Set off in Gmunden on Lake TraunTo our first trip with a tandem bike we arrive by car in Gmunden. The first night we stay in a hotel facing the lake. In the next 16 days we will cycle through Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Vienna, Burgenland, Styria with a little side trip into Slovenia, Carinthia and Salzburger Land. While Fritz has made many bike trips before, this tour is my first time on a bicycle. The average day stage will cover about 90 kilometers with very different elevation profiles. From the starting point Gmunden to Linz we can enjoy a manly downhill ride. Good for getting into it.
We will face unsteady weather during this trip. No wonder that we enjoy every single ray of sunshine, before the next thunderstorm is on the way. Equipped with a tent and cooking gear we are eager to camp. But sometimes it is wiser to spend the night in a hotel due to the weather. Right away the first evening we meet an elderly cyclist couple. Looking at their faces we assume that they are on a relaxed tour with their e-bikes. But the next morning we learn that they tour with full baggage on quite sportive single bikes. I realize that cycling is no question of age. This gives me hope for many cycle trips to come.
For the ride to Lower Austria we choose a quiet road in the region of the Waldviertel along the little river Waldaist. The road is scenic but ambitious also. We have to manage slopes up to 13%. What we do not know yet is that we took the Koblerpass, which is the highest pass in Upper Austria, 1,044 m. Additional to this we face a problem with the bottom bracket. In St. Leonhard we find two restaurants for lunch. But only one of them is open because they take day turns in caring for guests. Must be a remote area around here. In Liebenau, a friendly filling station owner assists Fritz with reparing the bottom bracket and lends us some tools. The rain has set in again. We decide to stay in the local hotel.
We continue our route north east through the Weinviertel region before we head southbond towards Vienna. As the weather does not brighten up, we decide to spend the night again in a hotel in Horn. We are lucky that our bike is always stored in a dry and safe place for the night. We ride through the beautiful vineyards to Retz where we need to change the tyre on the back wheel. The only bikeshop in town is closed for lunch. We learn that here in the countryside the shops are not as efficient as in the city. And unfortunatly the tyre will not keep the promise the shop keeper makes.
We explore Vienna by foot and tram. Now it’s time to cycle on. On the Danube bicycle track we head for Lake Neusiedl. The campground in Podersdorf is situated directly on the lakefront where we enjoy an athmospheric sunset. Next day we cross the lake from Ilmitz to Mörbisch by boat. The direct way to the Burgenland leads via Sopron in Hungary. The route is not recommended as not only the roads are in bad condition but also the landscape is not that exciting. Burgenland is quite a challenge. Not that we have to climb high mountains but the constant up and down is tiring. As if this is not enough we have to fight against the foehn as well. And on top of this, our new tyre bursts the next day. So we take a nice long walk into the next town pushing our heavy tandem. You do need some distraction from monotonous cycling once in a while…
The next milestone is Maribor in Slovenia. It is very hot today so we are happy that a nice lady invites us to fill our bottles with fresh water from the well. Other Austrians warn us not to travel into Slovenia as the motorists drive like hell over there. But we take the risk and learn that the Slovenians are no worse then the Austrians or any others. Maribor turns out to be a beautiful town, with a wide pedestrian area. We cycle along the Drava, cross a canyon on a spectacular wooden hanging bridge which requests you to be free of giddiness. On the campsite in Dullach we meet Louise from Canada. She carries all her gear on her ultra light Carbon race bike. We ask ourselves why our stuff is so much heavier. Do we really need all those things? This question will accompany us every year on every trip from now on. The next days we cycle together with Ulrike, a German girl on a trip through the Alps. We pass the Lake Wörther and ride on to the Faaker lake. But before we get the chance for the refreshing bath in the lake we have to climb the road with more than 12% slope. With our trailer in the back it feels like someone is pulling us back all the time. Near Flattach you find the Ragga canyon, a must see if you are in the area. We hike over the boardwalks to the top. Sometimes we have the impression that the rocks get so close as if they want to touch each other.
The royal stage of the trip is lying ahead. We start from Heiligenblut on the south side of the High Alpine Road up to the Grossglockner after another night in a hotel due to the bad weather. Our tandem stayed nice and warm in the hotel lobby. I am enthusiastic and trust that the route cannot be that hard. But Fritz has his doubts, he knows the road from a trip with a single bike. Thankfully he does not let me know his thoughts.
From Heiligenblut up to the peak there are “only” 15 kilometers to go. But with our heavy stuff we feel every single one of it in our legs. We need to climb an altitude of 1,203 meters. Numerous cars, motor- and race bikes pass us. Many of them try to cheer us up but the only gratitude we can give them is a brief smile, before we concentrate on pedalling again. Turn by turn we climb up to the top.
Finally – we make it! In the meantime I have my doubts that I can keep up to the top. Mountain stages are hard but a soon as you have reached the peak you forget the pain when looking around the panorama. I look forward to the decent on the other side of the tunnel. But arriving there Fritz point out to the Fuscher Törl, another point to pass. We enjoy a short downhill ride before we have to climb again. But eventually we also manage this last ascent before we start our final decent into the valley. Increadible views! We need to stop every now and then in order to let our breaks cool down. We do not want to risk a burst tube. Our bike is too heavy to let it roll down the hills.
After the hard mountain stage we enjoy cycling through the valley of the Salzach to Salzburg. The bright weather makes the ride even more delightfull. We leave our luggage at the campground outside town and ride into the city centre. What a different to cycle without the ballast.
Drachenwand and Mondsee
From Salzburg we ride pass the Mondsee and the Attersse back to Gmunden on Lake Traun. We had 16 days with 15 cycle stages. I was not always as cheerful as I am on this picture. My feet hurt, my backside was sore as soon as we exceeded the 50 kilometer mark (which means almost daily). Not funny. I will have to look for a better seat. But – if you do not fight, you cannot enjoy to have reached the target. This seems to be the nature of cycling tours. Who ever likes the mountains should go to Austria. We do not want to miss a single day of the trip despite what was said above.