Through the Salzburger Land to the High Tauern.
Wrapped up warmly in our rain gear, we get on our bikes in front of our front door. From the Makartsteg in the Mozart city of Salzburg, we still enjoy the view of the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Despite the cloudy sky, this sight is still very impressive, even for me. Now we take a leisurely ride along the Tauern cycle path towards Hallein. There we make a short stop and stroll through the small streets of the Celtic town. We find features from this period everywhere. The mountain panorama is now within reach. We cycle past the Salzachöfen towards our first climb. I had imagined the stretch up to the Lueg Pass to be a bit worse, but with our e-bikes it is overcome very quickly, and we enjoy the descent through the Salzach gorge.
To the right and left, the Tennengebirge and Hagengebirge mountains tower up, and we are so close to the mountains that we almost think we can touch the rock faces. For us, however, the path continues flat to very slightly hilly down in the valley.
After just a few kilometres, Hohenwerfen Castle appears in our field of vision. Only on the bike do you realize how perfectly this castle from the Middle Ages was placed between the mountains; you have the entire valley in view. The last stage of the day winds its way through the revitalized meadows to St. Johann im Pongau. The warm welcome at the Hotel Hubertus made up for the wet weather on this day.
Through the rain into the Mölltal
A look out of the window today does not bode well. The peaks of the Hochkönig are covered with snow and it is raining cats and dogs. Although the luggage driver and the hotelier recommend the train ride, we decide to take the bike tour. Today the most strenuous stage to Bad Gastein is on the programme and so that I can competently advise our guests, I want to have ridden it myself. First we cycle along the Salzach River to Schwarzach. There we leave the river, which means that our first "mountain" stage lies ahead of us. Yes, the stretch to the equalization basin is tough, but at about 2.5 km it is also relatively short. So it could also be done by pushing the bike. From the top we enjoy the view into the valley and cycle on the slightly hilly Tauern cycle path to Lend, where we turn off through the Klammtunnel into the Gastein Valley. Here we are again offered a magnificent mountain panorama, which we both know well from the winter.
Even from a distance, we can see the houses of Bad Gastein nestling against the mountainside. Now it's time to grit our teeth and tackle the steep passage through the town. This climb is not bad either, but by the time we reach the Gastein waterfall it is almost forgotten. The masses of water plunging into the depths in the middle of the town are really impressive, and probably even more thunderous due to the persistent rain.
After a train ride, we arrive in the Mölltal valley, where the rain finally lets up. We make a rapid descent through the Mölltal and the High Tauern Nature Park. Here a big praise to our bike mechanics: the brakes are excellently maintained.
During dinner, the clouds break and better weather announces itself. As we sit on the terrace and enjoy a nightcap, we are very proud to have cycled this most strenuous stage of the trip despite the weather conditions.
The South of Austria and Carinthian Kasnudeln
Immediately after getting up, we take a look out of the window. A smile spreads, for we are presented with a picture-postcard idyll. We say goodbye to the owner of the hotel: "Look, the weather is better here in the south".
We cycle slightly uphill through the Mölltal valley and notice the intense scent of elder after the rain. It is in full bloom right now and fills the air with a wonderfully sweet aroma. That is also something I like so much about cycling tours: you perceive nature with all your senses.
After enjoying our Carinthian Kasnudeln in Spittal, we continue along the Drautal cycle path. Through forests and past fruit trees, we head to the Wallner Radlerrast, which offers regional specialities from its own production. While eating and watching the animals, we almost forgot the time.
From here it is only a stone's throw until we reach Villach via the very well-maintained cycle path. Now we know: Italy is not far away. We use the time after dinner for a little sightseeing in the decorated little streets of the city.
Benvenuti nella bella italia
Today we are heading for Italy! After the train ride to Arnoldstein, we find ourselves on the perfectly constructed Alpe-Adria cycle path. The slight incline goes almost unnoticed, and we reach Italy after a few kilometres. Ciao Bella Italia!
With the sun on our faces, we now cycle through the Canal Valley. What can I say? It's a beautiful route, and you could almost say "put your feet up". From Tarvis on, the route is mostly downhill or flat. We can let our bikes roll and enjoy the beautiful view. A real relief after the somewhat sportier days before. With old and abandoned railway stations along the route, we cycle through the valley on the former railway line, which is now asphalted.
Again and again we have beautiful views of the Fiume Fella, which is something very special with its deep blue colour. In Chiusaforte we absolutely have to take a break. Here, a railway station has been converted into a café that can only be reached by bike or on foot.
After a short rest in a deck chair, we set off for our stage destination and the hotel near Venzone. In the evening, we enjoy the delicious pizza in the hotel's own pizzeria and still rave about this day.
Surprising city and the sea
From Venzone we cycle on quiet side roads and country lanes through wheat fields and deciduous forests towards Udine. Beautifully designed villas and well-kept houses with magnificent rose and jasmine bushes accompany us on the way. The splendid and cosy centre of Udine convinces us as soon as we arrive at the town hall in the old town. Our hotel is only a short walk away and turns out to be an oasis of peace in a pulsating city. In the evening, after dinner, we discover a small wine bar in the old town. When we ask for the menu, the owner points to his wall covered with bottles and small descriptions and winks, "My menu is on the wall!".
Destination in sight: the last stage to Grado
On the final stage, we cycle towards Grado and the sea. We cycle through fields of wheat, maize and poppies and along gravel paths through Friuli. The first vines are not long in coming and soon appear along the way. We soon find ourselves in front of the city walls of Palmanova, from where we cycle on to the imposing centre. The town was built as an important military base on the mainland at the end of the 16th century. The special feature of this are the wide streets that run in a star shape to the city walls. This was to get the soldiers there as quickly as possible. The three large city gates from this period are still preserved today.
Impressed by this urban architecture, we now cycle towards Cervignano del Friuli. From here on, the route is mostly dead straight along avenues with tall cypress trees. However, we only stay here for a short while because we are already looking forward to the sea.
After about 20 minutes we are rewarded and reach the bridge to Grado. The last few metres, however, are on foot. We leave the bikes on the promenade and dip our somewhat tired legs into the Adriatic Sea.
Now we realize: we have made it, about 380 km are behind us. From home to the sea!