Day 15 - Austria's take on the Cold War

Friday 11th July 2014

During the Cold War Austria was not a member of NATO, and so decided to mount a defence against the red menace lurking over the border in sleepy old Slovenia. This region, the Julian Alps, is no stranger to long and bloody fighting as we will see in the Kobarid entry later on in the blog.

Old tank marks the museum entrance

So the Austrians built a network of tunnels, bunkers and gun emplacements on the Würzen pass during the Cold War to protect one of the main routes into Southern Austria from what was then communist Yugoslavia.

Bunker entrance

Now it is an open air museum with access to all the bunkers and with much of the original ordnance still in place. It is easy to find as a rather battered and rusting old tank is parked up on the verge near the entrance.
Inside one of the bunkers

Inside there are two British- made Centurion tanks and a number of tank turrets, along with big and small shell and belt-fed guns hiding in the trees amid some very impressive fortifications.

You can wander around at will, stooping into bunker entrances and crouching down to traverse the interconnecting tunnels.

Mick and his big gun

So after the usual excellent breakfast at Gasthof Hochalmspitze we saddle up and head down the B99. Our planned route takes us west on the B100 to the lovely, twisting B87 from Gries to Hermador, and over the Naßfeld Pass (or Passo di Pramello in Italian) to the border between Austria and Italy.

There is a good Italian cafe here at the top of the pass beside a lake that looks like the caldera of a volcano with mountain peaks surrounding it.

I have the pizza diavolo and Mick fills up on tagliatelle bavette. Italian coffee is invariably good and mostly pretty cheap (unless you order it by the side of the Rialto Bridge in Venice, but that's a story for another time).

Mick's first visit to Slovenia
The run down the Italian side is stunning, winding down a steep valley round multiple tornanti (which sound far more sexy than hairpins or Kurve) to the very Italian town of Pontebba. Then it's a quick blast east to Tarvisio and beyond into Slovenia.

It is a short run to Podkoren in Slovenia and the turn north to the Würzenpaß. At The top of the pass, just over the border into Austria, there stands an abandoned tank and a little further is the parking place for the Bunker Museum.

Be warned, it is a 300 metre steep climb up a forest track to get to the museum from the parking place. No fun in bike gear, but we make it and shell out €6.50 (Karnten Card discount again - cheers Gasthof Hochalmspitze) to gain entry.

There is a short video to watch first, in German only, then off to explore. We spend a great hour scrambling through the complex and playing with guns.
This will stop those pesky commies

So a great day comes to an end. We bimble back to HQ for a fish and chips supper and so to bed. Tomorrow into Slovenia again and over the majestic Vrsic pass.


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