24 – 25 July – Continuing our cycle exploration of southern Austria

Author: Mrs A

Location: Pirkdorf, Austria

We headed east from Ferlach and drove just 45 minutes to the small settlement of Pirkdorf. We then spent two days and 55km exploring the R1D, a signposted cycle trail through some of the quieter lanes and roads through sleepy hamlets and villages.

Setting off down a quiet lane – heading for the hills!

One of the reasons we enjoy cycling so much is the ability to see and experience things at a slower pace to the car. Yes, we are on electric bikes, which essentially give us the option to smooth out the hills, but we also get some exercise too – after all our legs keep on moving and we choose how much the motors help us.

The cycle route took us past houses and gardens, through picturesque agricultural lands – the wind whispering through fields of corn, the sunshine gleaming off the smiling faces of sunflowers, the lush green of fields of carrots, potatoes, pumpkins, all ripening in the summer weather.

A typical village scene with the church taking centre stage
Always we are accompanied by breathtaking views of the alpine peaks
Sunflowers and corn add a splash of yellow to the countryside’s palette
And always wildflowers by the roadside

It was midweek in the middle of what is the European school summer holidays, but there were few people around. The occasional person gardening, but otherwise all seemed deserted. There was not even a pub open for us to have refreshments.

Mr A cycles though another picturesque village

Every village has at least one little chapel-shrine (small buildings by the side of the road), often in the centre of the village, but also often on long country lanes, far from houses, probably for the workers to tick off a prayer or two while they’re labouring.

The other thing we noticed was the Austrians’ love of colour. Very rarely would we see a bright red or blue house in the UK or Australia, or two toned colourful shades, but it is frequent here. And they are all newly painted – every village looks affluent and smart, with not a scrap of graffiti or rubbish to be seen.

Schloss Elberstein (Castle Elberstein) built by a local artist in the village of Globasnitz during the 1970s
Mr A checks whether anyone is home…they’re not…when it is open, the public can explore the ornate interior and artwork
Just a few of the colourful houses we encountered on our ride…a veritable rainbow…
Even the local fire station is beautifully painted with a mural on the wall

My bike ticked over to 1,000km since we first purchased it (1 April) meaning we’re averaging more than 250km per month. They have definitely been a great investment. Mr A’s ticked over to 1.000km a couple of weeks ago – he had my surgery time to tick up a few bonus kilometres.

A thousand kilometres in four months…

It’s been a great introduction to Austria. Our only challenge has been the lack of English spoken by anyone. It gets a little lonely only talking to each other, we’re dying for someone else to converse with!

Tomorrow we start heading north. We’re expecting it to get a little busier the closer to the cities we get, but we know there will be more adventures and great scenery ahead.

Our stay in Pirkdorf concluded with a fabulous dramatic thunderstorm, followed by a beautiful sunset. Just lovely.

Our view from our lakeside camp
Truffy under the sunset

23 July: Austria – tasting the cycle routes of Corinthia

Author: Mr A

Location: Ferlach, Austria

We were in the region of southern Austria called Corinthia – nope I’d never heard of either! Lonely Planet doesn’t often come up trumps, it on this occasion we liked the sound of the “lesser known” description, and judging by the nice quiet roads it does seem to be off the usual routes of the global tourist, but well frequented by Northern Europeans judging by the number plates (Germany, Belgium, Netherlands in particular).

We rode off once again to explore a section of the 510m Drau Cycleway (R1) that runs along the river of the same name from Italy’s Tirol region to Maribor in Slovenia. Nope, not heard of that either!

A perfectly still morning as we set off on our ride
An empty path framed by mountains a typical view
Riding through fields of sweet corn

Well the section we did was an absolute delight, with the mountains framing our view one one side, and the glistening river on the other. Even on a Tuesday there were a few other riders about, but nothing like the crowds we had seen in other areas.

Mirror like perfection on the river
A shady part of the cycle – we spotted a red squirrel here…sadly he spotted us first and scuttled away into the trees
Beautiful flowers line the pathway…after photographing this a young deer bounded out of the woods, eyed us suspiciously for a few seconds then bounded away…no photos sorry!

We ended up completing all of this section (50km/32 miles), riding out and back, then swinging by a “bathing lake” as they call them here. Again we only saw locals, and that was nice. Catherine had a swim across, I had a more urgent matter to attend to of a nap.

The swimming lake – the mountains made a great goal when swimming

We had noticed this rather posh and traditional looking restaurant yesterday, and today decided to give it a go for late lunch.

A glass of Gruner Veltliner with lunch

We struck lucky, they made a lot of their own meat products, served a delicious cooling beer for me, local wine for madam, and the whole meal cost less then a Sydney breakfast.

Back at camp I took our chairs and sun umbrella (we don’t have an awning so brought one of these to help provide some shade…it looks ridiculous so no photos!) , and set everything up next to our very own mountain stream that flowed along our car park home. The water was ice cold from the mountains and was so refreshing, its been mid 30s (centigrade) again today.

All in all a cracking day….yet again. Riding a trail away from cars, eating and drinking local fare, then getting our spice kick from one of Catherine ‘s concoctions in the evening. Bliss…

22 July: On to our eighth country this year…

Author: Mrs A

Location: Kranjska Gora, Slovenia and Ferlach, Austria

Another fine morning dawned so we decided to don the hiking shoes and explore a new dimension of Kranjska Gora, heading up into the mountains via the chair lift.

Mr A enjoys the journey up

Once up the top though, the walks were pretty much all up, and on a 30 degrees day it was hard going.

Mark finding his leg muscles wondering what’s happened
The pathway becomes very steep and largely washed out by the winter’s snowmelt
Mrs A pleased her airway is nice and wide right now – breathing well!

We walked a couple of kilometres up to a great viewing spot, and enjoyed the downhill a lot more than the up!

Looking out towards the Austrian border
These craggy peaks still a great novelty for us
Yellow Foxgloves brighten up the woodland
Shades of mauve (species unknown to us!) attract many butterflies
The downward chair lift takes the pressure off still delicate toes! You can see the mountain bike park tracks beneath us, the town of Kranjska Gora and into the valley beyond…

We wandered into the pretty town of Kranjska Gora to find somewhere for lunch. Unlike many ski resort towns we have visited during summertime, this is busy and bustling, full of e-bikes for hire, busy cafes and interesting shops.

A very pretty town with cobbled streets
A brief moment with no cyclists on the pathway

It’s great to see a town being successful all year round – no doubt the cycleway passing through is a big drawcard, with many tourers stopping for the night in hotels and B&Bs here.

Our evening’s sosta with a view

Full of pizza, we returned to Truffy to move on to our next destination, out of Slovenia, and into Austria our eighth country this year (the others being New Zealand, Australia, UK, France, Italy, Croatia and Slovenia).

It was less than an hour’s drive to our next destination, Ferlach – Austria’s southernmost town. We took the Karawanks Tunnel, a nearly 8km tunnel beneath the Karawanks Alpine Range.

80km/hr through the tunnel…we’re through to Austria in no time at all!

We had a very loose plan on the other side, aiming for the region of Carinthia. There are a number of cycleways in the area, coupled with beautiful castles and mountainous scenery. We were keen to check it out.

We found ourselves a parking place in Ferlach, a town famous for its gunsmiths, making guns for hunting which are used worldwide. Behind us are the mountains we were the other side of this morning and beside us a babbling mountain creek.

Our nearby creek might get a workout tomorrow with 33°C forecast.
A little further upstream are these lovely falls

We got the bikes out for an explore. The town is so pretty, and hardly a person around.

A lovely water feature surrounded by blossoms in the town square
Mr A kindly demonstrates one of the many hanging arrangements
Cycle friendly bridges over the creek

We had an explore locally before heading down to the 510km Drau Cycle Path which runs alongside the River Drava nearby. We did a small taster cycle as it was getting late in the day, but it has definitely encouraged us to come back and see some more tomorrow.

Beautiful reflections along the river
Schloss Hollenburg – medieval castle built in around 1100
Heading back to camp through a local farming village

After riding 19km, a beer in the local pub completed our day before we headed back to camp for showers and dinner. A great introduction to Austria.

A fine sunset as we finish our day