Monday, May 18, 2009

To Gschnitz and then Bolzano....

No..no...neither am I having a bout of flu nor am I swearing....Gschnitz (I dare you to try saying ''Gsch'' without laughing !) is a small town in Austria, close to Innsbruck and before going there, I did not know it existed too :)

It all started on a fine friday morning when one of my American colleagues (lets call her K), who was here for the 6th time and still had not managed to see anything except our offices in Europe, resolved to herself that she is spending saturday in a different country before catching her return flight to the US on sunday. So what next ?

at 12:30: K decides she wants to drive to Trento in Italy and decides to break her journey in Austria
at 13:30: She comes to me with a plan and asks me if I want to come with her. Ofcourse I said yes (when have I ever said no to ooru suthifying ?)
at 15:00: She gets a rental car with a tom tom and reserves a hotel in Gschnitz since thats the cheapest option
at 17:30: I go home and pack a rucksack
at 18:00: We are on the road driving from Munich.....and then it gets interesting !
at 18:30: We are heading north of Munich while Austria is in the south. Since we chose a route with no toll roads (basically the cross country auto-bahn stretch since with our small car, a VW polo, we can definitely not go at speeds worthy of the auto-bahn where the minimum recommended speed in most cases is 130 Kmph) we assumed it was a round-about way.
at 19:00: We are still driving north and directions point to Munich airport. I get suspicious and query the tom tom again only to realise it is indeed taking us to the airport (which was probably the last used destination) since it did not recognise Gschnitz !!
at 19:01: We reset everything so that it atleast points to Innsbruck and begin driving south...phew !
at 21:00: We arrive in Innsbruck and learn that Gschnitz is not far off only wondering why our hotel reservation simply gives the name of the hotel and Gschnitz without any address or street name
at 21:30: We arrive in Gschnitz (atleast according to the name board on the side of the road!). Although we are impressed with the beautiful small houses, we still do not know how to find the hotel. So we pull up infront of a fire station, the only place open, and ask for directions. Although I know German, I hardly understand what he is saying (since he is speaking the austrian version !) but I pick up a few key words to know that we simply drive straight ahead.

at 21:40: We arrive at the hotel. There is no way we could have missed it since it was the tallest building in that town (had 3 floors) and we also realise that Gschnitz has only one street and hence no street name or address in the reservation ! While we were wondering how to get in since the whole town seemed asleep, we notice an envelope sticking out from behind the hotel door handle with our names on the outside and keys on the inside...Voila !

Neat, comfortable rooms, nice beds => slept soundly !

K wakes me up in the morning saying ''you should see this'' and waking up at 8 on a vacation is beyond difficult for me but finally I gave in. We go to the balcony and this is the scene that greets our eyes - sheep with bells around their necks (the bell sound is what awoke K) grazing and its green as far as you can see with mountains, whose caps are covered with snow and fog, behind....is sure a great way to wake up !

After a good breakfast of bread, homemade jam, farm fresh butter, we headed out for a small hike - saw a quaint little church, a small village with all the age old machinery to grind corn and make flour well preserved and finally a beautiful waterfalls (hiked to the top to get a better view). Words cannot describe how beautiful the place was, imagine the best calendar pics of mountains and greenery you have seen ! We then found a restaurant and I ordered a salad and what I got blew my mind - boiling hot plate of 2 kinds of fresh beans, corn with yoghurt sauce and sitting among these was an oven-baked farm potato wrapped in an aluminum foil like a chocolate...yum....best salad i have had in Europe so far !!


After lunch we decided it was time to head to Trento and since we had no other choice we put our trust in the tom tom again and again chose the ''no toll roads'' option.
at 14:00: We are driving to Italy from Gschnitz
at 14:30: We are climbing a mountain and wondering how Trento could on a mountain...and yeah, obviously you cannot turn back on such a mountain road
at 15:00: altitude 1000m
at 15:15: altitude 1500m
at 15:40: altitude 2200m and we finally arrive at what looks like a ski resort still wondering where the heck Trento could be ! Well, actually, we wondered much later since there were more beautiful views from that altitude and after enjoying it to our heart's content we were relieved to see the road going downhill on the other side
at 16:25: We are finally almost at the foot of the mountain and just when we were thinking that we might see Trento we go through a really long tunnel and then follows 22 other tunnels !!
at 16:55: After all the ''tunneling'', we see a sign that says Trento is 55 km away. At that moment we decided we were not going to drive any further instead we would explore the place we were in - Bolzano !

Bolzano looked like a perfect german-italian town, obvious from its location close to the border. Not only did all signs read something like ''Banco/Bank'', the city centre looked very ''german'' too while the shopping area and the cafeterias made it obviously italian ! After spending some time at the Duomo (Cathedral), we walked into the shopping area only to come across the veteran car team - a group of old veterans with their 1923-30 model cars....and whats more we even saw them driving those cars - I really couldn't have believed that those cars would run !!


After a typical cappuccino in a typical Italian Cafe, we were ready to head back home and we were home after 4.5 hrs of driving and this time we ''cleverly'' avoided the mountains :)

Moral(s) of the story
- It pays to be cheap (:D) or rather economic - we never would have seen those breathtaking views if we had not tried to save money on a city hotel or toll roads!
- Tom tom shows you the route most of the times but not necessarily the shortest or the fastest !
- When you are on vacation, do not have a strict agenda, go where the tom tom takes you to have the maximum fun :D !

To conclude, one of the most beautiful places I have seen and one of the best road trips I have had.....
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