Having enjoyed our time in Berchtesgadener Land, we fancied a little more of the Alps – specifically, a big, Alpine pass with proper altitude (>2,500m) and great views.
We were already flirting with the Austrian border, so it was an easy decision, given the fine weather, to divert into Austria and spend a day traversing the Grossglockner Pass. There are a few things worth noting about this road:
- It’s a toll road – a one-day ticket for a car (the rate we were charged for our small motorhome) was €28
- It’s 48km long – there are higher and steeper passes, but few so long
- It’s closed from the end of October to May
- You should plan on following the side road to the Pasterze Glacier – it’s worth the extra driving
Grossglockner is Austria’s highest mountain, at 3,798m. The pass itself reaches a height of 2,504m, which is fairly high for a public road, although I have driven higher in Switzerland.
The pass is a fantastic road, both in terms of road quality and spectacular views. It has no fewer than 36 hairpins, each of which has a height marker so you can see just how quickly you are climbing (and descending). It’s not difficult to drive and is nice and wide, but it is very long and very steep, so make sure your brakes are in good order. Remember to use plenty of engine braking, too, or you will end up with smoking brakes… You’ll probably want to stop several times, anyway, as the views are amazing and the driver won’t be able to fully appreciate them without stopping.
Once we had (eventually) left the pass, we used the “Europa” part of our Reisemobil Bordatlas to find a campsite/stellplatz for the night in Austria. We ended up in Kals am Grossglockner, a small mountain village with spectacular views. Just outside the village there is a new campsite with great facilities and a stellplatz parking area just outside it. The stellplatz was just a parking area – not much more than a layby – so we opted for the full campsite experience, for which we were charged €15. It was worth every penny – shower and toilet facilities that would put some hotels to shame plus a laundry room that enabled us to do all of our washing.
We were only in Austria for a couple of days, but did make a few observations that may be useful:
- Diesel is much cheaper than Germany
- Remember that you need a vignette for Austrian motorways – most garages seem to sell them. The minimum is 10 days, which cost €7 in October 2009. If your motorhome is over 3.5 tonnes, you will need a GO Box instead – see here for details