One day, three countries. We woke up in Austria, had lunch in Switzerland and went to sleep in Italy. Our mini one-day tour of Europe was thanks to the Via Claudia bike path, which uses one of the easiest paths over the Alps for cyclists. None of the border guards were interested in our passports. Instead they just waved us through the various checkpoints, sending us up a series of switchbacks towards the Passo di Resia. On our way up we passed a man we’d seen earlier in the day, although the last time we’d seen him he was with his wife and son. As he slogged his way up the hill along with us, we wondered where his family had gone. The mystery was solved when we reached the top just before he did. His wife and son were sitting on a bench by a bus stop, looking very rested. Obviously they took the easy way up and left him to do the climbing on his own! We were a bit surprised, since the pass only reaches 1,504m – not high at all for the Alps, but to each their own. Even though the road doesn’t rise very high it’s beautiful nonetheless, surrounded by alpine fields and with a teal green lake to admire on the Italian side. We were able to enjoy the scenery for the first time in days as the weather has finally improved. The clouds cleared and blue skies showed themselves again, although it is still desperately chilly for this time of year. The high temperature for the day didn’t even reach 20°C and we were glad to have plenty of climbing to keep us warm. We made good time climbing and by early afternoon we’d done almost a whole day’s work so we settled by a lakeside picnic table and waited for dusk to pitch our tent.
You Are Viewing Austria
Rain was the steady beat throughout our day, from the time we first woke at dawn when water poured down on our tent along with a fierce wind. The storm had passed when we crawled out of our tent and we had a few hours of respite before the clouds and wet weather came back to chase us. This is not cycle touring at its most glamourous: cold and soggy.
For a while it was like being in a British panto play, where the audience yells at the main actor to let him know where the “bad guy” is (inevitably, the villan lurks just behind the star of the show).
“It’s behind you,” we shouted to each other jokingly, while we looked at the ominous dark skies closing in on us. If we stopped for a few minutes the rain soon caught up with us and we had to take shelter under bridges and buildings several times during the day.
During the breaks when it wasn’t raining, the scenery was quite pretty as we cycled through the Inn river valley. Mountains rose up all around us and the green fields on either side of the bike path were dotted with alpine huts. We stopped in amazement early in the afternoon to watch four people gathering hay by hand on an incredibly steep slope. Raking the grass seemed hard enough. We can’t imagine how they cut it in the first place.
Late in the afternoon we wished for a picnic table where we could put our tarp up and eat supper in a dry spot. Someone up there seemed to be listening because just over a little crest our wish appeared and we stopped to make a hot meal. No sooner had we eaten than the rain started up again and we decided there was no point in going any further. The picnic area has a flat spot, so we’ll take that for our tent and hope for blue skies tomorrow.
The pitter patter of rain falling on our tent woke us up this morning, just as it carried us off to sleep the night before. Usually the weather clears before long though, so we packed up all our bags, had our breakfast and started getting the bikes ready. Just as we were about to start taking down the tent, the skies opened and we crept back inside our shelter. We sat there for well over an hour and still the rain poured down. There was really nothing to do but to make a break for it so we dressed up in all our waterproof clothes and made a dash outside, pulling the tent down as quickly as possible and then pushing on down the road with water dripping down our noses. We saw a few other crazy cyclists out in the wet, but mostly we had the trails and roads to ourselves. On these cold, soggy days we try to make lots of stops so we first went for coffee, then groceries and to the tourist bureau. Every few minutes in the warm and dry is a boost to the morale. Our spirits got a real dash, however, when we checked the weather: four straight days of rain are in the forecast. It could be a wet week ahead! We did get the occasional break in the rain but mostly it kept true to the prediction. Wet, wet, wet. By the time we reached the mountain resort town of Seefeld we were fed up, tired and grumpy. With our tent soaked, we thought a campsite with a hot shower might be just the ticket. There’s only one in Seefeld and it’s a ritzy spot with prices to match but when the campsite comes with a sauna and heated TV room we can relax and eat meals in, it’s worth it.
We knew we were in trouble when we saw a tank charging towards us. This was no military vehicle but something much scarier: an angry woman, steaming in our direction, loud German words flying out of her mouth.
Andrew, who was cooking dinner just outside the tent, was first in the firing line. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t understand a word of the verbal assault coming his way and put up the equivalent of a white flag. “Ummmmm, in English please?”
From inside the tent, Friedel heard something about “cooking” and “verboten”, the German word for forbidden. Out she came, from the tent into the crossfire.
“Sorry,” Friedel said in German. “Where can we cook, if not in front of our tent?” Every campground we’ve been in so far has allowed us to cook by our tent, so this seemed odd.
The woman kept on yelling and pointed towards a little shed, half open, only a few feet long and filled with bicycles and clothes hung up to dry.
The heatwave from last week seems to have eased and we woke this morning to cloudy skies – a very welcome relief! The weather now is actually perfect for cycling. The severe wind which wore us out yesterday has disappeared and there’s no sign of rain either. Lucky us since we read news of severe floods in southern Germany and England today. A few hundred kilometers further west and we might have been trying to cycle on washed out roads. Floods have been in our thoughts quite a bit lately as we pass high water marks along the Danube. In 2002, the river burst its banks twice and the August floods left houses almost entirely underwater. Little signs attached well above the doors of many homes drive home to us just how fierce this otherwise tranquil and peaceful body of water can be. We arrived in the city of Linz around midday, after spending the morning passing largely through farming communities. Linz immediately drew us in with its refined squares, pedestrian areas and numerous colourful and ornate churches. (more…)