Sylvensteinsee – Saturday 18 May

Sylvensteinsee – Saturday 18 May

Today we had another beautiful ride – 59 km from Achenkirch in Austria to Bad Tolz in Germany.

We first rode through Achenkirch township which extends for a while along the river at the top of the lake.
Then the cycle path took us off road, on a compressed gravel road in the mountains. The road contoured up and down through the Achenwald forest towards the Sylvensteinsee, another alpine lake.

Achenwald forest path – compressed gravel

The German border was around 13 km into our ride. Once again, the only sign that we had crossed was the old abandoned border post building. The picture is too boring to even put in this blog.

On German side – more compressed gravel

We first caught glimpses of the beginning of the lake between the trees. The path then veered away again into the forest and we did a bit of a climb over a neck before reaching the lake again – we crossed at a high bridge with a magnificent view – including someone catching fish from a boat below.

View from high bridge above lake

Then we were back onto more gravel road into forest to the small outpost of “Falls”, where we really started encountering a lot of Saturday day trippers, many on bicycles.
There is a large bridge crossing the narrowest part of the lake at Falls. An advantage of being on a bicycle is that you can easily stop on a bridge to admire the view.

View from Sylvensteinsee bridge
Sylvensteinsee bridge

A little further on was a dam wall, with many motorists, cyclist and motorcyclists (smokers) stopped and admiring the view. (tip – right click on any of the photos and chose ‘open in new tab’ for a closer look)

View from Sylvensteinsee dam wall

From here, the cycle path went through a little (lighted) bicycle tunnel. This was where we joined the Isar cycle route. After this, the route was an easy, well surfaced cycle road, mostly downhill into Bad Tolz

Bicycle tunnel
Bad Tolz, view from cycle route, Isar river in the fore ground

We arrived at around 12.30 and had a look around before going to our hotel. The main street in the old town is a pedestrian only, rising up from the river with many painted facades and outdoor restaurants.

Bad Tolz pedestrian street in old town
Easy, Hard, Easy – Friday 17 May

Easy, Hard, Easy – Friday 17 May

Today we rode for 59 km, the first 40 km of which were along the Inn Cycle way again. This part was relatively easy and very beautiful. The weather had cleared up, and we had great mountain views.

Leaving Innsbruck on Inn Cycle Path
Covered bridge
Three church spires
We took the wrong path here and ended in a farmer’s field – had to turn back.
Bucherwirt – fountain and flower display

The difficult part of our journey was a huge climb starting at the town of Jenbach. This is where we left the Inn Cycle way to make our way up to the Achensee, an alpine lake. The climb was so steep that we pushed our bikes up most of the way (it was steeper than Horokiwi road). It took us more than an hour. The climb started in the busy town, and the road grew smaller and smaller, until we came to an intersection at a busy motorway. It was not at all clear if the bike path continued on the small track behind us or if we would have to ride on the highway. We stood there for quite a while speculating, and stopped a few turning cars to ask if they knew whether you could get through on the track behind us. The third driver we asked could confirm that it was a bicycle trail. This trail switched back through mainly wooded areas. Most of the while we were pushing our bikes as it was still steep. At one point we stopped and had a chat with a friendly tramper. Two girls also sailed past us looking relaxed on their electrical bikes.

When we got to the top of the climb, we were lucky to see the Achensee narrow gauge steam cog railway. It was just connecting to the cogs to make its way down (a clue to how steep the hill is). There was a hotel/cafe right there at the top and we stopped for some coffee and cake on the terrace – feeling we deserved it.

Achensee narrow gauge steam cog railway.
coffee and cake at the top of the climb

The path to the lake was easy from here onward – downhill. And stunningly beautiful. The lake is a deep blue/green colour and is surrounded by mountains.

Downhill bike path to Achensee
Path to Achensee
Achensee

We had to ride around the lake to get to our Gasthaus in Achenkirch am Achensee, at the north end. Some of the mountains sit directly on the lake and the snow seems to cling to the mountain almost on the lakes edge.

Bike path around the Achensee lake
Bike path around the Achensee lake

There were many other cyclists and walkers enjoying the path along the lakeside. Some other touring cyclists stopped for a chat.

chatting with other cyclists

Our accommodation was a very traditional guest house, efficiently run by an elderly lady. It was really quiet – I think we were one of only two lots of guests that night.

Landhaus Mayer
tulip display in the garden

For supper, we first finished the cheese and crisp breads we had been carrying at a lakeside picnic spot. We then had some Hefeweizen beer and Tyrolean soup (with noodles, meat and veg) at the nearby cafe/ restaurant.

Relaxing and eating cheese in the park
Innsbruck rest day – Thursday 16 May

Innsbruck rest day – Thursday 16 May

Today was a rest day in Innsbruck – we were booked into the youth hostel for two nights. When we woke up it was totally overcast and we couldn’t even see the mountain view that I knew was outside the window from the previous evening.

We spent the morning using the hostel washing machine and sitting in the hostel lounge working on our computers. It was nice and quite and comfortable, the internet connection was good and we had the place to ourselves.

As we sat there, the weather slowly cleared. By the time we went out at around midday the sun was out and it was getting quite hot. Lots of people were out and about, children playing in parks and eating ice creams. We had an unfortunate incident with the camera while taking a photo alongside the river – it fell. It was already a bit wonky, but now the lens didn’t open at all. We headed back to the centre and bought a new camera in a big department store. It is better than the last one! Hopefully you will see an improvement in the blog photos from now on.

Innsbruck old town – one of the last photos with old camera
One of the first photos with the new camera – pedestrian mall

After meandering around a bit, we found a local cafe and had a big lunch. We didn’t realise it would be so much food until it came – we didn’t have to eat again for the rest of the day. The local cuisine is very hearty – I had the Tyrolean dumplings and Kris had the schnitzel with potato salad. The proprietor has run the cafe for 31 years.

Hearty Lunch

In all, we did just 18 km around Innsbruck.

Over bridge – graffiti and mountain views
Inn Bike Path – 15 May

Inn Bike Path – 15 May

We heard it raining in the night, and must has also snowed, as when we awoke the snow on the hill outside our balcony was really low. The cloud cover was also pretty low, and it was cold (around 1 degree).

Overnight snow

Today’s ride, from Zams to Innsbruck was entirely alongside the Inn Bike Path, which follows the Inn river. It was a relatively easy ride, dropping around 200 m over 80 km. There are just enough little up hill stretches to keep you warm while riding, which was just as well as it remained quite cold the whole day.

Outskirts of Zams – Inn river bridge
Waterfall
Inn River

The cloud was low most of the day, which was a pity as it obscured the tops of the mountains. However it did begin to clear up a bit towards afternoon and we could get some glimpses of the higher peaks.

Mountain view – Inn Cycle Way

At one point, near where this photo was taken, we rode past a herd of cows in a field. They were all grazing at once and the sound of their cow bells was like a loud discordant glockenspiel.

The last 30 km of the ride, after Telfs, was quite flat. Telfs was the largest town along the route, but we didn’t turn off. We were keen to stop for a rest and a coffee, but thought we would find something along the route.

There were still some interesting sights along this flat part of the route, such as this church built right at the top of a hill – I wonder how the people get to it?

church on hill, Inn Cycle Path after Telfs
Ski jump trainer

We were speculating about what this contraption, up on the hill above the town of Stams was. Kris asked a local passerby and was told that it is to train for ski jumping. Evidently they can jump off these without snow. The little one is for beginners. I would love to see someone jump off these.

We were impressed by these sheer cliffs a little further on. It looks as though there is a bridge built along one side, but it looks as though it may not be in use any longer.

Bridge alongside cliff

We stopped for a coffee and cake to warm up about 15 km out of Innsbruck, in a nice warm cafe attached to a supermarket.

We had done around 80 km when we got to Innsbruck at around 3 pm. However, we circled the town a bit looking for our accommodation in the Youth Hostel. One odd thing I noticed about Innsbruck was that the pedestrians all seem to walk around looking at their mobile phones. I noticed this around 4 or 5 times just on our short ride through the city – quite alarming if you feel they are about to walk in front of your bike.

By the time we got to the hostel, we had done 91 km. We still felt quite energised after we checked in and dropped our stuff off. We got back on the bikes and did another 14 km exploring. We had two draft beers in a cafe in the old town and bought a few things to eat.

Innsbruck street
Wilten Abbey
Alpine Cycle crossings

Alpine Cycle crossings

We have done two alpine crossings, one at through the Grossglockner alpine road and the other through the Via Claudia Augusta. By far the most popular crossing is the Via Claudia Augusta. We did not encounter any cycling tourists on the Grossglockner alpine road. We encountered many cycling tourists on the Via Claudia Augusta but none were crossing from Italy towards Austria. So the cycle touring traffic was all from the North to the South.

The Via Claudia Reschen pass is in the Tyrol area and the pass summit is at a height of 1,504 meters and the pass road very seldom has ice.
The Grossglockner pass between Carinthia and Tyrol reaches 2,576 meters and is often iced over, and is therefore only passable by cyclists in summer.

The Via Claudia Augusta pass gradient on the Austrian side is more gradual than the gradient on the Italian side. Cyclist only share the pass road with normal traffic on the Austrian side. There are some trucks on the Reschen pass. On the Austrian side there are a number of well-designed overhang tunnels and short tunnels. When we were going down we quickly went through the tunnels, putting our lights on first. As we were not in the tunnels for long we did not encounter much traffic. Going up would be less pleasant, as sharing a tunnel with a truck is not pleasant. As such there are bus shuttles that take bicycles and cyclists over the Reschen Pass on the Austrian side (which defeats the “crossing the Alps” experience).

Cyclists share the Grossglockner road with normal traffic. The gradients on both sides of the Grossglockner are long and steep. There are two short tunnels at the top of the Grossglockner that are ok to pedal through. I think the only trucks on Grossglockner would be road service trucks.

Both passes are beautiful. I found Grossglockner more exhilarating.

Reschen Pass – Tuesday 14 May

Reschen Pass – Tuesday 14 May

The temperatures were around 0-1 degrees Celsius when we awoke this morning, but it was sunny and clear and it looked stunning outside. Inside was beautifully warm – they really know how to heat their homes in these alpine areas – you walk around inside with a T-shirt.

View from the balcony this morning – temperature sub-zero

Today’s ride was 64 km, a lot of them downhill, completing our crossing of the Alps at the Reschen pass. I was excited and a little apprehensive.

I was wearing almost all my warm clothes when we left, but it was not that bad. There was still a headwind, but not as strong as on the previous two days.

Leaving Reschen – all wrapped up

We were only a few km from the Austrian border – after a little up and down on the bike path. The crossing was an anti-climax as the bike path just went behind the border posts. There wasn’t even a sign to say welcome to Austria.

Border crossing to Austria – a bit of an anti-climax

From here on it was all downhill on the other side. The first little town was Naunders and it even had a castle!

First town on other side – Naunders
Naunders – castle to the left

Eventually the bike path ended and we were pushed back onto the road to go down the Reschen pass proper. Most other cyclists do this route in the other direction and take a shuttle bus with their bikes up this part of the pass.

Tank garden – just before tunnels

It was fine – not much traffic and all drivers very considerate. It would have been a different experience going up through the tunnels. The most adventurous part was a whole series of short tunnels (some open to one side). We found a side path that skirted around the first one, featuring the Tank Garten or graveyard for old tanks – some from the 1940’s.

The rest of the tunnels, we had to go through with the traffic. This was a little scary for me – we put both red lights on the back of my bike (I ride behind Kris) and we both had our hi-viz vests on. The visibility in the tunnels was good, but is still feels bad to be in a confined space with cars creating a roar behind us. Our timing was lucky as we did not encounter a truck in the tunnels. There were amazing views in between the tunnels – we seemed to be right up against the sheer cliffs in a cleft in the rock.

It was a relief to find the cycle path on the other side again – really easy now and mostly downhill.

Downhill run to Pfunds

I asked Kris to stop at Tosens as I felt my blood sugar getting a bit low and I had a headache (from the cold wind on my face? – Headaches while cycling is unusual for me). A street thermometer display announced the temperature to be 8 degrees. We found a coffee shop and both had coffee and cake, and then a second coffee. The proprietress was very friendly and we had a good chat. She has never had customers coming from the Italian direction before. She also said that last year in mid May they were swimming! So this cold is unseasonable. The warmth of the shop and treats revived me well and I felt fine for the rest of the ride.

Tosens church – opposite where we had our coffee and cake

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. There were a couple of stretches of gravelly road that were a bit harder, but most of the route was on dedicated bike paths.

Bike path alongside river Inn

Landeck is a large attractive town we passed through just before our final destination at Zams. All the signage for most of the day has been directing us to Landeck.

Landeck centre

From Landeck we rode along the road to Zams – we did not see the bike path. It was only around 3.5 km.

Zams is dominated by huge rocky cliffs to the one side. It also has a church at the centre and a bell tower with bells that regularly ring out. The town is ruined somewhat by the constant traffic passing through.

Zams centre
Zams clocktower

Our hotel is not what we expected. It has a Austrian name (Hotel Thurner) and looks like a typical Austrian country hotel – however it is run by Chinese, who struggle to speak German with us (English is an even worse prospect). There are also a lot of people smoking in the downstairs restaurant which put us off. However our room is large and clean and doesn’t smell of smoke and the staff are friendly so it meets our needs well (also not expensive). We avoided the smoky restaurant and bought some things from the supermarket to eat in the room.

Snowy mountains – Monday 13 May

Snowy mountains – Monday 13 May

The route today consisted of a steady climb to Resia/ Reschen, a small tourist village at the top of lake Resia, almost the highest point before descending down the Reschen pass on the other side. We only did 38 km, it was good to be able to take our time on the uphill bits.

It was still cool today, but more sunny, with mountain views even more stunning than the day before.

Leaving Prato alle Stelvio
mountain views – early on in our ride

The first town we reached was Glurns, only around 8 km into the ride. It is a stunning walled 16th century town. We circled around a bit admiring the old buildings before continuing on our way.

Glurns central square

We had our first long uphill slog (alongside the road) after Glurns. Here is the view on the mountains looking backwards.

long uphill stretch after Glurns (looking backward)

From here the cycle path diverged completely from the road, still climbing steadily through alpine fields. It was very windy due to the openness of the terrain.

very windy stretch

The wind abated a little once we got into a little valley. We continued to work hard, just about all uphill. The scenery remained stunning. We enjoyed pausing to say hello to some cows lolling in their field with bells around their necks.

Kris in action

At around midday I felt my energy level reducing and we stopped for some yummy dark chocolate and hazelnut clusters.

Chocolate break around midday

We had a slight descent down to the lake, which has a dam wall at it’s southern end. The cycle path took us over the dam wall to ride on the western side of the lake.

Dam wall
View looking back from dam wall

Kris found some remnant snow, at the bottom of a ski run just before the Resia town. Skiing is clearly the main tourist activity here.

Snow!

We reached Resia at around 1.30pm. The town was very quiet.

Reschen/ Resia

We found the supermarket was closed until 2 pm! We find this throughout Italy – lots of shops close for a couple of hours over lunch. The coffee shop was also closed! We decided to wait and shop before going to our accommodation. Once we got into the shop we may have gone a bit over board buying lots of treats. We had to buy for breakfast as well, as that is not included in the accommodation.

nougat, limoncello, apricot liquor, honey, yogurt, fresh pasta, cream cheese, chocolate, Parmesan, pasta sauce, crisp bread

We have a whole apartment here – it is quite big and great value costing around the same as hotels elsewhere. It has comfy sofas, a balcony with lake and mountain views, and a kitchen! I made a pasta meal and in the end we had more food than we could eat.

Relaxing in warm apartment – nougat and apricot liquor
Into the wind – Sunday 12 May

Into the wind – Sunday 12 May

As we were taking it easy, we went for a quick walk up behind the hotel (in Naturno) after breakfast to have another look at the castle.

Naturno Castle

Today was planned to be short and easy again – a relatively flat ride to Prad am Stilfser Joch. However it wasn’t as easy as we expected due to a strong cool head wind that blew the whole day. This slowed us down quite a bit – at times the wind us keeping us at 8-12 km per hour on a very gentle climb. Once we hit hills, it was even slower.

The cycling was once again mostly on off road cycling tracks. The first little town after Naturno is Castelbello, and it has a castle!

The next village was Latsch, we just passed through. Kris was warmed up enough to take off his jacket. I like the shape of the church towers in this part of the world, they seem to be extra skinny and elegant.

Town of Latsch – other cycle tourists coming the from other way

The craggy snow capped mountain peaks were all around us as we rode, I was frustrated in my in-ability to photograph them against the clouds with my very basic camera.

Cycle tourists do the Via Claudia Augusta from the other direction and it was frustrating to see other cyclists sailing by from the opposite direction, many times not pedaling due to the tailwind.

pond with mountain backdrop

The road went through a more sheltered wooded area for a while, which provided a bit of refuge from the headwind. This part of the trail was also compressed gravel instead of tar, but it was still good. There were also quite a few little uphill climbs. We cycled over an old covered wooden bridge and past cows with cow bells.

Covered wooden bridge
All the cows in this field have bells

We were almost there when Kris suggested a stop at this cafe. It was great to get in from the cold wind enjoy a treat of coffee and apple strudel.

Cafe stop
Apfelstrudel with cream and coffee

At some point in this ride grape vines gave way to apple orchards. I guess it is too cold for grapes. The cycle path leading up to Prad am Silfser Joch is surrounded by them.

mountains behind apple orchards

In all we only did 38 km, though it felt further with the wind. We arrived at the hotel just after 1 pm.

We walked all around the town later in the afternoon, mainly looking for food. The town was very quiet. We only realised it was Sunday when we saw the supermarkets were closed. We eventually went to the pizza place recommended by the hotel. It turned out to be really good. My pizza had asparagus (spargel) on it.

Wood fired pizza and beer
Taking it easy – Saturday 11 May

Taking it easy – Saturday 11 May

Today we did an intentionally short and easy day (52 km), as we are still affected by colds.
In fact, I was feeling a lot better today after a good sleep, but I am worried about Kris as his cough is worse and he is not feeling great either.

We had a relatively late start, leaving just before 9 am. It took a while, around 5 km, to find our way out of Bolzano and onto the cycle path again. The weather was cool and overcast but not unpleasant. We were still quite comfortable in our T-shirts as long as we kept moving.

Castle above the river just outside Bolzano

Most of today’s route was on a dedicated tarred cycle way again. Being a Saturday morning, there were a lot of other cyclists – most of them men in Lycra, but some day trippers and tour-ers like us as well. It was overcast the whole day as we rode through a wide alpine valley with huge mountains on either side and snow capped peaks peaking out from high above the clouds.

The biggest town we passed through was Merano, where the cycle-way abruptly ended and was replaced by a maze of town cycle-ways which were difficult to decipher. We probably added around 5 km to our route here. However Kris eventually got us back on track alongside the river.

The route was mostly absolutely flat except for one steady hill climb on the other side of Merano. The view from the top was pretty spectacular. However we didn’t linger as it was threatening to rain, and it did spit a bit as we were going down the other side, but never developed into rain proper.

At the top of the climb

The town we are staying in, Naturno, is small and cute. We really like the hotel, it is a typical German style country hotel with a large room and a balcony looking out onto the mountain. An old castle is practically next door. This whole area definitely feels more Austrian than Italian to us, in terms of the architecture, dress (Tyrolese vests worn by the workers in the pub) and language spoken (we are hearing a lot of German).

Hotel Weingarten
Walking around Naturno

We had a quick walk around the town and then went and had some Franziskaner Hefeweizen at the local restaurant/pub in town and a bowl of warming pasta each. We then bought some more treats at the supermarket, including a Tiramisu from the cake counter and a small bottle of pear liquor which was delicious.

Spaghetti and beer at the local establishment

As I write this it is raining properly outside and Kris is sleeping soundly beside me (it is not yet 7 pm). Another short day is planned for tomorrow.

Bolzano – Friday 10 May

Bolzano – Friday 10 May

More excellent bike paths today – 70 km from Trento to Bolzano and still following the Adige river. The sheer height of the cliffs on either side of the valley on leaving Trento is really impressive.

On the river just out of Trento
Enjoyed riding past these huge cliffs, alongside the river and vines

These paths are really well used, there were lots of other cyclists, both the local sporting variety hurtling along singly or in groups, as well as the more sedate cycle tourists like ourselves. Our top cruising speed on these paths is around 22 km/h

The most eventful part of the day was actually losing the path (we somehow missed a turn at an intersection) and detouring through some small country roads and vineyards – until Kris navigated us back under the motorway to the river where we found the path again.

Off track – this is a road, not the bike path
Really off-track! This is a path between the vines

Riding for long flat stretches can lead to fatigue and we stopped a couple of times for a break, including a small picnic at this beautiful spot.

Snack break
picnic break

Bolzano was very busy and quite expensive. We paid more for our accommodation here, and although there is nothing wrong with it, it is not the best place so far. We have a huge room and private bathroom – but the bathroom is across the corridor. There is also no one to greet you when you get here – they just message you the door code and entry instructions and you find your room key in the room when you arrive.

We put another 10 km on the odometer just riding around the city. The old town is very busy (Friday evening) and has lots of high end shops along the main boulevards. We couldn’t really find a place we wanted to eat, so we reverted to the Spar supermarket. Went to bed early.