27 July 2006: Next morning, my typical wake was at 8am, since I couldn’t sleep a lot, due to the heat. I packed up my stuff once again and immediately prepared myself for departure. This time I wanted to see the province of Austria and my plan was to end up at Graz, where I located a nice hotel to stay.
The distance from Vienna till Graz is around 170 kilometers. Driving outside Vienna, and while I was on the Autobahn, I stopped at a Shell gas station to put some gas. I saw there an Austrian motorcyclist with a Yamaha 600TT, doing a cigarette and taking a brief rest. I grabbed the opportunity to ask him how I should go to Graz but avoiding the Autobahn. He suggested to me –with the few English words he knew – that I should take the provincial road B17, their “old” highway. “It’s a good road, it will take you directly to Graz” he told me. I thanked him and departed. One kilometer further and while still on the highway, I saw the road sign B17-Graz and I followed it, exiting the highway.
The whole landscape wasn’t looking as good as I expected. At some point I got lost (or confused) and followed the S4 instead. The B17 road was splitting into two different roads, S4 & B54. It didn’t take much time to understand that I was on the wrong road. I stopped at a gas station to ask how I should get on the B54 again or alternatively, how I would go to Aspang, a city 5 kilometers far from the place I was. The gas station owner, around 45 years old, didn’t knew English, but tried as much as he could to explain to me in German how to get there. I was trying to pay attention on the way he described the directions. Thanking him, I went to my bike to take a closer look on the map and see where I wanted to go. Until the time I understood where I wanted to go, the gas station owner was already closing his gas station and was coming towards me. He was holding a cold cup of tea along with written instructions on what cities I should see/pass through in order to reach Aspang. I was astonished by his gesture. I thanked him a lot for the tea and the instructions and after a while, I left.
Five minutes later, I reached Aspang. From there, the road passed through Friedberg, Hartberg, Kaindorf and Gleisdorf. From Kaindorf up to Gleisdorf the road was in between forests and hills full of green, typical Austria! The asphalt was … the best I had seen! At a parking lot, I setup my videocamera to record the route. I wanted to make a “gift” to my friend Stavros back in Greece, so that he could see the road condition and the landscapes I was seeing. The distance from Gleisdorf up to Graz was 23 kilometers. Reaching Graz, I stopped for a while at the city’s center in order to decide what I should do. Should I stay there or should I stay outside the city in order to find a motel? Finally, after talking with a friend of mine on the phone, I decided it would be wiser to find a scenic place to stay, outside the city.
I was looking on the map to find a provincial road, so I managed to find B70. After a lot of help from my GPS, I managed to get on B70. Driving with a direction to the west, at some point I saw a very beautiful castle over a hill. Since I wanted to take a photo of it, I turned right to enter to the small town, named “Stainz”. Following the road, I discovered that the castle was actually on my back and slowly faded out, while I was heading for … unknown destination. I opened my GPS again to see where I should go. My GPS kept informing me that I should go straight and follow the road I was on, until the highway. So, I listened to it. After a while, I had the impression that I was going upper and upper, climbing some kind of mountain. At some point, I stopped and turned back to see where I was. What I was seeing on my back was a magnificent valley full of green. “Oh, nice way to go!” I thought.
The road was tight and narrow but with a good asphalt condition. Keeping driving forward, I entered into a very thick forest. While I was in the middle of the forest, I took a look at my mobile, where I noticed that even though my battery was fully charged, I had no signal at all. Except that part, I then took a look at my bike’s odometer, where it had already written 200 kilometers. Oops! I forgot to fill my bike with gasoline. Still, the reserve tank was not on. The distance that my GPS was showing up to the highway was 30 kilometers. After 2 kilometers of driving, my reserve tank was lit. And as if that was not good enough, my GPS was stuck and turned off by itself. “Damn! Nobody will find me here!” I mumbled. Since the road was going downwards, I thought it would be wiser to switch off the engine. After 10 kilometers I saw the first trucks and told to myself “I’m saved!!”
The road I was seeing was the Autobahn A2, leading to Klagenfurt. The reserve tank was almost in the middle and I was entering the A2. 5 kilometers while driving on the Autobahn and I couldn’t still see any sign for a gas station. “I should get off the Autobahn at the first exit I’ll see”, I was thinking. Around 12 kilometers further down, while driving with a direction for Klagenfurt, I found an exit, labeled “Modriach”, without second thought, I followed it. At the cross-road at the end of the exit, I had two choices: On the right, the road would lead up to Modriach and on the left, the road would lead up to Pack and Hirschegg. I didn’t read any signs except the golden “gas station” sign, pointing on my left, at 12 kilometers distance. “Hm, I think my gas is enough up to that point”, I figured. I turned left and followed the “gas station” sign, like the bees follow the honey. The road was provincial, passing through plenty of fir trees. While driving I saw the altitude through my GPS, where it was displaying 1000 meters. A few meters further down, I noticed on the left corner of my helmet that something was sparkling. I turned my head and discovered a huge lake where plenty of Austrian and German tourists were enjoying the sun and the water. I was amazed from what I was watching, so much that I almost forgot that my gas tank problem was still there. I was almost empty. En route, I saw a small house and an old man sitting outside. I stopped and asked him: “Gas?”. He started talking in German. “English” I asked again. “Yes!”, he replied kindly. He spoke English!! He informed me that the gas station was only 5 kilometers far; I thanked him for his help and followed the road. Up to today, I think that those 5 kilometers where the scariest of my life. While driving, I was continuously watching the sideways on where I should stop and start pushing when my gas was out.
Finally, after 5 kilometers, a small and really beautiful village named “Hirschegg” appeared in front of me. The gas station was right next to the main (and only!) square of the village, next to a traditional coffee-house. A really beautiful village with 10 or so houses only, located at the foot of the mountain, surrounded by tall fir trees. Behind the gas station, there was a very small river. Also, the main square was dressed with colorful flowers, a really amazing place to be (at least for me!). I went inside the coffee-house to search for the responsible for the gas pump, since it wasn’t automatic. The responsible person proved to be a very kind woman, which was in charge of the gas station (with only one pump) and the coffee-shop at the same time. After filling up my bike’s tank, I sat to the coffee-shop to drink a cappuccino. I paid the enormous amount of …. 1,2€!! Looking around me, I was wondering if it was possible to stay there for the rest of the day. Discussing with the polite woman, which by the way was speaking flawless English, I told her that I really liked the place, village and landscape. I also asked her if she knew of any hotels around the area that I could stay. She informed me that there was a very nice and cheap one, 2,5 kilometers straight from there. I sat at the cafe for half an hour and after taking some photos of the village I started heading for the hotel she told me.
Exactly 2,5 kilometers away from the main square there was that simple, yet beautiful hotel she mentioned me. I went straight to the reception to ask for the price. The price for one-man room was at 34€. I happily accepted and quickly unpacked my stuff into my room. Did a quick shower and went down to the huge restaurant (inside the same hotel) to have my lunch. Even though the menu was in German, with the assistance of the brawny receptionist-that was also the waitress- I chose a “cordon blu”, which proved to be delicious and in huge portion, for the price of 7€ only. After lunch, I ordered a cappuccino (1,5€). Why didn’t I know this place earlier!?!?
Not having many options, in the afternoon I decided to wash my bike. At the back of the hotel I had seen a rubber pipe and a high-pressure machine. I asked kindly enough from the owner of the hotel to use his rubber pipe and the machine, which not only gave me the permission to use it, but also told me to use anything else I could find into his garage in order to wash my bike. I gladly started the washing. Around 30 minutes later, I noticed that too many dark clouds were gathering on the sky above me. That time I was finishing up the washing so I hid the bike into his garage in order not to get dirty again in case it would rain. After 10 minutes it was teeming with rain!! The only thing that I was thinking though was for how many hours (or days?) would it last? It would be too irritating to put my waterproof clothes in order to drive next day out of there. I was lucky enough that I had already one day ahead in my schedule, so I could easily stay one more day if I wanted or if it was needed.
When night came, I returned to my huge room (with the big wooden double bed) where I discovered that I had also a satellite TV with 900+ channels. Something that I noticed was that at the end of the day, I was realizing the kind of loneliness this type of journeys have… endless zapping until late night, where eventually, I could stay awake, so I got myself under the feather quilt, while outside it didn’t stop raining.