Salzach cycling

Cycling Europe Austria

A multi-day bike tour has been on my bucket list for a long time. Maybe my plans were too ambitious (e.g. all around Austria in 4 weeks) or I was being a perfectionist over-planning and over-thinking everything too much. The bottom line is it never happened. This year I don’t waste many thoughts and decide to go for it. I find a friend and colleague to join me, which adds some extra commitment not to cop out again. Without a single kilometre of biking before that in 2016, I hit the road.

The original plan is to do the classic route from Salzburg to Grado, but this would have required some planning to get reasonable priced train tickets on the way back. So we go for plan B, which turns out awesome: the 310 km long Tauernradweg from Krimml to Passau.

We take a morning train from Salzburg to Krimml on our first day and bike 111 km along the Salzach river across the whole of Pinzgau, past Bischofshofen and St. Johann to Pfarrwerfen. What strikes me are the slow, but steady changes in the landscape. From vast flower-packed fields along the narrow-gauge Pinzgau railway, the mountains on each side. The Salzach valley soon starts to get narrower after Kaprun until it only accommodates the river, a railway and the road. For cars and trains, there are tunnels pushed through the mountains here and there. However, with your bike, you’ll have to make detours, which usually require some steep up-hill portions. Just because you’re following a river downstream (from Krimml at 1067 to Passau at 312 metres) doesn’t mean, you don’t have to do some climbing in between. A beer (non-alcoholic) and a good meal conclude the first day. There must be something about physical exercise, which makes them taste a whole lot better than usual. Sleep is immediate, deep and very relaxing.

The second day of our bike trip sees us passing the Pass Lueg and experiencing the first pretty cool downhill parts of the tour. Again the landscape changes dramatically after exiting the last mountainous region of the track rolling down into Golling. We go for a refreshing swim in Kuchl, an ice-cream in Hallein and a small lunch back home in Salzburg.

Then we continue through the forest along the Salzach shores to Oberndorf and further into Upper Austria past Trimelkamm, Ostermiething and Tittmoning. Every town would’ve been worth a visit to get a closer look, for example, into the past of Austria’s relatively unknown coal mining history. We’re looking forward to arriving at our second stop though, so we keep pushing through.

We spend the second night in a beautiful guesthouse in Sankt Radegund, a place that feels like the end of the world and a village lost in time. The short, but unexpectedly sharp climb pushes us to the limit once again. The sunset sky is beautiful, but already shows first signs of rain and thunderstorms. We achieve 97 km on the second day with another 100 ahead of us.

The third day of our cycling journey is the final push to Passau, the sky is grey, and we’re sure that we’ll run into rainy weather at some point. The forecast is rather bad for the entire weekend, and it seems like it’s just a matter of time before all hell will break loose around us. We encounter some light drops of rain on our first day in Bischofshofen, a couple more in Sankt Radegund, but other than that it’s been almost perfect weather.

The rain starts to fall when we arrive in Braunau. It’s light and not a problem at all, but to us feels like the first signs of the inevitable storm. In another stroke of luck, it turns out completely different. An hour later, the sun comes back out, and it turns out to be the sunniest and most beautiful day of the whole trip. After a final rest in Schärding – the goal already close – the last kilometres are easy. We cross the border with Germany into Passau and end our trip right where the Inn and Danube rivers meet.

It feels like it would be the easiest thing in the world to add another 3-4 days and follow the Danube to Vienna. We decide to keep this for another time and head for some well-deserved beers (alcoholic ones this time) before heading home by train.