I don’t exactly know why I settled on this town as a destination – Budapest to Prague was about eight hours on the small roads we were traveling, and I didn’t want to go that far in one day, so I picked a town, Staatz, along the route, Googled “camping near Staatz, Austria”, and up popped Veltlinerland-Camping Poysdorf. 4.6 stars out of five on Google ratings, way out in the countryside- sounded good to me. So I set the GPS for this place as soon as we crossed the border into Austria and the GPS is functional again, and we pull in around four o’clock.
There are two other campers in the campground out of maybe 50 spaces – looks wonderful. A quick reconnaissance shows us the campground is overlooking a city park on an artificial lake, so we pick a spot facing the water and set up shop. Fiona demands an opportunity to jump out and sniff around, which is usually a sign we have chosen well – she has excellent taste in camping accommodations. I open the back doors to catch the breeze off the lake for Sharon, and wander on up to the office to sign in. There’s nobody there – the sign says pick a spot and we’ll do the paperwork later. The managers show up from 7 to 9 AM and again from 6 to 8 PM, and go off to their day jobs or whatever. They’re a nice couple, who dropped by when they arrived, said we could stay a few days in our choice lakefront spot, but that they had someone coming in for the weekend with a reservation for that spot, and we’d either have to leave or move by Friday. No problem for us, we wouldn’t be staying that long.
We had been driving through farm country on our way in, quite different from the mountainous Austrian countryside we were used to coming up from Italy. It looks like the Midwest here, with meandering streams finding their way through rolling hills, and big fields of wheat, sunflowers, beets, potatoes, and one thing the Midwest doesn’t have – vineyards. MANY vineyards. There were wind turbines dotting the horizon, and quite a few giant farm machinery things on the road, and parked along the main drag in the small towns we had been driving through, including Poysdorf itself. And people wave at you as you pass on the road – a cultural universal of farm country.
I google around, and find out that the vineyards are a mainstay of the local economy- there are many wineries here, and instead of a tasting room they have weingartens – three big ones right in town. There’s a fair amount of Riesling being grown here, as you would expect, but it’s far enough south that they also have other varieties – Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, and the prize of the region, which my campground is named after, Grüner Veltliner, a white variety which produces spicy, almost peppery wines.
And I found out about the Kellerkatze – there’s an old winery story about the cellar cats who would live at the wineries, and the firm belief that the cat would always choose the best barrel of wine in the cellar to nap on. A cat atop a wine barrel became a symbol for quality, and since the live cats wouldn’t cooperate (cats, being cats, rarely cooperate with anything), they made ceramic cats to put on top of the barrels of their best wines.
The campground manager provided me with a key to the gates separating the campground from the city park, and it was refreshing to stroll around the lake on the manicured lawn past picnic tables and shade trees. Many of the locals swam in the lake – it’s probably a little cold for me, being used to Florida waters. But they seemed to be having a great time. It was up to 80 degrees in the afternoon, so it was excellent swimming weather.
I chatted up one of the other campground occupants, whose English was excellent, and I explained the strange history of my unit. He said camping was really booming in Europe, with demand boosting the prices of used units to the point where they don’t look like a frivolous investment at all. He had a Class C on a Ford Transit chassis – an older version, not the one Ford is importing now for stateside sale – and he keeps his bicycle in the “garage” for day trips around the area. We had no bikes, and were a bit undermotivated for daily excursions, so we contented ourselves with short walks in the immediate area.
The sanitation block, as Europeans call the bathrooms in camping facilities, was a monument to Austrian efficiency and cleanliness. Everything was spotless. The floors were heated! There was beautiful tile everywhere, along with many instructions in German not to do this or that. Even Sharon took a shower in these facilities. They were truly beautiful. If everyone maintained their washroom facilities the way the Austrians do, the world would be a better place.
After three days of relaxing and getting recovered from the hustle and bustle of our big city trip to Budapest, we packed up, paid our bill (three days was 50 euros and change – the campground charges for dogs, but the manager said cats are free) hit the grocery store, and headed up to the Czech Republic to visit Prague. We’ll probably need a nice calm campground out in the country somewhere after that visit as well.