What a difference a day makes. We are sat by Lake Garda – literally on the edge of the lake having jammily got the nearest camping spot to the lake. Having had a BBQ, I am now watching Mark trying to make a cup of tea on the dying embers. He is convinced he can get a kettle to boil, but it is reluctant to oblige. He will need his cuppa if it does, as he has been fanning the flames for 10 minutes.
Yesterday we went to the world’s largest ice cave just south of Salzburg. The cave complex stretches 42km. It is at a constant 0 degrees, so that every drop of water that seeps in freezes, adding to a 70m wall of ice that at its core is 5,000 years old. We only went in 1km and then came out again, but the structures formed by the ice are incredible.
Even our 70 minute trip into the cave left us frozen and running for the mountain top stübl and a fine plate of Tiroler gröstl and cups of warming hot chocolate.
The weather had not improved on the previous few nights, so though we were close to the start of the Grossglockner road, we decided that there was no point paying the access toll to get on to the road as we would not see a thing – no point driving a high alpine pass if the mountains are shrouded in cloud. And what was torrential rain in the valley was falling as the first snow of winter on higher ground.
So we decided to head south in search of warmer weather via the neighbouring valley through Bad Gastein. As we approached the town, there were more and more signs about a car train and indeed, as we entered Bad Gastein it became clear that we would have to put the van on a train that would take it through a tunnel under the Alps. I think Mark might have been more delighted with that than a high alpine road.
We stopped for the night near Lienz and then continued to the Italian border and down the motorway into the Veneto. When we first crossed the border into the South Tirol there was no sign that we had crossed the border other than a rapid deterioration in the quality of the roads. The signs were still in German (albeit with Italian translations beneath) and the chalets still looked Austrian, but as we reached the motorway to go south through the Dolomites, wooden balconies gave way to terracotta and pastures to vineyards and by Trento things had taken on an Italian air.
We headed for Peschiera del Garda which we had identified as being on the lake, but also on a direct train line to Verona, Padua and Venice, allowing us to explore the towns and cities nearby. So we have planned to stop hear for almost a week to enjoy the Mediterranean weather, lakeside views, trips on the lake and excursions further afield.
As I come to the end of this post, I am handed a cup of tea. A smug Mark is delighted that he has succeeded; the Italian lady camped opposite is bemused as to why he hasn’t just gone inside and switched the gas cooker on! But a scientific experiment needs to be seen through to conclusion.