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Fahrrad Reisen
Biking
Trans Alps Bike Tour
Switzerland - Italy - Slovenia - Austria

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Starting in Switzerland, biking across the Alps in eastern direction through the Dolomites of Italy to Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia; cruise around Mt.Triglav National Park, and finally mastering Austria's Southern Alps on the way back to Switzerland. Strong presence of snow and as a consequence the closure of some mountain passes caused many spontaneous changes of the route.

 


   

 

biking time:                             
total distance:                
altitude gained:               
mountain passes:           
valleys crossed:            
highest point:                 
lowest point:                  
coldest temperature:    
warmest temperature: 
equipment:
10 days over Easter
1'130 kilometers
10'800 m
12 passes
Switzerland: 3 - Italy: 12 - Slovenia: 7 - Austria: 6
Passo Pordoi, Italy, 2'250 m
Tarcento, Italy, 150 m
-6° C, Ofenpass, Switzerland
20° C, Tarcento, Italy
Cannondale F800 Mountain Bike, handlebar bag, 25-liter backpack

 


Trans Alps Mountain Bike


 

STAGE 1:  121 km / 800 m
Bike through the beautiful Swiss National Park in a most amazing mountain setting

 

 

Ofenpass, SWITZERLAND

start in the Engadin valley * quiet road winding its way up through the Swiss National Park (http://www.nationalpark.ch/go/en/) and up to Ofen Mountain Pass * bluest of blue skies in a beautiful contrast with the snow covered peaks * altitude: 2'150 m * perfect biking day *

Val Müstair

Descent to Val Müstair where I needed about half an hour to warm up my frozen, white colored fingers on the warm surface of a wooden bench * just now I was able to have something for lunch * Convent of St. John the Baptist, a UNESCO world heritage site with unique wall paintings *

Val Venosta, ITALY

Broad valley lined on either side by tree-covered mountain ranges * important apple growing area * accompanied by the river Adige * rather heavy traffic on this major thoroughfare to Austria * many castles and ruins guarding the entrances to the many smaller valleys * charming, heavily fortified village of Glorenza * the road descended gradually for over 50 km to the city of

Merano

stroll through the historic city center

Gargazzone

18:00: I called it a day in this small village * found a peaceful family hotel right at the foot of the mountain with a panoramic view over the valley * almost fell asleep, had to drag myself to a Trattoria for a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese and a "welcome-abroad-beer" of the local brewery I had passed earlier today * missed even out on tonight's football classic between the old rivals Italy and England *

 

 

Ofen Mountain Pass

 

 

STAGE 2:   82 km / 2'500 m
Cycling over the two Italian Mountain Passes Costalunga and Pordoi

 

 

Bolzano

biking warm-up to the area's capital * altitude: 250 m * had to get info about the winter condition of the different alpine passes * "Are you traveling by car?" asked me the smiling, charming Italian beauty behind the counter. "Yes, of course! That's why I'm wearing a red woolen cap and gloves, carry a backpack with a dangling helmet, have this water bottle in my hand and sweat is still running down my face!" * however, I already had several options in mind and now made my choice:

Passo di Costalunga

the first part was an incredibly fascinating biking adventure * the gorge was dominated by a wild roaring river deep down on the right side * it was so narrow that the road had to be cut out of the mountain wall or led into tunnels * vertical, rocky walls towered up to the sky on both sides * the sun was hardly able to throw in any sunbeams so it was rather dark * sometimes it looked like the road was going to end in an cul-de-sac when the canyon turned drastically to one or the other side * but a 180° curve around a large boulder mastered the obstacle * gradually the valley broadened, the rocks gave way to lush fields and forests, the wild river seemed tamed and judging from the many fishing lodges rich of fish * the higher I got the fresher it got what made more and more layers of clothes necessary * first only patches of snow appeared then whole fields of snow * panoramic break at the frozen Lago di Carezza * 14:00, I reached the Hospizio, the highest point of the pass (alt. 1'750 m) * quite disappointing, instead of pure nature like on the way up, hotels, restaurants and holiday homes were predominant * all the same I took advantage of one of the bars, had two ham sandwiches, a hot chocolate and changed the soaking wet clothes * the descent offered splendid panoramic views of the gigantic Dolomites colossus *

Val die Fassa

down on the other side of passo di Costalunga * easy part through several small mountain villages * considered to stay in the last of them: Cananzei * but it was so overcrowded with hardcore winter sport tourists that I decided to continue biking *

Passo Pordoi

17:00, with the help of Balisto cereal bars, vitamin C candies and the funky rhythm of the Red Hot Chili Peppers I tried to tap my energy reserves * the murderous steepness made me shift down to the lowest gear * one hairpin bend after the other, 27 there would be, the ordinary bends not counted * on slopes with artificial snow there were still plenty of skiers * just before it got completely dark I reached the top * got a very basic room in the Albergo Casa Alpina * this area would be ideal for trekking tours too

 

Passo Pordoi Mountain Pass


 

STAGE 3:  115 km / 1'300 m
Biking in the Italian Alps

 

 

Passo Pordoi

now I could see by daylight what I achieved yesterday evening * the landscape was covered by white gold * again the gloves didn't live up to the task of protecting the hands from the cold * shortly after setting off for the downhill ride I lost the feeling of all ten fingers * through plenty of stops I tried with massages to reanimate them * in a real bends-festival I raced down with a speed of over 60 km/h * once in a while skiers crossed the road in order to reach their next slope * they looked at me funnily, I looked at them funnily * 

Passo di Falzarego

the next mountain pass was awaiting me after this 30 minute-descent * in a dense forest the bends lead me up the steep road * every hairpin bend helped gain some meters of altitude * a small chapel stood out in the rocky landscape * lonely on the way up, now the top (alt. 2'100 m) was crowded with busloads of tourists taking pictures just to return seconds later again in their warm buses * trying to ignore everybody I savored the secretly prepared sandwiches from the breakfast buffet of the Passo Pordoi lodge * shortly afterwards I whizzed down the other side through this overwhelming alpine beauty *

 

Passo di Falzarego

 

Vale d'Ampezzo

banana lunch break in Cortina d'Ampezzo, well-known for its 1956 Winter Olympics * strong wind forced me to pedal even downhill *

Val di Cadore

narrow mountain bike track over rocks and roots to Lago di Cadore

Passo di Mauria

in the late afternoon I stood at the beginning of another alpine mountain pass * again I pondered whether to do it now or save it for tomorrow * now * soon the sun disappeared behind the high mountains and it got considerably colder * it seemed as if I was the only one having knowledge of this route * lonely I worked my way up * stayed in the first village on the other side of the pass *

Forni di Sopra

delicious gigantic tuna pizza * football on a big screen TV *

 

Cortina d'Ampezzo


 

STAGE 4:  125 km / 900 m
Crossing into Slovenia's Bike heaven

 

 

Forni di Sopra

the downhill ride was just interrupted by the small pass Col di Corso * it took me all morning to get out of this mountain valley * then it broadened considerably and I had to share the space with the highway going to Udine, a train track, a big river bed with just a streamlet and many villages *

Tarcento

hottest day with about 20° C and lowest point of only 150 m above sea level * that was about to change quickly * I started up on

Passo di Tanamea

absolutely wild and romantic biking territory * a real pleasure to cycle here in No Man's Land * just a handful of other cars and cyclists * a bridge over a brook marked the highest point * spectacular ride downhill along the rocky wall to the left and deep down the River Bianco to the right * after ten minutes I reached the Italian border * I startled up the bored customs officer * I wondered if he has to handle more than a dozen border crossings a day * he pretended to recognize the same person smiling from the 7-year-old photo in the passport and the dude disguised with helmet and sunglasses standing besides a bike in front of him * a small bridge brought me over the Fiuve Bianco to Slovenian territory * to reach their checkpoint it went a bit up the hill * this official was even less interested * I just flashed the red passport while he opened the barrier * magic view of the Soca Valley and the Julian Alps * I think I can never get enough of such alpine panoramas *

Trnovo, SLOVENIA

the first village didn't have any kind of accommodation * the second one had a hotel that was already full * but the lady made a phone call, pressed a piece of paper with an address on it in my hand and commented everything in a language I couldn't understand a word * in the next village Trnovo, indeed I found the address * a guy about my age was waiting for me, gave me a key, asked for 12 Euros and vanished * I had a whole apartment for myself (besides some goats in the backyard) * as an every day routine I took a shower first and then did my laundry (this time with the coconut shampoo provided by the absent host) * unfortunately there wasn't any place I could get something to eat * a beer and potato chips in a tiny bar was all I could get *

 

 

Passo di Tanamea

 


 

STAGE 5:  100 km / 700 m
Slovenian Alps Bike Tour

 

 

Kobarid

I didn't have a single coin of the Slovenian currency and unfortunately all the ATMs in this part of the country were out of order * I was refused any nutrition in several places * finally I found a café where they accepted Euros and served me breakfast * I biked along the shore of a small lake * turned to the left into another valley which winded itself first through the hills, later through mountains *

Cerkno

here I found a hotel where I was able to change money and get Slovenian Tolars (now we know where the American Dollar could have its origin) * as it was Sunday, the only place I could buy food was the petrol station * loud rock music supported me biking up the gradient * tiny village on top * eventless, emotionless ride down to

Skofja Loka

small, cute city but gave me a hard time finding somewhere to stay * the Mini Hotel was way out but therefore very peaceful and cozy too * as they usually cater to business people and Sunday is their calmest day, I haggled the price down to a real bargain for a quite luxury room * for dinner I entered a pizzeria but found a Mexican menu * never mind que tal unas enchiladas con carnitas y queso * downstairs was a lively bar with a bunch of completely wasted Austrians trying to convince me of the effectiveness of Jägermeister shots * stuck to beer instead *

 

 

Soca Valley

 

Piran


 

STAGE 6:  134 km / 1'100 m
Cycling around Triglavski National Park in Slovenia

 

 

Thought about the option of following the rather flat valley of the Sava River or cruising through the very mountainous Triglavski National Park * in the end I chose literally the middle route through a remote, hilly area *

Lake Bled

worth mentioning is the castle perched high up on a rock * dark, gray clouds showed up *

Jesenice

(ugly) industrial town nestled between the Karawanken Mountain Range (border to Austria) and the Triglavski National Park (www.tnp.si/national_park/)* race with two city buses along the thoroughfare * 

Kranjska Gora

nice biking path in the woods * shortly before this famous skiing resort I was caught by the rain * under the roof of a supermarket I refueled with plenty of fruit, a yogurt and bread rolls *

Wurzenpass, AUSTRIA

another mountain pass stood on the program * frontier to Austria on top * my bike overtook several cars on the 20° descent *

Gail-Tal

"the horny valley" (well it's a mistranslation, but "geil" actually does mean horny and sounds exactly the same) * kept on biking till sunset *

St. Stefan

stayed in this hamlet * after one hour of waiting I finally got a well-loaded plate full of food and a jug of apple juice to quench the big thirst *

 

 

Lake Bled

 


 

STAGE 7:  123 km / 1'400 m
Austria's Alps Bike Challenge

 

 

Gail-Tal

eventless collecting of kilometers * the tourist office informed me that the planned mountain pass next to Austria's highest mountain "Grossglockner" was closed due to snow * was stopped by the police but before they could scold me for cycling on the sidewalk and listening to the walkman I asked them the same question about that pass again * same answer but at least they forgot about my breaking the law * alternative route further in westerly direction, along the Geil Valley * the totally overcasted sky gave the sunbeams rarely a chance to break through * road went up and down, up and down * every single side-valley forced me down to cross a bridge over a creek and up again * only gradually I gained altitude * rather depressing day, boring and frustrating * to cheer up I took a break in a small village tavern *

Kartitscher Sattel

16:00 finally I reached the highest point of the valley * the big river I joined yesterday was diminished to a small rivulet up here at its source * to take revenge of all the stress I had suffered I maliciously peed in it * enjoyable downward slope with many hairpin bends *

Vale di Drau, ITALY

ironically when I entered Italy the sun appeared * immediately the mood recovered and new powers emerged * I advanced quite a bit further *

Villabassa

room * pizza * new-arrival's pint * a welcome bike rest *

 

 

River Inn

 


 

STAGE 8:  155 km / 700 m
Long biking day from Italy back to Austria

 

 

Routine: got up at 8:00, breakfast, "freed Willy" (as it's never possible in the evening, after sitting on a saddle all day long!),  packed all the stuff, 9:00 started off * biking along the same valley all morning in western direction * it descended slightly and without any major effort I did over 60 km on the bike *

Brunico

pushed bike through historic city center 

Sciáves

short lunch break right in front of a Spar supermarket

Vale Isarco

named after the river * better known because of the Brenner highway, probably the most important north/south thoroughfare through the Alps * up it went again * heavy wind virtually blew me off the bike * as always the wind came from the front and made advances very tough *

Sterzing

lovely place * sat for quite a while on the inviting main plaza sunbathing and waited for the tourist information to open in order to get the latest snow-news of possible itineraries * eventually fed up and continued biking up the Passo de Brennero * today it was Aerosmith's turn to motivate *

Passo de Brennero

sporadic snowflakes twirled around my head as if the nice weather didn't have the permission to pass the border into Austria * the whole area around the border crossing seemed somewhat run down: gray and eerie apartment buildings that were simply out of place, empty storage buildings with broken windows, abandoned banks and exchange offices not used any more due to the European Community's common currency, souvenir shops only selling crap and some grim-looking pizzerias * I got away as fast as possible *

Brenner, AUSTRIA

the same wind as before proved its force again and made me pedal even downwards * I knew that this fact was going to frustrate me * I had already done over 100 km and was feeling really tired * not even two bananas, that usually were a guaranteed supplier of energy helped anymore * everything hurt, especially the neck, both arms and the part sitting on the saddle * meanwhile the weather matched up to my condition: cold, gray and dark *

Innsbruck

what a relief when I finally reached Innsbruck down in the Inn valley where the famous Inn-Radweg passes * another former Olympic city * leisurely walk around downtown * considered to stay but after all the small villages I stayed in the other nights, big city life scared me off * continued on a cycling path along the River Inn * beautiful sunset with a dramatic view of the river and the valley *

Inzing

lodging * peasant's salad toast * Star Wars, Episode V *

 

Arlberg Pass


 

STAGE 9:  113 km / 1'400 m
Winter time in the Alps

 

 

Back on the biking path on the shore of the River Inn * steady speed of 25 km/h * felt a light pain in the recently operated left knee * later on while the river wound its way through a narrow gorge I climbed up through a forest on the right flank of the valley *

Karres

was given some bananas in the village shop

Imst

entered well-known territory from my trip in fall 2000 to München, Prague and Berlin and along Donau-Radweg.

Landeck

while resting I analyzed the two possible options to cross the last mountain range before Switzerland * considering the snow and the cold temperature made me fix on the lower pass:

Arlbergpass

immediately after Landeck the road mounted drastically * unfortunately the new highway was still under construction and accordingly the traffic almost unbearable * then all of a sudden everybody disappeared in a tunnel whereas I headed further on a country road * passed several small rural communities * the spring-like landscape changed into deep winter the higher I got * the constant uphill reminded me somehow of the long ascent I did on a Trans-Anden Tour in Argentina * farm houses and barns were replaced by hotels and restaurants in the ski resort of St Anton

St. Anton

as it was around 5 o'clock on Saturday evening I ran exactly into the prelude of the après-ski-party * music boomed from the loudspeakers of the many bars * folks rushed around to get rid of their skis or snowboards as quickly as possible to join the party * all that left me indifferent, I had another vision in mind: the peak of the pass * without even stopping I carried on * hairpin bends upward * after about an hour I turned into a dirt track * the snow was about knee-deep up here * a last effort and I made it * as it was pretty late already and pretty cold too I just quickly performed my usual "peak-dance" and then tackled the descent *

Klösterle

serene place about half way down the mountain * got a B&B deal in private house * drunk woman partly spoiled the delicious vegetarian dinner in a restaurant down in a cellar *

 

Austrian Alps


 

BIKE STAGE 10:  68 km
Cycling back to Switzerland

 

 

relaxed ride down into the valley * attractive bike path through a forest with brooks and small lakes *

Bludenz

lost my way * involuntary detour * in the end returned to main road *

Feldkirch

spent the last Euros for some chocolate bars at a petrol station

Schaanwald, LIECHTENSTEIN

border to the tiny Principality of Liechtenstein * only a few kilometers further a bridge over the river Rhein marked the border to Switzerland *

Buchs, SWITZERLAND

and herewith I was back in Switzerland!

 


   

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last update September 2016