Thursday, July 22nd, 2021
Distance travelled – 216 km
Lucie is a big devotee of weather predicting apps on her iPhone and iPad. Although these had presented a rather uncertain forecast at bedtime, the first thing we saw with the naked eye, when we woke up (at exactly 05:00 !) was a blue sky.
I have a friend in Prague who likes the sweet called a “Mozart Kugeln”. It is a ball shaped sweet with chocolate and marzipan. But, I had recently been alerted, by my friend, to the fact that these come in several varieties and that some have three layers, not two. The three layer ones, it seemed, could not be found in Prague. For this reason, long before breakfast-time, I was to be found in a sweet shop I had seen in the pedestrian precinct, buying a box of “three-layer” balls ….
Breakfast, on the hotel’s open air terrace, began at 7:00 and we were amongst the first patrons.
The selection available was quite extensive for what is essentially a “budget” hotel and we stocked up for the journey ahead. Having English Breakfast tea always gets a bonus point from me and I was able to award one. The terrace had a great view over the city and, every fifteen minutes, we were treated to a selection of musical dings and dongs from the spires of the various churches round about.
We packed quickly and left around nine. This was not because we were in a hurry, but we did want to make a leisurely trip. We knew that we did not have very far to go and hoped to still make our destination for lunch. The SatNav ensured our way out of town was far from direct but, in the end, a sheer lack of options due to the mountainous terrain put us onto the A10 motorway. This is a truly monumental structure that wends its way, often high above the valley floor, along viaducts stretching between steep mountain slopes – or dives straight through the mountains via long tunnels. In addition to the Highway Sticker, there is a 12 EUR toll for using this section and it is well worth it.
However, from time to time, the “scenic drive” function on our SatNav suggested diversions. Eventually, just after the picturesque Hohenwerfen Castle, perched high on a scary bluff on the right hand side of the road, I succumbed.
This led us from the highway to the old B159 road through the valley floor and which, from a scenic point of view, was of equal value. The older road through the valley follows the meanders of the Salzach River. Everything was very green and fragrant in the warm air. The beautiful views of the towering mountains included, in places, views of the motorway, high above, which runs over it like a giant bridge. In most places, we “shadowed” the motorway quite closely, we were just going more slowly and having more fun !
The 159 eventually led us to similarly scenic jaunt on the 99 and then, for once, the SatNav actually urged us to rejoin the motorway. We did this shortly before it passed the ski resort of Flachau, which Lucie assured me is her very favourite winter destination.
Flachau is astride the the main ridge of the Alps. We had a quick drink in a service area that was also perched on the mountainside and then bypassed the town gradually through two, very long, highway tunnels.
On emerging, I was informed through the intercom that we were now on the south side of the “serious” mountains and that to our right (the south-west) lay the Julian Alps and the Dolomites. This is where the Faaker See lies.
We still passed the odd castle, perched at seemingly implausible heights on the mountain tops. I always suppose it says a lot about the power of the person who had it built. This one is close to Klagenfurt.
We had heard a lot, over time, about the Faaker See from our friends in HOG Prague. Every year it is the site of a huge Harley-Davidson festival which I confess we do not go to. To be frank, we are not big drinkers or party people and cannot imagine what we do there for three days with a hundred thousand bikers. We easily located our hotel, the Villa Desiree (Egger Seeuferstraße 47, 9580 Villach). It is in the Garni chain, which we like because it was, like the previous accommodation, “everything you need and nothing extra“. The check-in, for which we again needed the electronic “Covid Passes”, was simple and swift. At check-in, the proprietor did remark, a little sarcastically, “back room, no lake view – as you ordered“. Lucie started to say that we had not ordered anything like that, but had just pressed a button on Booking.com, but then she kept quiet. Both the proprietor and his male partner were, in fact, very nice people and it was probably more of a statement than any implied criticism.
Lucie wanted to rush to our room, take a shower and chill out after the journey but I rather put a damper on that. I was not sure of how our schedule would work out and I knew that, somewhere near Faak was a statue of Harley-Davidson, carved in wood. I did not want to risk not seeing it. I suggested that, before we took off our gear, we should grab our tripod and BlueTooth button and go and take some pictures of it. It is fair to say this did not make me popular with fifty percent of our party, but she grabbed her helmet and we headed back out. There were, though, a few remarks about why I had not mentioned this before parking and locking the Harley.
The wooden statue of the Harley-Davidson (called “Harleywood“) was easily located and is very nicely done and quite realistic. It stands in the middle of a roundabout on quite a busy crossroads. Lucie teasingly asked me where she should place the tripod, but this was largely rhetorical, as there was a lot of traffic. Relying, somewhat, upon the natural Austrian courtesy, I parked as close as I could and Lucie took a few pictures of me as cars whizzed closely by.
On our way back to the hotel, we circumnavigated the whole of the Faaker See and tried to work out where our proposed hike on the following morning would lead us.
Back at Villa Desiree, we could finally extricate ourselves from our travelling gear which was, in truth, a bit too hot to be wearing in such very warm sunshine.
On our way into town, we had spotted a quite nice looking restaurant, so we elected to go there for our lunch. It was just a short stroll up the hill to Der Tschebull restaurant (Egger Seeuferstraße 26, 9580 Villach). There we finally got an English menu and the waiter was also very pleasant and fluent in English. Our original plan was to have a simple, light lunch, but that did not work out very well. The pork from the grill, with grilled vegetables and a couple of beers was very good indeed, but it came to a slightly surprising 73 EUR.
We might have been a bit fatigued, or we might just have been too full, but we spent the rest of the afternoon lazing on the hotel terrace reading and dozing. We are not, in all honesty, big eaters, but we do tend to indulge ourselves a bit on holiday.
Whilst examining the local “attractions” noted in the hotel lift, Lucie had spotted a Greek restaurant. We like Greek food, so it was no real contest. In the evening we sauntered the couple of kilometres around the quiet lake.
I found this sign hilarious, but then again, I would !
We ate at the Greek restaurant Mykonos (Erlenweg 1, 9583 Villach).
In truth, it was about as “Greek” as the previous evenings restaurant had been “Japanese”. The designation was, we guessed, more of a hook for tourists. That said, we were able to dine al-fresco under a big umbrella and the grilled Halloumi we shared as a starter was the genuine article, even if the bread was wrong.
The Scampi shrimps that we both chose were delicious despite having no real “Greekness” (is that a word ?) in their preparation. It was a pleasant meal though (62 EUR), so we forgave them the “deception“.
While we were eating, the heavens opened in a truly dramatic fashion and we were very glad of our umbrella. It was the kind of downpour where the drops spring back up about 25cm after hitting the floor. Strangely, before we had finished and paid, the storm was over and even the puddles had gone We made the return walk in silvery moonlight without getting damp.