So after a busy day in Vienna and the night at Kathie's parents' place, we had another mighty breakfast together – thanks again to Kathie for that one – and then the three of us went out for a nice walk in the hills nearby Krems.
The valleys here are quite picture-postcard. As they pointed out to me, there's a marked contrast between say NZ hills & mountains and Austrian hills & mountains: here in Europe, all the available space is cultivated – there's fields all the way up the hills, as high as they can go.
There was lots of other stuff to see too. It'd just been raining, and this drove out a number of little lizards, hoofing it across the path. The very distinctive black-and-yellow pattern makes them easy to recognise; in English, we call these little guys Fire Salamanders.
Next up there were these curious plants with spindly bits coming out of the middle of what I assume are the flowers. Anyone know what they are?
So after our nice walk together, Kathie headed in to work and Fritz and I went towards in Sankt Pölten, going by the back roads so I could check out the little townships on the way.
Nerd joke warning: it was so cute, each town would have not just the sign announcing its name when it started but a little sign with a / at the end of the town – just like HTML/XML tags! :)
We went by the supermarket on the way back to pick up supplies, and Fritz had to rescue me – they didn't take credit card! Just as well he was there, or I would have been in trouble :).
In Austria they at least do seem to have good point-of-sale card support (like NZ's EFTPOS), but accepting credit card is fairly rare (though, most supermarkets would be expected to). (I mostly use EFTPOS in NZ, but my card doesn't work in shops here…)
Fritz was also on the phone to Rainer, a very friendly traveller colleague & friend of his. Would I like to go for a wander around with him this afternoon, maybe to one of the castle ruins in the area? Definitely!
Back at the apartment, I try and sort out some tickets and hotel bookings for my next hop. Meantime, Fritz (who does a damn good job being Vegan in a meat-centric country) cooked us a great lunch using Seitan, which has a good meaty texture and taste (so maybe not so good for ppl like Mog who don't like the taste of meat, but great for the rest of us!).
Rainer arrived & we were introduced, I dunno if it's just the ones I know but Austrians all seem very easy to get along with! We had a nice natter about work & university/software engineering stuff on the way out to Burgruine Aggstein (the ruins of Castle Aggstein).
The walk we take runs about an hour and a half up from where we park by a local church through to the ruins, which takes us through several different kinds of forest – there's a really noticeable difference where the trees like beech & oak (with leaves) gives way to needle trees (like pine). The density of the two is very different, I guess pine is all about catching energy in the dim winter.
Rainer proves himself a sharp geocacher on the way – I've set myself a goal of doing a geocache in each country, and it was very much quicker with him there :).
Aggstein sits on a bend in the mighty Donau (Danube). The knights sited the castle on the prominent hill outcrop looking over all this, and it’s easy to see how much control this position gave.
So we have a good wander around the castle ruins; they certainly look the part, but they aren’t huge; the footplan is quite compact, and I didn’t realise until the end when I read the info board just how built-up it was – though in retrospect it’s obvious that given a limited amount of materials and human effort available to build, a castle that’s got comparable dimensions for each side is going to be more efficient to build, so all of it was multiple stories (whereas the ruins only convey one or two or in a couple of cases three stories of that).
This was very much a real, built-for-business castle, so it was quite cool to see how it went together. Incidentally, there was only one part that was “enclosed”, which they called “the ladies’ tower”; this was therefore the only part that was really heated, bad luck if you lived in the rest. Try and be a knight/lady next time?
So after that, the light is starting to fade, and we need to get back to the car (there is a carpark close to the ruine, BTW, we just literally took the scenic route), so we zip back along the track, the forest making beautiful light-ray patterns which don't come through on the photos, and drive back to Sankt Pölten.
Thanks to Rainer for taking me out, an excellent afternoon.
Fritz takes me out to a local pub that (this means nothing to non-Chch people BUT) is kinda the equiv of The Dux, and as soon as we get there he orders the local special for me. What's that? Wiener schnitzel of course!
It's giant, wrapped in yum-o friend batter/crumb stuff, and it comes in a burger construction that's half as big as I am! Very tasty, couldn't normally eat it but thanks to the magic of lots of exercise, polish the whole thing off in about 10 minutes flat.
Afterwards we head out to the other room and before we head back to base and hit the sack there’s just time for a game of foosball (I suck) and an amusing game of pool (like all good pub pool tables, this one has giant balls, generous pockets, and a surface like a hilly golf course).
While we’re there I mention the burčák I drunk in and on the way from the Czech Republic and Fritz and Kathie go ‘ah!’ (well, the Austro-German equivalent) and produce a very tasty glass of the same (white) from the bar… I could live on this stuff, I gotta talk to some NZ winemakers about hooking me up with some!
So, another great day in Austria. Tomorrow morning, it’s time to head west.