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.