There’s a road in Austria that’s every true drivers dream; The Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse.
Around half way through our 2006 Tour of Central Europe we met up with the 2J’s,(our youngest son and his wife Jan) at a lovely campsite at Lienz in southern Austria. We were preparing for the above mentioned road, they were resting after cycle/camping around Sardinia and up the length of Italy. We spent a few really good days chilling out with them, during which they debated whether to hitch a ride on the next stage of our trip, up and over the awesome Grossglockner Pass. In the end they back peddled into Italy for some more climbing in The Dolomites.
After draining all the waste and fresh water tanks to reduce weight we were ready (with a little apprehension) for the drive ahead. We drove to it in early June and it had only been open a matter of days. The three metre high drifts of snow on the road sides and the snowploughs still around reminding us it’s not a place to loiter for long. It soon became apparant that the 26 euro Toll was money well spent. It was worth it for the privilege of being amonst such fantastic scenery. The drive up is very steep with lots of sharp tight bends. Our progress being slowed by a truck, laden with snowploughs, eventually resulted in our van overheating. After cooling off at a convenient viewing area we continued up this breathtaking place, like being on top of the world. It seems amazingly high and with snow-covered mountains and gullies it is so, so beautiful.
At the summit you enter a short tunnel, which at 2575mts.is the highest point of the drive, there is another small viewing area to try and capture the splendid views. Just after this there is a short optional detour, (on this trip we didn’t but we hope to in 2008) along the Gletscherstrasse with its restaurant and visiters centre. From here you can view the majestic 3798 mts of the mighty Grossglockner itself. Also you can get down to the Pasterze Glacier.
At numerous parking/viewing places there are infomation boards and seating areas, so the journey could be spread over several hours(weather permitting). You feel you are in a wilderness of such beauty it’s a bit of an anticlimax after more walls of snow and hairpin bends to eventually arrive below the snow-line at the other end of this most memorable of roads.
Our guide-book rated the pass as one of the most awesome and spectacular drives across the Alps, with steep and tight bends, not for the faint hearted. On completion of our drive along it we have to agree………………….
For more about the area click on www.hohetauern.at