We were on a mission — not from God like Jake and Elwood in the Blues Brothers — more like hell given the number of twists and turns the week took, but more of that later. Our mission was to see Robbie Williams in concert in Vienna. Tickets for the concert here were about 50% cheaper than in the UK, so we decided we would take a break and incorporate the concert into the itinerary.

Once we had our precious tickets, we then proceeded to work out the most acceptable way for us to travel. Acceptable to us includes the following criteria — cost, opportunity to see new places, have new adventures, explore new and different cultures, make the most of opportunities, tasting new food and wines, hotels with bath and shower, the opportunity to learn, and most importantly for me, a means of travel which allows me to photograph.

We chose to travel using the motorway network — mainly for speed and our lack of geographical knowledge.

Italian motorways are usually two lanes, not three. You have to pay a toll for most, if not all Italian motorways and these appear to be variable on distance and popularity — in principle I have no problem with this except, as in this case, there are constant roadworks and delays.

The toll for this journey was 18.40 Euros each way. Plan your stops and fuel use carefully as there are few exits and the distances between service areas are approx 50/60 kilometers. Service areas on this route in Italy were very basic — small cafes, toilets and fuel.

If you are desperate, you can also use a picnic spot which have stainless steel toilet facilities — no seat and in a disgusting state — would rather have gone in the woods!

Watch for your exits carefully — there are not many of them. This was painfully obvious when we passed an accident where a lorry had overturned on the opposite carriageway leaving a 50 kilometer tail back to the previous junction and beyond.

Be warned we found that the Italians are very poor at posting direction signs — and they drive like madmen! Must be all that hot Italian blood running through their veins.

The route takes you north through the tail end of the Alps — the scenery is quite spectacular, especially where you drive alongside the glacial riverbeds formed by the annual snow melt.

This continues into Austria — the border is marked only by a small roadside cabin selling Austrian Motorway passes which are issued for a variety of time periods from a day to a year — we purchased one for five days for the very reasonable cost of 7.8 Euros.

Austrian motorways are three lanes, their services are far superior to almost any I have found elsewhere. They are approximately the same distance between them as Italy and are expensive compared to Italy — for a reason. They have excellent modern restaurants offering a wide range of foods and immaculate toilet facilities as well as well equipped play areas for children — every other one has a hotel/lodge attached which offers even more facilities.

Austria is a haven for 8/9 year olds and those that possess and appreciate basic toilet humor jokes. It is the land of farts, furts, spitz and spatz and a lot of “bad” as well as the perennial “weiner.” I am sure many a young child has had a field day with all the wonderfully slightly dodgy names and no doubt thousands of parent have been driven mad by the time they have reached their destinations.

Sadly, the Austrians are as bad as the Italians at directions — navigating Vienna by car was a nightmare — in spite of directions from the hotel we kept getting lost and, in the end, asked a Policeman for help finding our way. He was delighted to assist and insisted on escorting us to our hotel! it had been a long day and we were very grateful and pleasantly surprised at his helpfulness.

This is the view that greeted us as we turned the corner to our hotel — the hotel is on either side of the courtyard and the spire in the background is that of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Nicholas.


  1. Outstanding article, Nicola! Thanks for letting us ride along with you. What exciting scenery! The last shot of the cathedral is especially spectacular.

    In the USA, there’s a sage old meme — “men never ask for directions” — we prefer to just drive around in circles than ask someone for directions, and I personally find that meme to be horribly accurate. “I’ll figure it out, thanks” — as I spin around hour after hour after hour…

    So, my question is this… when you decided to stop and ask the policeman for help… who had the idea, and which one of you did the asking? SMILE!

    1. I am familiar with that meme – GRIN !

      I had the idea to ask someone – we had already asked two people who were as equally clueless as we were – Mr P did the asking as he has the language skills!

      I have a horrible habit of delayed language skills – in Italy I was still in Portuguese – when we got to Austria -I was remembering my Italian – then when we got back to Italy again I was in Austrian/German mode !

      I am a little peeved that I missed the setting sun on the Cathedral – we went out to eat one night and there it was reflecting in all its glory and I did not have my camera with me and it would have passed by the time I had gone back to my room to retrieve it.

      1. Ha! Yes, I would have driven until we ran out of gas and then, stuck on the road, I would have found a way to get directions as a “by the way” while the gas tank was re-filled! SMILE!

        Love the language memes — which one works where and how long it takes your natural translator to kick in. What great fun, though, to experience such a wide variety of cultures in compressed time!

        1. Have used that one before – in fact we used it to find our overnight hotel in Venice on the way out.

          That is one of the wonderful things about travel – this week we spent away was a massive culture hit right across the spectrum – language, art, history, geography, food, wine – even body language .

          1. You live in such a great part of the world. In a few hours you can change the scenery and the entire way of thinking of those around you. It’s not just a trip or a vacation — you have total cultural immersions all around you. What a delight!

          2. That is one of the things that makes it so wonderful. It was very apparent on this drive how close we were to the Slavic/Baltic states. One of the routes we could have taken would have been through Slovenia – but Europe Car do not allow their cars to drive there. We also had the option of flying into Bucharest in Hungary and then driving to Vienna but that was more expensive.

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