Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Italy by Car
THE 2426 KM DRIVE
In 5 days, I covered 2426 km and four countries (Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Italy). I crossed international borders 22 times. I planned each day’s drive the night before, choosing my destination primarily based on the promise of good weather.
11. November – 460 km, Germany, Austria, and Italy
Friends Rich and Jill joined me for breakfast and soon enough, we were on the Autobahn in two 2006 3er Series BMWs. Our itinerary: drive across the Brennerpaß into Italy and then head back north to Berchtesgaden. I wonder if anyone noticed the consecutively numbered license plates on the two automobiles.
We headed south in tandem on the A8, continuing on the A93 and then the A12 (Inntal-Autobahn) as it led to the Brenner-Autobahn (A13) and became the Autostrada del Brennero (A22)
Heading south was a good idea as it offered the best weather in the region. It turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day, with temperatures reaching 13°C.
Once we got to Sferzing (214 km later), it was time to change direction and head towards Berchtesgaden. This involved retracing our steps until we reached the motorway intersection at Inntal, at which point we headed east on the A8 towards Salzburg.
I let the navigation system guide me the final kilometers to Berchtesgaden and the InterContinental Resort. Given the fog, the late hour, and the fact that we were climbing to an altitude of 1000 m, I was able to enjoy the ride knowing that a little voice would tell me where to go.
Tired but exhilarated, I checked into the InterContinental. Even though it was dark, I could sense how incredible the view from my window would be. I couldn’t wait until morning to actually see it.
The view was incredible. The InterContinental Resort Berchtesgaden, built on the site of Field Marshal Hermann Göring’s house near the Berghof, is promoted as being “between heaven and earth,” set on a small plateau 1000 m high overlooking the Nationalpark Berchtesgaden in Berchtesgadener Land, Bayern (Bavaria) adjacent to Salzburg, Austria. Innately beautiful, the Nationalpark contains five main mountain ranges; one third of the park is rocky and glaciated, a further third is covered in mixed woodlands of spruce, beech, fir, and other conifers; alpine pastures comprise the remainder.
12. November – 550 km, Salzburg and Niederösterreich
Today was a ca. 550 km roundtrip to Dürnstein. Leaving the InterContinental, I took the windy Alpenstraße (B160) to the Tauern-Autobahn (A10), staying on that a brief 7 km or so until I get on the West-Autobahn (A1). I stopped briefly along the banks of the Mondsee, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Salzkammergut. I continued driving west to Melk, where I turned on to the Donau-Bundesstraße (B3), running along the Donau (Danube).
Dürnstein is where Richard Löwenherz (Richard the Lionhearted) was held captive after having been captured in Erdberg by the Mayor of Vienna in 1192. He was held in a huge fortress on a hill high above the village. His loyal troubadour, Blondel de Neale, found him, so the story goes, by wandering around Europe singing Richard´s favorite ballads outside every castle, until a response came.
I stopped at the Gasthof Goldener Strauss for a glass of Grüner Veltliner (a local specialty), Frittatensuppe, Forelle (Trout), and for dessert, Powideltascherl before returning to Berchtesgaden.
13. November – 370 km, Bayern, Salzburg, Steiermark, Kärnten, Osttirol
Today was a Landstraße/Bundesstraße day. I started on the B305 leaving Berchtesgaden and, after 10 km, crossing the border into Austria, where I continued on Landstraßen and then the B159 for several kilometers. At Hallein, I entered the Tauern-Autobahn (A10), going through the Tauernautobahn Tunnel. After 128 km, at Lendorf I switched to the B100 to get to Lienz. I then headed to Kitzbühel and back to Berchtesgaden taking the Felber Tauern Straße and Tunnel, and for the drive into Berchtesgaden, the Alpenstraße.
I drove through many different climates (coldest: 0,5°C – warmest 12°C in Berchtesgaden), went from light frost and a little snow on the ground to sunshine, and went up and down several times to 1200 or 1300 m.
14. November – 747 km, Germany, Austria, Hungary
For this trip, I planned a mix of Autobahnen and Bundesstraßen, allowing me to take the Tauern-Autobahn for ca. 60 km, and continue with Bundesstraßen (the B99 and the B320) for 75 km towards Liezen in Steiermark. From Liezen I took the Pyhrn-Autobahn (A9) towards Leoben (Kärnten) for ca. 80 km. From there I continued on the Semmering-Schnellstraße (S6) through Steiermark and Niederösterreich. The S6 meets the Süd-Autobahn (A2) at the Anschlußstelle Knoten Seebenstein where I continued on the A2 towards Wien (Vienna). Near Wiener Neustadt I switched to the S4 (Mattersburger-Schnellstraße). From there, I took the S31 to the Südost-Autobahn and in 6 km I was crossing the border into Hungary.
I did get a chance to practice my Hungarian (which is somewhat limited) and enjoyed some nice palacsintá (with chestnut filling) and Hungarian coffee. With some quick shopping (stocking up on paprikás and Marzipan), I still had a 380 km trip back to Berchtesgaden so I headed towards Wien and took the West-Autobahn (A1) for a fast drive back.
15. November – Berchtesgaden to Garching bei München – 173 km
The weather this morning was the best since I arrived. Sunny, 12°C (of course that was at 1000 m. When I got down to 500m, it was .5 ° C). I didn’t want to leave the InterContinental (in addition to the view, I was becoming especially attached to the electronically-controlled, gas Kamin (fireplace) in the room), but it’s a good thing I did. Two days later, Germany was hit with heavy winter storms and, although my car has xDrive, it also is equipped with high-performance summer tires.
My final drive for this trip would take me to the offices of E.H. Harms in Garching (bei München). A ritual I’ve followed many times before. Condition report; power of attorney form, remove front license plate (I had already removed the first aid kit and warning triangle and shipped these with other sundry items from the hotel), and hand over one key.
Rolf Raffelsieper (see resources), who worked at BMW since 1967 before retiring, was happy to pick me up at E.H. Harms and drive me to the airport in a new 745d.
Before I knew it, I was on board Lufthansa flight 410 to New York. I logged into FlyNet, for on board Internet access. The adventure was over, but I had a lot of e-mails and pictures to send from 11,000 m aloft.
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.