We opted out of the first running of MGOC Austria in favour of the last running of MGOC Norway due to the withdrawal of the ferry between Newcastle and Bergen. So when the Owners Club and Travel Destinations announced the second trip to Kitzbuhel, Austria, Sharon and I were at the head of the queue.
On other runs we have been joined by up to thirty cars but this time there was a select group of just seven plus the Club’s MG ZR. We were joined by fellow St Albans MGOC members, Terry and his daughter Christine, Ray and Joyce Reeves from Kent, John Page on his own from North Yorkshire, Stephen and Pamela from Fife, Mike and Chris Bamber from Lancashire and Ron and Gwender from Devon. This trip was to be Steve, Pamela Ron and Gwenda’s introduction to Owner Club’s long distant events. And finally, Travel Destination’s Richard Webb and Beverly Ambrose from the Owners Club in the club’s MG ZR back up vehicle.
With the hotels logged into the sat-nav and our netbook computer complete with a copy of Microsoft’s Auto Route loaded and GPS dongle as back up for our European map book we left on Sunday afternoon to meet Terry and Christine for an evening meal and over night stopover close to the Channel Tunnel to ensure an early crossing the following morning.
Being in different hotels somehow we managed to miss one another the following morning and we ended up on an earlier train. Despite various efforts we were south of Lille before we met up. After a break for lunch we pressed on through France for our first stop in the hotel Quartier Latin Hotel, Marche-en-Famenne in Belgium. This proved excellent with food to match. During the meal we chided Richard that this hotel and its facilities were going to be a hard act to follow. We shall see.
During the evening meal we got to know one another and we learnt that Mike and Chris Bamber were the couple who had seen sense at the last minute and decided to abort the trip to Iceland in 2007 after they learned that it wouldn’t be accompanied by either members of the Owners Club or Travel Destinations. Not being so sensible Sharon and I went on our own anyway.
The following morning we continued the next leg of our journey, a 220 mile trip through Luxembourg to our next hotel, Hotel Pfalzblick in Dahn in southern Germany, a hotel built into the side of a hill where the reception was at level 5 and the accommodation on 4 levels below. Again, no disappointment here. So far so good Richard.
Between hotels we followed a prescribed route set out in the travel guide provided as part of the documentation for the trip. These didn’t necessarily follow the quickest or fastest roads between hotels, often going off piste to take in the local scenery and interesting roads. In this regard, the journey between hotels became part of the holiday rather than a daily slog.
Having said that, the next leg was to be the most arduous so far. Up until now the weather had been dry and for most part, bright and sunny but today we were to do battle with the traffic on the autobahn without speed limits as we by passed Stuttgart and, to make it even more interesting, the heavens opened. With vehicles approaching in excess of 140 kph the trick seemed to be for passing slower vehicles was to pick a gap, signal well in advance, pull out and go for it without dithering. Anyway with this approach we made it safely to Hotel Hirsch, Fussen. The only disappointment with this hotel, no swimming pool.
The final leg of our outward journey to Kitzbuhel was just 120 miles that allowed time to explore Fussen which is famous for two castles among others, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. The Neuschwanstein Castle is famous for being the model for the Disneyland Fairy castle and external shots for the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. After leaving the hotel we drove to the village of Henchwangua where we left the cars at the foot of the climb to the castle. The climb can be accomplished by foot in thirty minutes, a bus ride or a horse drawn carriage. We chose the horse and carriage. The views from the top were worth the effort if a tad overcast, however we weren’t prepared to wait in the long queues for a tour of the inside of the castle.
Our next stop on this leg was on the Austrian German border in the village of Weisshaus on the banks of the river Lech for a vignette, a road permit to allow us to use the Austrian road network. Perhaps it is about time we Brits imposed a similar system on all our foreign visitors who use our roads. Having driven through the mountain pass in the Salzburg Alps we dropped down into the valley of the river Inn to the four stars Hotel Kitzhof that was to be our home for the next 5 nights.
The itinerary in our travel guide contained several suggestions for things to do during our stay in Kitzbuhel. The high light of our trip was to be climbing the Grossglockner Pass. However to make the most of this we wanted bright sunshine.
Since the weather forecast for the next day wasn’t exactly promising we chose to visit Berchtesgaden and the Kehlsheihaus, Hilter’s Eagle Nest built by Hitler’s henchmen to celebrate his 50th birthday. It is one of the few Nazi buildings that the Allies didn’t demolish after WW2 and has now been converted into a café and restaurant. Having seen it in newsreels, etc. we were surprised at how small it was. It was incredibly eerie walking in the footsteps of one of the most evil administrations of the past century.
The Eagles Nest sits astride a ridge at the top of the Kehistein mountain and is reached after a 2nd gear climb from the town in the valley and then a further twenty minute bus ride up a single track road with many hair pin bends. The road, built between 1930 and 1935 rises to some 6,017ft above sea level, the final 407ft by the original lift decorated internally with green leather and Venetian glass mirrors. The views looking down on the Austrian and German Alps were astounding.
The forecast for the following day promised sunny and clear weather so the Grossglockner pass it was. At €29 for a day pass it had better be good! And it was. The 48 kilometre road, that included 36 hairpin bends, rises to some 8,213 above sea level commencing in pine forests and rising above the tree and snow line to bare rocks and scree slopes.
Having paid the toll we commenced the climb joined by a surprising number of motor cyclists and even more surprisingly, a large number of peddle cyclists straining away determined to make it to the top. After some 40 minutes in 2nd and 3rd gear counting off the hairpin bends we reached a café near the halfway point and stopped for a snack and to let the engine cool off a bit and to admire breathtaking scenery. As the Americans would say – awesome! After the break we continued through the pass returning to our hotel in Kitzbuhel via Lienz as recommended in our itinerary. We recorded the whole trip on video on a camera mounted on the windscreen.
Our next outing was a visit to the Krimmler Waterfalls, at 1,247 feet the highest falls in Austria, on the river Ache near the village of Krimml. The falls were in full spate during our visit, the spray made all more surreal in the brilliant sunshine that accompanied our trip. Having seen the lower falls Sharon and I commenced the climb to the 2nd stage of the falls but on seeing a sign saying the estimated time for the climb was 1.5 hours we decided to join Terry and Christine in the café for a coffee and an apple strudel. We returned via the Gerloss Pass, another spectacular run.
For our last day at the Hotel Kitzhof in Kitzbuhel we chose to visit the picturesque town of Rattenberg known for its glass making and abundance of crystal glass shops on the river Inn. The girls were in their element.
The next day we said our farewells to the staff of the Hotel Kitzhof who had looked after us so well for the next leg of our journey, a 2 night stay at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, Lindau, Germany on the shores of Lake Constance. As I have said earlier, the prescribed routes between hotels were ‘off piste’ off motorways and main roads, etc. This 180 mile trip was probably the best taking in 2 mountain passes. Again we were blessed with fine sunny weather. We found the hotel overlooking the harbour.
Wanting to increase the number of fridge magnets we have collected during our travels we decided to visit Rorschach Hafen in Switzerland by taking the ferry from Lindau. Thinking that Rorschach Hafen being on the shores of the lake and a first step into Switzerland there must be tourist shops, etc. that would satisfy our quest. But sadly we were quite wrong. It was actually quite a drab place made worse by the damp drizzly weather. We had to wait until we returned to Germany until we could buy our Switzerland fridge magnet!
Before leaving the next morning we lined up the cars along the harbour wall for a group photo. The line-up of MGs caused such local interest this was only achieved with some difficulty. Whilst in the line-up Ray’s Roadster disgraced itself by springing an oil leak. However with the assistance of Steve’s trolley jack and a turn on the nut at the base of the oil filter adaptor, order was restored.
On the next 180 mile leg we returned to Belgium, to the town of Obernai and the 4 star Hotel Le Park in the Alsace Region. During this leg we passed through acres of ripe black grapes ready for the picking and later followed the river Rhine for a considerable distance. The last section of the route seemed to be devoid of towns of any substance, and also devoid of petrol stations. Here our satnav came to the rescue for the second time this holiday and soon found one. With much relief we pressed on.
Having driven through the Vosges Mountains we passed from the Alsace Region into the Champagne Region of France and on to the town of Rheims for our final overnight stay before returning to Calais and the Channel Tunnel. After dinner we settled in the bar until the early hours reviewing the previous 11 days, saying goodbyes and exchanging contact details, etc. During the evening Joyce presented each couple with a glass ornament as a memento. Ours came out with the Xmas decorations that brought back many happy memories. The next morning we headed for home.
For those who like statistics, total distance travelled 2250 miles consuming 79.91gallons of fuel. During the holiday the milometer returned to a full set of zeros for the second time. And the GT, it’s still going strong.
On behalf of us all I would like thank the Owners Club and Travel Destinations for all their efforts in making the trip such a success. In all, the hotels on the itinerary were probably the best we have stayed in on all our extensive MG travels.