This was the last day in Austria, we would be entering Slovenia but one more pass stood in the way. Despite not spending that much time in the country, we both agreed that Austria had held some of the best days of riding we had done so far. The scenery was always amazing and the climbs, even though they were tough, we really rewarding. That said, it was going to be nice to get down out of the mountains for a bit and have some days without big climbs.
The lake that morning was covered in a thin layer of mist as we left, a bit earlier than usual. We rode out along quiet Alpine back roads at first, up in the hills, before descending down into a valley an joining up with a main road.
Every descent we had to make was a bit disheartening, we knew there was one more pass to cross before we got into Slovenia. We passed through our last Austrian city of Klagenfurt, stopping for some breakfast out of an Aldi and then started out towards the pass and the border with Slovenia.
One long, curving descent into a wide river valley later and we were at the foot of the Lobl Pass which would climb, according to our map, up to 700 m, then descend, then kick up again to 1300m. There also seemed to be a tunnel near the peak, hopefully we could use it.
This final pass ended up being the hardest of the Alsp. It was very hot and the route was steep. It started with a steep initial climb, as most passes we had crossed had, but then kept going steep as it started up to 700m. We then descended for a bit before climbing again and then more steep climbing and 2 hours after we started we reached the tunnel.
With some relief we saw we could ride through it on the footpath and the cool, dark downhill of the tunnel was so refreshing. We crossed the border in the tunnel, it had taken some work but we crossed into Slovenia.
From the border to Bled wasn’t far, maybe about 40km. We descended and then rode along a small road that skirted the mountain, rising and falling, and then one last downhill all the way (almost) into Bled. The changes from Slovenia into Austria wasn’t that noticeable at first.
Having both been to Lake Bled before we weren’t blown away by the place. It is very nice of course but it was a bit strange for both up of us to be somewhere familiar after over everything be new and exciting almost every day.
We went into the Bled campsite. It was packed, every camper van and caravan spot was full but they could still squeeze in backpackers and cyclists. We found a nice enough spot and lay all our stuff down, and then lay down ourselves for a well deserved day off.
No pass to cross today! We did have to do some climbing, but it was all gradual, only about 600m vertical that was mostly an easy climb.
Leaving the campsite in the morning we followed the cycle route again through a golf course and some villages, back into the main road. The main road then took us downhill for a bit into the town of Stadl. From Stadl we started to climb up beside a river, that turned into a fast flowing stream as our surrounding moved from valley to gorge.
We crossed a dam and then everything opened up again. Before too long we were in the small village of Flattnitz at 1400m, a small village with a few chalets dotted around and a single ski run. We had lunch here.
We then rode along rolling hills for two hours into the town of Feldkirchen. Austria, like Germany (at least the parts of Germany we were in) shuts down on Sunday, no stores at all are open, no supermarkets, pretty much nothing except a smattering of cafes. Feldkirchen felt like a ghost town as we rolled in. We got to the centre square and found one cafe open where we got some ice cream and cooled off from the heat.
We got out of town around 5.30 and cycled on, hoping to find somewhere to camp quickly but it took an hour and a slight detour before we came across anything. We ended up at a small lake that took a bit of riding off our route to get to, but ended up being really nice, well worth the detour. It was our last night in Austria, tomorrow we would cross over into Slovenia.
The main event do today would be crossing the Sölk pass, a pass that would take us up to 1788m, if we made it. Yesterday’s pass had been quite difficult, but we mainly put that down to the heat. With clouds on the horizon there was hope yet that the difficulty of the upcoming pass wouldn’t be enhanced by the heat.
We had about 30km to ride before we arrived at the base of the pass and we covered that quickly, it was all on main road and quite flat – but still with great views of the surrounding mountains.
There were loads of bikers (motorbikes) at the base of the pass, having a coffee before the went over the mountain. I had a feeling their experience would be very different to ours. We were starting at 680, so we had 1100m vertical to do. The pass was 26 km long though, so it wasn’t going to be a steep climb the whole way.
After our gentle two hour journey up the valley, gradually and gently gaining altitude we crossed into the National Park area of the climb, where cows roamed around at will and the landscape felt a lot more wild, like the west of Ireland or Scotland, only up in the Alps.
Here the climbing got a bit harder and we really started to feel it. There was another kick that lasted about 1500m and we thought at the end of it we should be at the top. Pushing hard we got around the corner and…still 300m to climb of steep switchbacks.
It was lunchtime though so we cut the ascent in half and rolled into a hotel that happened to be right there that was serving hot lunch. As soon as we sat down there was a huge clap of thunder and big, heavy raindrops fell. We ate lunch (a great dish called Speknockrel) and started up again about an hour later, well rested and fed.
The rain was really coming down as we finished the last 300m but cleared up once we reached the top, and what a view. This was the biggest pass we would have to cross going over the Alps, it was really a relief to have it done now.
After getting to the top of the pass, the rest of the day felt rather uneventful. There was a great descent down the other side, but we couldn’t really enjoy it as the roads were all slick with rain and the switchbacks frequent and sharp.
We rode along for about an hour before reaching a town with an Aldi where we picked up food for dinner and the morning. From there we followed a river out of town along a cycle track until we spotted somewhere to camp, a nice clear field off the cycle path.
We stopped just in time as the thunder and lightening came in again, and with it the rain. This was the first rainstorm since we had bought the tarp we had been out in, so excitedly we set it up. And what a great purchase! Once it was up we had a huge area to sit under while the rain passed us over. We cooked dinner and then not long after, wrecked from the days ride, fell fast asleep.
Today was Finns birthday and he got to spend it crossing our first Alpine pass! What a gift.
Leaving Lake Fuschl behind in the morning, we climbed for a bit and then came across the bigger and more spectacular Lake Wolfgang, another lake framed by the Alpine peaks which we followed for about 15k. We then turned inland, following the road into Bad Ischl. Here we hopped onto a cycle route that took us through shady woodland following along a fast running stream all the way to the next town of Bad Goisern.
It had been really hot all day, somewhere above 30° for sure. As we passed through Bad Goisern we crossed over a bridge where people had gathered on the grassy bank to swim. It being so hot, it didn’t take long for us to hop into the river for a swim too.
Nicely cooled down after our dip we had lunch in town and got ready to cross the first pass of our trip over the Alps. It was really hot still so we waited around as late as possible, hoping the heat would dissipate a bit. It did not.
We started climbing shortly after four and it was soon apparent this would not be easy. We had 500m vertical to do and the road was completely exposed to the sun. We both had to stop every couple of meters to cool down and so it was about 90min later by the time we reached the top.
As with any climb though, once we got to the top it was all worth it. We were really in the Alps now with huge peaks towering all around us. The vista gave us the energy to ride a bit longer along the valley floor, up and over a small hill and then down towards Bad Mittendorf.
At Bad Mittendorf we looked around for somewhere to camp. We finally spotted a small stoney beach on the other side of a stream, sheltered by trees. We carried our bags and then bikes over the water and set up for the evening, having a good wash in the stream.
In the morning we went for a swim before packing up and heading out. We had planned another relatively short day so that we could spend the afternoon in Salzburg before riding a little way out of the city to camp in the evening.
The ride out to Salzburg was pleasant, and it was another hot and sunny day. We followed the shores of the lake in the early morning before cutting across country a bit on a B road. We soon arrived in Traunstine, a town outside Salzburg about 20 km where we grabbed a coffee and took some brief respite from the heat of the sun.
Riding towards Salzburg on another B road, we spotted a cycle track that would take us to the next town just before the city on our route. We turned off the road and climbed for about 10 minutes. When we came out of the trees we found ourselves on top of rolling alpine hills dotted with farmhouse and barns and the mountains off in the distance.
This scenic route brought us almost to Salzburg, where we then turned on to the Mozart cycle route that brought us all the was to the city. We crossed the bridge into the city and left Germany behind. We would be here in Austria for about a week while we crossed the Alps.
In Salzburg we wandered around for a bit looking at the sights, but it was too hot to really concentrate on anything. All we actually wanted was some food. More wandering in the wrong direction took us by happenstance through Mozarts birthplace but we were on the completely wrong side of town, as we learned from the concierge at the Sheraton.
Returning to the centre we found somewhere to eat, but it had gotten late. We managed to get a small bit of sauntering around the old town done but it was time to leave if we were to get to our destination.
Turned out we had a bit of a climb coming out of Salzburg but it was well worth it in the end, after we finished the 45 min climb we were once again out on Alpine plains. It was starting to get dark by the time we reached Lake Fuschl. The road skirted far above the lake but soon descended into the resort town of Fuschl am See. We rode though the town and out the other side and before long came across a nice stoney beach on the shore to set up camp.