Through the Austrian Alps to Switzerland

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Holly Hayes
Part of: UK and Western Europe


We left Innsbruck around noon yesterday and headed west to Switzerland, which as you might imagine was a gorgeous drive, especially in the good weather. We made two unscheduled stops along the way, based on seeing historical markers on the freeway.

The first was Stams Monastery, which was quite beautiful. I don't know much about it other than that it is Cistercian, Baroque in style, and still active (I spotted a resident monk). David waited in the car while I hopped out and took some quick snaps.

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Unfortunately the interior was locked behind an iron gate, but I was able to take a couple pictures through it. I was pretty impressed by the inside, even though I'm not into Baroque (as I may have mentioned once or twice).

On the other side of the freeway from the monastery, we spotted a little chapel high on a hill, which was signposted as Maria Locherboden, so we checked that out, too. David waited by the car, enjoying the scenery and having a bit of a wander around, while I headed up the hill on foot. (I was hoping we would be able to drive closer to the chapel, but after all it's supposed to be a pilgrimage church....)

I don't know anything about its history and it wasn't too exciting to me in itself, but it was generally a nice hike (less than 10 minutes up) and had some nice views.

The parking area. In addition to the lovely surroundings, what was really memorable about this was the sound of cow bells that rang out clearly from the field across the way. It was the first time we'd heard them on this trip and it's just such a perfect Alpine sound.

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Apparently, Mary stood here!

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A little further down the road, we stopped for a late lunch at a service area that was much more impressive than we expected! It was big, clean, and very Tyrolean themed. By the bathrooms downstairs, they had museum-like displays on traditional Tyroloean cheese making and meat smoking, and a case with several trophies for best rest stop. As with most European rest stops, hot and cold food was available cafeteria-style.

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OK, in my defense, I picked out the pretzel bread and strudel before I found the lasagna, and I had no idea it would be the size of a house. I didn't love it - it was more Austrian than Italian, with very little tomato sauce, a stinky northern European cheese in place of ricotta, and possibly bread crumbs. And lots of salt, of course.

So I only had a few bites of the lasagna, and instead polished off the rest of David's spaghetti when he was done - it was also ridiculously huge, but tasty. And my waistline is sorry to report that there was nothing wrong with the cream-cheese strudel.

After our rest stop the road began to climb, and the snow line got closer. We were a bit worried about how the pass might be, because our rental car doesn't have winter tires on it. But it turned out that we were in tunnels almost the entire time, and it was only wet the rest of the time, so it was smooth sailing.

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Sunroof cam! IMG_2212 IMG_2217
Then we descended back into the valley and it was smooth and dry the rest of the way to St. Gallen, just over the border in Switzerland.

We stayed one night in St Gallen and are now in Lucerne for one night. It was a gloriously sunny day for our drive from St Gallen and evening in Lucerne, and we have the most lovely view from our hotel window over the lake, complete with a mountain backdrop and a billion stars. But I'll have to leave it there for now, because it's nearly 11:30 and I need to go to bed and try to get over my cold. Photos of St Gallen and Lucerne will be posted as soon as I can.

And briefly, here's the latest on the trip plans we made while it was raining in Innsbruck. David changed his flight home from October 28 to November 5, so he'll be with me a little longer than originally planned (yay!). The rest of our time together will be in Switzerland: Lucerne tonight, then Geneva for two nights and Zurich for two nights. On November 1, we'll go our separate ways from Zurich. David will drive north through Germany to the Amsterdam airport, spending a few nights somewhere in between, and I'll take the train south to Pavia in northern Italy. I'm going to spend one night in Pavia and three nights in Parma (I have my hotels all booked) before meeting up with Sarah in Bologna on November 5. Good times.