We've left a gloomy Dublin in the afternoon heading for Munich and our final destination, St Gilgen on Wolfgangsee lake, an half hour outside Salzburg. We meet Brian in Munich airport around 7.30pm who came in from Zurich and we head to pick up our car. But before we go collect the car, and most importantly, we make a beeline for McDonalds. Isn't it great you can head anywhere in the world and get the same McD meal wherever you are. Fortified we go and pick up our "luxury car", an "Infinity sport" which we think is an Opel, what happened to our promised BMW 5 series? Anyway it's big enough for us all and it's automatic. We begin our 2 hour journey, but first I have to figure out how to get the sat nav working in the car. Eventually we're on the way. I manage to get cruise control up and running. In fact this car isn't half bad, it's got lane control, tells you about cars coming up on your blind spots, and it even senses cars in front of you, how fast they're driving and slows down and speeds up accordingly. These Germans sure know how to build cars!!! By 11.30pm we make it to the apartments and by midnight we are knackered and in our beds.
Now, early is a relative thing, it's 8am which I remind you is 7am at home, and I'm up! My wife will tell you that's early for me! A look out the window and it's so disappointing that I can't see a thing out the window with the mist, it's supposed to be 25 degrees today!! Anyway we're up and out by 9, though we spend a good few minutes trying to find the handbrake and turn it off. We're off to St Gilgen village for breakfast but first to find parking. We find a lot and leave all the valuables in the boot, but it doesn't seem to lock, eventually it locks but we can't figure out how we got it to lock. Later in the day I figure it out, the car senses when the key is within a few feet of the car and allows you to open the boot and doors without pressing the key. What a car!! By now the sun is taking strength and the mist is burning away to reveal the magnificent scenery, the lake and the majestic mountains that surround it, just heavenly!
After breakfast and we walk around the village and it's very beautiful, the cleanliness, the architecture, the weather helps, the lake front, and the place just appears to encourage good living: walking, cycling, sailing, swimming, tennis and all sorts of activities.
The waterfront is fantastic and we decide to head up Schaftberg mountain, not as energetic as it sounds. We first have to get to St Wolfgang which is a lovely boat trip away on the lake, then we take the mountain rack railway which uses antique steam and diesel locomotives to scale the steep incline of the 1783 metre mountain of Schaftberg. You can feel the strain of the engine as it forces the carriages up the side of the mountain at a slow pace due to the steep climb. The heat is climbing as well and its a magnificent day and we are going to have clear blue skys and get great vistas. We're not disappointed if feels life we are on top of the world and the panoramic views of the surrounding, mountains, valleys and lakes are stunning. In fact photos and video just can't do justice to the views. There is a hotel perched right at the top and on the northern side it looks over a steep cliff and makes you admire the work and effort it must have taken to get the railway and buildings up here. From virtually the very top we see hang-gliders begin their amazing flights. They lazily fly high above the vistas like soaring eagles, it must be hugely exhilarating for these guys to fly on the updrafts and wind currents of this truly amazing place.
Time to return and take the train back down. Only problem is Brian disappears and we miss the last boat! But every cloud and all that, and we nonetheless have a nice trip home by bus around the lake, through the different lakeside villages. Home, a quick shower, and out again for dinner, which is a treat in a local restaurant the name of which escapes me now! A fantastic first day, as Kieran says "I sort of felt this place was going to be good, but I wasn't prepared for how great it would be, it will have great memories", and we still have a couple of more days! Now in the morning let's hope Ireland can beat Italy in the RWC and make it an even better weekend, "come on you greens"!