Dubrovnik or Bust – Austria and Slovenia

1 Sept 2022

On 22nd August we were headed south (our favoured direction) once again. This time headed from Titisee (chortle.!) and towards Austria. We were drawn towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen because we knew this was ski country and we like to visit hills… This was close to the Austrian border and within the Bavarian Alps. As expected the views were fantastic throughout the whole trip and we managed to park up on a site recommended – as usual – on one of our Apps. SearchforSites, Park4night or Campercontact. The site at Garmisch was excellent, partly because it was free (!) but it was welcoming and apparently safe in the car park of a Skischule at the bottom of a ski lift. (Getting to be a habit). So much so that we stayed over a second night. This was ideally placed, close to a railway station, the town centre and with incredible views 360º around us. You really cannot get this kind of view from many paid campsites and it was an absolute dream. We were joined overnight by another dozen other vans which added to the comfort feeling. Mind you.. they have the irritating habit of parking right next to you when there is a huge empty car park.  ‘Just bugger off will you!’ 

What with the dark sky, warm evenings and hot days this was pretty special. We walked into the busy Garmisch-Partenkirchen town centre on the first evening for a look round and a little beer and a Heidi Spritzer (?). Very nice too. Next day we took a long hike through the forests into the Alps for a 20km walk. This was well overdue exercise as we have spent a lot of time on the road. There was the added bonus of a ‘cafe’ after just 3 km giving us amazing views across the mountain ranges whilst we had morning coffee. And…. on our return we had a rather forgettable lunch salad thing with the same glorious views and we were brave enough to take on a beer as we had only a downward trek back to Ruby. Excellent.

The surprising thing we have found once we are getting further south is that most countries do not take card payment, contactless or otherwise. ‘Cash only’ is on lots of the signs and comments by staff. It appears that the banks still charge them loads down here for bank transactions so cash is King. Surprising. 

Also surprisingly there are very few Brits in motorhomes or camper vans in any of our sites or on the road… Where are they all ?

In addition to using technology we also speak to people……(yup) to find ideas and guidance. Often using sign language.  Regularly our plans change to fit the recommendation of fellow travellers. Valuable and current information is very useful and having the chat is part of the enjoyment really. A couple in this Skischule car park were Italian and provided top info. Part of which was ‘Do Not Go into Sviterland’ – ‘They will weigh you, and won’t let you go until you deposit any weight over the 3.5 tonnes’ – Michelle thought the answer was obvious- ‘Well…we can firstly empty out our water tanks and if that’s not enough hand Glenn two suitcases and invite him to walk to the railway station….!’  ‘What’..!

But anyway we now had to look to getting easy passage into Austria. Turns out that we not only needed a ‘Vignette’ (Basically a way of paying tolls for the whole country- but putting another damn sticker on the screen! ) at €9.60 (£8.27) but we also looked like we needed a Green Zone tag to drive along some of the main roads. After considerable time in research it appeared that this was only needed for large trucks. Though we were not at all sure. So the best thing to do….. just ignore it and crack on..! It seems to have been alright as we haven’t been stopped… We often wondered how the previous generations managed to travel through Europe without technology to help with maps and campsites. However we now need to think and plan for Vignettes and Green Zones for every town and country.

 The views into Austria across the Alps were once again bloody amazing. The temptation to stop at the inviting Lake Constance was huge but there are so many wonderful places to see, visit, stop at that we do sometimes just need to keep moving and slip quietly by. 

One such place that we couldn’t ignore however was Kitzbuhel. We had no real plans to stop here but I always had an image in mind about the kind of Austrian Tyrol I wanted to visit and as we arrived at Kitzbuhel we just had to throw out the anchor and pull over into the Schwarzsee Camp site. It was just on the outskirts and in the valley surrounded by cracking mountains in all directions. It was a hive of activity and we worried it would be fully booked. But as always seems to be the case, there are pitches to be had. Mostly no-one can book online which increases the chances of finding space. Trouble is this place cost a blood-curdling €54 per night (£47)..! Ouch. However on the good side there was a big pitch, with grass, a lake nearby, Kitzbuhel nearby, bus stop outside, a gym and sauna, an indoor swimming pool, excellent showers and toilet AND a very friendly, funny, site manager called Christian. Takes away a little of the pain. £££

Kitzbuhel itself is rather posh. Lots of Porsches with personalised plates, upmarket hotels and bars and many large areas of the Schwarzsee Lake hidden behind fences and gates. As you would expect at a ski resort of fame. 

This is now the 14th August, the weather is a very nice 25º and with blue skies. There have been many weeks when the forecast was for thunderstorms and heavy rain. Well each day arrives with some cloud but nice and hot. Occasionally there are distant thunderstorms rumbling but lovely weather throughout. 

So we had to do a trip to the top of the highest mountain, The Kitzbuheler Horn at 2000m high (6560ft). And no, we did not walk up this one. We cycled the 30 mins to the ski lift and took two rides up to the top which was breathtaking both physically and visibly. This was followed by dinner at the wonderful Gipfelhaus restaurant with views across the biggest mountains in the Alps. Surprisingly some with snow still on top in late August. This was a real highlight on our journey. Sitting atop the world in amazing conditions and amazing views. Wow.. We then slowly ambled down some 40 minutes to another ski lift for two more gentle rides back into Kitzbuhel. And.. a swim in the pool at the campsite.

Cow Trouble

We spent a couple of nights at this campsite despite the cost before then heading back south with Slovenia in mind. However we needed yet another Vignette for Slovenia at €15 from an MOT centre. We also took the opportunity of visiting another classy posh restaurant… McD’s…. Always love the occasional treat..!

So the 26th Aug and we needed another overnight stop before Slovenia so with the help of the CamperContact App found the terrific Schlaferhof Farm near Villach and the Slovenian border. Now we all know what to expect from a farm. Grass – yes, cows – yes, farmers – yes.. but this farm was on the hillside overlooking a big grassy valley with mountains across the other side and a river below. AND it only cost €14 for the night AND they added electric AND the lady farmer was friendly with information about the local cultures and relationships between neighbouring Hungary/Slovenia/Italy. It was a really relaxing evening as we sat outside in 18º stargazing and looking across the valley. Sooooo nice. And fresh milk with breakfast. 

Next morning we set off for Slovenia. A place we knew nothing about, other than they use €’s.. The language was a complete mystery as were the people and the cultures but all seemed OK and safe on arrival over the uncontrolled border. The road was quite exciting… the original motorway was extremely busy as this was basically the last weekend before all the kids go back to school. We were stuck (for once) in heavy stationary traffic with another option calling us.. ‘Go this way’ the signs said. Satnav agreed, but other signs said ‘no caravans’ – ‘no towing vehicles’ – ‘Wurzenpass 1000m climb’ – and then ominously ‘3.5 tonne weight limit’ ( in some foreign language.!). So obviously we took this route.!  No other vehicles did, they all sat in traffic on the motorway.. but we thought ‘We have just done the tightest, windiest, narrowest parts of the NC500 in Scotland- We Ruby can do this’..! Well, actually it turns out we can. Dead easy. Well apart from some very, very steep second-gear climbs, it was not bad at all. And far more exciting. 

So a short while later we had a failed visit to Jasna Lake in Slovenia. This lake had the misfortune of having no water in it..! This heatwave has been slightly problematic for some tourist areas..clearly. We therefore headed off to Bled. A lake that is mentioned as a ‘must-see’ location on any tourist routes. Our expectations were pretty low as a result of visualising loads  of tourists and tat. Add to this a car park campsite demanding €40 per night (though there was electric and water etc) and we were not too excited but hopeful. Well.. what a wonderful surprise. It was bloody marvellous. A real winner and yet another highlight already. Probably with the nicest, cleanest, turquoisest (not a word is it?), warm lake we have ever swum in. And there was free access in one area where wooden jetty’s made entry/exit easy into this crystal clear lake. 

So over the two days there we walked round the lake (7km), ate and drinked at the Devils Bar, ate the famous Bled cream cake, visited the castle on the hill and looked in awe at the church on the island in the centre of the lake. What a wonderful place. We were surprised that there were lots of Brits and English speakers in this area. Surprised because we still were not seeing ANY Brit motorhomes or camper vans. Anywhere on our travels beyond the Black Forest. It seems that most folk are staying in hotels and AirBnB’s etc plus many youths at hostels. We had a very pleasant chat with groups of backpackers whilst basking by the lake. 

We decided, whilst laying on the warm jetty between swims, that we would never leave this place. Ever. Twas perfick. But clearly we did. 

In addition…the cost of fuel in Slovenia was €1.64 (£1.39) rather than €2.04 (£1.74) in Germany and probably £1.80 in the UK at the moment. 

29th August and we headed over to the Slovenian capital Ljubljana. We were aware of a car park which was very close to the city centre and an easy walk in to the centre. However the car park was not as good as we have encountered previously and was scruffy and smelly. However it was only €12 inc elec for 24 hours so it was worth a go. We were not entirely comfortable but it was safe and quiet despite there being another ten or so motorhomes overnight. There was a very handy Mercator supermarket next door. We decided on arrival to pop into Ljubljana after dinner to do a recce prior to a full visit next day. Well it was good, nice enough with some fine buildings, a castle (as ever) and a river. It was quite a lively fun place despite this being a Monday evening so we had a pint alongside the river at an outdoor restaurant. We did decide however at this stage that there was probably not enough to excite us in Ljubljana the next day so we would head off to the next country instead. Croatia. 

Did you know….

The Alps are the highest at 4809m – 15800ft and the most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, stretching approximately 750 mi (1,210 km) across seven Alpine countries (from west to east): France, Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia.

The Alpine arch generally extends from Nice on the western Mediterranean to Trieste on the Adriatic and Vienna to the east.

Mont Blanc spans the French–Italian border, and at 4,809 m (15,778 ft) is the highest mountain in the Alps. The Alpine region area contains 128 peaks higher than 4,000 m (13,000 ft).