Last night we went out into Schladming as the snow started to fall. We had heard rumour of a potentially larger amount due on Thursday and when we had got back to the van after visiting Krug late in the afternoon both of the motorhomes beside us had gone. Hmm, maybe they knew something more. We decided we did not feel like a long drive and the forecast was only for one day of snow, so we could stay longer if we had to.
That evening we heard from some English skiers that 50cm was expected to fall today and there would be 6 days of snow. They were in not disappointed with that but we decided that it probably put pay to our plans to see more of Austria and a trip through the Dolomites. Sure enough, when we managed to find better raft images of the snow fall we would be driving right through some pretty heavy snow for 2-3 days. It was too late to leave now and so we decided to wait until the snow ploughs had been through in the morning.
It was falling pretty heavily all night and in the morning there was probably 4-6” of fresh snow and it was still falling thick and fast. So we decided we would disappointingly have to head back the way we had come. We decided to get south of the snow into Italy, not least as our Italian wifi SIM card would be working again!
There was packed snow and pretty steady going to the Autoroute, but we engaged all-wheel drive and our Mercedes Sprinter coped admirably with the conditions. The snow ploughs were out in force on the Autoroute itself keeping the way clear, working in tandem to clear all three lanes and the hard shoulder. Maybe that should make you feel better about the cost of the tolls 😵
Our Go-Box started beeping to say it was getting low on credit. So I registered for an account online to top it up as I was moving. However, even after we ran out of credit it would not let me do so. It said online we should be able to pay retrospectively for up to 96 hours later, however, we were a bit wary though of relying on the portal when it did not seem to be working as fines are substantial.
We’d been told pretty much all the service stations could take payment. We pulled in at one and they said they could not help and did not even have working fuel pumps when we tried at the last station before the border and sure enough we could pay the balance there. However, there was one more pay point beyond them and the minimum top up was €75, which could not be used against the outstanding amount! Crazy. If you did not pay and you get pulled over (as they know your Reg) you could be fined hundreds of Euros. I asked about the portal but the attendant knew nothing about that. She did say however as we were leaving Austria we could hand in our Go box at the third exit from there and get a refund.
So on we do to the exit she had advised with written instructions. However we found only one manned office and it was some sort of shipping agency. They pointed us “to the border” we went over to the only other building which was empty. so apparently our option now is to post the Go-Box back for a refund. Though we have to do this within the EU so they don’t have to pay duty. We also have to speak to customer services to de-activate it first and the web form does not seem to be working! I wonder how many unclaimed refunds they manage to pocket by this. I will battle through!
Onwards to Italy, we could see the break in the snow clouds from a long way before the border and by the time we hit the flatlands of northern Italy the sun was shining on blue skies. It was a relatively balmy 10 degrees when we arrived in Italy. Hard to imagine the heavy snow a relatively short way north.
When we had been looking for where to stay tonight, a very odd shaped hexagonal town of Palmanova stood out on the map. Turns out the town is a UNESCO protected Star fortress built in 1593 and the town still resides within its walls.
We are now parked up, just outside the walls having successfully navigated in and out of the town gates to get here. There is a mammoth moat structure surrounding and an unusual concentric ring roads within but the building within seemed relatively modern. There is a fairly large central square we will have a walk and explore to later.