Another 1000kms in the can!
It’s been an absolutely wild ride since I left my heart in České Budějovice, Czech Republic, with only a couple of little blips. I followed the Eurovelo 7 gpx track on my phone as it led me over some hefty climbs, and at one point, to a dead end. I ground up a nasty hill for about 5kms, coasted down the other side to the river, at which point there should have been a ferry to the opposite bank. Annoyingly, said ferry hadn’t been in operation for a few years, so it was back up the same nasty hill with my curses echoing through the valley and all the way to a 20 km backtrack to find a bridge – all as darkness was falling.
The day ended on a high note though as I stumbled on a campsite and had a merry evening on the Budvar with a terrific bunch of English-speaking locals. The following morning’s fuzzy head was not as much fun, but I soldiered on.
The finale for the Czech Republic was pretty wonderful – plenty of beautiful little towns and a varied route towards the border with the north of Austria. Český Krumlov, often called Prague in miniature, was on the way. It was a stunning place with beautifully-preserved medieval buildings, but was completely given-over to mass tourism. Poor Murph, who was trapped in her basket on the bike, was mobbed by adoring tourists so I took a couple of snaps and quickly pressed through the throngs to get us out.
After Krumlov, my route took us up and down verdant hills with the larger Austrian versions looming in the background. I was eventually directed to a dirt forestry road and we made our way up and up to a nondescript border-crossing leading us into north Austria. Once out of the forest, the vista revealed the classic Austrian countryside in all its splendour. In veritable, clichéd Sound of Music fashion, I was overwhelmed by the desire to make a fool of myself on video:
After all that terrible, lovely climbing, the reward came in the form of a long freewheel all the way into the posh city of Linz, and onto the Danube.
From Linz, we would follow the famous EV6 bike path along the Danube and up to Passau. This was very familiar territory as we had cycled this bit in 2016. From Passau, back to uncharted ground as we started along the stunning Salzach River towards Salzburg.
The Salzach provided the luxury of hopping over to the Bavarian side when I felt like having a good German weissbier and warm giant pretzel, or to stay on the Austrian side for lovely cakes and pastries. I fell MADLY in love with the Bavarian town of Burghausen and the whole area thereabouts. I plan to return for a more forensic study at a future date.
After Salzburg, the Salzach departed the German border and led us towards the Drau. We were not so far then from Italy and the Dolomites. First though, I had a grinding, thigh-ripping climb up to the perched resort town of Bad Gastein.
Shortly after reaching Bad Gastein, the road comes to an end and a car-train took over to get us through the remaining mountains by tunnel.
It was getting dark after we got off the train and we were in a bit of a wilderness. A wild camp behind a derelict church was in order.
In the morning, after a thrilling descent, we were on the Drau. Two more days in Austria, then we would climb into the Italian Dolomites.
In wasn’t as much of a slog to get to the Italian border as I feared, and once near Bressanone, we were on another river and would eventually join the Adige River bicycle path. It would be excellent separate bike paths from here on with a few short exceptions. The only minus was that we shared the steep valley with busy motorways and main train lines, so quite noisy. The staggering scenery and quintessential Italian villages more than made up for this! I was dying to use my few pidgin-Italian phrases but in this part of Italy, everyone speaks German. I’d have to wait until Trento to embarrass myself.
Whoops – Back up to Austria Jac!
I forgot to add this endearing encounter:
Just before the Italian border as I was huffing up an incline, I heard a squeal of delight behind me as more Murph fans caught us up; meet Alice from Hong Kong, and Guillaume from Switzerland! Alice is cycling the world, and she did a good deal of that with her little dog, Canton (she’s holding up a photo of her!). Very tragically, little Canton was killed by an out of control speeding car in a hit-and-run in Montenegro. Alice was still in bits over it. My heart broke for her. There are definitely risks to both dog and human travelling this way, but there are also many risks at home. Canton was an abandoned street dog, and Alice gave her the most incredible life – how very sad it had to end like that.
Anyway, she met Guillaume in India and they decided to cycle together from there. Just wow! We had an excited chat and exchanged touring info before reluctantly parting ways. You can read more about Alice’s travels with Canton here: https://www.facebook.com/alicebikeswithcanton/
Guillaume’s page: https://www.facebook.com/guillaumeavelo/
Trento, Italian-speaking Italians, and the nicest Trentino family!
I would have completely passed beautiful, historic Trento by if it wasn’t for Alberto, Sabrina and adorable Gianluca. I stopped at the Bicigrill Trento for a quick bite, planning to speed to a campsite much further down the road afterwards. Alberto and family were at the next table over and we struck up a conversation. Next thing I knew, they were taking us back to their beautiful home, appalled at the idea that I wouldn’t be properly visiting their beloved city. What followed was a guided tour, the best gelato in Trento, Pasta Pomodoro lovingly prepared by Alberto, and a relaxing evening watching videos of 12yo Gianluca perform with his ballroom dancing club. He is FABULOUS, and totes adorbs!! I camped in their back garden and was sent on my way in the morning after a delicious cappuccino and breakfast. Murph also made a friend for life with Player the poodle!
Alas, I only made it about 40 kms down the road. I had been feeling a little off over the last couple of days, and now, I started feeling positively dreadful. Strep was my googled self-diagnosis. The golf ball in my throat was agony and I was woozy and feverish. I quickly found a room and decided to sequester myself until better. A helpful pharmacist drugged me up, and my vineyard-agriturismo hosts have provided me with a peaceful paradise in which to recover. I only hoped I hadn’t infected Alberto et al. Dear Alberto has been checking on me via messenger every day since I left them – what a luv!
Five days later, I’m quite a lot better and will try to make some gentle headway tomorrow. During my illness, I did consider throwing in the towel and heading for the UK, but I think that was just the fever talking. The days are getting shorter though, and I’m still a long way from Sicily, but I’ll chug along for a while yet. Murph, by the way, has been raring to go. My little old lady is quite an inspiration. Mustn’t let the side down!
It’s ciao for now from Murph and me. Verona, Mantua and Bologna are calling, and the great Tuscany is not too far after that.