(written by Dave)
After yesterday’s epic ride over the Julian Alps, we were both a little sore this morning. We had a nice sleep in at the hostel –not noisy at all. Euro 2012 went to Spain but the 4-nil score may have contributed to lack of shouts when the game ended. We were both sleeping soundly at that point. Nancy misread the brekkie times, thinking that it was an 8:00 start. We didn’t make it down until just afterwards. Just as well that we didn’t know they started serving at 7:00 as we needed the rest.
With the help of the hostel staff, we got our laundry done this morning. I’m still not sure if we pay for this service but they were very friendly about the whole thing, offering to dry and fold if we wanted. Because most everything is either lycra or wool, we declined the drying and took everything right from the washer, stringing a line in our room. You can see what a mess we’ve made of a 5 bunk dorm room in the photo below. I think we paid 8€ extra to have the 5 bunks to ourselves but I’m not 100% – there may have been a translation issue. So far, no one has knocked on the door asking for a bed.
We wandered town a bit after laundry, trying to get chores done, while taking in a few of the sights of Villach (pronounced “Villa”). Villach is another one of those much-fought-over European cities that we’d never heard of before this trip. A quick history of Villach takes us back, like so many of the cities in this region, to the Romans. Since then, the city has been destroyed by fire, earthquakes, the plague and various wars. It became the regional centre for Protestantism during the reformation only to see the Protestants driven out during the Counter Reformation. Napoleon and his troops used Villach as a control centre when they were charging across Europe. In WWI it was a key supply town and finally in WWII the allies thought it so important that they flew 52 bombing raids over Villach. All these years of conflict have left an eclectic mix of buildings but they’ve really done a nice job over the past 50 years to smooth over the cracks. The central core has a great pedestrian only section which includes everything you could ever want with shops and restaurants galore –so long as it is not Sunday (like it was yesterday when we arrived).
We managed to find an Austrian SIM for the iPhone at almost the best price we’ve seen since Asia. It took about 5 minutes for the whole process. No ID required. Buying a SIM in some countries has taken on almost top-secret-clearance proportions, in terms of ID checks and paperwork. While in other countries like Austria and Croatia they didn’t even want to know who we are. Given that it is a pre-paid SIM, basically throwaway I’m not sure why such an effort is made in some places. At least now we are connected again (besides the wi-fi here in the hostel).
We had a nice lunch on a bench at the riverfront, found a good Southern Germany map and eventually made our way back to the hostel. We are now sitting on the covered patio watching a big thunder storm. We have a rough route for the next three days and hope to ride over Austria’s highest pass but the weather is a big question mark. You don’t really want to be at 8,000 feet in the middle of a thunder storm. At least we know about tomorrow, we’ll head up the Drau River towards Spittal. The Drau River is one of those that you can ride on bike paths for 100’s of Ks. We’ll check them out tomorrow and use them if they don’t turn out to be too much dirt or overly circuitous. We are hoping that the t-storms at least hold off until afternoon. We have a couple campgrounds lined up but we’ll see how the weather goes there as well…
UPDATE – well, the bonding on Nancy’s front tooth (from a broken tooth many, many years ago) just fell off so we have to try to find a dentist tomorrow here in Villach to see what can be done. Apparently there are lots of dentists here, which is good – we’ll get the hostel folks to try to help us find one. We may be here another day, depending on how quickly we can get in to see someone. Ah, the joys of being on the road and feeling the wind in your hair– except sometimes, everyday life slows you down…