Friday, June 22, 2012

Landslide in the Alps (near Salzburg?)

Cooler today, around high 70s (F). I started out the day planning to stay around the house but my austrian father stopped by and mentioned he had a meeting in Villach. He was willing to drop me at the Interspar in Villach so I could walk around and then afterwards we would meet and St. Jakob's church and eat at a bakery.

So I hopped in the car and was dropped off at the Interspar where and started to meander over to the Hauptplatz. On my way there, I ran into some more stores I hadn't seen before.

Storefront to traditional clothes shop
For men

For women

 There were also some stalls out on the street that were selling baked goods, meat, fish, baskets, wooden kitchen tools, etc. I bought a doughnut (?) of some sort that tasted delicious (only 1 euro!).

Delicious baked good that had some sort of apricot jam filling?

 I know I said I wouldn't buy more bubble tea but I found another bubble tea store that was a different chain. Strangely enough they sold bubble tea but no tapioca balls. They had different jellies and these strange balls that were filled with liquid (could get them litchi flavored, etc.). I got hibiscus flavored with the litchi bobas (?) . Actually wasn't too bad although the boba balls were a little weird. Maybe they were back in the U.S. and I just never noticed them before.

Another bubble tea store
I finally made it to Hauptplatz and was even crossing the bridge over the Drau (in the direction of St. Nikolas church) when I got a call from my austrian father. He wanted to meet at the Interspar instead so I quickly walked over to the Interspar and entered the parking lot. My austrian father handed me a sandwhich and some water (also some milka for us to share) he picked up at the Interspar and said that the motorway crew had called him and told him that he was needed at the site. Thus we would need to drive about an hour north/northwest to get there.

We hopped in the car and before leaving Villach stopped by a gas station to fill up the car (and to use the bathroom). While he was driving he explained to me that there had been a lot of rain in Salzburg and that it had created landslides (rain carries loose rock) over roads. His friend, a geologist for the area, had been in a helicopter all morning checking out the roads and taking pictures from the air (some of the roads closed).

We headed a little west first from Villach then north towards Salzburg. We reached an area where there were tunnels to go through the mountain. One side of the tunnel was closed, so traffic went in one direction for a half hour then was switched in the other direction. For us, traffic was heading in the wrong direction for the tunnel so we took the slower back roads over the mountain. Once we went over the mountain we entered a village called St. Michael which is supposedly the coldest area in Austria during the winter (sits betweens two mountains, skiing town). Once we past St. Michael we took a special access road to get to the closed motorway. It was actually a little creepy because there was no other cars on the motorway.

No traffic, just us 

We went through a tunnel and my austrian father mentioned that the person who called him in had warned the people watching the tunnel cameras we were coming so that we wouldn't get fined thousands of euros for entering a closed tunnel. Once we went through the closed tunnel we only traveled a short way before we reached the landslide site.

Arriving at the landslide site
Everyone kept saying Salzburg but we were actually a considerable distance from the city Salzburg (Sankt Michael im lungau is the St. Michael village we passed, we didn't travel much further than that). I'm guessing then that Salzburg is being used to indicate a region and/or because the road we were working on was the major motorway out of Salzburg down to the south (courtsey of google maps)

 I was told I could leave the car but that I couldn't climb the hill where the rocks came down. I had to put on a yellow fluorescent jacket and was told if anyone asked who I was to just say 'I'm with the geologist.' This mostly worked except for the ones who only spoke German; at that point I usually just said 'I speak English.'

Apparently the road has been covered with rocks to a height that would have been over our heads but the crew had been working since sometime during the night to clean it up (now about 1 pm)

 My austrian father hiked up the hill were the rocks had fallen from. It took him about a hour and a half climb up and about the same time down.

Austrian father all suited up to go hiking up the rocks
There he goes!

While he was up on the mountainside I took more pictures and got to look important because I was holding the maps of the area in my hand. (Short video below) The crew was hauling out some of the rocks but they were trying to create a trench next to the road to have a short term solution for possible landslides. A more long term solution will need to be created.

Machines at work

At a high elevation, can see some snow on top of the mountain

When he got back, my austrian father explained that the rocks are suppose to fall in a direction that parallels the road which didn't happen in this case. He says he will show me the map later.

Other half of Milka chocolate bar melted in the car :(
We hopped back into the car and headed back to our austrian house. When we got back we had to do some yardwork to prepare for the barbecue tomorrow. We cut some wood and then trimmed a hedge that was at least 50 feet (branches that were cut had to be swept up and removed) that lined a bike path (cars in the neighborhood use it to get up to the main road). After yard work we had some more lemon beer and then headed back to the house for some late dinner of pasta.

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