I must admit, I have never heard of Wolfsberg until the night we planned on going there. We were only looking for a place to spend the night until we continue on to Venice, Italy. While looking for a place to stay in Wolfsberg, I came across many nice accomodations in Airbnb but they are in Slovenia. Wolfsberg is very close to Austria’s border to Slovenia. We then settled for a hilltop hotel from Booking.com with free breakfast. Sometimes, you may find a cheaper accomodation in Airbnb but if you consider that you will get free breakfast for a slightly more expensive hotel, then you may end up with a cheaper deal. This three star hotel or gasthof in german seems to be popular to bikers. We were greeted by an old German-speaking lady and eventhough she didn’t speak a word in english and we could not speak in German, we were able to get by and check- in with ease. After spending two nights putting up with the noise of the busy streets in Vienna, it was nice to be outside of hearing distance of passing cars.
There aren’t many information online about Wolfsberg apart from a few lines in Wikipedia that says that it is the capital of Carinthia and is located in the Lavanttal Alps. One of the things I love about road trip is discovering little towns that are not widely known to foreign travellers. In this trip, Wolfsberg is one of those amazing places that we discovered while traveling. What I found more surprising is that it seems to be well built for holiday makers with many shops and restaurants in town. We arrived late in the afternoon so if there were a lot of tourists during the day they must have left at that time. I thought maybe this place is popular to the local travellers.
Our hotel is located on top of the hill with good views across the valley.
We thought the temperature would be cooler uphill but it was 40 degrees!
Probably the main attraction in Wolfsberg is the castle. Also called Schloss Henckel – Donnersmarck, it was already closed by the time we got there but the ground was still open. You can drive up to the castle but we also saw some people hiking up from the town.
We strolled around town with its quaint little street and architectures.
One of the things I like to do when travelling is to check out the supermarket. Its a good way of discovering local produce and a cheaper way of finding fresh quality food instead of eating out in fast food restaurants. As expected, the supermarket is full of different kinds of sausages. We stockpiled on water and snacks to take on our drive to Italy.
It was a treat staying in Wolfsberg. We didn’t expect to see a built-up but quaint little town and there are probably more to see in there but for us, one day is enough as we left Austria to travel to Italy.
After catching a breakfast at a local bakery in Nuremberg, we hit the road again to Vienna, Austria. We drove the Autobahn most of our way to Vienna. We couldn’t help but be impressed by the roads in Germany, especially the Autobahn. We encountered only a few sections of this road that imposes speed limit. For the most part, you can drive up to the limit of your speedometer and your driving ability of course. How is this possible? Well, the construction of the road is so good that driving condition is a lot more pleasant. When a part of the road is damaged the Germans do not just repair it, they remove and replace the whole section keeping the high standard of road construction. Furthermore, lorries are not allowed to overtake in the Autobahn which limits disruption in the flow of traffic as well as improving safety. Not only was the road pleasurable to drive to but the views were equally as good. We drove past miles upon miles of dense forests cut through by wide, open roads.
We continued on the Autobahn until we reached Germany’s border with Austria. The motorway of Austria is also called Autobahn and you must be aware that when you drive these roads, you have to display a valid vignette. This is the equivalent of paying a toll except that there are no toll booths. In summary, you have to pay when you drive the motorway of Austria. There were no explicit signs at least in English as a caution to purchase this so you must do your research before you drive abroad. The vignette is readily available in petrol stations along the motorway and the minimum duration you can buy is 10 days which costs €9. This is a small price to pay compare to the fine which can be up to 120 Euros. The vignette sticker has to be visibly displayed onto the wind shield.
Speaking of borders, you may see physical borders as you drive in between most countries in Europe but they are unmanned. Citizens of the member states of the European Union can travel freely in between EU countries and so our passport was only checked before we crossed the channel to France. This is the same when you go back as your passport will only be checked when you leave France back to the UK. They do spot checks though as we were once pulled over just after we crossed the border in France from Germany to have our passports checked. The reason for this is that that UK did not sign the Schengen agreement. The Schengen treaty abolished the borders in between member states. Your documents will be checked when you enter the Schengen zone and it won’t be checked as you move across each member countries. Switzerland is not a member of the EU but is in the Schengen zone so there are no checks when you enter it’s territory. This makes a lot of sense when this is a land locked state surrounded by five different countries, four of which are members of the EU. United Kingdom passport holders may not be interested about the Schengen agreement at present but who knows what will happen after Brexit, we might have to read more about this when we leave the EU.
As most drivers know, driving in big cities is stressful and complicated so as you can imagine, driving in a foreign country’s capital is a lot more challenging. We were pulled over for obstructing a tram as the back of our car stuck out onto the track. Tram lines criss-cross all over the city and traveling in one affords you not just a convenient way of travelling but also the wonderful views Vienna has in abundance. The police let us off after giving us a caution that our offence normally costs €50.
We arrived to our rented apartment in the affluent district of Währing. Währing is a really nice area with plenty of shops and restaurants around. I have been speaking to our Airbnb host prior to our arrival as when you drive especially in a city, parking is obviously a concern. The carpark closest to us charges € 28 per day while a park and ride just a train stop away from where we were only costs € 3.40 per day. The one in Spittelau is very secure and I can only imagine this to be the same throughout the city so this is probably the most cost effective way to park your car in Vienna.
If you only have a limited time, the easiest way to see some of the grandest and most important buildings in Vienna is to tour the 6.5 km Ringstrasse. Some of the impressive buildings located along this ring road is the Opera house, the Austrian Parliament building and the Rathaus. It would have taken us the only day that we have to explore the city if we had stopped to all of the famous landmarks along this route and in the midst of the heatwave across Europe, it was just too much. So we sat mostly in the Tram, enjoyed the views and pick stops that stood up most for us. Tram 1 travel this route without having to change lines and is included in your travel pass if you purchase one.
Some of the marvellous statues outside the Kunthistorisches Museum. Get off this stop in the Ringstrasse to discover the Museum quarter with it’s collection of beautiful buildings.
Hop on Tram 1 and 2 to travel the Ringstrasse at your leisure or buy a ticket for the RIng Tram for a guided tour.
We only have one full day to explore Vienna. As it is summer, we have the gift of daylight until the evening. We started by visiting the most important attraction in the city – The Stephansdom. This cathedral bore witness to the most important events in the Habsburg empire. From the weddings to the funerals of some of the most notable figures in Austrian and European history. This is also the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna.
When you read about the history of Vienna, you would most likely come across the Habsburgs. The Habsburg is one of the most distinguished and influential royal houses in Europe. They occupied the throne of the Holy Roman Emperor from 1438 to 1740 and produced emperors for some of the most powerful kingdoms in Europe such as the Kingdom of England, Kingdom of Germany and the Kingdom of Hungary and Vienna was the seat of their power. While the time of emperors and queens are long gone, they left a legacy of glorious palaces and royal gardens.
As the heatwave dominates the headline across Europe, we planned our day so that our tour of the Schönbrunn garden is done in the early evening. The other advantage of coming here last is that tour buses were just leaving when we arrived. There would have been more people had we come earlier as it is probably the most famous tourist attraction in Vienna. The garden is free and open until 9 pm in summer. We didn’t go inside the palace but it would take you all day to explore the massive garden on it’s own. It is comparable to other royal gardens in Europe and I was surprised to find that the entrance is free although there are some areas where you have to pay to enter. A hike up to the Gloriette is the perfect end to our wonderful day exploring the city of Vienna.
Indeed, a whole day is not enough to explore Vienna with layers upon layers of history. I am one for learning about culture and people and if I ever go back, I would spend more time in the museums which Vienna has no short supply of. But road trip is about enjoying the journey and exploring the wonderful stops along the way. After dinner, we decided to drive to Wolfsberg to break our journey to Venice, Italy.