Driving through Central Europe

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In September 2021, COVID was still keeping the world in its grasp. I could still not do the regular vacation I was used to, so I decided to step in my car again and start driving. This time, I did have a first destination though, by driving to Krakow, Poland, in two days to attend the Film Music Festival, which I have been attending for over a decade. After that, my journey was still unclear. In my report below, you can read what I have done and where this journey took me.

August 26, Groningen – Tharandt, Germany

Sun with some showers (18C) – To drive to Krakow in one day without cruise control is too much for my car and me as the only driver. So I went to a town near Dresden instead. Driving a highway for many hours is not the most fun thing to do. There were some traffic jams, but my TomTom app was able to navigate around them perfectly. 

Unfortunately for me, the restaurant of my hotel was not open because of COVID, so I had to drive to the nearby town Tharandt for Vietnamese food and a beer. I also went to the nearest supermarket for another beer, which I drank in my hotel room while trying to browse the internet on lousy wifi.

August 27, Tharandt – Kraków, Poland

Cloudy with rain (18C) – I continued my trip to Krakow after breakfast using the German and Polish highways. The drive started with lots of rain, which was not the only reason the journey took more time than I had anticipated. The addition of many trucks passing each other and traffic jams made the trip for this day more than eight and a half hours long. I called my friends when I was near Katowice to find out that Arek was sick and probably unable to attend our group of friends. Stefan also avoided meeting me while he was still feeling healthy. Luckily, Flip arrived, and we went to dinner in a Gregorian restaurant I know well. Afterwards, we met Gerard and Ola in Novotel for more drinks and conversations.

August 28-29, Kraków, Poland

Cloudy (18C) – I will not discuss this festival thoroughly. You can read about my FMF experiences on my other website Soundtrack World. It was amazing to be back in one of my favorite cities and spend time with friends and people from the film music industry. Sadly Arek went home because he felt sick, and the organization had to cancel the Sunday concert, but I could enjoy a late-night dinner with people from the film music industry instead.

August 30, Kraków – Zakopane, Poland

Rain (13C) – The day started with spending some time with Stefan and Flip in the rain on the Main Market Square. We found some shelter to drink some coffee. We went back to our hotel for some final drinks before saying goodbye. After we had separated, I got in my car to take the scenic route to Zakopane. The drive was alright through the hilly surroundings, but it was still raining. After arriving at the hotel and strolling through the tourist street with restaurants and shops, I reunited with Viola, who I met at the FMF and was also going to Zakopane. We went for a nice dinner in one of the restaurants on the main street.

August 31, Zakopane – Zlatniky, Slovakia

Rain (15C) – After another good Polish breakfast, including eggs and sausages, I took the scenic route to my hotel in the middle of Slovakia. The first part of the trip was through the Polish and Slovakian mountains, and I tried to do some tourist stuff but could not make it happen. I could not find out what there was to see at a specific spot because the parking guard only spoke Polish. I also tried to find a waterfall on a whim, but there were access denied signs on its route with texts that I could not read.

I continued my drive through valleys and over hills, and the view was quite impressive, but sadly it was still raining and cloudy. The pension I had selected also had a restaurant, so I had some beers and food after arriving before spending the evening in my room.

September 1, Zlatniky – Raach Im Hochgebirge, Austria

Sunny (20C) – After the Slovakian breakfast my host made for me, it was time for my ride to the Austrian border. The route to it was pretty beautiful with some fun narrow deserted roads, potholes that I needed to avoid, and villages. Bratislava was a big city with a lot of traffic, which was not that fun to drive. Right after leaving the capital, I arrived at the border, where the border patrol asked for my vaccinations instead of my passport before I could continue. The roads at the start of my Austria part were quite underwhelming. They were straight, boring and busy. That was until I reached the hills region of Austria, making me remember the Austria I know from my youth! I drove over small roads through the hills of Austra, enjoying the stunning views. My gasthof was located in a tiny village on top of a hill, where I could drink one of their home-brewed beers. 

I walked around a bit after the beer and before dinner, which was, of course, an Austrian Schnitzel (the Cordon Blue version). I spend most of the evening in my room, mainly on the phone with a friend.

September 2, Raach Im Hochgebirge – Malta, Austria

Sunny (23C) – This was my first full day in Austra. During breakfast, which was served on a trolley from which I could grab what I wanted. While analyzing my route for the day, I saw that I had to drive quite some time parallel to the highway, so I took it instead to save some time. I could spend the saved time by extending the final part a bit more into the hills and driving alongside a lake. I had some lovely roads and stunning views along the way. I arrived in the village of Malta, where I would be staying for a couple of days. I was pretty surprised that I was met in Dutch by the host family, who were from the south of the Netherlands. After putting my stuff in my room, I enjoyed a beer on their patio with a stunning view. I could also eat my dinner there because they provided a simple meal each day for their guests.

September 3, Goldeck Austria

Sunny (22C) – It was time to spend my first day in nature. It was only a small drive to the Goldeck cable car. This mountain was high on my to-do list this holiday because I remembered this walk clearly from my youth in 1988. I do not remember much from it, but I had a wonderful time in gorgeous surroundings nonetheless. I took the cable car up the mountain, which was fun to do in summer without any skis instead of winter as I was used to. I walked from the cable car station to the Goldeck summit. During that part of the hike, it was interesting to see all the abandoned ski lifts and you could clearly see where the slopes were supposed to be. While I was at the summit, I made a video call to my parents to show them where I was and share the stunning views with them. I continued the hike to the neighboring Nattenock summit. I was there alone for a while and took that opportunity to look for a Geocache at the summit. During the hike back to the station, I stopped at the Goldeck Hutte for a beer and a sausage. 

I still had some time left back in the valley and decided to drive the Goldeck Panorama Strasse. It was a bit underwhelming because I had more beautiful roads before and after the official road itself. While I was there in the parking lot, with a view all the way up to the Goldeck Summit, I made another video call to my coworker, who sadly left our institute. Back in the gasthof I had another beer and a pleasant chant with the dutch hosts, who had prepared another lovely three-course dinner for me, and spent the rest of the evening in my room.

September 4, Malta – Klagenfurt, Austria

Sunny (24C) – After breakfast, I said goodbye to my Dutch hosts and left to drive the Malta Hohe Strasse and see the dam again at the destination after more than 30 years. The drive was quite pleasant, with a small mountain road through the forest. Halfway I had to stop at a traffic light and wait for 20 minutes because the road was so narrow there that only one lane was usable. After arrival at the dam, I walked around there for a bit and took photos of the lovely surroundings. Then it was time to start my drive to Klagenfurt, where I would meet my two friends who had come all the way from our hometown on their motorcycles.

I met my friends in the afternoon at a camping ground, where we put up our tents, which I had packed especially for this occasion. We did some grocery shopping for some drinks and dinner that we cooked ourselves. Even the pots and pans I brought were used because they were bigger. We spend the evening with good beers, food and conversations. Unfortunately, my thin air bed was not inflating properly, so I had a long night ahead of me.

September 5, Klagenfurt – Saalbach, Austria 

Sunny (24C) After a painful night with little sleep, we packed our tents. I stayed behind to see the two big BMW bikes leave while the neighbors and I were spectating. They were interested in who we were and why there were three tents, two bikes and one car on a camping spot. All by myself again, I drove up to Kaprun. I saw a small canyon on TripAdvisor that I wanted to see. It took me a short while to find the Sigmund Thun Klamm because I drove to the wrong place to park my car. It was a beautiful walk through the canyon with many steps and small waterfalls when I found it. There was a lake at the end, where you could walk around. Halfway there was a restaurant where I drank a small beer. 

After returning to my car, I drove into a valley just above Zell am See to Saalbach to find my hotel. It had a tiny room for me with a nice old man as a host. He pointed me to a nearby restaurant where I could eat schnitzel and drink some beers. I relaxed the rest of the evening in my hotel room.

September 6, Westgipfel, Austria

Sunny (22C) As with my gasthof in Carinthia, my stay included a special card, giving me discounts on all kinds of tourist attractions, including free rides on cable cars. After arriving at the top, I decided to take the cable car to the Westgipfel and see what kind of trail I could do. To my surprise, I was able to walk along a ridge with stunning views, where I could hike to three different summits, each with a cross on top. At one I electrocuted myself because of wired fences to keep the animals in certain areas. The climbs and descents were quite taxing, especially with my old broken hiking boots. Luckily for me, there was a wonderful trail going to the mid-station of the cable car, and I did not have to ascend again. While walking to that mid-station, I also walked alongside a very adventurous trail made for mountain bikes, which they could use for a quick mountain descent. Halfway my descent there was the Hackeralm Hutte, where I had a nice beer with an apfelstrudel. 

After taking the cable car down from the mid-station to the valley, I returned to my hotel, which was only a couple of kilometers away. Back in the hotel, I relaxed for a bit until I discovered I was low on cash, so I set out again to find an ATM. I started the evening at the same restaurant as yesterday for a beer and a schnitzel before spending the rest of it relaxing in my room.

September 7, Saalbach – Oetztal, Austria

Sunny (24C) My first destination was the Krimml Waterfalls. There were a couple of parking lots in the area where I could park my car. The one I chose was privately owned, where the owner held a raven or a crow that would snatch your keys if you were not careful. I walked alongside the stunning waterfalls along a path with several viewing points until I almost reached the top. I wished I could go further, but I still had to descend and drive for three hours. I had a small stop for an alcohol-free beer to give my legs some rest before starting the drive. 

Leaving the parking lot was challenging; I could not get onto loose gravel from the grass with my car. Only after a lot of wheel spin was it possible. I did not know back then that my cludge was starting to fail. After finally getting out of my parking spot, I faced my next challenge of leaving the parking lot itself. The exit was so steep I had my exhaust banging onto the street. It was not the end of my car problems. I started to drive touristically; the narrow roads and passing were challenging. I had to stop on a very steep road where it was again nearly impossible for my car to accelerate up onto the mountain. Austrians stopped to see what was going on and offered help, but luckily with a lot of wheel spin again, I managed to keep going. 

After this, I lost interest in taking the scenic route, so I took the highway for a bit and returned to the scenic roads after Innsbruck. After arriving at my hotel in Oetztal, I found an interesting Burger joint on Google Maps. It was a good burger and it was also interesting to see that everyone was eating their burgers with knives and forks, except me.

September 8, Imst and St. Anton

(Sunny 25C)  On this day, I went back to Imst after 25 years. It is a small town in Tirol, where I went on vacation as a late teen with my parents. There I walked the Rosengartenslucht, of which I had fond memories. It was fun to do that trail again after so many years. I parked my car in the town center, though, and I was only allowed to park there for 90 minutes, but I could do the entire hike within that time. Afterwards, I drove to Hoch Imst, where I wanted to see if I could revisit the Muttenkopfhutte, but the whole area was just a construction pit because they were building a new ski lift and had to remove the old one. I did walk a bit to another hutte, but after a gorgeous path, I ended up on the gravel road, with all the trucks passing with materials, so I turned around as soon as I saw that road.

After that minor disappointment, I quickly searched for a plan B on Google. I decided to go to St. Anton, which I also made the final destination of my trip. I thought that would be quite fitting with my name. After a small drive on the toll road, I arrived at a spot where I hiked to the Stockibach Falls. I was all by myself during the hike, with a long metal staircase to the endpoint of the trail. After a short while, another couple joined me at the top to enjoy the gorgeous waterfalls. When I drove back to the hotel, I noticed my nose started running like crazy. I apparently got a cold. Luckily I had self-tests with me, which were negative, but it would not be possible anymore to eat dinner or breakfast comfortably without people watching me sniffle. Back at the hotel, I went to the nearby restaurant for my last Austrian schnitzel, which I could eat outside without bothering others.

September 9, Oetztal, Austria – Stuttgart, Germany

(Sunny – 23C) Being on the road for quite some time and with this stupid cold, it was time to head north again. So I took a beautiful mountain pass to cross the border back to Germany, replacing the mountains with low hills. Not much happened on the route, I made some stops, but most of it was just driving the scenic route. Near Stuttgart, I took the highway again, but in Stuttgart, it was all traffic jams, making me a bit tired. Luckily, the hotel owner offered me a free beer if I would rate his hotel five stars on booking.com, which I did not do. After the beer, I went for a short walk to find some food. I found a fancy burger joint where I could eat outside again. Back in the room, I decided that the cold made it impossible to keep enjoying the holiday. So I made preparations in my room to return home the next day.

September 10, Stuttgart, Germany – Groningen, The Netherlands

(Lots of heavy rain – 18C) The plan was to go to Cologne to meet my brother and his family, but with this cold, it was time to take the highway to start the long drive home. The trip was quite taxing. There were many traffic jams near Cologne which I could avoid most of the time by following the navigation suggestions, but this was also time-consuming. The heavy rain showerings, in addition, did not help as well. Since I (self) tested negative, I socially distanced myself in the garden of my parents, who live close to my home. It should have taken only about 20 minutes from their house to mine, but I had to stop my car alongside the highway because of no visibility from hefty rain. When I finally arrived home, I was greeted by my two cats, which I had not seen in two weeks.


This trip was my second corona vacation in which I stepped into my car and drove wherever I wanted to. It was also very educational. I know by now that driving the highway alone can be very tiring and that I should look for cruise control when buying a new car. While I love my car, it did crap out on me this holiday. I think it is time to look for a new one if I want to do this solo vacation again. Unfortunately, the weather in Slovakia was not the best when I was there, and I need to revisit the country to see a bit more of the surrounding. The same goes for Austria. I knew how gorgeous the country is from decades ago, but the stunning views and nature keep impressing me. Hopefully, this will be the last Corona vacation. While finishing this report, almost a year later, I already have plans to go on another car tour through Europe. This time with friends, but I do not think this will be my last solo vacation. Going alone can be tedious from time to time, but it also brings a lot of freedom with it.