Wernberg – Of Inns, Lakes & A Fence That Bites
It was the best of days, it was the worst of days. To paraphrase Dickens is a cheat of a way to start a post. But, sometimes, the great writers who came before me have already used the words I want to use. Darned inconsiderate of them I would say. But such are the difficulties we writers face in these days of instant, worldwide, communication.
No sooner does a pithy phrase jump to mind, than someone points out that Google attributes it to a 6th century Nepalese monk. Or, worse still, a twenty three year old Instagram “Influencer”, flashing fake tans and faker smiles for free flights and a worldwide, year’s supply of Bic Mac and Fries.
However, in fairness, in the case of Dickens’ famous opening to A Tale of Two Cities, I have no excuse. I have in fact read the book, and it is probably, definitely, the great commentator’s influence that has put these words in my head this morning. I would like though to believe he would forgive me in this instance. As the day in question was, indeed, the best of days, and, most assuredly, the worst of days as well.
It wasn’t the morning rain that greeted us in St Leonhard that made it bad. It had rained so much the last two days that the two week heat wave we’d just travelled through seemed like a dim distant dream.
The rain didn’t really bother us though, but with limited time on our hands it was an extra strike against staying in Austria for long. We’d planned on stopping midway through the country today. Then again at Wernberg near the Slovenian border tomorrow. In fact we packed up Iggy and got on the road with that intention still firmly in our heads.
As we drove south though we began to question whether there was any real point to staying three nights in Austria this trip. According to the forecast the rain was to continue for another three days. We were going to be eating at Inns to pay for our parking. And not doing a whole lot else because of the weather.
As floods of water dropped on us from the mountains above we decided to change plan and head for Wernberg, very close to the Slovenian border. We’d take Marley for a wet walk around the lake. Have dinner in the Inn. Sort out our vignette for Slovenia. And carry on south for Greece a bit quicker.
Even with the rain it was a fun day’s drive through Austria to Wernberg. Watching the world appear and disappear around us as we floated in and out of cloud banks. Drizzle turned to rain. Rain turned to drizzle. Valleys opened below us with pretty mountain house clustered round the simple, spired churches. Many windowed chalets clung to forested slopes.
Half way there we stopped to stretch our legs, and grab a ridiculously expensive coffee from the motorway services. Everywhere was packed solid and we checked our phones and realised it was Saturday.
Jay somehow managed to squeeze Iggy into a space without breaking anything. Marley jumped down for a sniff around where all the other dogs had been. Drawing smiles, pats and nervous avoidance in equal measure, as she always does. And then we were back in the van and on the move once more.
The weather brightened in between valleys. Turned back to rain in between others. Three and four mile tunnels sped us through the miles of rock above our heads. Each exit a magical mystery tour of Austrian weather zones. We gazed, wistfully, over momentarily sun drenched mountainsides, and lamented that we were missing everything by being on the toll roads.
It was definitely the right choice to use them on this trip, but it really reinforced for us just how much better it is not to use them. We would come back here again some day and dawdle around the real Austria. See what was hiding in the paths less travelled. Someday when we had more time, and more money for the expensive campsites and stellplatz.
Austria is not the motorhome friendly country that Germany is. Sadly €30 to a campsite is €30 not going to local shops and restaurants. Campsites are nice when you want all the facilities they offer. But being forced to pay large sums of money just to park, when free parking is available, always galls me. I would rather park in an Inn car park and buy a nice dinner. At least that way we’re recieving something we can use in return for our hard earned pennies.
Tales of people being fined for not using campsites always puts me off countries a bit. It seems a bit like campsites receiving money by menaces to me. Give me a Stellplatz/Aire, priced appropriately, and I will happily pay. But being asked for €30 or more, simply for a space to park and sleep, leaves me feeling like I’ve just been mugged by the Mafia.
Thankfully there are usually Inns and the like spread about who will allow folk like us to stay over, and it was just such a place we were headed for in Wernberg tonight. It hadn’t sounded like my ideal stopover, but as we turned off the main road my heart sank a little big bit. Wernberg seemed to be just a strip of buildings, jammed in between two busy highways. This was not looking good at all! I wasn’t even sure we’d find anyplace we could walk Marley.
Thankfully the turning down to the Inn’s car park took us further away from the road. The car park was a bit sloping, and not very attractive, but it turned out there was, indeed, a very good walk for Marley. The old Castle Wernberg – now a monastery – was just a few minutes walk away. And from the castle we could take nature walks through the wooded banks of a lake. There was even a little swimming beach, although I doubted we’d be doing any swimming in the drizzle today.
We had a quick look in the Inn before we went for our walk. There was no need to give our registration number, and they had a big indoor conservatory area where dogs were welcome when we came for dinner later.
The Inn was lovely with amazing facilities for children. Jay was a bit nervous at modelling the trampoline in the outdoor play area in case he broke it. But it made a rubbish picture without anyone jumping on it. And Marley was having none of it. So on he went, and clearly had a great time whatever his protests.
Everything sorted we grabbed our coats against the thickening rain and headed off with Marley for a good long walk around the Lake. Although the Inn was very busy there was nobody to be seen on the walk down to the nature trail. Hardly surprising as the rain was so heavy by now that we wished we’d brought Marley’s dog shampoo and given her a shower as we walked.
The bonus of all that rain though was that we could let Marley off the lead for a good run around. Baby Dog ( my current nickname for the furry giant ) had a great time splashing about in all the new, rain forged, streams.
The wildlife was all sensibly hiding from the rain of course. Even frogs and toads had more sense than to hop about in this weather.
Jay and I weren’t too bothered though. Ten minutes in and we were already too wet to get any wetter. But it was a warm wet. Not the freezing, in your face, horizontal wet, that Scotland usually supplies. So the furry one got to happily wander to her thick coated, mountain dog’s fill.
Yes there was rain. Yes we were as soaked as it was possible to get. But this was not the worst of days. No not a bit of it. We were as happy a little family as you may hope to ever see as we began to make our way back to the Inn for dinner and some nice dry clothes.
This was indeed, the best of days. The worst of days was lying in wait. Just at the top of the long woodland walk. Just at the bit where we thought the exit was. Just at the bit where we took our eyes off Marley Dog.
Ah ’tis only ever a split of a second it takes for an accident to happen. Just the time it takes for one person to say to another
“Look. There’s an electric fence there. Do you think it’s on?”
There was no time for anything else. No time for a thought, or an answer, before the most horrible, terrible howl of pain came screaming from our Baby Dog.
I turned my eyes and met Marley’s, frozen in pain and fear by the side of the electric fence. And then she was running, bounding back down the hill. Sorrowful, miserable eyes glancing back over her shoulder as I called her.
“What bit me?” those sad, scared eyes said. “What hurt me?” “Why did it hurt me Mum?” “What happened?”
Oh for such a horrible noise! I never want to hear it again. Marley was terrified poor baby, and we caught up to her and spoke to her gently to calm her. Letting her walk further away from the biting fence. Her sad face was almost unbearable. But she seemed to be okay apart from the shock of it all.
As she calmed down we were able to pat her over, and there didn’t seem to be any sore bits. She was fully responsive, and seemed her normal self apart from being, understandably, a bit nervous. I felt so sorry for the poor old thing. She’d been so, so happy with her walk. One perfect day for her, marred now by what must have been a lot of pain. Magnified, we assumed, by the amount of water on her coat.
After a few minutes of comforting, and getting further away from the scary place that hurt her, she became more and more herself. And we were relieved when she didn’t even bat an eyelid at passing another electric fence where the cows she’d sniffed at on our way out still grazed.
The final test lay ahead after we got back to the van. How would she be when we went out for dinner? Was all forgotten? Would we be able to chase that last, sad look from her eyes?
Thankfully old DM came to the rescue and soon had Marley back to her normal eager eyed self. Biscuits were exchanged for tricks, and the apperance of my Goulash seemed to do the trick and drive any last , lingering thoughts of electric fences out of our heroes mind.
If the sight and smell of it hadn’t been enough, then a good helping of goulash, roast pork and Austrian dumplings soon put her doggy heart to rights again.
She may even have wolfed the odd bit of apfelstrudel at the end. Just to make sure she was properly restored. And that all the good memories of Wernberg would not be obliterated by the fence that bites.
And so ended another day on the road.
It was the best of days, it was the worst of days. But all’s well that ends well. As Shakespeare may have said…