5 August: Castles, rivers, mountains and views – quintessential Austria

Author: Mrs A

Location: Zillertal Valley, Tirol, Austria

After the quiet of the past few days it surprised us how busy the traffic was this morning in the Zillertal Valley, the sounds of lorries, motorbikes and cars echoing loudly from the early hours. After a cup of tea, we set up the bikes and headed off for the day.

We picked up things for a picnic from a nearby supermarket and followed the valley until we reached the Inn River. This is the river which gives Innsbruck its name (brücke means bridge in German). It may not look so in the photos, but the river is known as ‘the green river’ due to the particles of limestone which reflect the light from the sun.

Fields of sweet corn line the pathway, overlooked by mountains

Alongside the river is the Inn River Cycleway which runs 520km from the river’s source in Swizerland, through the Tirol region of Austria and finishing up in Germany. We were doing a short section of the river ride to make up a 65km return trip from camp.

The first castle of our morning, Schloss Matzen, looking like a fairytale palace

Our destination for the day was Austria’s smallest town, the medieval settlement of Rattenberg. The town has just 400 permanent residents but that is substantially bolstered by visitors – long distance cyclists, people on day rides like us and day trippers. It’s famous for its well preserved medieval buildings as well as the craft of glass blowing – there are several shops there.

The ride was just lovely – the river route is set up for ebikers and manual cyclists alike, with several break areas offering charging facilities, picnic tables, water, and inner-tube vending machines. The route is very gently undulating – we barely moved off the ‘eco’ setting on our bikes all day.

It’s an interesting route too, with little chapels, castles and villages dotting the landscape as we rode, giving the opportunity for a change of scenery or a break at any stage.

Rattenberg sits in the shadow of Rat Mountain and receives no sunlight for much of the winter
Mr A riding along an apple tree lined pathway
Crossing the fast moving waters of the Inn River

We rode through the cobbled streets of Rattenberg, evidence of its medieval history evident on every corner.

Colourful houses with coats of arms
Unknown story told in art on a street corner

We saw a steep lane way leading up to the castle and powered on up for a look.

The castle these days is used as an outdoor theatre

The views from the castle ruins are fabulous. This building dates back to the 10th century and only one tower remains today.

Looking out over the town towards the river and mountains
The one remaining building, the Bienerturm Tower – named after Chancellor Biener who was beheaded there
A couple of happy cyclists

We enjoyed a drink in a cafe in the town square, before heading back to camp. Well worth a look around if you’re in the area, especially if you’re on two wheels!

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