A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna (update: photos added)

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
User avatar
Topic Author
Raybo
Posts: 1830
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:02 am
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna (update: photos added)

Post by Raybo » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:29 pm

I’m sitting in the small vacation house of Alfredo and Ancilla at the end of the road in the Dolomite vacation town of Laggio di Cadore. Alfredo and I have been talking once or twice a week for the past year or so using ConversationExchange.com, he’s trying to improve his English and I’m attempting to do the same with Italian.

They are wonderful hosts. Ancilla speaks no English so it has been all Italian all the time, which has been very good for my Italian. While I don’t get everything that she says, Alfredo helps both with English and the level of Italian he knows I know.


The trip started with 3 days of travel (2 plane flights, one train ride) from San Francisco to Bolzano, a tourist destination (especially in August) at the confluence of two rivers, the Tallerbach and the Eisack. Bolzano is a gateway to the Dolomites. By the time I got to Bolzano, I was tired with an out of sync sleep cycle.

I had planned a day of rest there (Sunday) and spent the day exploring the fabulous separated bike paths that network out from the city in all directions. I ended up riding about 25 miles along rivers, over valleys, and mostly past apple orchards full of ripening red and green apples tempting enough to pick and eat (I didn’t).

While I greatly enjoyed the exercise, the mountain air, and beautiful countryside, I managed to lose my sunglasses. The next morning, my first task was to replace them. The sport shop in town started me on Oakley’s at €250. Eventually, I settled on a €75 pair.

With that task completed, I rode off along the dedicated, well-signed, and paved bike path going north along the Eisack River. Rain was predicted, the sky was completely overcast, and the air was heavy with humidity. I rode upstream with a mild grade passing many bikers coming the other direction, which was from the Brenner Pass that separates Switzerland from Italy. I wasn’t going that far and after about 12 miles crossed the river and headed up into the Val Gardena.

The grade changed abruptly and I was pushing up switchbacks on the east side of the steep Eisack river valley. I arrived at my first night’s lodging, the standalone Tragerhof, a pensione outside Laion. My hosts provided a dinner of homemade ravioli with a local dessert speciality that was like a scrambled pancake topped with powdered sugar and a cup of fruit preserves. It was a great way to end the first day!

The next day, Tuesday, was another short day full of climbing. Rain was predicted again (it has been everyday so far) and shortly after I started grinding up the road, it began. It wasn’t hard and it felt good in the humidity. Unfortunately, the clouds obscured the views, first across the valley and then to the high peaks that surround the Val Gardena. The shrouded mountains were not unattractive to the eye, but definitely unfriendly to my (new) camera.

The road, no longer a bike path, was two-lane with a tiny bit of shoulder. But, the traffic was light, mostly in the other direction, and loud enough for me to pull off if a big truck or bus was coming. Things got worse when I met the main (only) road into the valley. Traffic was heavy and I pulled off the road often. I was able to find bike paths after Ortisei, the “big” town in the Val Gardena, whose main pedestrianized center was so choked with people that I had to walk my bike through it.

The Val Gardena is ringed with green sided mountains whose tops jut up through the trees in sharp, jagged teeth. Not that I could see much of them as it was heavily overcast and drizzling.

I got to Selva (di Val Gardena) in the early afternoon. The clouds had cleared a bit and some of the very impressive Dolomites were on display. After eating and some shopping, I wanted to use the hotel’s sauna, but the idea of getting all sweaty (again) just never quite got past the abstract idea stage.

The next day was the first serious climb of the trip, il Passo Gardena. The steep switchbacks begin at the end of Selva. Unlike the climb up to the Val Gardena, the road up to the pass had virtually no extra room on it. On the cliff side was a railing and steep drop-off and the mountain side had a stone wall.

The traffic was busy at first with buses that were wider than the lane they traveled in. When they came by, I would stop and then lean over the railing or against the wall to let them pass. It is hard to grind uphill at 4 MPH, trying not to weave, and hope that the drivers are courteous. That there wasn’t much to distract the drivers due to serious cloud cover was both good for the ride but bad for the views.

I got peek-a-boo sightings of huge peaks and massifs that I was approaching but rarely a full look. My photos will likely be more atmospheric then inspiring. There were a few bikers and one told me where the top was, which helped me countdown the kilometers.

There are two passes after Selva. At an intersection, most of the traffic went the other way. I climbed a bit more and then hit an alpine valley right up against the cliffs that gave my thighs a break. Even partially obscured by clouds the vistas were fabulous. I could even see the several switchbacks to the pass at the end of the valley.

As I coasted down the long, flat straightaway to the last push up, I was passed by a bevy of loud motorcyclists going very fast. While I (of all people) can appreciate the desire to ride on two-wheels through the mountains, I can’t quite see the point of blasting past them, clad in leather armor, going too fast to see the sliver of a waterfall right next to the road. One the other hand, while their bikes were screaming, I’ll bet their thighs weren’t!

I watched with disappointment as the pass was slowly covered in clouds. The short steep switchbacks up to the pass were a challenge and had me resting (or appreciating the view, depending on your “viewpoint”) often, sometimes every hundred meters. As I made the last turn, the pass was completely absorbed by clouds. At the top, my range of view was about 10 feet. The only vista I saw was on a sign. But, at least it felt familiar as I was reminded of recent rides over the Golden Gate Bridge!

I rested for a while at the top hoping for some clearing but no such luck. I put on more clothes and started down. Things cleared after a quick kilometer of switchbacks. I had a clear, wide vista of the huge bowl that makes Colfosco a skiing and hiking Mecca. The road was steep enough that to take a photo, I had to dismount as I couldn’t control the bike with just one foot on the ground.

The traffic was light on the way down and it was exhilarating to be effortlessly moving along, watching beautiful scenery, and “Ciao”-ing all the climbing bike riders. The easy riding ended a bit above Corvara, a good-sized tourist town at the bottom of the valley.

I continued down the main road to La Villa Stern were the road turned up with a serious kink. Also, the narrow road was full of cars, like it was rush hour in the Dolomites. I saw a dirt bike path and took it along a surging creek. The sky opened up for about 5 minutes as I rustled my bike down a steep detour around a washed out portion of the creek. After a short refuge under a tree, I arrived at San Cassiano, my stop for the night.

San Cassiano is a one street town with a few shops and many hotels. My hotel also had a sauna that I wanted to try but again couldn’t get up the gumption to sweat even more. The rain returned, I ate food I was carrying, and I went to bed wondering about tomorrow’s weather.

It rained through the night and in the morning the clouds were so low I could barely see above the rooftops. Weather predictions said the earlier I left, the better. After eating and hitting the store, I was off about 9:30.

Again, it was like rush hour. Cars continuously. The uphill moderated after San Cassiano finished but I was pulling off the road often and wondering where everyone was going (and where they’d spent the night)?

After a couple miles, the road kinked up seriously through several switchbacks among the trees. The traffic continued. At one point, I was passed 20 cars in a line. I couldn’t take photos of the road either ahead or behind me without cars. I figured the longest stretch without cars was 2 minutes on the entire climb.

The uphill was brutal and unrelating. I stopped often to rest on the long straights trying not to get run over when I did so. Once I was above the trees, the clouds hid the high peaks but not the distant views. After much effort, sweating, and resting, I got to Passo Valparola, the site of an old Austrian outpost and now a WWI museum. I ate and took many photos of the peaks and vistas.

After the pass, I coasted down about half a mile to an intersection and the Passo Falzarego. This was bubbling with people, many waiting to take the cable car up to the top of a mountain. I wondered if this where they were all going, There were many bikers here and I asked a few questions and took some selfies for them.

Then, I started down. The views of bare peaks jutting up through trees were amazing. I took many photos. The traffic wasn’t so bad on the descent and I saw lots of bike riders on the way up. After while, I was totally in the trees with the occasional stunning mountain view. The way down was steep for a long while and I had to monitor my speed so as not to go faster than I feel safe on the folding bike.

Cortina d’Ampezzo is in bowl whose edge I came up to all of a sudden. It was jaw-dropping. A very wide valley of the Boite River was laid out in front of me surrounded by high Dolmitic peaks. It was so stunning, even a few people in cars stopped to take photos!

It started to rain (I thought it was hailing) just as I found my hotel. It was early and my room wasn’t ready. Eventually, I got my room, cleaned up, rested, and walked into town. The main pedestrianized section is full of high end shops and people meandering around on their evening strolls. I eventually had another pizza, strolled a bit myself, and came back and went to bed.

By 7am the next morning, Alfredo was texting me about rain in Laggio di Cadore, where he was and that he’d come get the car. It wasn’t raining in Cortina, though it looked like it could soon. I put him off until after breakfast.

An hour later, it still wasn’t raining in Cortina and I wanted to do the bit of the bike path I hadn’t done last year. So, we agreed that I would call him when I got to Venas di Cadore, where I’d couchsurfed last year.

The fully separate bike path mostly parallels the road and is used by walkers and bikers alike. It was occupied for a long way past Cortina and whenever I went through a small town. About halfway to Venas, Alfredo texted to say the weather had cleared in Laggio and he was riding to meet me.

We met a bit past Venas, exchanged greetings a long time coming and rode off together. I remembered much of the bike path visuals but they looked different in August versus May. We stopped at a sculpture I’d photographed the previous year that Alfredo had remembered to show me. I even remembered the bus shelter where I met to fellow bike tourists.

We turned at the bus shelter and upped and downed through several towns until we neared Laggio di Cadore, where there was a long, sustained climb. I was no match for Alfredo’s e-bike, but he graciously waited as I rested several times.

The place he and Ancilla own is a tiny 2 bedroom apartment at the end of town. Our arrival was marked by very warm friendly greeting from Ancilla (Ann-CHEE- La) and several photos.

We had risotto for lunch and talked as well as we could in Italian. I met several people restoring the tiny old church next to Alfredo’s that is covered in frescos and dedicated to St. Margarita, a woman decapitated (the main fresco) when she refused to marry some nobleman. One of the restorers spoke reasonable English and was very informative.

We went out to dinner and I had lasagna stuffed with stinging nettles, a first for me (the nettles didn’t sting). We talked long after eating, eventually closing the place as I slowly started understanding Ancilla, who only spoke Italian.

The next day, a day off the bike for me, we eventually drove to the Sappada, an old town of the area, and then into the Val Visdende, the site of a strong storm whose wind ripped huge trees out of the ground by the hundreds. The road up there was scary, the temporary bridges made from wood planks were more like xylophones when a car drove over them then a secure passage. The area strongly reminded me of Yosemite and we talked about the shallow roots of Redwood trees and how the trees that had been blown down were all on steep hillsides, likely with shallow roots.

We came back for another lunch and more talking with the church restorers, by now old friends of Alfredo’s. I had insisted on cooking dinner, so Alfredo and I went to Auronzo, the nearest big town, for dinner supplies. I started cutting and cooking when we returned and served up Chinese fried vegetables for dinner. I couldn’t introduce them to tofu as we couldn’t find any, likely fine by them. The meal was ok but received with grace and good will. More stories ensued. I was tired and wanted to get an early start so was in bed when the after dinner stories finished.

As a side note: I have done a good deal of bike touring in Europe and wonder if others have or need information/encouragement to do so. E-bikes are everywhere in Europe for those not fit or confident enough to use a pedal-only bicycle. They are easily rented.
Last edited by Raybo on Wed Sep 11, 2019 6:54 am, edited 3 times in total.
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

Always passive
Posts: 408
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2017 4:25 am
Location: Israel

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna

Post by Always passive » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:41 pm

I love your experience. Every summer I do a week biking in Europe. A few years ago I did Bolzano to Venice and then the following year Venice to Porec (Croatia) with Girolibero. They provide self-guided packages.This summer I did the south of Holland, easy but very beautiful. Next year I plan to do a week in Provence, France. Also tempted to do Paris to London.

HawkeyePierce
Posts: 633
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 10:29 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna

Post by HawkeyePierce » Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:03 am

Great report!

I plan on cycling the Eurovelo 6 route from Nantes to Budapest in the next few years. Currently I’m working my way through a number of New Zealand’s “great rides” with the 100mi Otago Rail Trail booked for next week.

User avatar
yukonjack
Posts: 612
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:36 pm
Location: Rocky Mountain West

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna

Post by yukonjack » Tue Aug 27, 2019 8:30 am

Thanks for the informative stories about your bike touring in Europe. You seem to be doing more international touring of late. Any plans to do an extended bike trip in the US? As always I enjoy reading about your travels.

User avatar
Topic Author
Raybo
Posts: 1830
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:02 am
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna

Post by Raybo » Tue Aug 27, 2019 11:32 pm

HawkeyePierce wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:03 am
Great report!

I plan on cycling the Eurovelo 6 route from Nantes to Budapest in the next few years. Currently I’m working my way through a number of New Zealand’s “great rides” with the 100mi Otago Rail Trail booked for next week.
My wife and I rode the Otago Trail. Here is my report on that 3-day ride.
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

User avatar
Topic Author
Raybo
Posts: 1830
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:02 am
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna

Post by Raybo » Tue Aug 27, 2019 11:42 pm

yukonjack wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 8:30 am
Thanks for the informative stories about your bike touring in Europe. You seem to be doing more international touring of late. Any plans to do an extended bike trip in the US? As always I enjoy reading about your travels.
A couple reasons:

1) My wife’s mum lives in England and we visit her once or twice a year. This makes Europe a convenient destination.
2) Most of Europe is very bike friendly with many separated bike paths and courteous drivers.
3) I’ve been studying Italian and there is no better place to learn it than Italy.
4) Europe has some pretty places, especially the Alps and is a small enough place that a lot of it can be seen in a month.
5) There aren’t all that many places in the US That I want to bike through that I haven’t already. Utah (again) and Colorado come to mind.
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

HawkeyePierce
Posts: 633
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 10:29 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna

Post by HawkeyePierce » Wed Aug 28, 2019 12:14 am

Raybo wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 11:32 pm
HawkeyePierce wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:03 am
Great report!

I plan on cycling the Eurovelo 6 route from Nantes to Budapest in the next few years. Currently I’m working my way through a number of New Zealand’s “great rides” with the 100mi Otago Rail Trail booked for next week.
My wife and I rode the Otago Trail. Here is my report on that 3-day ride.
Thanks! I'm doing it as a five day ride. Shuttle from Queenstown to Clyde and then the train into Dunedin on the other end.

This will be my longest bike tour so far but fewer daily miles than my last two. Hope my rear is up to it. :shock:
Last edited by HawkeyePierce on Wed Aug 28, 2019 4:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

Valuethinker
Posts: 38607
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna

Post by Valuethinker » Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:55 am

Raybo wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:29 pm
I’m sitting in the small vacation house of Alfredo and Ancilla at the end of the road in the Dolomite vacation town of Laggio di Cadore. Alfredo and I have been talking once or twice a week for the past year or so using ConversationExchange.com, he’s trying to improve his English and I’m attempting to do the same with Italian.

They are wonderful hosts. Ancilla speaks no English so it has been all Italian all the time, which has been very good for my Italian. While I don’t get everything that she says, Alfredo helps both with English and the level of Italian he knows I know.


The trip started with 3 days of travel (2 plane flights, one train ride) from San Francisco to Bolzano, a tourist destination (especially in August) at the confluence of two rivers, the Tallerbach and the Eisack. Bolzano is a gateway to the Dolomites. By the time I got to Bolzano, I was tired with an out of sync sleep cycle.

I had planned a day of rest there (Sunday) and spent the day exploring the fabulous separated bike paths that network out from the city in all directions. I ended up riding about 25 miles along rivers, over valleys, and mostly past apple orchards full of ripening red and green apples tempting enough to pick and eat (I didn’t).

While I greatly enjoyed the exercise, the mountain air, and beautiful countryside, I managed to lose my sunglasses. The next morning, my first task was to replace them. The sport shop in town started me on Oakley’s at €250. Eventually, I settled on a €75 pair.

With that task completed, I rode off along the dedicated, well-signed, and paved bike path going north along the Eisack River. Rain was predicted, the sky was completely overcast, and the air was heavy with humidity. I rode upstream with a mild grade passing many bikers coming the other direction, which was from the Brenner Pass that separates Switzerland from Italy. I wasn’t going that far and after about 12 miles crossed the river and headed up into the Val Gardena.

The grade changed abruptly and I was pushing up switchbacks on the east side of the steep Eisack river valley. I arrived at my first night’s lodging, the standalone Tragerhof, a pensione outside Laion. My hosts provided a dinner of homemade ravioli with a local dessert speciality that was like a scrambled pancake topped with powdered sugar and a cup of fruit preserves. It was a great way to end the first day!

The next day, Tuesday, was another short day full of climbing. Rain was predicted again (it has been everyday so far) and shortly after I started grinding up the road, it began. It wasn’t hard and it felt good in the humidity. Unfortunately, the clouds obscured the views, first across the valley and then to the high peaks that surround the Val Gardena. The shrouded mountains were not unattractive to the eye, but definitely unfriendly to my (new) camera.

The road, no longer a bike path, was two-lane with a tiny bit of shoulder. But, the traffic was light, mostly in the other direction, and loud enough for me to pull off if a big truck or bus was coming. Things got worse when I met the main (only) road into the valley. Traffic was heavy and I pulled off the road often. I was able to find bike paths after Ortisei, the “big” town in the Val Gardena, whose main pedestrianized center was so choked with people that I had to walk my bike through it.

The Val Gardena is ringed with green sided mountains whose tops jut up through the trees in sharp, jagged teeth. Not that I could see much of them as it was heavily overcast and drizzling.

I got to Selva (di Val Gardena) in the early afternoon. The clouds had cleared a bit and some of the very impressive Dolomites were on display. After eating and some shopping, I wanted to use the hotel’s sauna, but the idea of getting all sweaty (again) just never quite got past the abstract idea stage.

The next day was the first serious climb of the trip, il Passo Gardena. The steep switchbacks begin at the end of Selva. Unlike the climb up to the Val Gardena, the road up to the pass had virtually no extra room on it. On the cliff side was a railing and steep drop-off and the mountain side had a stone wall.

The traffic was busy at first with buses that were wider than the lane they traveled in. When they came by, I would stop and then lean over the railing or against the wall to let them pass. It is hard to grind uphill at 4 MPH, trying not to weave, and hope that the drivers are courteous. That there wasn’t much to distract the drivers due to serious cloud cover was both good for the ride but bad for the views.

I got peek-a-boo sightings of huge peaks and massifs that I was approaching but rarely a full look. My photos will likely be more atmospheric then inspiring. There were a few bikers and one told me where the top was, which helped me countdown the kilometers.

There are two passes after Selva. At an intersection, most of the traffic went the other way. I climbed a bit more and then hit an alpine valley right up against the cliffs that gave my thighs a break. Even partially obscured by clouds the vistas were fabulous. I could even see the several switchbacks to the pass at the end of the valley.

As I coasted down the long, flat straightaway to the last push up, I was passed by a bevy of loud motorcyclists going very fast. While I (of all people) can appreciate the desire to ride on two-wheels through the mountains, I can’t quite see the point of blasting past them, clad in leather armor, going too fast to see the sliver of a waterfall right next to the road. One the other hand, while their bikes were screaming, I’ll bet their thighs weren’t!

I watched with disappointment as the pass was slowly covered in clouds. The short steep switchbacks up to the pass were a challenge and had me resting (or appreciating the view, depending on your “viewpoint”) often, sometimes every hundred meters. As I made the last turn, the pass was completely absorbed by clouds. At the top, my range of view was about 10 feet. The only vista I saw was on a sign. But, at least it felt familiar as I was reminded of recent rides over the Golden Gate Bridge!

I rested for a while at the top hoping for some clearing but no such luck. I put on more clothes and started down. Things cleared after a quick kilometer of switchbacks. I had a clear, wide vista of the huge bowl that makes Colfosco a skiing and hiking Mecca. The road was steep enough that to take a photo, I had to dismount as I couldn’t control the bike with just one foot on the ground.

The traffic was light on the way down and it was exhilarating to be effortlessly moving along, watching beautiful scenery, and “Ciao”-ing all the climbing bike riders. The easy riding ended a bit above Corvara, a good-sized tourist town at the bottom of the valley.

I continued down the main road to La Villa Stern were the road turned up with a serious kink. Also, the narrow road was full of cars, like it was rush hour in the Dolomites. I saw a dirt bike path and took it along a surging creek. The sky opened up for about 5 minutes as I rustled my bike down a steep detour around a washed out portion of the creek. After a short refuge under a tree, I arrived at San Cassiano, my stop for the night.

San Cassiano is a one street town with a few shops and many hotels. My hotel also had a sauna that I wanted to try but again couldn’t get up the gumption to sweat even more. The rain returned, I ate food I was carrying, and I went to bed wondering about tomorrow’s weather.

It rained through the night and in the morning the clouds were so low I could barely see above the rooftops. Weather predictions said the earlier I left, the better. After eating and hitting the store, I was off about 9:30.

Again, it was like rush hour. Cars continuously. The uphill moderated after San Cassiano finished but I was pulling off the road often and wondering where everyone was going (and where they’d spent the night)?

After a couple miles, the road kinked up seriously through several switchbacks among the trees. The traffic continued. At one point, I was passed 20 cars in a line. I couldn’t take photos of the road either ahead or behind me without cars. I figured the longest stretch without cars was 2 minutes on the entire climb.

The uphill was brutal and unrelating. I stopped often to rest on the long straights trying not to get run over when I did so. Once I was above the trees, the clouds hid the high peaks but not the distant views. After much effort, sweating, and resting, I got to Passo Valparola, the site of an old Austrian outpost and now a WWI museum. I ate and took many photos of the peaks and vistas.

After the pass, I coasted down about half a mile to an intersection and the Passo Falzarego. This was bubbling with people, many waiting to take the cable car up to the top of a mountain. I wondered if this where they were all going, There were many bikers here and I asked a few questions and took some selfies for them.

Then, I started down. The views of bare peaks jutting up through trees were amazing. I took many photos. The traffic wasn’t so bad on the descent and I saw lots of bike riders on the way up. After while, I was totally in the trees with the occasional stunning mountain view. The way down was steep for a long while and I had to monitor my speed so as not to go faster than I feel safe on the folding bike.

Cortina d’Ampezzo is in bowl whose edge I came up to all of a sudden. It was jaw-dropping. A very wide valley of the Boite River was laid out in front of me surrounded by high Dolmitic peaks. It was so stunning, even a few people in cars stopped to take photos!

It started to rain (I thought it was hailing) just as I found my hotel. It was early and my room wasn’t ready. Eventually, I got my room, cleaned up, rested, and walked into town. The main pedestrianized section is full of high end shops and people meandering around on their evening strolls. I eventually had another pizza, strolled a bit myself, and came back and went to bed.

By 7am the next morning, Alfredo was texting me about rain in Laggio di Cadore, where he was and that he’d come get the car. It wasn’t raining in Cortina, though it looked like it could soon. I put him off until after breakfast.

An hour later, it still wasn’t raining in Cortina and I wanted to do the bit of the bike path I hadn’t done last year. So, we agreed that I would call him when I got to Venas di Cadore, where I’d couchsurfed last year.

The fully separate bike path mostly parallels the road and is used by walkers and bikers alike. It was occupied for a long way past Cortina and whenever I went through a small town. About halfway to Venas, Alfredo texted to say the weather had cleared in Laggio and he was riding to meet me.

We met a bit past Venas, exchanged greetings a long time coming and rode off together. I remembered much of the bike path visuals but they looked different in August versus May. We stopped at a sculpture I’d photographed the previous year that Alfredo had remembered to show me. I even remembered the bus shelter where I met to fellow bike tourists.

We turned at the bus shelter and upped and downed through several towns until we neared Laggio di Cadore, where there was a long, sustained climb. I was no match for Alfredo’s e-bike, but he graciously waited as I rested several times.

The place he and Ancilla own is a tiny 2 bedroom apartment at the end of town. Our arrival was marked by very warm friendly greeting from Ancilla (Ann-CHEE- La) and several photos.

We had risotto for lunch and talked as well as we could in Italian. I met several people restoring the tiny old church next to Alfredo’s that is covered in frescos and dedicated to St. Margarita, a woman decapitated (the main fresco) when she refused to marry some nobleman. One of the restorers spoke reasonable English and was very informative.

We went out to dinner and I had lasagna stuffed with stinging nettles, a first for me (the nettles didn’t sting). We talked long after eating, eventually closing the place as I slowly started understanding Ancilla, who only spoke Italian.

The next day, a day off the bike for me, we eventually drove to the Sappada, an old town of the area, and then into the Val Visdende, the site of a strong storm whose wind ripped huge trees out of the ground by the hundreds. The road up there was scary, the temporary bridges made from wood planks were more like xylophones when a car drove over them then a secure passage. The area strongly reminded me of Yosemite and we talked about the shallow roots of Redwood trees and how the trees that had been blown down were all on steep hillsides, likely with shallow roots.

We came back for another lunch and more talking with the church restorers, by now old friends of Alfredo’s. I had insisted on cooking dinner, so Alfredo and I went to Auronzo, the nearest big town, for dinner supplies. I started cutting and cooking when we returned and served up Chinese fried vegetables for dinner. I couldn’t introduce them to tofu as we couldn’t find any, likely fine by them. The meal was ok but received with grace and good will. More stories ensued. I was tired and wanted to get an early start so was in bed when the after dinner stories finished.

As a side note: I have done a good deal of bike touring in Europe and wonder if others have or need information/encouragement to do so. E-bikes are everywhere in Europe for those not fit or confident enough to use a pedal-only bicycle. They are easily rented.
Thank you.

This was very interesting, having travelled in those areas (but not by bike!).

Worst food poisoning I ever had was from a mountain hut in Val Gardena. We have not been back.

bad1bill
Posts: 17
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2018 6:14 am
Location: Colorado

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna

Post by bad1bill » Wed Aug 28, 2019 4:25 am

Dang, this sounds great! I read about many similar adventures on crazyguyonabike.com and suggest you post there as well and include pictures. I certainly want to cycle a similar path upon retirement. Buon viaggio!

Aha, I followed your link above and see you posted on biketouringtips.com - will certainly check that site out as well. Thanks for the inspiration!

User avatar
Topic Author
Raybo
Posts: 1830
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:02 am
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna

Post by Raybo » Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:42 pm

The visit to Alfredo and Ancilla’s was a day out of my way. Alfredo had suggested driving me to the top of the Misurina Pass to make up for it. I accepted.

It took about an hour to drive from Laggio di Cadore to top of the Pass. I’m glad I didn’t have to ride up it as it had some very steep sections. Along the way we stopped at Auronzo to view the glass-smooth lake in front of the town in front of spiky Dolomites. A very pretty tableau.

I said my heartfelt good-byes to Alfredo at Misurina and coasted off. The way down was curvy and steep and I was glad to be coasting down then to be grinding up. I saw many bikers doing exactly that.

At the bottom of the hill, I turned onto a busy gravel bike path that paralleled the main road. I rode past WWI informational plaques, memorials and even a cemetery. The bike path turned to asphalt past the big town Dobbiaco and continued downhill.

I turned east and rode through farm fields and skirted urban areas until I came next to the Drava River, whose valley I was following. The bike path changed sides of the river often and I passed many families out for a day’s pedal. The main road was in sight most of the time but not really part of my experience.

The river bed was mostly big, white rocks with a narrow ribbon of fast moving water. This meant I could coast along at a good clip. The path went through trees often and there were steep, green-sided mountains close in. By the time I got to Lienz, my stop for the night, the river was about 15 meters across.

I was now in Austria and Italian wouldn’t help me anymore. Luckily, everyone I dealt with spoke some English. Lienz looks Austrian with geranium filled window boxes and an oompah band playing in the town square.

The morning the climb up the Grossglockner pass, the highest surfaced road in Austria. It was too much for me to do in a single day, so I split it into 2 days.

This day was the “easier” part. A couple miles past Lienz, the real climbing started. I crawled up several switchbacks that went up the steep side of the Drava’s valley. The grade was consistent and difficult. My jersey was soaked and my face dripping with sweat after less than a mile to hard pushing. I was stopping constantly. The views across the valley as I climbed were impressive but hazy. I took lots of photos, anyway.

It took me over 2 hours to ride the 5 miles to the top of the pass. Once on the other side, it was a quick down and then a slow upgrade following the pretty Möll river upstream. Part of the time, I rode on a gravel bike path right next to the river which was bucolic and reminiscent of many riverside bike rides of the past.

My stop for the night was Heilgenblut atop the end of the valley. It was a hard, push to get up to it and I was glad to done for the day. I talked with 4 20-somethings who had just arrived from the other direction over the Grossglockner pass and they not only looked beat, they made it clear that the pass was very hard work.

I got a hotel upgrade due to a booking error at my hostel. After eating from food I was carrying, I hit the sauna for a quick sweat (as if I needed to sweat some more) and called it a night with thoughts of rain and the pass.

As I had planned, I was out of the hotel, had shopped, and was on my way up the pass by 8:30. It was a clear sunny day. I took a photo of a glacier high up the mountain that came into view with the clear morning sky.

I had to climb back to the road from the lower town and on a steep section of the climb, I walked to prevent burning out my legs first thing. Little did I know I was setting the stage for the entire day.

The climb started at a serious grade. I was in my lowest gear, as I would be on the entire climb, sweating profusely, and resting often. The grade didn’t vary much and was always steep.

The views were of high peaks slowly getting closer and views down the valley. I was passed by a few bikers, more cars, and unending loud, speeding motorcycles. I guess the thrill is the fast ride through switchbacks as I rarely see them stopped looking at something. Some of them ride recklessly, such as passing on blind curves.

There is an intermediate top. As I approached, an older woman on an e-bike shot past me. I wondered how much effort is involved when someone can ride at that speed up that kind of grade so fast? We both stopped for a rest and after eyeing my set-up she mentioned that it was good I was still young to do this without a motor. I asked how old she was. She answered 71. I told her I was 67 and that she was like my older sister. We both laughed and went our separate ways.

There is a brief, steep (of course) downhill to an intersection. I saw a waterfall up the mountain and took several photos and even pointed it out to passing bike tourists.

The climb after the intersection seemed even steeper than before, which was both disheartening and hard to believe. I continued struggling up, sometimes stopping every 100 feet (2 hundredths of a mile) to take a rest.

There were more switchbacks. I began walking to use other leg muscles for a while. I noticed that my speed wasn’t much different between the two modes of travel. At one point, I was riding at 2.5 MPH. I’m not entirely sure how I stayed upright!

As I got higher on the mountain, I noticed that the glaciers I’d seen way above me in Heilgenblut were now at eye level. Then, I saw the waterfall I’d photographed below me!

I was starting to get lightheaded. When I would rest, my heart pounded and I felt a bit nauseous. A combination of exertion and elevation, I assumed, as opposed to a heart attack!. It wasn’t always my legs that necessitated stopping. Sometimes, It was some combination of breathing and fatigue that forced me to rest.

I realized that the climb was beyond my abilities, but there weren’t many options at that point. There was the occasional bus stop, but I was determined to continue on. I walked more often, rested much, and somehow kept turning the pedals.

The physical discomfort would be combined with psychic pain whenever I saw the road continue far above me and how steep it was. Yet, somehow, I kept going. It helped greatly that the weather was good. If it was raining, I’d have turned back.

Eventually, after hours of effort, I made it to Hochtor (switchback 18), the highest point and the first tunnel at 2504 meters. I took photos and rode through the tunnel. I knew that there was a descent followed by an ascent to get to the other side of the pass but I was unprepared for the psychological toll seeing this uphill would take on me.

The vistas on the other side of the tunnel were other worldly. As if I was stranded on some barren peak, albeit, with dozens of cars and other people. I checked my water and was down to about a pint. I didn’t see any fountain but did see a rest stop at the bottom of the descent.

I zoomed down the steep road, through several tight switchbacks and was soon at the bottom. I stopped, was told to get water from the bathroom, which I did, and then I started the last climb. It was even harder. I walked much of the way.

At the top is a viewing platform of the many high peaks and dirty, dwindling glaciers. The run-off waterfalls/cascades down the slopes were impressive. I took many photos.

After, putting on leg warmers and my raincoat, I started down. I was so relieved/exhilarated/exhausted that I screamed several times. It was a unique moment.

A short way down, I stopped and reserved a hotel in Zell am See for 2 nights. It was €20 cheaper than the night before.

I stopped often on the way down to take photos, mostly of the waterfalls. Just to say I did, I hit 40 MPH on the Bike Friday. It was a bit scary.

I tried to encourage people riding up with a fist pump and yell. It always got a smile.

At the bottom, the road flattens out but still descends. First, on the road and then on a separated bike path and along the Fischer Ache, a pretty ribbon of water.

I coasted down through the houses and businesses along the way to Bruck-Fosch where the river meets the much bigger Salzach. I followed a bike path for about a mile to Zell am See and my hotel.

The room is tiny and clearly an afterthought. I ate some food, rested, and talked with Julia. Eventually, I had a shower and went to a Chinese place for dinner.

I walked back to the hotel and fell asleep with my clothes on.
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

User avatar
Topic Author
Raybo
Posts: 1830
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:02 am
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna (a 2nd report added)

Post by Raybo » Thu Sep 05, 2019 12:59 pm

I’m sitting in an apartment in Vienna. This bike tour is finished and I am still In one piece, though my arrival in Vienna was a bit ignominious. More on that later.

I last wrote from Zell am See on a day of rest after somehow getting over the Grossglockner Pass. Zell am See is like a tiny Lake Tahoe. Namely, a lake surrounded by mountains full of skiing trails. The hotel had given me a city pass that made all the operating ski lifts free.

I walked to the closest one (10 minutes) and went up. Then, I walked down to another one and took it to the heart of Zell am See. I walked to the lake, took some photos, and then a bus (also free) up to another lift, which took me back up the mountain. I then walked down steep slopes to the first lift and back down to my hotel. By this time, my legs had enough walking and needed a rest.

After hitting the Chinese place again, I returned and went to sleep.

I had asked a warmshowers host for a place to stay and the next morning read that I’d been invited for the night. I now shifted from short steep rides over passes to all day (50+ mile) routes over relatively flat ground. Today, the first 25 miles were along the Salzach River (the river that runs through Salzburg) on a bike path past towns, a few farm fields, and along/above the river. Unfortunately, it is the time of year when farmers spray liquid cow manure on their fields, so everywhere it smelled like a dairy; a hard stink to either ignore of get used to!

At St. Johann im Pongau, the river turns north to Salzburg. I wanted to head east to Schladming, my stop for the night. I climbed out of the river’s valley on a narrow, relatively busy road along the gorge of the Wagrainer Bach River, though I was too high up to see the river.

I climbed for well over an hour, keeping an eye on my mirror. After while, I was next to a pretty creek in among trees. But, the uphill went on longer than I thought and I was getting tired of it. At the top of the grade, it started to rain. I stopped for a snack and to wait out the rain, but it didn’t abate.

It was relatively light, so I left, coasting down next to cars stopped in a long line due to road works. The rain intensified and I finally stopped and put on my rain gear.

The downhill ended at the Enns River. I would follow its bike path for the rest of the day. It was a well-maintained gravel path that stuck to the river’s route through trees and along fields. It was a pretty ride, though the rain made it hard to take photos or see any distance.

I rode for 2 hours in the rain. It had gotten old by the time I got to Schladming, my stop for the night. My hosts, Christian and Andrea, run a cafe/ kid’s bookstore there. It was near closing time when I arrived. Christian is a self-taught baker. He was preparing Croissants for the next day and it was interesting to see how the dough is prepared. They have 2 young children, Antonia, 7, and Lucas, almost 5. I read them a book in English, which they didn’t understand, which Andrea made a stir-fry dinner.

After eating, I followed Andrea and the kids in their car to the house, which Christian continued preparing for a once a year fair on the week-end. They live in a one bedroom place and use the living room as their bedroom. They gave me the kids room and all four slept in the living room. I was amazed at their willingness to share this limited space with a bike tourist.

Andrea and I sat and talked in the kitchen and when Christian came home he joined. I was nodding off and went to bed after a short time after Christian came home. I learned that Christian and Andrea were long time bike tourists who simply adapted when they had one and then 2 kids. Thy showed me photos of their touring set-up, which involves Christian riding a tandem by himself (occasionally Antonia sits and pedals) pulling a trailer. Given the climbing I’d done on this trip, I couldn’t imagine such a method.

Christian knocked on my door at 6am to return to the cafe. It took me 10 minutes to go from in bed to packed and on my bike. I sat and watched Christian put last night’s croissants in the oven and get ready for the day. I offered help but it was clear that all I could do was get in the way of a well-established method, so I sat and watched.

It wasn’t raining but was very foggy. When it seemed I could do so without getting in the way, I made myself an omelette, had some coffee, and some very good, day-old homemade rolls. Regulars began arriving and the cafe took on the air of an established institution as several people greeted and talked with Christian.

I left shortly after Andrea arrived with the kids. Antonia, the 7 year old, was willing to engage slightly. Lucas hid behind his mother when I tried to say good-bye. As I was preparing to leave, Christian came out and we talked for about 15 minutes about bike touring, running a cafe, and a few other topics. I felt a bit bad leaving when he clearly wanted to connect, I had a long ride and wanted to get going.

I would follow the well marked Enns River path all day, never having to consult my map. Much of the day was spent next to smelly farm fields. In some sections, there were high mountains clad in fog. I spent a couple miles passing and being passed by a young woman and (maybe) her grandmother out for a tour. Unfortunately, we didn’t share a common language but I was inspired by the older woman’s effort.

At times, the path went through towns or along busy highways and wasn’t so scenic. But, as I got closer to Admont, my stop, big mountains came into view. The last few miles into Admont were quite scenic.

Admont, itself, is a nothing town where finding a place to eat dinner was a challenge.

It was very foggy the next morning and I waited until check-out time to leave. I continued on the Enns bike path. First, through a swampy area and then up into the trees. I crossed the river and entered Gesäuse National Park, a place I’d never heard of, and rode into a wonderfully scenic area that reminded me of both Yosemite and Yellowstone. Yosemite because of sheer cliffs and Yellowstone because of the trees and the river.

The road was very lightly traveled and the visual beauty off the charts. The only downside was the brown water in the river. There was a bike path that avoided a tunnel that had unbelievable views down the river’s gorge. Not only was this inspiring terrain, the fact that I had no idea it was there added greatly to the experience.

It took me 2 hours of wowing and picture-taking to get through the park. On the other side, I followed the Enns for a short while. But, the Enns went northwest and I was headed toward the east. So, at some point, I had to climb out of the valley.

I took the first turn-off and quickly found myself on a short, 22% grade road. After zig-zagging up this short stretch, I traversed a plateau and then headed back up more not as steep but longer grades to get to the heights above the Mendlingbach River, which I could hear but not see.

It was Saturday, so I was passed by dozens of motorcyclists, something I’ll never get used to. The sun was out, it was hot, and I had been climbing for a long time. At the village of Palfau, I filled up my water bag and continued climbing through the river’s valley full of recently cut fields of grass. I really appreciated the change in odors.

After an unmarked top, I coasted down and came next to the Ybbs River. I followed a separated bike path to Göstling an der Ybbs, my stop for the night. I stopped at the store, bought some more food ( Sunday was the next day and everything is closed) and found my hotel. There wasn’t much going on so I stayed in my comfortable room, ate, and watched US Open tennis.

The next day, rain was forecast and I wanted to get out early to get as far as I could before it started. I had 3 sustained climbs to crest this day. The sky was dark and rain seemed eminent. I continued along the Ybbs for a while and then turned up the first climb of the day. A short way up, the downpour began. I stopped under a deserted home’s eaves to wait. While I couldn’t see any lightning, I heard continuous thunder. It was unnerving.

After about 15 minutes, it appeared that both the thunder and rain were subsiding so I rode off. A short ways up, it got worse and I pulled under a wood shed and got on rain gear. Another tenth of a mile and I stopped against a house that offered minimal protected for another 15 minutes.

When the rain decreased to an acceptable level, I continued my climb. Luckily, the traffic was light. I pushed up the hill in the rain. I would go down the other side, to, up and down the next hill, and a long way toward my night’s stop in the rain. It wasn’t pleasant, but my rain coat is truly waterproof and it wasn’t cold so I tolerated it. But, it is hard to take photos in the rain as there aren’t many views and water isn’t good for a camera.

The rain ended as I started the last climb of the day through yet another valley of farm/grass fields and trees. I was tired by the time I got to Traisen, my stop for the night.

The only dinner option was a pizza place where every table either had someone smoking or a dog. Living in San Francisco, where no one smokes in restaurants makes eating while people smoke cigarettes truly disgusting. While the pizza was pretty good, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

When I woke up the next morning, it was raining and rain was predicted all day. I had to decide if I would a) ride the 50 miles to Vienna in the rain, b) spend the day in a place with absolutely nothing to do, or c) take the train to Vienna, an embarrassing way to end a bike tour.

I waited until after breakfast to decide on the train. I rode to the station, about 2 miles away, bought tickets and made my way to Vienna on a couple trains. Once in Vienna, I rode to my rented apartment,stepped off my bike and another bike tour was in the books (or emails, if you prefer).
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

Grasshopper
Posts: 987
Joined: Sat Oct 09, 2010 3:52 pm

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna (3rd and final report added)

Post by Grasshopper » Fri Sep 06, 2019 10:30 am

Thanks for the travelog as we are hiking the Italian Dolomites next fall, some of our locations are the same.

Hockey10
Posts: 558
Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2016 12:20 pm
Location: Philadelphia suburbs

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna (3rd and final report added)

Post by Hockey10 » Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:35 am

Raybo - let us know when you post photos on your website, as they are always a great way to see parts of Europe.

Bronko
Posts: 47
Joined: Mon Dec 03, 2018 4:17 pm
Location: No matter where you go, there you are.....

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna (3rd and final report added)

Post by Bronko » Fri Sep 06, 2019 3:25 pm

I consider this a solid actionable post. My action will be to leave my dark office this warm Friday afternoon and go ride my bike in the sun. Thanks for sharing!
Never let a little bit of money get in the way of a real good time.

3504PIR
Posts: 787
Joined: Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:46 am

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna (3rd and final report added)

Post by 3504PIR » Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:21 pm

As someone who rides a road bike, I have a lot of respect for your touring and love reading your reports. Thank you!

renue74
Posts: 1681
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 7:24 pm

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna (3rd and final report added)

Post by renue74 » Fri Sep 06, 2019 6:18 pm

I actually enjoy the written trip reports more than the photos. They are personable and interesting.

When I retire, I want to do this.

User avatar
Topic Author
Raybo
Posts: 1830
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:02 am
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna (3rd and final report added)

Post by Raybo » Sat Sep 07, 2019 12:55 am

Grasshopper wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 10:30 am
Thanks for the travelog as we are hiking the Italian Dolomites next fall, some of our locations are the same.
Where are you going in the Dolomites?
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

User avatar
Topic Author
Raybo
Posts: 1830
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:02 am
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

Re: A bike tour from Bolzano to Vienna (3rd and final report added)

Post by Raybo » Wed Sep 11, 2019 6:54 am

Hockey10 wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:35 am
Raybo - let us know when you post photos on your website, as they are always a great way to see parts of Europe.
I have selected 53 photos of the over 1700 that I took and posted them on my website. They aren't necessarily the best ones, but they are then ones I liked as I looked through them. Expect the usual: waterfalls, rivers, and mountains!
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

Post Reply