Southern Austria

Mike in Graz

The good news is that Mike and I are now in Austria.  We didn’t have to choose between quarantining or returning to Slovenia.  In actual fact, all our worry was for naught.  When we got to the border there was a row of cars and a policeman.  The police officer simply looked at the license plates on the cars, presumably to see where they were coming from, and then waved the cars through.  We thought for sure that when he got to “Ontario” license plates and our unusual vehicles, we would be pulled over.  I am pleased to say that we were waved right through, just like everybody else.

It has been extremely handy for Mike and me to have both Canadian and EU passports over the last few years.  This year with Brexit causing problems and Britain’s bad problems with Covid-19, I am really not sure which passport to carry with me and use most of the time.  It might be selfish, but I really wish that Brexit had not happened.  If it had to happen, I wish that they had settled the arrangements between the EU and the UK before Britain actually pulled out.  Of course, no one listens to me and they wouldn’t let me vote anyway.  I tried.

In Canada, when we have a speed limit, you are supposed to drive close to the limit.  People who drive 20 mph or 30 km/hr below the speed limit are not looked on favourably and in some places, “obstructing traffic” by driving too slow, is just as illegal as speeding.  Small, narrow, winding roads here have speed limits of 100 km/hr or 60 mph.  There is not a chance that Mike or I are driving anywhere close to that speed on these roads and we hope never to encounter anyone who is.

Great views everywhere

Mike and I have started our long-distance cycling again.  We eventually want to connect a lot of our rides from both last year and this year, into one long path on the map.  Last year we rode from the Adriatic coast in Italy, up through Italy, into Slovenia and then into Austria.  From the south of Austria, we continued north to Salzburg and then east all the way to Vienna.  This was all done on our old e-bikes.  This year we have more powerful bikes and Mike really wants to extend our bike path.  Austria has excellent, paved, long-distance paths all over the country.   It is great.  One day, we were riding on a winding, gravel path and Mike was a bend ahead of me.  In other words, I was close, but I couldn’t actually see him.  I heard this loud exclamation over the headset. As soon as I got around the bend, I found out that a deer had run across the path immediately in front of Mike.  Originally Mike had just been startled to see this deer appear very unexpectedly, running very fast.  Then, right in front of Mike’s bike, the deer kicked up some gravel which actually hit Mike on the knuckles.  You could see the dirt from the stones on Mike’s hand.  I think it gave him quite the shock.

relocated Russian monument

We talked to one woman while we were travelling around.  She told us about a monument that was built in the town square, dedicated to the Russian soldiers who helped Austria during WWII.  Russia isn’t quite as popular in Austria anymore, and although the monument has been kept intact, it has been moved to a side street, out of the main view.

The next morning Mike went out for a short ride at 9:20am.  He said that he would be back in less than an hour and then we would go out.  This was great for me.  Four hours later, I had to go and pick him up in the car.  He had ridden over 60 km into the hills on one of the long-distance routes on his own and now needed help getting home.  It was a 45-minute drive from the camper in the car, to get to where he finished his ride.  So much for one hour.

Although there was a border officer where we drove through, we have seen places where the border between Slovenia and Austria is just a ditch that you can step over.  When Mike was on his “short” ride, he wanted to avoid a gravel road in Austria and chose a paved one that happened to go into Slovenia.  He said that he biked from Austria, into Slovenia and back into Austria without seeing anyone.  This is even during the time when they are still checking visitors because of the coronavirus.  In the photo below, there was your standard castle right above the town.  In this instance, the town was in Austria and the castle was in Slovenia. 

Castle over town in Slovenia, town in Austria

I mentioned in my last posting that Mike had modified my bike so that I sit almost completely upright.  This is very good for my back.  We have discovered one issue with it though.  Long-distance riding has always been tough on the bum but completely sitting upright on saddles that are designed for people leaning forward gets one extremely sore very quickly.  Basically, the back of the saddle is cutting into you.  I assume that, with more practice, this will get better.  Or at least I really hope so.  Mike figured out that if we stop with some frequency and walk the bikes for just a couple of minutes, that gets the blood flowing again.  Whatever the logic, when we get back on the bike, it isn’t as bad as it was before we stopped.

Mike and I have twice changed the direction that we were going to travel within Austria.  All we knew for certain is that we were going to get to Vienna at some point.  We ended up cycling from our campground to Graz (over two days).  Graz is the second largest city in Austria.  Its historic centre is said to be one of the best-preserved city centres in Central Europe.  We spent one day wandering around the historic centre and plan to go back again.  We now think that our next campsite will be on the other side of Graz which will make it easy to return to the city.  We drove into Graz on another day when it was raining and did some shopping.  In addition to normal stuff, believe it or not, we went furniture shopping.  We have two recliners in our RV that haven’t been well looked after and the faux-leather has split quite badly in multiple places.  We thought that we might look for a replacement.  Finding a recliner that is comfortable for both Mike and me, isn’t any easier in Europe than it is in Canada.  The vast majority of the recliners here are electric which we can’t buy for the RV.

Graz is very interesting, which is why Mike and I want to return and spend more time there.  It is hard to take photos that show the lovely work on the front of the buildings and the architecture and all because there are so many overhead wires and cables etc. that get in the way.

Mike and I are having a super time playing cards about once a week with our friends Rob and Mare back in Canada. It is a little awkward for them due to the time zone but luckily they are retired, so playing cards in the middle of the afternoon is possible. We can see and talk with each other while playing cards on our computers. Luckily, unlimited internet is quite inexpensive in most countries in Europe. It is a nice addition to our travels and being away from friends and family.

My biggest concern at the moment is whether this blog, and much of my life, has to go into hiatus for a while.  My computer is close to dead.  Mike has to get out some electrical equipment and spend a few minutes touching different parts of the internals of the computer just to get it started.  We can’t leave it running because of a defective fan that overheats the system.  Computers here are 30% – 50% more money than at home and of course they come with European plugs and keyboards etc.  Even worse than all this, is that to get a fairly powerful system is going to take about 3 – 4 weeks for delivery.  Mike and I don’t even know what country we will be in then, never mind not having a fixed shipping address.  The stores sell very lightweight systems, without a touch screen which is very important to me.

As long as Mike can keep doing his thing and getting my computer started, and as long as it doesn’t really overheat, I will continue with our website, maps and photos.  Wish us luck.

Turning on Jackie’s laptop

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