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Crossing the Alps by bicycle feels like this

Elizabeth Cage's picture
The town of Burgeis, Italy, before cycling into Austria over the Alps. Photo: Elizabeth Cage

I arrive in Burgeis – a place where cows live in town. It seems dairy farmers lead their cows to paddocks on the outskirts of town during the day, bring them for milking in town, then shed them beneath their houses.

The tourist information office has closed for the day. I ring the bells at a couple of hotels without response, so I hop on line on my phone, find Hotel Maraias on a hotel booking app and secure a room for the night.

Beer along the bicycle route, Italy. Elizabeth Cage, Cycle Traveller

I arrive at reception at the same time as my booking. I am wrecked. Shattered. Happy to agree to spend an extra €13 for half-board (breakfast and dinner). I shower. I drink a beer. I marvel at the view.

The dinner is exceptional and utterly enormous. How these holidaymakers who are not riding their bicycles over the Alps consume this much food is a wonder.

I retire to my room – exhausted and stuffed like Thanksgiving.

The mountains and scenery continue to be too beautiful. I have a few moments of outright giddiness and teary happiness. First when I finally get a downhill run cruising toward Lake St Valentin; it is icy blue.

The mountains before me are ragged, dark grey granite peppered with pine green.

Behind me – far behind me – more majestic mountains, iconic, snow-capped and cloud kissed. Around me are wild flowers – white clusters, red poppies, little blue things in fields of pale but vibrant green.

In other fields freshly cut hay is being raked into piles by farmers. There is the persistent but not pungent smell of cow dung and the occasional clank-clank of the bells they wear while pasturing higher up the hills.

Cows in the Alps, Austria. Elizabeth Cage, Cycle Traveller

Regularly I pass rushing rivulets of water pouring from everywhere and draining toward the lake and into the Adige to retrace my route and beyond to Venice.

I pass the last Italian town on my map and I’m freewheeling through a meadow into Austria. AUSTRIA. I have ridden my bicycle to Austria.

I feel … wonderful. I feel like I’ve really achieved something. Like this ride is a metaphor for life more generally: just keep pedalling, 20 metres at a time if you have to, you’ll get there.

Elizabeth Cage entering Austria by bicycle. Cycle Traveller

Sometimes you might get a little lost – like I did in Nauders – the first Austrian town I passed through. But eventually I found my way and was soon riding my brakes down 11 switchbacks to meet the crystalline blue River Inn and the Swiss border.

I barely put a foot on the ground in that country as I pedalled about 15 kilometres and back into Austria where I found a campsite and called it a day.

I’ve reached my first big riding goal of the trip – I’ve crossed an Alpine pass and reached another country.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Cage blogs about her bicycle touring adventures on Push Bike Diaries and also writes a number of other entertaining blogs including Learning German with Christoph Waltz and Sundays at the Beach, a project in which she is visiting all of Sydney's beaches from A to Z.


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