Spring (or not) in Bratislava

(English below)

Photo gallery

Frühling in Bratislava

Aufwiedersehen Austria, Ahoj Slovakia

Aufwiedersehen Austria, Ahoj Slovakia

A room designed for us

A room designed for us

Just chillin'

Just chillin’

Next stop Istanbul...only 1231km to go (if we were a crow)

Next stop Istanbul…only 1231km to go (if we were a crow)

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava

Bratislava

Freezing through spring at the entrance of the castle in Bratislava

Freezing through spring at the entrance of the castle in Bratislava

The view across the Danube from the castle

The view across the Danube from the castle

The flower of union from the Soviet days

The flower of union from the Soviet days

A communist-era pyramid in Bratislava

A communist-era pyramid in Bratislava

1.5L beer for €1.19 (that's 1970's prices)

1.5L beer for €1.19 (that’s 1970’s prices)

Crossing the Danube under snowy skies

Crossing the Danube under snowy skies

Nina enjoying some snowsports

Nina enjoying some snowsports

Bike path signs Slovak style

Bike path signs Slovak style

Winter Christmas tree shopping anyone

Winter Christmas tree shopping anyone

Am 23. März radelten wir von Wien nach Bratislava. Im letzten österreichischen Städtchen vor der slovakischen Grenze, Hainburg an der Donau, genossen wir noch Kaffee und Kuchen und fuhren anschliessend in die Stadt Bratislava hinein. Obwohl die kulturelle und sprachliche Vielfalt in Europa eine Selbstverständlichkeit ist, führten mir diese letzten paar Kilometer mehr denn je vor Augen, wie nah alles beieinander liegt und doch so unterschiedlich sein kann. Da hatten wir in Hainburg gerade eben noch Kaffee getrunken und uns mit der Kellnerin auf Deutsch unterhalten können und 30 Minuten später verstanden wir die Sprache nicht mehr, sprossen Plattenbauten aus der kommunistischen Ära in die Höhe und die Leute, denen wir auf der Strasse begegneten, waren so freundlich und interessiert, wie wir das in Österreich kaum erlebt hatten.

Je näher wir dem Zentrum Bratislavas kamen, desto mehr lösten Rokoko-Gebäude aus dem 18. Jahrhundert die Plattenbauten ab und Bratislava entpuppte sich als äusserst charmante und lebendige Stadt.

Wir hatten im Voraus ein Zimmer in einem Hostel gebucht, das zwar etwas heruntergekommen, dafür aber kaum besucht war und so stand uns sozusagen ein ganzes Hostel mit eigener Küche etc. zur Verfügung. Wir blieben gleich drei Nächte dort und genossen es, nach den ersten 16 Reisetagen  sowas wie ein eigenes Zuhause zu haben. Da sich Bratislava von seiner winterlichen Seite zeigte (Schnee und Minustemparaturen), verbrachten wir unsere Zeit nebst den Stadtspaziergängen vor allem mit Brunchen, Kochen, Essen und Wein Trinken, Lesen, Filme Schauen etc.

Nach diesen zwei gemütlichen Tagen radelten wir am 26. März weiter Richtung Györ in Ungarn. Es hatte die ganze Nacht geschneit und so fiel uns die Wahl zwischen matschigen Hauptstrassen, auf welchen die Autos nur so hin und her rutschten, und den schneebedeckten Radrouten nicht leicht. Wir entschieden uns für Letztere, was sich aber spätestens nach der ungarischen Grenze als Fehler entpuppte, da unsere Fahrräder den vielen Schnee auf den ohnehin holprigen Feldwegen kaum zu bewältigen vermochten. Good bye Slovakia hello Hungary!

Spring (or not) in Bratislava

Following a quick breakfast with our two delightful (but sleep deprived) hosts Marco and Angela, we set off on Saturday morning (23rd March) from Vienna towards the end of Austria and then into Slovakia.  We sampled our last typical Austrian coffee and dessert in Hainburg on the Danube, before crossing the border into Slovakia, and then heading the last few kilometers for the day into the capital, Bratislava.

Although these few kilometers seemed incredibly minute, geographically speaking, for us it meant a huge change in our comfort level.  Gone was the ability to properly converse with all people on the street, and from now on we could only hope that we came across people that understood some small parts of English or German, since our combined Slovakian abilities amounted to about zero.

Culturally and historically speaking, this border crossing also represented a big step.  Coming from an Austrian landscape littered with Habsburg-era castles and churches, to now be confronted upon first glance in Slovakia with row after row of communist style block buildings and numerous sky-reaching signal towers.  The general reservedness of the Austrians, then gave way to a different mentality of the Slovakians.  We’d hardly stopped to check the map when we greeted by a helpful fellow cyclist, interested in what we were up to, and where we needed to get.  Riding into the center of Bratislava we were greeted by a small beautiful old town filled with Baroque buildings and churches (which thankfully the Allies and later the Russians hadn’t totally destroyed), which we looked forward to exploring during the next few days.

We had decided that Bratislava warranted a few days of our time, so we checked into a cheap hostel (the wall of our room being appropriately adorned with a painting of a Penny-farthing) and for the first time since we’d left Bern, enjoyed having time for ourselves without any definite plans.  We set about making ourselves comfortable, and since a snowy March seemed not to be the peak tourist season in Bratislava, had more or less the whole place just for us – which suited Nina, with her innate ability of spreading her belongings far and wide in the blink of an eye, just perfectly – ordered chaos she calls it.

Rugged up for the winter (not spring as we’d desperately been hoping for) weather, we ambled through the quaint old and town enjoying the lovely buildings, scrambled up the icy path to the castle overlooking Bratislava and the Danube, and looked in amazement (and amusement) at the remnants of supposedly inspiring communistic architecture.

The rest of our time was spent eating brunch, cooking dinner, drinking wine and ridiculously cheap beer (1.5l for €1.20 anyone), reading and watching movies.  The freezing weather (snow, minus degrees and a bone-slicing wind) outside gave us a good chance just to stay inside in the warmth and relax a bit.

Tuesday morning (26th March) arrived suddenly and that meant again bike-riding.  We were met with more of the same weather-wise, so we rugged up, loaded up the bikes, and went skiing with our bikes for a day through the snow.  Since it had snowed fairly consistently the previous 72 hours, we had to make the decision between icy slushy main roads (with cars skidding all over the place) or totally snow covered bike paths – neither option filling us with excitement naturally.  And so off we went, along the bike path (hard work and perseverance still being preferable to ending up as Slovakian road kill) towards Hungary and our destination for the night Györ.

We made reasonably steady progress the first hour, and then crossed the border into Hungary along what could only be described as goat track, and then things changed…

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Austria – Part II

(English at the bottom)

Photo gallery

… Da wir beide Salzburg bereits kannten, hielten wir nur zum Mittagessen und Kaffee Trinken an. Anschliessend aus Salzburg hinauszuradeln, bedeutete auch, die Alpen- und Bergwelt hinter uns zu lassen. Es blieb zwar kalt und noch weitere zwei Tage sehr hügelig, doch Pässe gab es keine mehr zu bewältigen und Schneeflächen bekamen wir immer weniger zu Gesicht.

Nach Salzburg radelten wir zum Fuschl- und anschliessend zum Wolfgangsee im Salzkammergut (17. März) und von dort via Bad Ischl (Sissi’s Kurort) dem Fluss Traun und dem Traunsee entlang (18. März).  Die verschiedenen Seen erinnerten mich stark an Landschaften in schottischen Hochland (z.B. Loch Ness) und wie immer bestaunten wir die Vielzahl an Schlössern, Kirchen und Burgen sowie die hübschen Städtchen wie etwa Gmunden.

Castle and Palace spotting in Salzburg

Castle and Palace spotting in Salzburg

Hohensalzburg Fortress above Salzburg

Hohensalzburg Fortress above Salzburg

Waiting for the next customer

Waiting for the next customer

Finally warming the toes in front of our authentic electric fireplace

Finally warming the toes in front of our authentic electric fireplace

A path for bikes, bow-legged girls in short skirts and gentlemen wearing dapper hats

A path for bikes, bow-legged girls in short skirts and gentlemen wearing dapper hats

The mountains in the Salzkammergut near Wolfgangsee (Lake Wolfgang)

The mountains in the Salzkammergut near Wolfgangsee (Lake Wolfgang)

Along the Riviera in Bad Ischl

Along the Riviera in Bad Ischl

Luckily we left the horse and cart at home on the farm

Luckily we left the horse and cart at home on the farm

Looking back towards the mountains on Lake Traun (Traunsee)

Looking back towards the mountains on Lake Traun (Traunsee)

Sometimes it's good to use some other muscles

Sometimes it’s good to use some other muscles

Towers in Linz

Towers in Linz

The mighty Danube at sunset in Linz

The mighty Danube at sunset in Linz

Cathedral in Linz

Cathedral in Linz

Leaving Linz towards Vienna (Wien) along the Danube Bike path.

Leaving Linz towards Vienna (Wien) along the Danube Bike path.

Who said industrial areas are ugly?!?

Who said industrial areas are ugly?!?

Riding through the mystically foggy morning

Riding through the mystically foggy morning

Lunchtime over the Danube from Ybbs

Lunchtime over the Danube from Ybbs

Melk Abbey

Melk Abbey

Sunset on the Danube

Sunset on the Danube

1000km down, only a few thousand more to go...

1000km down, only a few thousand more to go…

Alvin, Simon or Theodore?

Alvin, Simon or Theodore?

Tulln on the Danube

Tulln on the Danube

The Austrians are well organised - bike tube vending machine anyone?

The Austrians are well organised – bike tube vending machine anyone?

St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna

St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna

Tourists attempting the famous Wiener Schnitzel from Figlmüller in Vienna

Tourists attempting the famous Wiener Schnitzel from Figlmüller in Vienna

Für den 19. März hatten wir nur 40 Kilometer eingeplant, da wir am Mittag in Linz ankommen und uns anschliessend das Städtchen anschauen wollten. Allerdings machten uns Schneeregen, Hagel, ein starker und kalter Gegenwind, Pauls zweiter (!) Platten und eine zweistündige Irrfahrt durch die Vororte von Linz einen Strich durch die Rechnung, so dass wir unsere Pension erst gegen Abend frierend und durchnässt erreichten. Es blieb uns gerade noch genug Zeit, paar nötige Einkäufe zu erledigen, durch das hübsche Stadtzentrum zu schlendern und den Dom, die grösste Kirche Österreichs, mit seinen eindrücklichen Gemäldefenstern zu bewundern. Linz ist sicherlich ein Besuch wert.

Am nächsten Tag (20. März) starteten wir unsere Reise der Donau entlang, welcher wir wohl bis nach Bulgarien folgen werden. Die Vorzüge des Donauradwegs sind, dass wir fortan schneller voran kommen, da wir kaum noch Höhen zu bewältigen haben und aufgrund der perfekten Beschilderung kaum vom Weg abkommen können. Die noch winterliche Stimmung dem Fluss entlang ist im morgendlichen Nebel und im Abendlicht beinahe mystisch. Auch geniessen wir es, weit und breit die einzigen Radfahrenden zu sein, da zu dieser Jahreszeit noch kaum jemand dem Donauradweg entlang fährt. Die ganze Landschaft wird aber sicherlich noch eindrücklicher sein, sobald die Bäume wieder grüne Blätter tragen und auf den fruchbaren Feldern, die zurzeit noch braun sind, wieder etwas wächst. Dank der einfachen Route kamen wir am 20. März trotz etwas Gegenwind schnell voran und legten 136 Kilometer zurück, was weit über unserem Durchschnitt von täglich ca. 80 Kilometern liegt. Zum ersten Mal auf unserer Reise genossen wir zum Mittag ein Piknik draussen in der Sonne ohne zu frieren. Besonders eindrücklich an diesem Tag waren das Städtchen Melk mit seinem pompösen Benediktinerkoster und unser Znacht in einem kleinen Städtchen in der Weinregion Wachau bei einem Bauern / Winzer, der uns herrlichste Käste- und Schinkensorten sowie geräucherte Forellen und Marillenschnaps auftischte; ein unvergessliches Abendessen!

Am 21. März spürten wir dann doch die am Vortag 136 und die seit Wichtrach 1000 zurückgelegten Kilometer in den Beinen und waren froh, der ebenen (und etwas eintönigen) Fahrradroute der Donau entlang fahren zu können und von einem starken Westwind getragen zu werden.  So legten wir mühelos weitere 106 Kilometer zurück und erreichten gegen den frühen Abend Wien, wo wir bei Marco und Angela, zwei Radfahrende, auf die wir via www.warmshowers.org gestossen sind, übernachten konnten. Marco hatte sogar eine wunderbare Lasagne für uns gekocht und führte uns später auf paar österreichische Biere aus.

Am Freitag (22. März) gönnten wir uns nach 7 Velotagen einen Ruhetag in Wien. Die wichtigsten Sehenswürdigkeiten kannten wir bereits, so dass wir hautpsächlich Kaffee tranken, mit unseren lieben Gastgeberin Angela im Leopold frühstückten (super Tip!), durch die Strassen schlenderten und dann wieder Kaffe tranken… Wir sind beide müde von den vergangenen Reisetagen und genossen es umso mehr, unsere Beine auszuruhen und bei Marco und Angela ein zu Hause zu haben.

Am nächsten Tag (23. März) verwöhnten uns die beiden noch mal mit Kaffee und einem stärkenden Fühstück und wir verliessen Wien Richtung Bratislava. Vielen, vielen Dank euch beiden für die spontane und warmherzige Gastfreundschaft, wir sehen uns spätestens in zwei Jahren im Berner Oberland zum Skifahren…

Wir sind nun seit zwei Wochen unterwegs, doch haben wir schon viel mehr erlebt, als überhaupt in eine so kurze Zeit zu passen scheint. Gestern Abend sind wir in der Slovakei angekommen und werden die nächsten zwei Tage in einer günstigen Jugendherberge in Bratislava verbringen. Anschliessend fahren wir weiter nach Budapest, eine Stadt, die ich schon immer besuchen wollte. Ich freue mich auf die Weiterreise und auf Osteuropa und auf einen baldigen Frühlingsbeginn!

Austria – Part II

Since we had both visited Salzburg before, we decided that lunch (Sunday 17th March) and a quick spin around the old town would be enough to satisfy our tourist hunger. Lunch on the Old Market Square (finally warm enough to eat outside – just!!) was thoroughly enjoyed and in the afternoon headed off towards the Salzkammergut.  Although we could leave the mountains behind, the landscape stayed very hilly, and the punishment on the legs continued.

From Salzburg we headed to Fuschl where we stayed the night, then spent the next day (Monday 18th March) cycling along one lake after another, Wolfgang then Traun Lake, passing through Bad Ischl and Gmunden (all very lovely towns – the Austrians were certainly very motivated castle and church builders) before finding a hotel late in a wet and cold Lambach, following some help from some overzealous Austrians, who were extremely worried that we could never possibly find accommodation nearby (a quick trip for Paul without bike around town in a spanking new black Mercedes with an Austrian couple speaking a ridiculously strong dialect while Nina waited outside the town supermarket with our bikes soon confirmed the obvious – that there was in fact a room to be had).

Another typical Austrian breakfast of delicious bread rolls, ham, butter, apricot jam combined with tasteless lifeless cheese slices all to be washed down with coffee and OJ and we were on our way on Tuesday (19th March) towards Linz.  With what we thought was a short trip of 40km, we were looking forward to arriving in time for lunch so that we had a chance to look around the town.  60km later and having been battered by freezing temperatures and gusty headwinds, Paul’s second flat tire, sent every which way by confusing bike path signs and even more confused Linz pedestrians, we finally made it into Linz late in the afternoon.  A warm shower was necessary to wash away all of the mud before heading into town to look around.  Like so many Austrian towns along the Danube, the former wealth of the place is evidently visible, demonstrated in the magnificent pompous buildings and sky-reaching churches.  The stain-glassed windows in the Linz Cathedral, the largest in Austria, were really something to behold.  Just as the sun was setting, the sun reappeared and we were treated to spectacular views along the Danube in the evening light.  The evening was spent organising a place to stay in Vienna in the coming days.

Knowing that Vienna isn’t the cheapest place in town, and attempting to get some control back over our budget, it was decided that the time had come to implement Operation Warmshowers (comparable to Couchsurfing but for bike-touring) and find someone’s floor to sleep on.  Only once Nina had organised something for in 2 days time, did we consult Nina’s route plan and realise that Vienna was actually 3 days ride away and not 2.  It was then decided that due to the relatively flat route our normal plan of 80km per day would be scrapped, and a new benchmark would have to be set in order to cover the 240km to Vienna from Linz.

An early start was necessary on Wed (20th March) morning, and we were on our way just before 7:30am.  Although very chilly, the sunny misty morning riding along the Danube was very peaceful and almost mystical and we already had 85km under our belt when we decided at 1pm to stop for lunch on the riverbank opposite Ybbs for lunch.  It was the first time that we could enjoy a picnic outside and feel some form of warmth from the sun.  Refreshed and renourished the pedalling continued for another 2 hours until Melk, where we stopped for an afternoon coffee break and a look around the old town and impressive Melk Abbey (one of the world’s most famous baroque Benedictine monasteries).  With sunset approaching the journey continued until the darkness engulfed us and our legs were finally spent – 136km later (a new record for us).  In a tiny village rimmed with vineyards and apricot (Marille) trees lying along the Danube, we found a bed in a small guesthouse and enjoyed a memorable dinner in a neighbouring farmhouse/restaurant of delicious smoked trout and typical Austrian cheeses and meats, all washed down with local wine and apricot schnapps – perfect after such a long day.

With no time for a sleep in on Thursday (21st March) morning we on our way again early and with the Danube as our companion to the left, we set course towards Vienna, about 100km away.  We hit the 1000km mark of our journey almost first thing in the morning, which required a short stop for a photo shoot.  A friendly west wind from then on helped us along (although the cold decided to reappear) and even with heavy legs from the day before we could quite happily cruise along at around 20kph.

A pizza for lunch in from the cold in Tulln gave us the strength to get to Vienna just after 4pm.  Along the way, similar as from Linz, we passed fertile fields awaiting the coming (we hope at least) spring, towns ringed in by retaining walls to protect them from flooding and spent most of time riding along the top of the levy bank designed to keep a flooded threatening Danube at bay.  Picturesque villages, elegant churches and crumbling fortresses and castles atop craggy peaks accompanied us throughout the rest of the day.

Precise informative directions from Marco (our incredibly friendly www.warmshowers.org host,along with his girlfriend Angela) meant we arrived at our place of residence in the middle of Vienna for the next 2 nights without any problem.  Nina had contacted Marco when we were in Linz, and it was great to have a place to stay, but for us even more exciting to get to meet some other avid bike tourers to swap stories and ideas and have someone to show us around Vienna.  Marco had lasagna baking in the oven when we arrived (which definitely kicked my saliva glands into action) and after a fantastic dinner we whipped over to a nearby bar to sample a few Austrian wheat biers.

Smashed it without a sweat!!

Smashed it without a sweat!!

Our day off had finally arrived – woohoo!!  Friday (22nd March) involved sleeping in, meeting our other wonderful host, Angela (who had had night shift the evening prior), and then going for a scrumptious brunch with her to the Leopold Museum.  Having also both visited Vienna in the past, all that followed was us wandering aimlessly through the impressive boulevards of Vienna surrounded by one pompous tiered cake building after another and drinking coffee (a typical Viennese pastime).

No trip to Vienna would be complete without a Wiener schnitzel, so we ticked that box by heading to the king of the schnitzel, Figlmüller Restaurant, and hungrily devouring a plate-sized golden crispy juicy exemplar of expertly flattened Swine.

Saturday (23rd March) meant bike riding again, and following a hearty breakfast, we said goodbye to our generous, somewhat jealous (jealous that we were the ones heading off on our bikes and not them) hosts, Marco and Angela, and headed towards the Austrian-Slovakian border.  Thank you both so much for the great time in Vienna, and hopefully we’ll see you again some time on the Swiss ski slopes in the future – it’s only about 1000km by bike.

St. Stephen's Cathedral at night

St. Stephen’s Cathedral at night

Thanks again guys

Thanks again guys

Our warmshowers.org hosts, Marco and Angela

Our warmshowers.org hosts, Marco and Angela

It’s now just over 2 weeks since we left Wichtrach, and it’s hard to fathom that we could have experienced so much in such a short time period – I mean, everyone goes on holidays for 2 weeks from time to time.  Everything that we seen and done, and every friendly person that we’ve met along the way just makes us more excited about the time to come.  The journey now continues into Slovaki towards Bratislava and then furth east.  Stay tuned…

Winter in Österreich (Austria)

Evening landscapes heading into Bludenz

Evening landscapes heading into Bludenz

The green light to go go go...

The green light to go go go…

The bike lane is wider than the car lanes (which is not always the case)

The bike lane is wider than the car lanes (which is not always the case)

Nina dreaming of skiing on the way up to the Arlberg Pass

Nina dreaming of skiing on the way up to the Arlberg Pass

5 hrs later, finally at the top of the Arlberg Pass (1800m)

5 hrs later, finally at the top of the Arlberg Pass (1800m)

Time to enjoy the scenery after the Arlberg Pass

Time to enjoy the scenery after the Arlberg Pass

The first (and last) flat tyre

The first (and last) flat tyre

Because every good bike path needs a crucified Jesus

Because every good bike path needs a crucified Jesus

Fashion when it's sub zero

Fashion when it’s sub zero

Innsbruck Old Town

Innsbruck Old Town

Emil's champion breakfast - energy winner!!

Emil’s champion breakfast – energy winner!!

A selfie in front of the famous golden roof in Innsbruck

A selfie in front of the famous golden roof in Innsbruck

Innsbruck Old Town

Innsbruck Old Town

Along the River Inn

Along the River Inn

The Austrian lunch of champions - Goulash and Wienerschnitzel

The Austrian lunch of champions – Goulash and Wienerschnitzel

One of the hundreds of castles on the River Inn

One of the hundreds of castles on the River Inn

River Inn

River Inn

Snowy trails through Austria

Snowy trails through Austria

A town along the River Inn

A town along the River Inn

Sunset near Mariastein

Sunset near Mariastein

Midnight bike ride near Mariastein

Midnight bike ride near Mariastein

All the single ladies - is this what Beyonce was singing about?

All the single ladies – is this what Beyonce was singing about?

What size skis do your bike take?

What size skis do your bike take?

Guten Morgen Deutschland

Guten Morgen Deutschland

Welcome to Bavaria

Welcome to Bavaria

Winter wonderland along the German Alpine Road (Deutsche Alpenstrasse)

Winter wonderland along the German Alpine Road (Deutsche Alpenstrasse)

Tanks are obviously faster than us

Tanks are obviously faster than us

And back into Austria...

And back into Austria…

(English down below)

Photo gallery

Nach einem regnerischen Vormittag im Rheintal (11. März) empfing uns Österreich mit viel Sonnenschein und in friedlicher Abendstimmung. Von Feldkirch aus radelten wir dem Fluss Alfenz und blauen Bergseen Richtung Berge entlang.  Zur Feier meines Geburtstages übernachteten wir in einem Hotel in Bludenz und liessen uns schon um 21.00 Uhr erschöpft in die bequemen Betten fallen. Vielen Dank für die lieben Geburtstags-SMS und Mails!

Am folgenden Tag (12. März) stärkten wir uns erstmal mit einem ausgiebigen Frühsück für die zu bewältigenden 1200 Höhenmeter. Mit dem Wetter hatten wir grosses Glück, da der vorhergesagte Schnee noch nicht fiel und uns stattdessen die winterliche Sonne etwas zu wärmen vermochte. Die nächsten 5 Stunden gings stetig aufwärts und je höher wir stiegen, desto mehr Ski- und Snowboardfahrende trafen wir an. Gegen Ende des Aufstiegs befanden wir uns mitten im Arlberger-Skigebiet. Nur zu gern hätte ich mich in einen der Sessellifte gesetzt, statt mit all meinem Gepäck die Passstrasse hochzustrampeln. Die letzten 400 Höhenmeter gestalteten sich aufgrund einem 1 Kilometer langen, luftverschmutzen Tunnel, durch den wir die Fahrräder auf dem Notfallstreifen hochstossen mussten, und aufgrund der steilen Strassen äusserst streng, so dass wir den Arlbergpass auf 1800 Höhenmeter völlig erschöpft erreichten. Wir waren froh, dass es fortan nur noch runterging, was denn auch grossen Spass machte und die vorgängigen Strapazen in Vergessenheit geraten liess. In Zams fanden wir eine kleine Pension, wo wir einfach nur noch schlafen und unsere müden Beine ausruhen konnten.

Der 13. März war der sechste und letzte Velotag, bevor wir bei meiner Freundin Seri und bei Emil in Innsbruck eine Pause einlegen würden. Im Vergleich zum Vortag schien die Strecke ohne allzugrosse Anstrengungen machbar. Ein kühler Gegenwind und unsere müden Beide liessen uns jedoch nur langsam vorwärtskommen. Hinzu kam, dass wir einander in einem Städtchen aus den Augen verloren, meine Handybatterie leer war und sich unsere Wege (wir hatten unterschiedliche Routen gewählt) erst nach etwa einer Stunde wieder kreuzten. Zum Glück waren wir beide weitergeradelt ohne dass jemand zu lange auf den andern gewartet oder einen Sturz gehabt hätte! Das mulmige Gefühl hielt noch etwas an und wir waren froh, nach drei weiteren Radelstunden in Innsbruck anzukommen. Nach einem herrlichen Znacht mit Seri und Emil schliefen wir – erschöpft, wie jeden Abend – ein.

In Innsbruck (14. März) schneite es und wir genossen umso mehr das Nichtstun, schauten uns die paar Sehenswürdigkeiten im Städtchen an und feierten das Wiedersehen mit Seri und Emil bei gutem Essen und Wein. Vielen Dank euch beiden!

Nach sechs anstrengenden Velotagen war eine solche Velopause dringend nötig gewesen und so fühlten wir uns am nächsten Tag (15. März) so richtig erholt und freuten uns auf die Weiterreise. Es war ein bitterkalter Tag (höchstens minus 2°!) mit erneut starkem Gegenwind, doch die Aussicht auf die schneebedeckten Wälder, Schlösser und Burgen machte das Frösteln durchaus ertragbar. Im malerischen Städtchen Schwaz stärkten wir uns – wie es sich in Österreich gehört – mit Gulasch und Wienerschnitzel und radelten dann weiter dem Inn Richtung Wörgl entlang. Wir hatten am Vortag im Internet eine billige Unterkunft in Mariastein gebucht. Nur war uns zu diesem Zeitpunkt noch nicht bewusst gewesen, dass es zwischen Wörgl und Mariastein noch etwa 200 Höhenmeter zu bewältigen gab. So strampelten wir zum Schluss des Tages den Berg hoch und immer mehr in den Winter hinein. Teils mussten wir gar vom Fahrrad steigen und es über die schneebedeckten Waldwege stossen. Immer mehr wich die Erschöpfung jedoch einem überwältigenden Glücksgefühl, durch dies unberührte Märchenlandschaft reisen zu können, die im Abendlicht noch eindrücklicher wirkte. Eine grosse Pizza und ein warmes Bett rundeten diesen traumhaft schönen Tag ab.

Nächstentags (16. März) frühstückten wir unter lauter Gästen, die bereits in ihrer Wintermontur steckten und sich für ein Tag auf den Skis stärkten. Einmal mehr wollten wir mit unseren Fahrrädern nicht so ganz in die winterliche Landschaft passen. Es folgte ein weiterer eisig kalter Tag über eine Strecke, die uns bei Minusgraden zahlreiche Höhenmeter bezwingen liess und uns an einer idyllischen Landschaft mit schneebedeckten Tannenwäldern, Feldern, Skipisten und Bergseen vorbei und von den tiroler (Österreich) in die bayerischen (D) Alpen nach Rupholdingen führte. Da es nachts immer noch zwischen minus 10° bis 15° wird, übernachteten wir erneut in einer kleinen Pension, wo wir uns mit einer Dusche wärmten und wie immer früh einschliefen.

Die Tage beginnen sich zu ähneln: Noch immer herrschen winterliche Temperaturen, noch immer radeln wir durch atemberaubend schöne Berglandschaften und noch immer überkommt mich mehrmals täglich ein Gefühl des Glücks, all das zu erleben und mit Paul teilen zu können. Wir radelten am 17. März von Rupholdingen aus wieder zurück nach Österreich und erreichten gegen Mittag Salzburg, wo wir eine lange Mittagspause einlegten… weitere Blogs folgen.

Winter in Austria

Now in Voralberg (a state of Austria) after leaving the Canton of St Gallen and Confederation of Switzerland, we started on our way towards tomorrow’s challenge, crossing the Arlberg Pass.  We celebrated Annina’s birthday in a hotel (birthday treat) in Bludenz and enjoyed getting to fall exhaustedly into bed at 9pm.

10 hours sleep later and a hearty buffet breakfast would hopefully give us the strength to ride up the next 40km and 1200m altitude to the top of the Arlberg Pass.  Tuesday (12th March) surprisingly greeted us with sun and warmth (relative to March of course) and we set off feeling reasonably fit.  Progress was fairly constant (constantly slow that is), but we kept moving forwards.  Since there was still quite a lot of snow lying about, the bike path wasn’t really open in some sections, so that meant having to shove fully loaded bikes 1km along the emergency footpath up through a pollution-filled Austrian tunnel – delightful!!  Thankfully the forecasted snow was polite enough to be delayed, and instead of minus temperatures and snow, we only had to contend with minus temperatures.

Despite the cold, the constant upward drive kept us fairly warm and after about 5 hours we were met at the top of the Arlberg Pass by skiers, snowboarders and freshly falling snow.  What ensued was a fairly nervy descent over slippery icy streets until thankfully the snow stopped again and the road dried up and we were just able to enjoy travelling more than 6kph.  At various stages along the ascent, any offer to swap my bike for skis with any of the numerous skiers whizzing past down the ski-piste more or less next to the road would have been happily accepted, but having made it up and over, it’s an experience will definitely motivate us at some other time along our journey.  A quick afternoon coffee break in St Anton helped warm our bones and the following 30 odd km down into Zams seemed to fly by in comparison to those from the morning.  Sleep was what we then desired most, and sleep is all we did for the whole night.

With a little anticipation on Wednesday (13th March) the bikes were again mounted and we headed off towards Innsbruck, where we could look forward to two things – visiting Seri and Emil (Seri being Nina’s oldest friend from Wichtrach) and secondly getting a rest from bike riding.  We spent the whole day either on the left or the right side of the River Inn, however we were wrong in assuming that riding along a river would mean gentle downhill roads, after we spent the first 2 hours of the days constantly going up and back down (just us not the river of course).  As usual Nina continued on riding as I set about photo shooting another tree or mountain or valley or something of the sort and it was only after seeing no trace of Nina for about an hour that we finally caught up to each other again.  Turns out we’d taken a few different turns, Nina tends not to charge her phone battery too well, and I quickly become preoccupied with getting that perfect shot.  All in all, a few nerves shot, but no serious harm done, and we were back underway as a peloton.

When the valley finally flattened out we were met by a hefty headwind that made the last 40km push with our energy sapped legs into Innsbruck extremely hard going.  Some Swiss precision directions from Seri via SMS meant that we arrived at Seri and Emil’s with faces full of a combination of exhaustion and ecstasy, and what followed was a wonderful dinner of Garlic Chicken a la Emil and Mashed Spuds a la Seri in combination with good wine and company.

Thursday (14th March) entailed menial tasks (washing, sleeping, drinking coffee, blog writing etc) followed by a wander around Innsbruck.  A cold front overnight brought with it a layer of snow and sub-zero temperatures, so our tour of Innsbruck was kept relatively brief.

Emil got to work early in the kitchen on Friday (15th March) morning preparing an energy-filled power breakfast, and after saying goodbye and thank you to our wonderful hosts, we hit the bike path in an easterly direction.  A day of rest following 6 days (sounds almost biblical) of bike riding meant we had some power back in the legs, and we thoroughly looked forward to the thought of riding again.  Although it was bitter cold (max. -2°), we rugged up and enjoyed the sun (which again definitely wasn’t forecast) and beautiful scenery filled with snow covered mountains, forests and castles.  Wiener Schnitzel and Goulash were sampled for lunch in the delightful town of Schwaz, and then it was back to following the gentle meanderings of the River Inn.

Towards evening we started getting closer to our pre-booked Pension in Mariastein, which we’d organized from Innsbruck.  Unbeknown to us, Mariastein was situated upon a hill about 200m above the valley floor.  We set off across a bridge over the River Inn, and then began to climb and climb and climb and ride deeper and deeper into the forest, all under the darkening sky.  The further we went, the more the temperature dropped, and the more it seemed like we’d entered into a fairytale.  The dirt tracks and pine trees were covered thickly with powdered snow, and at some stage I expected Hansel and Gretel to cross our paths.  When it seemed that we couldn’t get any more lost, our Pension appeared, and we were glad to get in from the cold (which by now was pushing -10°, certainly not optimal bike weather)

Another bitingly cold but strikingly sunny morning greeted us on Saturday (16th March).   At breakfast tourists frantically getting themselves ready for a day of skiing surrounded us, and the whole morning on the bikes we passed one packed cross country ski track after another – again we seemed to be the ones apparently not acclimatising ourselves appropriately to the season at hand.  Once again we rode through incredibly beautiful snow wonderlands filled with ski pistes, mountain lakes, pine forests and quaint villages, passed from Tirol (Austria) into the Bayern Alps (Germany) and then travelled along the German Alpine Road before ending in Ruhpolding, where we enjoyed a warm shower and an early night in bed.

Sometimes it seems that each day starts and ends like the other – with heavy and tired legs.  But then in the time in between we get to enjoy the freedom to be outside the whole day in nature, take in breathtaking winter landscapes, and every day we are thankful that we get to share all of these wonderful experiences with each other.  Ours bikes will now carry us towards lunch and Salzburg.