A Glimpse of Austria, and Summer Finally Arrives in GAP
After our Italian Lakes adventures it was time to start making tracks north. Our last stop in the Italian Lakes was Lake Garda. We had originally planned a trip into Verona but the weather was still grim. It was much colder and wetter than was seasonal for the time of year so we decided instead to save it for another trip and just get some kilometers under our belt. We have a ferry already booked to Sweden from Rostock in Germany and time was marching on.
From Lake Garda we did a longer driving stint than usual for us, motoring up through the Dolomites towards a functional site to rest for the night just before the Austrian border. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to appreciate any of the scenery during the drive, which is no doubt spectacular. The weather and particularly the low cloud meant that, with the reduced visibility, we could have been driving on the M6 through Birmingham for all we knew. The weather also made us decide to stick with toll roads, particularly as there was snow forecast on the Brenner Pass through Austria.
Toll roads in Italy are very cheap and honestly worth it versus the toll free but super crappy regular roads. In Austria it is much more expensive and complicated. Because we are over 3.5 Tonnes we had to get a Go-Box for their automated toll system. You can pick it up at the border and although the paperwork and bureaucracy seems needlessly complicated, once done, we could head along on our merry way towards Innsbruck.
Again, our plans to stop en route in the Alpine countryside and hike through the amazing vistas I had seen online were ditched due to the weather so we pressed on to Hall in Tyrol. It's a pretty town close to Innsbruck but still worth visiting in its own right. We had a brief wander around but mostly hunkered down inside the motorhome to stay dry. Our friends Phil and Izzy from The Gap Decaders blog were heading our way and given that there was a much prettier campsite on the other side of Innsbruck, we decided to meet them there.
On the way the next morning we parked up in Innsbruck to take a look around the city and grab some lunch. We discovered it was actually a national holiday in Austria and Germany so it was mostly tourists rattling around the city but we stumbled upon a food-truck festival going on at the banks of the river. We love a food-truck - who doesn't love artisanal food being served in small quantities, eaten with plastic forks, costing twice the price of restaurant food and - BONUS - nowhere to sit. Yes please, sign our wannabe hipster asses up.
After eating some tasty gyros we headed to the campground to find it jam-packed because, even though the weather was still not playing nice it was, as we discovered earlier, a national holiday. Luckily we got the last spot in this beautiful campsite. The sun came out the next day which allowed us to take a hike in the area and finally see the Alps, well the bottoms of them at least. The clouds meant we still couldn't see the peaks! After a fun night catching up with Phil & Izzy we bid farewell to them and to Austria. It was brief, wet and clearly would be more scenic when it's not grey and cloudy. We'll be back for sure.
Now we had to make tracks as we had to get from the bottom to the top of Germany for our ferry crossing. Finally summer arrived when we reach our first stop in Bavaria; the town of Garmisch Partenkirchen (GAP). The two towns were actually totally separate entities until they were united (somewhat reluctantly) for the 1936 Winter Olympics. Adolf Hitler forced the unification to create a larger town that the IOC would consider as a venue large enough for the games. Today they are one town but with two distinct centers. One is Garmisch & the other, Partenkirchen; both incredibly beautiful and well worth spending time exploring.
I would say that GAP is easily one of the most beautiful places we have visited in Germany. The stunning natural setting in the foothills of the Alps is amazing. Even in early June the previous inclement weather gave us wonderful snow-capped peaks and, now that the clouds cleared, we could finally see the Alps in all their glory. The highest peak in Germany, the Zugspitze, overlooks the area. We decided to forego the cable car to the top and instead cycled to and around the beautiful Lake Eibsee to view it from below and enjoy the long-awaited sunshine.
While we sat in the warm sunshine enjoying incredible views, memories of the decidedly unsummer weather of previous weeks were successfully banished. We found ourselves feeling optimistic about our impending plans, making our way North on one of the most touristed routes in Germany; the Romantic Road. Summer at last!
Recommendation & Tips
Where we stayed: We traveled at the beginning of without reservations, but we only just got in over the Ascension Day holiday.
53. Autocamp Sadobre: Really just a parking lot, but close to the Autostrada and convenient for a nights sleep before the Brenner Pass. 15.70€ a night with elec. GPS 46.88096, 11.43912
54. Schwimmbad-Camping Hall, Hall in Tyrol. An ok campsite near a swimming complex, surrounded by mountains and a lovely nearby town. Convenient for Innsbruck. If over 7m you have to stay outside the gate in the stellplatz. 20€ a night with elec. GPS: 47.28429, 11.49647
55. Camping Natterer See, Natters, Nr Innsbruck. Impeccable campsite, with a beautiful setting surrounded by the Alps. A lovely lakeside bar and restaurant, and some of the best sanitary facilities ever. 28€ a night with ACSI Card. GPS: 47.2368, 11.34001
56. Camping Experience Zugspitze: Nr Garmisch Partenkirchen . Beautiful scenic setting, easy bus into town or to Lake Eibsee. 27€ a night with elec. GPS: 47.48093, 11.05408
You can always find details of where we stay on our overnight stays map.
In many places tourist taxes and other fees are tagged on to camping fees, this is especially true in Germany and Austria. At Garmisch Partenkirchen the tourist tax comes with a free travel card that does allow you to ride the buses for no charge which we used quite a bit to get around the area.
As I mentioned, Austria tolls roads are very expensive. If you are under 3.5 tonnes it is easier because you just buy a fixed fee vignette sticker, but over 3.5 Tonnes like us you have to buy an electronic device for your windscreen called a Go-Box that charges you by the kilometer. This English language site explains things relatively well. You can pick it up at the country border. You’ll need to show your Certificate of Conformity to prove the emissions class of your vehicle. It seemed overly bureaucratic to us; after we did everything in person we still had to go online and add documents to our account. What a faff - if it hadn’t have been for the weather and the very real threat of snow (yes I know it was practically June) we may have just stuck to the non-toll roads.