By OTTO HERSCHAN
FOR the motorist or the independent traveller, the time before one's holiday is very important.
The modern trend of booking holidays earlier and earlier. and consequent difficulties in finding accommodation anywhere that is in any way popular, lead agencies to book most of the accommodation by at least January. This makes it imperative to plan well ahead, arnd it also suggests that when possible it is wise to avoid the peak travelling months of July and August; in addition to the other reasons, accommodation prices tend to be far more expensive. The first decision to be made is, of course, one's destination. Last year, in my case, this was first cif all the Wachaii, a stretch of the Danube some 40 miles west of Vienna, and subsequently Vienna itself.
T 11 E next detail is to study care' fully possible routes, which can make a world of difference. For example, we found that, going to Austria via Belgium and Germany, and with the intention not just of touring hut of reaching our destination, the autobahn, even if it involves a detour. is worth every extra mile that one can travel on it.
On the way to Vienna, the greatest distance covered in one day was 296 miles, of which 100 were on the autobahn, taking two hours, while the remaining 196 miles took seven hours and a half. On the return journey, 306 miles on the autobahn were covered in five and a half hours.
Once one has decided on the destination and any possible tours, it is worth examining careflilly all the literature available from the various state tourist offices regarding accommodation. Some of them publish complete lists of hotels and guest houses with prices, addresses, et,.. These are most useful.
HOWEVER, provided one's holi day is taken before July or early September. it is, I think, fairly safe to risk finding accommodation en route without booking it. In any case. we had no difficulty and experienced a variety from complete luxury to great simplicity. Hotel charges may vary from one extreme to the other, without necessarily a corresponding difference in service. This applies equally to restaurants. It is advisable to pick both, whenever possible, away from the large cities.
Route, destination, and accommodation should all be thoroughly studied, for, if nothing else. they will begin to make the tourist familiar with his proposed journey. It is here worth mentioning that, should no member of the party speak the languages of the countries visited, it might be advisable to book in advance, as most formalities will then be completed, and the required bedrooms, beds, or bath will be obtained with the least inconvenience.
No trouble taken before one's holiday in learning as much background information as possible will he in vain. For example, I was familiar with Vienna. though not at all so with the Wachau, but I blithely assumed that as we were going to Vienna, v,c must go to the newly re-opened Opera House, forgetting two important factors.
One, that the State Opera Company's season ended last year on June 30; two, that the Opera is extremely popular, not only with tourists, but with the Viennese, and that it might be difficult to obtain tickets.
As luck would have ,it, we did manage to get seats. but this involved much time spent with various officials and helpful friends that might have been spent more profitably and pleasurably. Thus anyone going to a city might well study the calendar of events. deciding beforehand what attracts him most, and, with the help of one of the tourist offices or agencies. make suitable arrangements before departure.
FOR the motorist it is now left to decide how to cross the Channel: whether by air—either Silver City or Air Charter—or by sea, in which case there are a number of alternatives. We chose the Belgian Maritime Railways route, from Dover to Ostend.
Finally, it is as well to have the car thoroughly serviced before leaving. 'The smallest fault is worth investigating.
In our case, we had the car thoroughly serviced, but mentioned to the garage that recently the car had not always started at the first touch of the starter. This was dismissed by the mechanic as pure chance.
We were to suffer front this "chance." for we had only reached Dover when we had great trouble with the starter, and had to have it repaired in Bruges. This can cause considerable language difficulties; we were only saved by a gallant Belgian lady. I think she had never heard of any part of any car, but she applied her obviously high intelligence to producing at least an approximate translation.
However, a little booklet, issued by Shell, gives translation of all the words that might be. necessary in most European languages. Technical terms are apt to defeat even the best. linguist. Doubtless,
other petrol companies issue similar booklets.
In passing. it may be mentioned that two wing mirrors are a useful addition when driving on the right-hand side oi the road.
THE final question. though it is A one of the earliest to be decided, is who are to be one' s travelling companions. This is a serious matter: being thrown together for two, three, or four weeks is a great test in give-and-take and consideration, particularly in hot weather. Perhaps the greatest hazard is to take young children. They will want to tour every part of the boat, particularly anywhere marked "Ni' Admittance"; and this will be merely the least of one's worries. With babies and very young children. there is the absence of cots, etc. An unexpected problem tn country districts is pasteurised milk, which is often unobtainable.
If the child is not used to boiled milk, this may be quite awkward: on one occasion, we had to travel 15 miles and down 3,000 feet to get pasteurised milk ! It is advisable to buy it in one of the larger towns where it is readily available. Vacuum flasks (in the plural) are therefore indispensable.
wITH no disrespect, our party " suffered from every disadvan
tage. 'We' • were my wife, myself, our child aged two, a priest, a nephew aged 14, and a friend who is a nursing sister.
The first disadvantage was that the baby must obviously go to bed at a reasonable hour. Even though it may be as late as 6.30, one must allow at least another hour to settle in one's acconimodation and make suitable arrangements about meals, etc., for both adults and the baby. Secondly, in the mornings an early start was never possible. as the priest in our party naturally wished to say Mass. and one cannot ask the local parish priest to make arrangements for Mass at an unearthly hour of the morning.
However, this problem was more theoretical than actual, for we found that, particularly in Germany and Austria. Masses did in fact begin al a very early hour of the morning. It was not unusual to hear the bells ringing for Mass at 5 a.m.
We set off at 9.30 on a Thursday morning. The luggage rack on top of the car was amply stocked, and every cubic inch in the hoot had been filled.
The extra weight meant a considerable increase in tyre pressure, besides worrying the driver of our Austin Cambridge A.50 to no inconsiderable extent. 13ut he soon gained confidence despite the Trooping of the Colour and the resulting traffic chaos.
THE question of being first or last on a modern car ferry such as the Princess Charlotte, is not worth worrying about. since disembarkation at Ostend takes so little time. The Princess Charlotte is a modern and comfortable boat, hut we may have struck a bad .Jay; cdtainly the food—in this case lunch—was not to be cornmended.
The service was slow, the food inferior, and the price excessive. We might have been better advised to have reached Dover earlier and lunched in the town.hough it may be the beginning of a heat wave, it is well to remember to put on something warm for the boat, as there is almost inevitably a cold breeze at sea and one's car is inaccessible in the "garage" of the boat.
At Ostend Customs, passport and other formalities are firstclass, and it appears to be only necessary for the driver to present himself with all passports, carnet, etc., while the others remain in the car. One small criticism is that there might be a system of signposts to sort out the traffic leaving the dock; in our case, finding the road for Bruges meant a lot of broken French and unnecessary delay.
Bruges was reached from Ostend in less than 45 minutes. The St. Hubert Hotel had been recommended to us. and, with the help of an excellent map of Bruges issued by its tourist office, we found it without much difficulty— at least, oc only passed it twice.
T"E prices at this hotel are most reasonable; without being a luxury hotel. it offers comfortable accommodation in the heart of the city very near the Cathedral and other fine buildings, and, for four adults, one boy aged 14, and a child of two, our bill—including dinner and breakfast—came to 1,277 fr.. i.e. £9 3s.
At Bruges. we found it was possible to arrange for a fairly early Mass; in fact, it was probably easier than a later one, for I noticed that even at 7 o'clock in the morning High Mass was being sung. After the necessary repairs to the car, we left Bruges, once again fully loaded at 9.30 a.m.
This may be the place for a note on packing precautions. Not until the return journey did we discover the art. If a luggage rack is used, it is in most cases advisable to unload it, as otherwise the bag
gage may disappear during the night.
It is best to pack one's case in such a svay that everything likely It) he needed on the journey can be put on the luggage rack, while the rest of one's luggage can be packed in the boot. At least the boot does not have to be unpacked and repacked daily on this system.
Our A.50, heavily loaded with both persons and luggage, covered the 60 miles from Bruges to Brussels in one hour 2(1 minutes.
Brussels itself could not be asoided. There is no by-pass as such, but excellent sign-posting avoids the very heart of the city, and within 25 minutes we could say that we were once again leaving Brussels.
Another 22 miles on a good road, though not of the standaid of the previous one, brought us to Louvain by 11.40. We were lucky to be advised by the ear park keeper to find a little restaurant in the heart of Louvain, but away from the more obvious eating houses.
Although it appeared to be a students' restaurant, we were admitted and enjoyed an excellent meal. This was the Restaurant Dany, 14 Rue de la Monnaic, where for lunch for six, together with a bottle of wine, we paid 382 fr. (£.2 5s. 6d.) including service.
Incidentally, a two year old can be relied upon to eat one full meal. with possible excursions on to other plates as well.
pAR-1 ICU LA R LY welcome is A the custom in more than one place of allowing you to serve yourself. Apparently, one can eat an unlimited amount of food. for, on emptying one tureen of soup, we were offered another.
There is much more to the city than the Cathedral, and we would have loved to have visited the University, had time permitted. However, we were grateful that at least we managed to look over the Cathedral.
We left Louvain at 1.40, once again on a satisfactory but not outstanding road. It was less satisfactory when, after 45 miles, we reached Liege at 3 o'clock where a most unwelcome and impossible road .diversion meant taking 20 minutes to get rotund the city.
By 4 o'clock we had reached the German Customs at Aachen. Tea at the frontier post was a welcome sight at an unwelcome price. It is obviously too popular a spot, and one would be well advised to have tea or any other refreshments either before reaching the German frontier or later.
However, we left by 5 o'clock, arriving at Aachen itself at ten past five and finally reaching Cologne Cathedral at a quarter to sevenanother 120 miles from Louvain.
wE had been warned that Cologne itself was expensive, and so by half past seven we had reluctantly bidden farewell to the Cathedral and were driving 19 miles out of the city on the autobahn towards Frankfurt. turning off at Siegburg, an old and very pretty town. dominated by a monastery. At Siegburg we found excellent accommodation in the Hotel zum Stern. The best compliment one can pay to this hotel is a remark by the passenger aged two, who compared it to a hospital for its cleanliness. However. I must also add that it is not a cheap hotel.
It has belonged to the same family for many years and both service and food are excellent. We paid 49 DM. for three rooms exclusive of breakfast and dinner, i.e nearly four guineas. Dinner for five was 36 DM £3 2s.), while breakfast cost 25s.
We left Sicgburg on Saturday morning at 9 o'clock and went straight on to the autobahn, on
which the 100 miles to Frankfurt took only two hours. A long 1.opass rotund the city allowed us to say that we had left Frankfurt by about 11,30. Another 25 miles, no longer, alas, on the autobahn, took us to Aschaffendorf, which we reached by 12.15 and there had an excellent lunch in a Gorthaus, the ' equivalent-of a pub, at £2 5s. for six.
.EAVINCi Aschaftendorf at 1.20 p.m., our route lay through Wtirzburg to Neustadt, a matter of 90 miles. Just outside Neustadt the heat tired us, and we decided to picnic in the outskirts of a forest. If you arc lucky enough to travel in a heat wave, as we were, oil of citronella, to get rid of mosquitoes, is a most welcome relief.
At 6 p.m. we had managed to pack our belongings and struck out once again towards the Austrian frontier via Nuremberg ard. after a further 81 miles, we arrived at a small village called Hamati. Here we found a charming old inn which was run—pretty well singlehanded—by a family; it was called a hotel, although Gast/taus would have been a better description. The husband and wife made us most welcome, and almost ever, One agreed that this late suppei was as enjoyable as any of our meals during the whole holiday. Although the building was old, everything was scrupulously clean and, to our great surprise. supper, three rooms, and breakfast for six came to only 50 DM.. or £4 5s. 'this included a bottle of wine and refreshments for the next morning's journey, 1 he priest in our party was asked to say a public Mass on the Sunday morning, served by two local boys. Everything went fine until the prayers at the end, when he resolutely spoke English. answered by four voices from the congregation, much to the amazement of the local congregation.
WE left Haman after Niass at " 9.40 am.—incidentally, church bells were ringing for Mass at 4.45 in the morning—and arrived at Passau at noon, completing 96 miles. We were so keen to reach our destination in the Wachau that we did not spend very long in this old and beautiful city, and by 12.45 we had completed another 12 miles to the frontier between Germany and Austria at Scharding, where we lunched. Another 52 miles brought us to Linz, the capital of Upper Austria; and a 61-mile drive through magnificent scenery from there to Mcik brought us within a stone's throw of our destination by 5.45.
The small Gust/tour which we had chosen for a rest for a few days was as far removed from civilisation as humanly possible3,000 feet up and along a cattle track. He it said in favour of the Austin Cambridge that it never murmured, though the driver's heart sank at every bend when IR: saw the gradient which lay ahead.
This district, known as Jauerling, is famed for its Austrian wines, and it is not far from Diirnstein where Richard the Lion Heart was im prisoned.
The Gipfelhaus at which we stayed was very simple. The bigger rooms had running water, but in fact it was largely a wooden structure. and on a windy night, it creaked ominously to the disturbance of the women in our party. The walks round about are unlimited, situated as it is high up, hut they necessitate no actual climbing. The little church Maria 1.aach, down the mountain, has a gem of a winged altar painted in the school of Passau. However, one cannot forget the excellent food here. The local venison shot in the forests could not be surpassed as a dinner w ith the local red wine and, incredible though it may sound, wild boar can be prepared in a most delectable manner—again this was shot in the forests. We were assured that there was no danger, and that in fact wild boar flee at the sight of a human being. unless wounded.
The cost was almost unbelievable. 1,200 Austrian schillings (£17) for six persons in three rooms for four days, almost all meals being taken there—just over £4 a day.
The total mileage for the journey there and back was 1,823 miles, to which we added approximately 1,200 miles touring.