After a very restful night at Hendlmühle (which we found through Booking.com), it was time to prepare for another journey. Today’s drive wasn’t expected to be anywhere near as long as the previous day’s. Our original plan was to drive from Germany straight to our stop in Croatia which was estimated to take approximately 10 hours. Given the 30% rule of thumb that we work to for the extra time we need to allow, we thought that another 14 hour drive might be a little hard-going on all of us. A quick review only a couple of weeks before we were due to begin this trip then saw us working in an extra night’s stop in Slovenia.
I was the first one to waken at Hendlmühle in the apartment I had shared with the youngest four children. Mike and I had agreed that we would wake up, get ready and leave, with a departure time to aim for of 7.30am. When we travel we don’t have breakfast before we leave, instead just loading onto the bus and eating as we drive along. I keep good supplies of croissants, brioche rolls, bananas and biscuits to hand back through the bus as we go. Not only does it save valuable time on stopping to eat, but it means we can avoid any hunger meltdowns if trips take longer than anticipate or traffic scuppers timetables and the like. That is helpful because we all know how Mike can get when he’s hungry.
Waking before the youngest did mean I could make myself a quick cuppa as I prepared. Hendlmühle, although not at all modern and with a bathroom that was especially suitable for elderly or those with limited mobility, did have what we needed. There was a hob, kettle, coffee machine and microwave along with a small larder fridge as well as a television. Out of these, all I used was the kettle for my cup of tea. There is no washing machine and no wifi but for the one night that we needed it for, it was perfectly fine. I actually only managed to drink a third of my cuppa in the end, having been interrupted by the children waking and then helping them get dressed and their hair done and finding the shoes that I’m sure I insisted should have been placed by the front door but obviously there is the sole shoe (no pun intended) that goes walkabouts (oh, I’m on a roll!) when we’ve all gone to bed. We took a good few minutes hunting for that shoe because, you know how it is; mornings, deadlines and the need to be elsewhere just wouldn’t be the same without that lost shoe routine to start the day.
With excellent timing, Mike and the rest of the boys knocked at the door just as we were finishing getting ready and so we managed to get onto the minibus pretty much bang on our scheduled time. We shivered as we left our lovely, warm apartments but for the first time, we managed to look at the view surrounding us that the dark night before shielded from our sight…
The fields were silvery with the frost that had fallen overnight, the skies were cloudless and blue, and the sun was trying its best to shoo away the chill of the morning as it spread its beams across the land.
For our Slovenian stop, I had found a small garden campsite for us to set up our tents in but, between weather-watching of all our different locations in the run-up to our trip and a very concerned warning from the host, it seemed that temperatures in the minus figures were likely. The hosts not only had their garden campsite but also an indoor apartment built in the basement of their home with its own independent access, so we had agreed that we would rent the apartment for me and the younger children, then Mike and any other older ones could camp provided the temperatures did not dip too much. First though, we needed to get there.
The drive through Germany was as pleasant as it always is, and I mean that most sincerely. It must surely be one of the best countries to drive through although, if you aren’t used to the fact that they don’t have speed limits and that cars zip past you very quickly indeed, it can be a little unnerving at times.
In order to get to Slovenia from Germany we needed to drive through Austria which meant stopping at a service station before getting to the border to purchase a ‘vignette’. This is a toll tariff system that is a compulsory requirement if driving on the country’s motorways. Do be aware that it isn’t enough to just purchase it, you do need to ensure that you have stuck it to the inside of your windscreen so that it is clearly visible from the outside. The cost of the vignette depends on the type of vehicle you have and the duration you need it for. For vehicles up to 3.5 metres a 10 day vignette costs €8.90, but you can also purchase 2 month or 12 month vignettes too. More information on Austrian vignettes can be found on the Austrian National Tourist Office’s website. If you are driving through Austria do not forget to purchase it. It is a legal requirement and you will receive an on-the-spot fine if you are driving without one. That said, having one does not automatically mean that tolls do not exist. As well as paying out for the vignette we still needed to pay an additional €11.50 and €7.20 at two toll booths as we completed our drive through the country.
Austrian roads are also very pleasant to drive on and some of their tunnels are extremely long. So long that I did have to warn the children not to play the ‘Hold Your Breath As We Go Through The Tunnel’ game as I actually feared that their competitive nature would result in at least two or three of them passing out in the name of sibling rivalry.
We did still have the odd child that managed to heave a dramatic ‘puff’ of air as we emerged from each tunnel, claiming that they really did hold their breath all the way through. This was met by incredulous scoffing from the siblings who did not want to risk admitting that they: a) lost that particular round of the ‘Hold Your Breath As We Go Through The Tunnel’ game, and b) actually listened to Mum when she said not to hold their breath. Or they just realised that you can’t possibly hold your breath for a five minute duration as you drive through an Austrian tunnel because these things are bloody long. Either way, it meant an argument ensued every time we left a tunnel behind us. And Austria has a lot of tunnels.
Still, not long until we reached Slovenia we told ourselves. Hang in there…