Saturday, February 8, 2014

Road Trip to Lech, Austria (via Appenzell, Switzerland and Liechtenstein)

We took our first overnight trip this weekend to ski in Lech, Austria.  But getting there (and back) was half the fun.  Rather than heading straight for Lech, we decided to take a few brief detours along the way to see some nearby sites in Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein before our arrival in Austria.  After less than 5 hours in the car, we'd hit 4 countries -- not a bad afternoon for wanderers who like to travel to new countries.

On our drive we got our first views of the Swiss and Austrian Alps, which were just as imposing as we expected.  It's been an unusually mild winter in Germany, so the only snow we saw was on high mountain peeks.  

Our first stop was in Lindau, Germany -- the last place we can use our Esso card to fill up on gas before reaching the Austrian border.  Turns out, Lindau is a really cute town on Lake Constance, the third largest lake in Europe.  It's a bustling town in the summer, but was pretty quiet in February.

Pedestrian streets in the center of town
Stadtmuseum (The State Museum), with some NSFW baroque paintings, and the Saturday market
On right, the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) from the 15th century
Lindau is centered on a small island that juts into the lake, with a port and harbor side promenade.  From the promenade you can see both Austria and Switzerland across the lake.  The low clouds you see in the pictures are actually the Alps which rise quickly on the other side.
The Mangturm (Old Lighthouse) is from the 13th century.
The Neuer Leuchtturn (New Lighthouse) and a Bavarian lion guard the entrance to the harbor.
Matt decided it was not swimming weather.
Our next stop was Appenzell, Switzerland, a cute area in the upper northeast corner filled with rolling hills, chalets, and perfectly quaint villages.  Traveling between these countries was very easy since none of the border crossings were actually manned.  There were some customs officials that would check the trucks, but we just drove on through.  

The region is best known for its Appenzell cheese, which Matt enjoyed while Kristin found the smell a bit pungent.  Even the restaurant was smelly.  But it was super cute and the waitress was very nice, so everyone should go to Cafe Flade and have Appenzeller liquor and beer.  

Guess who ate this.  He didn't eat the twig.
 This town center was also filled with cute old buildings.
Where's the road?  Under the house, of course.  Fortunately the GPS in our new car knew where to go.

Residents vote in person in the town square (when it isn't being used as a parking lot).
 Kristin made some new friends.

These are my only European friends.  But they are entertaining.
These guys are warming up to me.
We then headed out through the valleys to Liechtenstein.  We're excited to come back to Appenzell to do some hiking when the weather is a bit more favorable.

Liechtenstein isn't the most happening place, but it was a country we hadn't been to, so we needed to make the stop. There are lots of tax advantages to doing business in Liechtenstein.  And the country is making millions by charging gullible tourists 2.50 euros to have your passport stamped at the tourist office.  (We're suckers, we paid.)

Getting our passports stamped.
The country is about 16 miles long and 5 miles wide, but is bordered by high Alps along the east side, so the habitable land is very small.  The capital of Vaduz has some pedestrian streets with lots of shopping.

The town has great views of the Alps.  And free parking on Saturdays.  So that's something.

Vaduz Castle, which houses the Prince of Liechtenstein, sits above the city of Vaduz.  It looked pretty boring from the outside and no one invited us in to view the interiors.

If I had a whole country, my castle would be way cooler.
About an hour later, we were already in Lech checking out the snow.  We couldn't wait to start skiing.

After two days of skiing, we headed back to Stuttgart. It snowed about 8" in Lech the night before we left, so we waited a few hours for the roads to clear before heading out.  We were very jealous of all the fresh carvings in the powder made by the early morning backcountry skiers.

A nice way to start the day.
Lots of cool tunnels built into the sides of the Alps.
We wanted to check out St. Anton on our way home so we took a brief detour about 20 minutes further into the valley.  The apres ski scene may be better in St. Anton, but we thought Lech was more picturesque.  The skiing is also very different in St. Anton because much of the resort is below the tree line and this valley only a few miles away doesn't get as much snow.

We enjoyed our visit to Landau on Lake Constance so much that we decided to follow the lake on the drive back.  The towns built along the lake were quite scenic, so we were happy to take a break from driving on the Autobahn.    

Basilika Birnau on the shore of the lake

Congratulations, you've reached the end of a very long post on just getting to Lech. We're excited to share pictures of our skiing adventures soon.

1 comment:

  1. This seriously looks fake. I can't believe you guys went skiing in the Alps for a weekend...your life is so cool!!!