. We smell burning, and The Boss, an experienced HGV driver, is telling me the brakes are fading more than he would like. You know the occasional steep hill in the UK when they have an escape lane that is just a sand pit, these escape lanes, about five of them, are like 100 metre vertical take-off ramps to the moon, plus a sand pit. The final section runs onto a flat plain of motorway so we let it run hoping the extra wind doesn’t fan any potential brake flames into a caravan fireball.
Great holiday read whilst on this trip was Five Go Glamping by Liz Tipping. A perfect, easy read holiday book, a feel good read. Fiona, the main character has a life plan and is unhappy in her job. Conner, the boyfriend, good looking, flash, instantly puts you on the offensive. A glamping weekend to a ‘Find yourself’ camp leads to more than staying with girlfriends in a luxury yurt. Sam, a character I’ve since found out was based on recently deceased Chris Cornell from the American rock band SoundGarden, comes into Fiona’s life and all her life plans change. A link to book can be found HERE
We arrive at Natterer See campsite, read site review HERE with a caravan and not a burned out shell, bonus. The sight is stunning and we decide to treat ourselves to a lakeside pitch, for another €4 per night, but this involves trusting our ‘caravan mover’ to manoeuvre our beloved van down a slope to the waters edge and the acquisition of numerous blocks of wood from reception for the front ‘steadies’, then we flung open all the caravan Windows, yes it was warm, but mostly to help remove the smell of burning brakes.
Temperatures of 28°C combined with the pitch setting and we already have a very good feeling for this place, we decide it deserves five nights. We turned up at noon so by 1pm the canopy is up and we kick back and relax in the sunshine. We have no idea whether Innsbruck is an industrial city or a tourist city, The Boss says they have had Winter Olympics here, and he thought it was where ‘Eddie the Eagle’ made his name, but no, that was Calgary, however, Eddie did once do a face-plant in competition here fracturing his skull and breaking two ribs. Always grateful for recommendations, a Facebook friend suggested the Hafelekarspitze was a good trip, thank you Dawn. Now, if you are expecting mechanical assistance up the best peaks in the Alps expect to part with about €50 per person, but on clear day it is worth it. It turns out you can purchase an ‘Innsbruck Card’ for 24hr (€39), 48hr (€48) or 72hr (€55) that gives you access to every attraction in the City including Hafelekarspitze, so The Boss reads the leaflet inside out looking for the catch. In London this card would probably cost £500.
Next day, hardly a cloud in the sky, He is crunching his corn flakes with even more urgency than normal, “Come on” he says “We’re going up that mountain.” I drag myself out of bed while he goes to campsite reception with a fist full of Euros and parts with €96 for two 48hr cards that only become valid at the first attraction entered. 10.20am and we are on the free bus to Innsbruck for the 20 minute journey. From the bus depot the ‘Innsbruck Card’ allows us to jump on the next hop on / hop off sightsee bus for free that stops at each attraction but we walk the 10 minutes into the centre. Now I know why he had studied the leaflet the night before, “Look, the town watchtower, the card gets us in there” but we already sense a problem, namely that 15th Century architects never thought to fit lifts, I know not why, and seemed to prefer the installation of spiral staircases in tight spaces, … I don’t do spiral staircases, The Boss goes ahead and takes a picture, looks like I’m holding the rucksack while he goes up, then down, the 133 steps.
Three steps later, “Oh look, the Golden Roof museum,” which is essentially a self guide audio tour about Emperor Maximilian I and his reign during late 15th early 16th Century. Now, sorry if I come across uncultured, but I only tend to find museums interesting when you have forgot your coat and a monsoon hits, then the rain stops and I lose all interest again, so after clicking the occasional number into the audioguides to fake intellectual interest we exit. The Boss knows the suggestion of another museum will result in death by rucksack strap garrotting so tells me these two stops were just on the way to the mountain cable car. Luckily he was right so I remove my hands from the rucksack.
The trip up the Hafelekarspitze involves a funicular railway from the city centre then two cable cars up to the summit, while cable cars give me the willies as they cross each support pylon these ones were not too bad, or maybe I’m getting used to them, not so the close bodily contact when they are busy though. As we enter each cable car we put another layer of clothing on in anticipation, some braved it out in T-shirts. The summit is stunning, We have to climb a few steps, so he says, it was a big hill climb to reach the top, we use the benches to take selfies on the way (eg, get my breath back).
The Boss takes pity on people struggling to take pictures of themselves and offers to take the picture for them, he now owns 8 iPhones on various networks.
On the way down a backpacker strides off onto the mountain, a few minutes later he reappears having thrown himself off, albeit with a parachute. As four more go past The Boss grabs his camera and goes in pursuit while I work on my Panda eyes suntan. From his lofty position he even got to see a naked sunbather but said the person was not ‘his type’.
One of the funicular station stops served an Alpine Zoo, you’ve guessed it, that was free with our ‘card’. So we went for a 30 minute nosey. It turns out Alpine animals are quite shy, so after looking at lots of empty cages, a Moose, a Wolf and a big cat we head back for the train, which is just pulling out, never mind, one more in 15 minutes.
Back on ground level and we now only have 10 minutes to reach the bus station for the campsite bus or wait another hour, so he now has me speed walking, I hate being rushed, we arrive at the bus station to see the bus leaving the stop, trying to make our speed walk look quite normal to the bus passengers, who will no doubt be sat at their caravans when we finally get to the campsite one hour later, I blame the Moose.
The following day we need to make use of the ‘2nd’ half of our 48hr Innsbruck card but without the rush of day one. There are two priorities, the Swarovski Kristallwelten and the Olympic Ski-Jump tower. We set off an hour later but The Boss still manages to find another two museums on route. First, the Tiroler Landesmuseum, how can I describe this, imagine you have entered a car boot sale in 1599, lots of useless old stuff, but obviously worth loads, forgive me for being disrespectful but ‘not my thing’, quickly followed by the Hofkirche, that housed the cenotaph tomb of Emperor Maximilian I, which was slightly more interesting. This guy wasn’t settling for a quiet funeral.
Swarovski Kristallwelten turned out a good visit, but we’d hate it in the peak of summer. They seem to have created a museum purely to draw in customers, today that seemed to involve hundreds of wealthy ‘purchasing’ customers from India, I don’t think Brits in shorts and flip flops with an Innsbruck Card is their target audience.
The museum was, in our opinion, slightly naff, but the gem (get it?) of this place is the lake and gardens where we relaxed for over an hour on hammocks beneath artificial clouds containing over 600,000 crystals sparkling in the sun. It was a bit like ‘TellyTubby’ world but oddly enchanting.
We arrive back from Swarovski Kristallwelten too late for the Ski-Jump tower, I blame the TellyTubbies. We spend our final day relaxing by the caravan. Our first taste of Austria has been good, plus we are informed many Austrian caravan sites are of equal standard. We also met some wonderful people here from Holland, Germany and, er .. Stockport. We leave with some excellent recommended areas to explore, which is why we now head to Italy … not part of the plan.