Chapter 3: The Tauern Bike Trail

From the beginning of our bike tour at the Danube we knew that the distance will be not long enough for a two weeks trip. So we had planned to go to Salzburg from Passau further on. There is another nice bike path: the Tauern Bike Trail which starts up in the Pinzgau at Krimml and ends here at Passau. (Nowadays you can get a bike-transfer from Passau to Krimml but in 1995 such service did not exist). If you wonder where there is the end and where the beginning of this trail - the answer is: the end is the beginning and the beginning is the end as we will see.

So we start the Tauern Bike Trail at Passau, I bought the Bikeline booklet before. But first we have to perform the obligate sight-seeing. This time we choose the cathedral with the largest organ (Orgel) on earth. The same procedure as in Regensburg: one goes to see the sensation, the other watches the bikes and we both need only few minutes for the procedure.

I know that there is much more to be seen and told about at Passau. Perhaps use a guide or make a visit yourself? Let us go on, cross the river Inn where the bike trail starts. But we enter a EDEKA-shop before.


At once we are at the border to Austria. I missed to read the map: the river Inn and Salzach seperate the two countries and we are at the Austrian shore. Fine, as long we have not the United Europe we are always delighted to come to a foreign country. To change some Austrian money we have time for the rest of the afternoon.

The character of the countryside around has changed: green and hilly meadows, isolated farm houses beside the bike path. Some time later the first highlight: Burg Wernstein and Neuburg.

Neuburg and Burg Wernstein
Soon we arrive at Schärding though the track has suffered from the rain in the morning. This town is nice again and we have much time to watch the colourful walls of the houses under the shelter of a roof in front of the town hall - a thunderstorm accompanied by a strong rain comes down. This lasts nearly one hour before we enter the post office to withdraw those Schillinge - the Austrian currency.

Some time behind Schärding another rain comes down accompanied by sunshine this time. At a shelter we speak to a couple who have made the tour from the opposite direction and they are very enthusiastic of its beauty. The path now leads aside the Autobahn and at this passage is named Track of Nature-Experience (Natur-Erlebnis-Weg). May be it's true for the traffic jam generated by numerous trucks at the nearby autobahn will not invite to enjoy any experience. So we are in a better situation though just now a mountainbiker in full speed appears around a corner and we can hardly avoid a collision.

After zigzagging a while at the edge of a steep slope down to the shore of the river Inn finally a downhill follows. But the uphill just after that and up above we find the monastery Reichersberg. "Why this, we should have remained at the height?" Heidi complains. I do not know for we only have followed the signs of the trail. You have a nice sight over the valley of the river Inn though.

Kloster Reichersberg
One can have an accomodation at a "Radotel" may be you can call it Bikotel in English and know its meaning. But we prefer to go 3 km further on to Obernberg - downhill first, uphill thereafter. Heidi groans but soon forgets about it for we have found a very nice place. The market place formed as a square with its coloured houses looks like the part of a doll's house. We get a room at the Kirchenwirt in a somewhat dark house.

For dinner we find a Chinese restaurant and are the only guests. We order a meal with four dishes for two persons and do hard to consume everything completely. "Taste good?" ("Gut schmeckt?") the waitress asks and we can do nothing as to say "Yes!" Finally we have some beers under a partytent, one of those white ones you find spread all over Europe.

The doll"s houses of Obersberg
Tuesday Obernberg - Oberndorf 92 km

This morning again starts with the bells ringing from the church. The breakfast is presented as some bread, butter and jam, the meat and cheese assortment however you must get from a buffet and have to pay for it. A tourist group from Berlin strolls around, they have been at Vienna yesterday, today they will go to the Salzkammergut and tomorrow they will visit Salzburg. Our program will be more modest.

We start and Heidi later will speak of the black Tuesday. May be it is due to herself, let us talk about later. At first we have a puncture during a nice downhill. This is fixed 10 minutes later. A sparrow then flies along and hits me at the throat. But we both stay alive and further on fly along. A nice section at the shore follows and we reach Braunau, a nice town again (all places around here are nice). We have a coffee at an Eduscho shop. Do you know the fame of Braunau upon Inn? There was born a "great son" of the town and may be the citizens of Braunau are not so proud of this. In front of the house of birth of this man there is a sign of memorial, the German text is: "..Nie wieder Faschismus, Millionen Tote mahnen". In English - as well as I am able to  translate: "Fascism never again, remember those millions of deads". The man born here was Adolf Hitler.

Braunau at the Inn
We use a wrong way out of the town and then have to climb down a steep staircase to the bike path at the shore. The track now leads straight ahead upon the dam of the river. Thereafter you have to climb a hill again to enjoy the view of the Inn - Salzach - View, this is the junction of those two rivers. Another couple arrives and the wife states: "This sight is really somewhat undramatic!" May be she means the beautiful silence around.

Join of Inn and Salzach
This silence will soon vanish for now there is a steep downhill to Überackern and then a long uphill to Düttendorf and then another steep downhill to Burghausen. Inside Heidi's mind something threatens to explode. But I feel completely innocent for we only have followed the signs of the trail in a regular manner. It is not up me to have arranged the lead of the trail. But it's up to me who has insisted to ride the Tauern Trail. So we miss to enjoy the beauties of Burghausen - did I tell you that every place is nice here? I did and I hope the photographs prove this to be true.

Of course further slopes of the trail follow and we go on in silence. I prefer to stay at some distance behind of my wife and hope for better conditions. My wife consequently leads us across a bridge and with this the frontier to Germany. So we find ourselves at the market place of Tittmonig at the German shore. There we can sit under a sunshade umbrella and consume a goulash soup. I search at the map for a nearby railway station to finish the tour (and our common life?) but there is no railway around.

The rest of the day comes up without any hills because the trail leads along  the shore of the river Salzach now. There are many flowers and climber plants and in the German report I have a enumeration of all those flowers but I am unable to translate all the names.

Nice places at the river
We end at Oberndorf for today at the Salzacher Hof. The future of our tour (and our common life?) is uncertain but we arrange to cross the border for dinner at the German town Laufen.  The town appears somewhat sleepy. We have a visit of an antiques shop, the church and some picturesque places.

We have a discussion about all these castles, churches, cathedrals or monasteries. They all are built on blood, sweat and tears (this is a name of a pop group too - I know). Nowadays these are just the touristic attractions of any place owning those "old stones" and give the romantic flair to let the camcorders of tourists spin especially of those from the New World. Probably imagine there would be no churches at the center of the towns there would be a poor rest of culture.

At Laufen we need some time to find a proper restaurant and finally end in a Pizza Restaurant at a place with busy traffic but many flies whirrling around. Back at Oberndorf we can have a final beer only at the railway station which is not as elegant as one wants to.

So this was our "Black Tuesday".

Wednesday Oberndorf - Salzburg Krimml - Uttendorf
20 + 40 km

I do not sleep well this night. Let it depend on the clouds how we will go on. But the sky is blue - no clouds at all and the happy solution falls down like from the sky at the breakfast table. There is another couple who just have come down the Tauern Trail. "You can go up from Salzburg by train and cycle down then - it's a dream". We have a saying - I don't know the English form so I translate: "The prophet is worth nothing in his own country". For this couple comes from another country they are able to convince all of us to go this way - but we will come home one day later thereby.

Now I am above the clouds for usually Heidi hates the mountains especially the Alps. But by this we will manage to complete the total Tauern Bike Trail. Up to Salzburg there are 20 km only and the track leads straight ahead. The mountains are hidden by the trees all the time. At last we recognize the Untersberg at Salzburg.

At Salzburg we directly head to the railway station. The trains to Zell am See depart every hour. We can enter the train already, they have special cabins for the bikes. An older pensioneer goes with us, a technic freak who inspects every detail of our bikes. Best of all seems to him my saddle which still hurts me a bit (they say you need 10.000 km to ride in on a Brooks saddle). He suggests to put the saddle in the water for one night and then ride on it one day long. I decide to let the work to do by my backside.

The train needs 30 min to Zell and you should not watch the landscape too thoroughly for you later will bike on this route. We leave at Zell with bright sunshine and walk to the promenade at the lake lying there like a blue mirror. But now we are not so happy and we count the hours. The Pinzgaubahn to Krimml will go in one and a half hours. And it will need another one and a half hours for this distance of 50 km. We will loose three quarters of the day at which we could have cycled at the best weather of all.

Heidi suggests to go back to Salzburg from here. But I find a trick: let us arrange all the things to go back home: buy the tickets and find a connection. At the office they find a direct train from Freilassing near Salzburg to Hannover. So we book the reservations, buy the tickets and pay by Visa Card. Thereafter we enter a grocery and feel well again.

The Pinzgaubahn has an extra waggon for the bikes. Nearly 20 bikes are loaded and finally we start. For the train goes so slow the distance seems to be much longer. The train stops at each manure heap (Misthaufen) or golf course or adventure swimming bath respectively.

At half past four in the afternoon we reach the last station some km before Krimmle with its famous waterfalls. I have been there may be 30 years ago and Heidi seems not to be very eager to climb up there. All the other travellers strive uphill. But we start downhill and soon have a good speed. And as it is with the weather in the Alps: bright sunshine before and now some raindrops splash on our face at the run down. We glide on the flat ground of the Pinzgau valley, the high mountains like Großglockner or Großvenediger are hidden by the clouds however.

But the countryside is beautiful, villages with white towers of their church, green slopes and seperated farm houses. But no cattle or cows at all? Will they vegetate in those huge mass stables? May be the modern cow is the tourist today. Once we must duck our heads under a huge cable where they lay a high voltage line. With block and tackle (Flaschenzug) the pull the cables up to the pylons.

We pass Mittersill the best known place of the Pinzgau valley. This is too touristic and we continue to Utterndorf which is not as famous. There are two inns, the Kirchenwirt and Gasthaus Waltl. We swing to and fro between these two houses and then choose the Waltl.

A nice room, a shower bath and then we go for dinner. Now we first look at the Kirchenwirt, there just the Sonnleitner Trio unload their music instruments. There will be a dance evening and we choose the Waltl again for dinner. At the table beside there are a lot of workers, may be those who pull the cables of the high voltage line? We hear words like "Obi", "Ummi" or "Auffi" (those are Austrian local prepositions and mean: upside, around and up). The inconvenient conditions of their work in the Alps seem to make a lot of those local prepositions necessary.

For we still are curious about that dancing evening we stroll to the Kirchenwirt finally and peer through the windows. We just hear

"Oh du mein Kufstein, holladiadriheidihooh..."

and at the dance floor female couples turn in slow motion. We prefer to retire to our Waltl.

At the Pinzgau

Thursday Uttendorf - Freilassing 136 km

Today perhaps this will be the last stage of our tour but there is a long distance waiting and in the morning the rain pours down. We cannot hear this from inside for a creek bubbles down beneath the windows of our room. As we enter the breakfast room we ask a lady cleaning the floor if those workers the evening before are those who pull the high voltage cables. The answer is in eastern Europe accent: "I not know, ask chief".

When the rain stops we start towards the flat bottom of the Pinzgau which is as nice as yesterday. The mountains are hidden by mist and clouds but we enjoy to ride slightly downhill all the time. Near the village of Kaprun more and more high voltage pylons appear like the net of a spider. We then have to pass a herd of cows in freedom and Heidi gets blank eyes and looks somewhat like a relative to these cattles. And this is why we succeed this transfer without any damage.

Fortification of Bruck
At Bruck we leave the Pinzgau and the valley becomes more narrow now. So the bike trail winds its way up and down but this time it's no strain. Once we just walk across a meadow and meet a goup of mountainbikers who take part in an organized tour. They enjoy to ride without panniers and baggage and master about 60 to 70 km the day. If there is an inn around they cannot resign. So they are busy all over the day. On the other way the success of those organized tours depends on the fellows coming together - so we are content of our two person team. On our bike we have 10 kg and 5 kg weight with us.

Gasteiner Ache
Soon we leave the group behind us and reach Taxenbach where several inns are waiting. At this place you should visit the Kitzlochklamm if you have enough time and do not bike ahead all the time. We have a glance at the white waters of the Gasteiner Ache at Lend/Gigerach instead.

Now a difficult section will follow, for the organizers of this route have decided to lead the bike trail 200 m up a slope to avoid the main road. We soon look through this idea and to avoid the uphill prefer to use the main national road. We shoot downhill amongst trucks and other traffic on this ramp of a road. At once we find ourselves in front of a tunnel and don't know the length of it. We prove the lights of our bikes but nothing will work except the backlight of Heidi's bike. So it is to me to go in front and Heidi has to let burn the back light. We know a folk song concerning the situation of a tunnel and I do hard to translate without the melody:

"...if you come in it's dark and if you come out it's bright".

Well, the original German text is:

"Zwischen Stuttgart und Cannstatt da gibt's nen Tunnell,
wenn man reinkommt wird's dunkel, wenn man rauskommt, wird's hell".

Apologize for this excursion. This time the tunnel is poor 100 m long and no dangererous situation occurs. At Schwarzach we can leave the main road and join the bike trail again. Up above we see the church of St. Veit where I spent my first holidays in the Alps some decades ago. And there is no way to go there for it would be 300 m uphill . So we continue to go down the Pongau as this district is called, is not as nice as the Pinzgau before. We watch large black birds and think of raves for their deep croaking sounds, a nearby rubbish dump may be the eldorado of those folks.

Pfarrwerfen at the Paß Lueg
We leave St. Johann and Bischofshofen behind us and at Werfen we find a place for a rest on a bench. Up above (again) there are the rocky mountains named Tennengebirge with the biggest (known) ice cave of the world: the Eisriesenwelt. You can recognize the ramp of the lead towards the cave up there but Heidi shivers (as usual) of those airy places. So we stay on the ground.

The only pass of this trail is waiting now though the path leads down the river Salzach. This is because between the mountains Hagengebirge and Tennengebirge there is a very narrow gap and the river has formed a gorge here. The railway and the autobahn use tunnels here but the normal road has to climb up and this is called Pass Lueg. At former times this was a strategic place of high importance and they fought several battles here. We struggle up to the chapel Maria Bruneck and fortunately there is a well frequented cafe.

While Heidi enjoys her coffee but I cannot resign to a visit of the gorge called the Salzachöfen. For that intention you have to jump down all the way you have climbed up with the bike but I don't care about that. I have heard so much of this place but have never seen it. It is nearly completely dark down here. There is a big dome called Dome. I do not know if this passage is to manage by white-water-canoeists but it is known that many victims have paid with their life here. Once a man had pushed the canoe with his wife into the torrent and she died. But someone had watched this crime and the husband was punished as murderer. But Heidi has stayed up above in the cafe...

I run back up the path and reach the summit in sweat. At the cafe a considerable desaster has arose for several bus groups want to pay simultaneously.

Now we ride down to Golling and as usual some raindrops just fall during the downhill.

Clouds of light at a vally
Until Hallein there is a nice path on side roads but in the town we must ask for the route at a man who cuts his hedge. He gives a detailed description but we do hard to concentrate for we steer at an inchworm (Raupe) at his forehead all the time.

Salzburg in the eveningsun
The path towards Salzburg leads straight ahead at the shore. We now can figure out that we will reach Freilassing this day. It must be said that from Hallein until Tittmonig there are about 60 km path only at the shore. At Salzburg we behave somewhat stupid in the dense evening traffic, we seem to be unused to it meanwhile.

On the way to Freilassing we reach the 1000 km limit of this tour. It is the first time for Heidi and I congratulate to her first "Tausi". We choose the "Weissbräu" for the accomodation for there is a brewery connected. This time I must state that Freilassing is not a nice town. The architects seem to have been too busy and they have built that pedestrian-area-romantic you can find all over Germany. There is nothing individual but everything is clean and sterile.

Tomorrow we have a full day for for a visit to Salzburg, so we don't bother. At the dinner we observe a funny event again. There is one guest, a small man with white hair who sits to everyone at the tables to chat. Once a big bang and many broken glass at the floor: it was the secret bottle of spirits which fell out of his pocket. "Arrgh" he says, "don't care, it was empty anyway" (this was of course spoken in Bavarian ("...Net so arg, war eh nix mehr do"). Everyone laughs about this and our spritual has to sweep off the glass.

Friday Salzburg

The last day at Salzburg shall be the conclusion of the tour. But two things stand against this: after a bike tour you are more sensible against traffic and crowds, - and it rains today. This rain is known here and has its own name :"Salzburger Schnürlregen". This is a typical characteristic of Salzburg and we have the luck to get known to it.

We go by Bus and arrive at the Karajanplatz. We look at the University and the connected church. We ask a tourist couple for the tourist information and must speak English(!), it's international here. The information is at the Mozartplatz. Thereafter we own a city map and are able to orientate ourselves correctly. As the rain gets stronger we look for a shelter at the Domplatz and watch the sad looking horses of the coaches.

Salzburg and

Then we run across the place to reach the cathedral. But we cannot go inside for an organ concert is to begin. The same happens to a group of tourist leaded by a gentleman with a long rod and some coloured flaps at the end of it. By this rod everyone is informed about the center of the group, the rod can be used to show the next direction and to push at lazy or sleeping members of the tour. I suggest to join this group, but at a bakery we loose them, for it is pretty warm inside of the bakery and we stay there for a while.

Then we stumble into a graveyard, this area is named Erzabtei St. Peter and there are catacombs where the next guidance is in 1 1/2 hours. Now we enter the Franziskanerkirche to protect from the rain. There we find our group with the rod again. The leader now uses his rod as a baton (Taktstock) and they all sing a chorale in a professional manner ("Es loben und preisen die Völker den Herrn..."). So we have our private version of the Salzburg Festival.

We go for the Getreidegasse and cross the Pillhuhngasse before. But at a more accurate sight it is called W. Philharmoniker". Many places here are named from any associations with musical affairs. At the Getreidegasse there is much folk for everyone who visits Salzburg comes here. Especially in front of the house where Mozart is born you can't nearly find a place to stand. Impressive are the iron signs of the shops hanging above all those heads which come along. We enter a Tchibo coffee shop opposite of a Mc Donald's. The other shops offer the latest fashion, jewels etc. and may be this would not be an occasion for a cheap surprise. At the end of the lane there is Hotel "Goldener Hirsch" and a couple clothed in tradidional costume just leaves a carriage of the municipal council. We have difficulties to keep our mouth shut.

Now we approach the catacombs for the guidance where about 30 persons assemble. The sensations are declared in German and English (you know, it's international here...). So at this place there is the grave of the brother of the composer Haydn. But not the head of him, this is placed into an urn at a church nearby. Behind us someone says (in English): "That's a strange thing!". Aside there is the grave of Mozart's sister called "Nannerl". An assembly of paintings shows the horrors of the plague(Pest) as it swallows poor and rich man.

Then some stairs lead up to a chappel which was built in the form of a cross inside the rocks. A secret passage leads from the fortification above down to this place. During the persecution of Christians these rooms served to be a refuge. During later times they had been forgotten and then a rockfall in the 16 th century uncovered the rooms from outside. Above there is a second room and this is even older.

As the guidance is over we visit the cathedral which is free now. But we are fed up of cultural things, it still rains so we look for the bus stop. We say "Good Bye" to Austria and "Up to the next time" to the girl at the exchange office where we change the last Schillinge.

And this is the end of this tour, which was our longest until now.

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