Travellers' Tales: Austria’s Lake District
When restrictions on foreign travel were lifted, the only question was: where to go? Germany and Austria are ideal. They have great natural beauty, low traffic, and good cycle paths everywhere. It’s a perfect destination for the young and fit, or families with children, or oldies who want to potter and enjoy the scenery.
Being retired, my partner Robin and I drove our caravan to Salzburg, the start and finishing point for a group cycle tour. Most of the areas we passed through on our way would make wonderful holiday centres themselves: Metz (marvellous cathedral), Nancy (stunning architecture), Strasbourg (ditto), the Alsace (the prettiest villages in Europe), Freiburg (great for public transport and active travel), and the Black Forest (clocks).
We managed to cycle every day on the trip down, but knew we would never keep up with our fitter friends as we both have heart conditions. We cheated on the long rides by taking ferries, trains, and buses to reduce the miles. We had time to savour the views and talk to people along the way. We even attended an afternoon wedding reception in a restaurant, and danced at their ball in shorts and cycling shoes! In the evenings we swapped stories with our friends, joined them for dinner, and shared bottles of wine. At one hotel Rob mended and then played their broken piano.
Our route around the Austrian Lakes took in Mondsee, Attersee, Traunsee, Grundlsee, Hallstatt (for a rest-day tour of the underground salt mines), Bad Ischl, and Wolfgangsee. All the lakeside villages were crowded with coach trippers and all the woodlands around had near-deserted, beautifullymarked cycle and walking paths.
We did miss one turning when we were by ourselves, which resulted in us climbing nearly 2,000 feet, me falling off, dragging our bikes over a mound of scree, passing a herd of cows with traditional bells, then arriving at our hotel as the sun was behind the mountains. That’s cycling for you: sometimes there are unexpected challenges.
The cycle touring part of our holiday over, we picked up the caravan and sauntered home.