Diary Entry last night;
Well, I am snug in my tent, perched on the Austria-Slovenia border, in the Alpine mountains of the Wurzen Pass.
The distant peaks are spectacular; enveloped by effervescing, expansive, pearly white mist that swallows their snowy tops and sits in their valleys. A road snakes into the distance and disappears beyond the brow of the hill. I wonder what I will find on following its trail in the early hours of tomorrow morning- perhaps more marmots?!
I have just crossed the fabulous and snowy Grossglockner Alpine Pass, which winds its way over Austria's highest mountain, straight through the middle of a vast national park. What a fabulous day to glide over the Alps! The sun has been shining since leaving Salzburg this morning, and the views from the height of 2600 meters were more than words could do justice.
Grettle made many friends upon Biker's Point; being the only Vespa in sight, she received much spoiling behavior from the crowds of leather-clad bikers and families in their 4x4's. Lucky Grettle! One small boy belonging to a family that engaged me in interested conversation about the trip, ran up to me post farewells, and put ten euros in my hand, 'for good luck' he said, smiling, before dashing off into the distance to join his parents. I promised him the photograph of the two of us would feature in the next blog post, so here it is! Big smiles!
I listened to the Beatles full pitch as I soared (or rather snailed) over the Grossglockner Pass, singing happily to Grettle continuously.
As I was descending the Pass, there was a huge landslide that had completely blocked the road, so we waited for many scoop-trucks and the like to move the monumental pile of snow. I was a little concerned in witnessing the first rescue man appear at the scene with bright yellow, rather flimsy looking spade, not dissimilar from the likes one finds in Pound Land, and considered that this saga might last some
Thankfully, ten minutes later the way was clear, and I sped on down the pass to a cold celebratory brew awaiting me at the bottom, brought kindly for me by two admirers of Grettle that I had met on the pass.
The snow and ice faded quickly as I sunk once again into green pastures and pleasant lands, filled with cows and goats, and a rather beautiful scene of a man practicing Parelli (a type of Horse Whispering) with his long-maned Arab, in an adjacent field, filled with yellow flowers.
Salzburg has been super, I spent three days there; about the amount of time it took for my soaking clothes to dry! Poor Chris, as per usual, was met by a huge bin-liner of sopping clothes and a very disheveled looking me. The marathon had begun that day and the walk or hike back to the Prince's Palace was rather a strenuous one. I, as usual had arrived on the wrong side of the river, and after failing to wind my way on Grettle through the crowds of runners, Chris and bin-bag in tow, I succumbed to walking and wheeling her back, over the pedestrian bridge, past the many musicians, and finally arriving at Buddha palace some time later.
The prince, to my relief, was not present for the duration of my stay, I am sure this would have been received as tremendous news by him also, with our last encounter in mind. It turned out he had just returned from the Big Brother show, having suffered rather a public and brutal break-up whilst on television, and so naturally, appeared to be keeping a low profile.
Chris was very generous and we indulged in many delicious Austrian feasts, and spent one fabulous evening drinking cocktails on the roof terrace of a building that looked over the whole of Salzburg, it looked splendid at night, the many lights reflected in the glistening river, and
the distant echoes of music bouncing off the walls of the city. On the only sunny day in Salzburg, we took the bus to a beautiful lake in Germany, where I had an icy cold dip that relieved my hangover in a flash, and we gazed at the old building perched on top of a mountain, that towered over the lake, where it is said that Hitler had resided, in his Eagles' Nest during the war.
Going back a little further, my drive through Germany was a challenge to say the least. Absolutely fowl weather and no waterproofs. Sod's Law that I now have brought my self a very expensive waterproof jacket, and it refuses to rain! I spent two nights camping beside different lakes, and one night in 'Biker's Lodge'; rather extravagant but extremely necessary- I faintly resembled a water balloon with my many layers of sopping clothes. Having stumbled into the lodge, and haggled the price down from 45 to 40 euros, I then reappeared in my smartest, driest set of clothes, hoping to find a small table to myself, where I could catch up on grails, writing and art. The dining room was full, and so I was ushered, and rather forcefully directed to sit at the end of a long table of rowdy rock-bikers. I think they were probably as in-enthused as myself about this particular predicament, having witnessed my most inelegant entrance on Grettle, where I had parked scruffily next to the long line of huge black motorbikes, that shone smartly outside the lodge. Before too long however, we had all made firm friends; taking snap shots, exchanging email addresses and drinking the night away.
The Rock-Bikers who call themselves 'The Son's of Liberty' were so amused and impressed by Grettle's efforts, that they insisted on buying me a huge mixed grill for supper. As I was ordering this, the waitress and lodge owner crouched beside me and asked 'may I have a word?'. A little confused and rather drunk by this point, I soon realized by her worried expression and words of concern, that she did not think I would be able to pay for this monumental feast (she had been the victim of my haggling an hour previously). I calmed her nerves by explaining The Son's of Liberty were treating me to supper, she looked almost as surprised as I was, but accepted this reluctantly and slunk off the kitchens rather sheepishly, to inform the chefs and prepare the feast. And what a feast it was!
Very full and very tired after the long day driving, I announced my departure to bed over the rowdy German jokes, and bid goodnight to the motley crew. The biggest and rockiest of the lot confirmed with me the number of my room and without thinking, I nodded, laughing nervously as he said 'I will see you there later'. Hoping this was a joke (he must have seen at least a half century), I hurried on up to bed. Sure enough, a few hours later, I heard the dreaded sound of knocking and the hushed whispers of 'Emma?' at my door. I lay still as a log and thankfully he soon gave up, retiring to his chamber next to mine.
The following morning I stuffed my bag with buns, cheese and salami from the buffet breakfast, surreptitiously wrapping them up in the damp pages of my ancient road map for lunch, and sidled out of the lodge rather hastily, to embark on the next leg of my journey to Austria.
I have promised The son's of Liberty a team drawing as a thank you for the supper, and am awaiting the email with attached photograph of the gang.
I also made an arrangement with the lady of a couple who sat at the table, named Hyder (wife of Hyker), to paint a picture of her beloved motorbike. They have promised in return a couple of nights in their villa in Croatia...rather looking forward to a few nights of such luxury!
Finally, we reach where I left you before, in Amersfoort, with Carien. I enjoyed a lovely stay as usual, and before departing, gave her a portrait of her beloved cat, Koshka, along with a huge jungle plant to add to her collection , as a thank you for having me and a very Happy 52nd Birthday. Carien had tears in her eyes as I presented Koshka to her, and parting ways was emotional as always- I shall miss her!
From Carien's, I scooted back down to Belgium to visit Yvette, a biking friend I had met at a gas station with Grettle in Normandy, having a
sked for her help in checking my oil. Yvette and her two sons live in Beringen, Berverlo, in South East Belgium. I drew cockerels by day, and smoked herbs by night; and all in all, had a tremendous time.
I think her sons, aged 13 and 16 considered this mad English woman residing in their house rather peculiar, splashing paint around with the chickens and intermittently whizzing about atop a green Vespa, I can't really blame them! I gave the best chicken to Yvette as a present and a thank you. Before I left, she commissioned one portrait of her boys, bringing home a huge canvas from work one day, with a wide grin across her face. All was a success and she seemed to love the drawing, thankfully.
So here we are, up to date, and in Slovenia, on the Wurzen Pass. I look forward to seeing what wonders this winding path will reveal tomorrow morning. Grettle only just made it up the first steeply graded hill of the Pass, and so fingers crossed we will make the journey to Croatia in one piece. Until then- Adios!