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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Radstadt/Salzburg Tour



The weather forecast looked good for Saturday and Sunday, so I found myself in the Euraide office on Friday morning talking to Alan Wissenberg about a trip to Radstadt. (Alan by the way was tickled pink when he found this blog ranked highly for a search for Euraide during the summer --- undoubtedly due to a ranking glitch) Why Radstadt? On one of my first bike tours in Germany, I ran into an English lorry driver in Seeham, who when asked to tell me a place that was pretty, said Radstadt. "I'd recommend Radstadt to anyone," he said, holding up his beer. (English lorry drivers, by the way, don't conform to the beer gut stereotypes that American lorry drivers seem to have done) Unlike other tours, I also booked my lodging --- during the late season, it's very likely that most hotels are closed, along with the tourist information office, so I figured I would make the booking in Radstadt, dump my lugguage there, and do a day trip.

So I found myself hustling aboard the 7:26am train to Bischohofen on Saturday morning. The train was late, but fortunately my connection was for 20 minutes, so I had plenty of time. It was cold and overcast while I waited for the train, and I started wondering if I had made a mistake in believing the forecast. My doubts grew when I arrived in Radstadt to find wet roads, though it wasn't raining. Having set my GPS for my hotel, I rode to the hotel and found it without incident, and discovered that I was the only guest! The hotel owner was very nice, however, and let me check in and leave my stuff --- there's even a locked bicycle closet! I immediately set out to ride the loop I had planned so many months ago (this was one of the trips that I had waiting to go but never could find the weather to do so), albeit cut short since I was starting late, and really, didn't want to push it in the winter.

The loop first took me through Radstadt proper, where I bought some fruits for lunch, and then headed West to Eben, and then North and back East through the mountains. The hills rolled around a bit, but soon I was flat smack in the middle of what had to be an access highway for skiiers. It not being skiing season, the traffic was light and I could enjoy the scenery. I could see that the sun was trying to come out, and low and behold around the bend I saw mountains shrouded with clouds. They even had snow on them!

I rode past Ubermoos, which had a shack serving a hot lunch, but decided that I'd rather not bogmyself down with food. Soon, I was riding past the ski resort towns of Hachau. It's a bit spooky riding past a ski resort town during the dead season --- nothing is open, all the ski lifts aren't moving and neither are the cable cars used for moving hikers during the summer. Together with the very light traffic --- I was seeing a car every 15 minutes at most --- I felt like I was riding through a post-holocaust scenario, except it was so pretty. I took a break every so often, not being in shape, but also to eat. Then swept past a minor ridge, and past Schildehen, started my climb up to Vorberg.

Up to now the road had been marked scenic, but really, was nothing to write home about. I had taken a few pictures, but looking at them now, my equipment, technique, and the weather didn't make it worth writing home about. Vorberg changed all that. Now I was on a high ridge looking down across the valley and into the valley. The scenery was spectacular --- I stopped often for pictures, and had great views everywhere I turned. Even the weather started to coperate as the sun started to peek out through the clouds. I rode past gorgeous houses, with men in lederhosen pounding fenceposts down. I rode past horses and horsefields, and a children's playground that had a few cows assigned to mow down the grass. The mood, the lighting, and the scenery all combined to make me feel really glad I did this loop, and sad when it came down to descent into Pichl, where I picked up the Enns bike trail towards Radstadt.

But even the flat bike trail had a consolation prize, for as I rode along it, the sun suddenly came out and lit up a farmhouse and its surrounds with a crisp golden light that this picture barely managed to capture:
From Radstadt

By the time I got back to the hotel I was wondering if I shouldn't have made a longer loop, it being but 3:00pm. This hotel didn't serve dinner, so I quickly unpacked, washed up a bit, and discovered I had no soap either. I rode out to the city to try to find soap and see if there were restaurants within walking distance. Well, soap was not a problem, as I found a drug store open very quickly. But I discovered all the surrounding hotel/restaurants near me were closed, so ended up riding into town, where I bought some emergency snacks in a super market. I looked around town and to my surprise, found a Konditerei that served dinner even though it was only 4pm. I parked my bike outside (unlocked, as I hadn't bothered to bring a lock), went in, and ordered hot tea, the fixed menu (noodle soup and Wiener Schnitzel) and then topped up with a dessert pastry. I was impressed by the entire works. The meal was good, the price was reasonable (14 Euros for the entire thing), and of course, the waitress was pretty.

I then went back and retired for the night.

The next morning, I got up and ate a nice big breakfast before hopping onto my bike and riding down the Ennstall towards Bischofshofen. The bike path led in the wrong direction, so pretty soon I found myself on B99. Fortunately, B99 parallels a freeway, so it had light traffic, though in Huttau there was a parade of some sort involving horses, which I was glad to get past, as the road was quite nasty. It was overcast and I got quite cold on the descents, discovering at this point that I had a hole in my gloves.

Near Bischofshofen, I picked up the Tauern Radweg, a bike path that would lead all the way to Salzburg. Unlike other bike paths, however, this one was really a bike lane along the highway --- the one time I saw a sign to a separated path, it turned out that the segment of the separated path was close. This was just as well, since while approaching Werfen, I saw the big castle on a hill. On the spur of the moment I decided to visit it, and rode up along the pedestrain path until it got too steep and had to walk. Fortunately, the walking was very limited, and I got to the castle entrance only to find that the place was closed for the season. I had good views though, so it wasn't wasted effort.

I picked the paved cable-car route down to the parking lot, and started heading down the hill when I saw a gorgeous view in front of me:
From Radstadt

Now I wasn't unhappy that I hadn't opted for my 100km original route which would have bypassed this portion. I kept going and the route got prettier, giving me better and better views until I got to Pass Lueg, which was so short a climb I didn't notice it. From there, the scenery changed, giving me more greenery rather than granite mountains. I had a quick lunch at Hallein, and thereafter picked up the Salzach dirt path that led into Salzburg, arriving finally in the Salzburg train station in time to catch the 2:11pm train. As usual, the train was late and it was dark by the time I got home.

Still, it was a good trip with 140km and 1393m of climbing. Considering the restricted daylight I was getting, this worked out as well as I could have hoped for. I'm finding that after about 7 months in Munich, my only regret is not spending more time in Austria. I'll need to explore this country more in the future!
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