Bad Goisen, cycle touring Alps, cycle touring Austria, cycle touring Dachstein, cycling along the river Enns, Dachsteinrunde, Enntalradweg, Garsteinertalradweg, Hallstadt, Karnten, Mondsee, R2, Radstadt. Bad Gastein, Salzkammergut, Sport Erlebnis Camp Obervellach, St Johann, Sterimark, Tauberradweg, Tauernschleuse
I have a dim memory of a geography lesson, and it is dim so go and look up the following bit. The basic facts were, that for every 100m you climb, the temperature drops by 1’c. Living just north of Birmingham in the English Midlands, this was one of the things you had to go along with. Cycling in the Austrian Alps however, you get to see this little gem of a fact at work.
I could also add the less than scientific ‘ facts ‘ that the coffee they serve here gets stronger the higher you climb, and the cost of a night in a hotel rises with altitude. The Austrian Alps have been about landscape, light and cloud and then you can add altitude.
Mondsee, and it had rained again overnight and is continuing to rain as we get ready to start the day. It is not heavy enough to put on full wet weather gear, but enough to take the spring from your step, the bounce from your bungee.
There is a steep climb to the 600m contour on muesli full stomaches. A climb of any sort straight out of the tent is horrid. You have to keep your mouth shut for about 15% of the starts to the day, and give it 30Km to express an opinion. Before then, you do want to pack in and go home on those 15% days. This is one of them. Enjoy the view Warren, you are a lucky sod.
The road we are on stumbles across bike route R2 beyond Strobl. You can point your bike in any direction here, and within a dozen kilometres you will be on a bike route. There is the occasional glimpse of sun, which of course means it will rain soon. This would be a far less engaging pedal with a cobalt blue sky of a summer’s day.
We enter the town of Bad Goisern and get to the square just as a funeral procession turns the corner. We heard it approach for 5 minutes. The brass band at the head it is a noisy affair. There are sober colours of tweed, wool and felt from what could be a hundred in the cortege. The band is at the head, followed by the members of the deceased club or society. Next is the coffin, on wheels like a pram and followed by the family. A circuit of the town is done and then back to the church. It is very precise, very Austrian and I dread to think of the politics involved in the position in the line.
We search half a dozen online weather sites trying to find one we like for our morning ride out of Bad Goisern. There are none, and we call a rest day and watch the clouds curl around the mountains and hide in coffee places as heavy rain lashes down.
Saturday morning, patches of blue but still there are dramatic clouds folding themselves over the mountains. As we move into the heart of the Alps, there are often moments when it looks impossible to get beyond a wall of mountains ahead. Somehow a path will find a way through the cleavage of the rocks. Today that involves a path bolted to the rocks along the lake. These are steep brutes.
We pick up the R2 and again there is a perfection of cloud, rock and light. Add to this a mirror perfect lake and you have a sublime landscape. There is fresh snow and it has fallen rather low. This is not even late in the year and something we had not taken into account. The R2 is marked as the ‘ Dachstein Runde ‘ in this area, and would be a great route to explore more. Today, it may qualify as the worlds most beautiful bike routes.
Austrians take winter seriously and prepare for it with great precision. This first cold snap of the season has got them focused on the task in hand. Wood for the stove is being sectioned to the millimetre and stacked. The sound of chainsaw and bench rig fill the still air. There will be a couple of months when the Audi has to be squeezed into garages lined with drying wood piles. There is not a single house here that fails to please the eye.
We are playing with the 800m contour line as we pass through Bad Aussee and Obertraun. Austria is spending the afternoon looking more like Switzerland than we had expected. There can not be a place on earth more in love with window boxes. We drop down to the town of Irdning, passing a ski jump and marveling at the guts hat throwing yourself off this must take.
A campground pitch, the tent is up and a brew of tea ready and then it starts to rain again. That was a spectacular day on the touring bikes. It keeps on raining until early Sunday morning when a weak light comes into the tent. It is accompanied by the aural assault of three churches with competing bell peels. There is no need for a Sunday morning alarm here.
Where yesterday evening there had been a rock massif, this morning a thin slither is visible under the cloud cover. My legs are refusing to turn without complaint today. By midday, the weather improves and an hour later we drop down to summer and the R1 as we ride into another beautiful village.
Austria is clean. You could eat off it, or drop something on the floor and ignore the 5 second rule here. It has the best football pitches I have ever seen and more tennis courts than looks to be needed. There are more premium and very spendy cars here than you could imagine. But what do they make/ how do they afford it? I just typed ‘ why is Austria so rich into the WWW. You do wonder.
The town of Haus, the very epicentre of window box art. They must be on the school curriculum here, a degree subject possibly. I have tried every summer back home and nothing I have done comes close to this horticulture premier league. I put it down to the 70 mph summer gales that my Scottish flowers have to endure. We pick up the river Enns and watch the clouds once more.
A campground in the ski resort of Radstadt. It rains heavily overnight. Too heavily to be soothing as it hits the tents fly. Beyond the point of enjoyment I am now so glad that we reproofed things a few days ago – we are pros! The morning starts late as we sit in downy snugness waiting for a break in the weather.
I sit and watch the mountains fade into view on the far side of the valley. The cloud has shape, a form that pulls up and around the mountains, parting and reforming. It is like watching a lava lamp on an epic scale. Knowing we have a hard climb ahead, it is a bit of bugger to spend time dropping 300m.
We level off at the town of St. Johann where we can pick up a river route. Rivers are good to follow, they find the easy route through mountains and we need that here. Railways do the same trick and so we relax, as we follow a path that swaps between railside and riverside route. Doubly good. Or it would be if we had not accidentally and navigationally poorly picked up the wrong river and railway. It is a 15% climb back 1 Km. The day clouds over and the light is lost. A cheap hotel. We are delighted, right up until the point where we realise that was per person not per room.
It is 7’c as we push away in the morning. Snow has fallen overnight and it is not more than 200m above where we are. The brake levers are bitingly cold to the touch. Leg warmers go on for the first time this year and we settle into winter riding.
We have a day of riding a ski centre valley. We ask when the snow clears and are told June, and today it would not be unusual to have snow lying here in the towns. That is a short summer season. Everyone in business is taking a breather before the winter season starts and the Glühwein flows.
This is a dead end valley. It comes to a stop at the foot of a rock wall. Everything has to take the train through a tunnel to the next valley. Cars go on the train and that is the way we are looking to go. We are going to pick up a train a bit short of the end stop. We sit and wait 90 minutes and then as it comes in we ask how to get the bikes onboard. The guard goes to lower the ramp. Then the train pulls away, with us still waiting. We are furious and open mouthed in disbelief.
We go on. Bad Dastein at 1074m with just a few kilometers more to go. These are short and brutal climbs between luxury ski villages and probably best appreciated when not in a foul mood.
We pick up the through valley train and get out into another world. It is almost 1200m and 8’c despite the sun being out. Ahead we have a drop in height. We are not aware of just how steep until we are falling like stones and hanging onto the hoods for dear life. The bike hits poor tarmac and bucks at 60kph. I take just one set of photos. They just about sum up the joy of being on a touring bike. We end the day at Sport-Erlebnis campground. It is exceptional. 400m lower and 4’c warmer. Which you knew if you had paid attention at school.