The day started with a definite chill in the air. Whereas yesterday we had clear blue skies, the tops of the mountains were misted in cloud first thing, and the walk to the bathroom felt nippy. We still persevered and had our breakfast outside, but there was no hanging around lapping up the view – we quickly got on with packing up. We decided to take a better look at Cortina, before leaving the Dolomites, so drove the few miles down the road for morning coffee. We had not really appreciated yesterday when we had cycled in, what a huge town it is. Clearly in the ski season it is buzzing, but even today, it seemed thronged with people.
After coffee, we headed off towards Austria. The scenery driving through the Dolomites was stunning, but not with the same clear view of the tops as we had been lucky to see the day before. Crossing the border into Austria was a non event – we barely noticed it had happened. We stopped at the first petrol station to buy our motorway vignette for Austria – I’m sure the British government could earn a few bob by doing the same.
Howard had hoped to drive over the Glossgockner Pass into Zell Am See, since he had fond memories of doing it with his parents. Unfortunately, when we looked on the website, we had missed it’s opening by just two days – it re-opens for the year on 28th April. However, if the main alternate route, which we ended up taking, is an easy drive compared to the Glossgockner, than I’m quite pleased it wasn’t open. I winced a couple of times as we did some hairpins up to the point where the road passes through the mountain in a long tunnel, but I know Howard was disappointed not to put Oscar through his paces. Frankly, by now, the weather was turning, and the rain had set in, so we didn’t miss much in any case.
We stopped en route to pick up some supplies – it’s always interesting shopping in new countries. Howard amused the lady at the checkout by selecting the only bright pink shopping bag on offer – ‘A man buying pink’, she chuckled in German. She then proceeded to offer me a rose – apparently it’s the thing here. When we got back to the van, Howard commented he was surprised I didn’t pick the chocolate. Well if I’d realised there was free chocolate on offer, you can guess which I would have preferred! We now have a limp pink rose sitting in a water bottle on the cooker in Oscar. I suspect by tomorrow it will be gone.
We headed on to Zell Am See, a pretty town on the lake, where Howard and I had holidayed maybe 35 years ago whilst living in Somerset. We have fond memories of a lovely week, hill walking in the alpine sunshine. Sadly, today, it was not looking quite as appealing in the rain as we arrived at our campsite. To make matters worse, the lady at the reception turned out to be a jobs-worth, insisting on seeing our ASCI camping discount card, as Howard presented his ASCI ID card, which had sufficed in every other campsite for the past 105 days! But no, she was having none of it, so I tramped back to the van in the rain and duly presented the card. But then it wasn’t signed! ‘OMG, it’s not signed because no-one other than you has ever asked for it’, I thought to myself, but bit my tongue, as Howard gave me one of his withering looks, as if to say leave it.
We picked a nice spot with a view of the water meadows and mountains, and had just settled down to tea, when a German family in their ‘Big White’ chose to park right in front of our bonnet. Now, there is a sort of campsite etiquette that says that you just don’t do that. To make matters worse, as soon as they arrived, the couple and their two teenage children started bickering amongst themselves. My mood was sinking fast, so we opted to walk the 4km or so into the town before it got dark. Before we left, we put Oscar’s ‘going to bed’ face on – his screen cover.
The light was flat as we walked beside the lake, but there were hundreds of swallows swooping low over the water catching flies in the dusk – quite a sight. As we returned to the van, we read the sign that described the birdlife you might see. We pressed the button for ‘corncrake’ to hear it’s characteristic noise, and on queue, two birds rose from the long grass in the distance. The light was too poor to see if they were indeed corncrakes – but they were about the right size, so perhaps they were. I’d certainly like to think so. It’ll certainly give Howard something to look out for on his run tomorrow morning.
In the meantime, I’m waiting to see the expression on the German family’s faces when they open their door and see Oscar’s eyes peering at them!