I opened my eyes yesterday morning with a flood of recent towns in my head wondering exactly where we were. Just outside of Innsbruck, it all came back, in a small town called, Hall. Accommodation in these parts is not cheap and we were lucky as we pulled in looking for "zimmer" (room available) signs to come across a local who directed us to the Guesthouse Badl where we managed to get the last available room. The room was basic, but clean and comfortable, with its small windows offering river and church views. It was also well located to the pleasant and quiet old town which provided a nice walk that evening for pizza, and only a short 10 minute or so drive away from Innsbruck where we would easily have paid double the price. Friendly staff and a house cat and ducks out front were added features that made for a quaint and homey atmosphere.
Innsbruck, as we drove in yesterday morning had us oohing and aahing, hardly knowing which way to look as walked the streets of its lovely medieval Old Town. Quiet on a Sunday morning, it was smaller and cosier than I had expected and framed beautifully by the high surrounding alps. Adding to the atmosphere a group of musicians played upon a balcony in the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) - Innsbruck's most famous tourist attraction, whose three storied balcony has a roof of some 2600 gold-plated copper tiles. Reputably, Emperor Maximillian I had this built so that he might sit in the balconies watching tournaments and goings on in the square below. We enjoyed cappuccinos and (our first) cake of the day there before 10:00 at which time several surrounding tables of were already enjoying beer or wine for breakfast - OK, we are in Europe. I've seen this before here, but I still find it a bit surprising.
Before coming to Austria I had read in a guidebook beforehand that, amongst other things, this is a good place to purchase lederhosen - how ridiculous, I thought, imagining tacky touristy knock-offs. Much to my surprise, however, these are the real thing and have apparently never gone out of style here. Several shops specialize only in traditional clothing, and older men, particularly, can be seen strolling the streets looking as if they might burst into a number from the Sound of Music at any moment. A stop at a flea market the other day yielded a veritable treasure trove of lederhosen of all sorts, including a matching set that could have outfitted the entire Von Trapp family! Of course, all the necessary accessories to complete the look - belts, hats with feathers, etc., were all there too. No, Mico did not buy himself a pair.
I had read too that here you might still come across a gentleman who bows and clicks his heels upon greeting a lady - how utterly charming! Alas, not seen or experienced.
Backtracking a few days, we left Prague on the 23rd, arriving in Cesky Krumlov in cooler showery weather, but it was beautiful nevertheless. We found it smaller and more intimate than Prague, and perhaps due to the weather, tourists were also not out in the expected droves which was one positive aspect to the drizzle. We spent a few hours sightseeing there before driving through to the Salzgammergut lake district outside of Salzburg, where we spent the night in Altmunster. Our friend Dennis had suggested this lake area to us, but we had it only penciled in as a possibility if time permitted - it actually worked out well that we were passing that way just as we were ready to settle in for the day and thought it would be a less expensive solution to staying in Salzburg itself. As luck would have it the first door we knocked on had had a no-show that evening so we received the only room left in a nice home with a bit of view and own balcony, where we enjoyed strawberries and a glass of wine while gazing out at the alpine views.
We drove easily to Salzburg the next day and spent half a day exploring in temperamental weather, which fortunately held out, for the most part. We dutifully ate pastries at Tomaselli, a well-known café where a server comes by with a tray of such delectable looking treats you wish she would just go away and leave you with the whole thing, we explored the Hohensalzburg Fortress feeling as if we had been transported to another era, and ended with beer at the renowned Augustiner - perhaps the latter would have been more fun if the weather had been better and we could have sat outside, but inside the smoky cavernous halls was for me a forgettable experience, and not being much of a beer drinker, beer is still just beer to me.
After Salzburg, time to settle in landed us around Lofer so we stayed there at a guesthouse otherwise unremarkable, but for the alpine feeling of the neighbours goats grazing under the balcony. Further enhancing the alpine feeling have been the radio stations we've found in the last few days of driving playing non-stop yodelling and regional music - something that would be strange, and quite probably annoying, anywhere else but here where we've even found ourselves joining in and yodelling along.
Yesterday's drive through to Lucerne, amidst rising temperatures and sunshine - 31 degrees by the time we got here - provided some of the most stunning natural scenery thus far: vineyards, azure blue and turquoise lakes bordered by mountains whose slopes are dotted with farms and small clusters of houses, and whose rotund trees and bucolic green fields appear so velvety soft you wish you could reach out and rub them.
Today we are planning to take the gondola up to Mt. Pilatus and hike a little. Later we will change locations as our B&B, booked the previous night on the Internet, has not been as portrayed - dark and small, it is also noisy alongside a busy road and by a railway; further its wooden ceiling is so low it skims Mico's head, and he needs to duck in order to avoid a support beam in the middle. Our new place promises a lake view, own terrace and a quiet farm location. It sounds at least hopeful.