Riding with Rolf

by Rolf Oesterlin



In February my wife had selected a German course by the Cultural Studies Academy (CSA) located in Slippery Rock, PA among the many German courses in Europe she had been considering. It was to be for three weeks in July in Grödig by Salzburg. The various courses which were available from CSA were primarily aimed at high school and college students. My wife had studied in Germany many a moon ago and was fluent at one time, even speaking a Frankfurt dialect. She primarily was interested in a refresher course in German conversation and grammar in combination with some cultural activities in Salzburg and group travel. The teaching staff would be local Austrian educators. As it turned out she was not only the oldest participating student but also the most fluent in German. I came along with a collapsible bicycle in a suitcase (Pocket Rocket by Green Gear, Eugene, OR, RSX-STI shifters, 46 ring, Sachs Neos 3x7 rear hub, 12-28 7 sp cogs) which I intended to use during those three weeks planning on independent day and overnight trips. I also wanted to participate on some study group tours. After her three weeks of study we planned on an additional two weeks of independent travel by car.

 Grödig is only 5 miles from the center of Salzburg and easily reached by bus. I consider it a very suitable location for a longer Salzburg stay as it has some village character, a couple of decent restaurants, is only about 10 miles from Berchtesgaden and only a few hundred yards from the  southern exit of the Autobahn to Salzburg. It also has an information center staffed by a very competent, English speaking lady, Frau Maria Reitinger (Tourismusverband Grödig, Grödig/St. Leonhard, Tel 06246/73570; Fax 06246/74795; e-mail: info@tourist-groedig.co.at) who will make lodging arrangements in other areas as well.  

The Salzburg Period

July 7.   We dropped our rental car off at Newark airport on a brutally hot day and joined the CSA group for the 4:30 pm flight to Munich on Lufthansa. It was so hot that day that an elevator mechanic at EWR had to go constantly from elevator to elevator to repair the electronics to keep them going. Last year our two airline tickets in July on Citybird from EWR to Brussels were just slightly more than my single r/t ticket on Lufthansa this year.

July 8.   We arrived in Munich before 6 am with an overcast sky and the most comfortable temperatures we had experienced in some time. After wrestling around with our suitcases, my one suitcase with all the biking gear alone weighed over 20 kg, we were the first ones on the charter bus which was to take us to Salzburg.

As soon as we crossed the Austrian border on the Autobahn it started to rain, heavily at times, obscuring all sights. It continued all day. The rain would have been more welcomed in the northeastern US. Once we arrived in Grödig all course participants were picked up by their respective landladies or hosts and we met Anna Ziegler who with her mother-in-law, Stephanie Ziegler, manages the 9 room Frühstückspension Bachmann. We were the only ones from the study groups there. They gave us their largest room with balcony for the three weeks. It faced an intersection on the Berchtesgadenerstrasse, B 160 (Austria)/B 305 (Germany), the road to Berchtesgaden.

It took us some time to get accustomed to the noise. It was more noticeable once the weather became warm and the door and window were always open. The Zieglers are the kindest hosts we have met in a long time. The house and rooms were spotless. We received fresh towels every day which was not the case at the other lodgings. After a light breakfast we unpacked. In the afternoon I assembled my bike in an empty garage which was mine for the duration of our stay. I had changed to slightly larger tires in the States (1 1/8 to 1 3/8") expecting correctly some unimproved bike paths and found out now that my fenders would not clear the tire and could not be mounted. Nice prospect with rain, wet roads and gravel or dirt paths. In the evening, after dinner, we joined others and wandered through the town with one of the counselors who had participated with CSA study groups  for several years. All the counselors were mature and very responsible individuals and all teach German in either high school or college and handled the language very well. Rarely would they get hung up on an idiom where I could help out.

July 9.   The first of our really very nice breakfasts consisted of several types of fresh rolls, orange juice, coffee ( I drink cold milk only), butter, several types of cheeses, spreads and jams, ham, honey, and a soft egg on tables covered with immaculate linen.  The ladies Ziegler were attending to us like we were royalty. However, they speak very little or no English. Anna Ziegler also told me that they spend every year DM 2,000 on flowers for their boxes in windows and balconies. The meeting place for the study groups was a large room in a local Gasthaus (Restaurant Schnöll, food there is mediocre) where a large contingent of the staff and students stayed. It was a 10 minute walk for us. First thing on the agenda this morning was orientation and a lecture to keep those 16 year old kids from drinking too much beer which, of course, is legal in Austria. In the afternoon we took the bus for the 20 minute ride to the Mozartsteg in Salzburg and shuffled around the city in steady rain for the rest of the day. My feet were soaked. Dinner was im Augustiner Bräu with the appropriate amount of beer.

July 10.   The steady rain continued but we were off to a group tour of the Salzkammergut by bus. I had decided to participate in this tour as it would give me an overview of the roads and terrain to better be able to plan my upcoming bike tours. First stop was in Germany, however, the salt mines in Berchtesgaden. From there we went to Mondsee for a one hour stop where it rained only intermittently and then on to St. Wolfgang for 3 hours. We had lunch there in a lake side restaurant which was only accessible by a one lane road. This big bus made all the oncoming cars back up or disappear in the driveways. The sun finally started to break through. Back on this one lane road, through the tunnel and on to Hallstatt. Everybody liked Hallstatt, so did we.

It had become a nice late afternoon and the lake and mountains looked very pretty in the slowly setting sun. The return route was via Abtenau, Golling to Grödig where it was naturally still drizzling.

July 11.   My wife went with the study groups to the Werfen Ice Caves today but I was tired riding the bus. Even though it continued to drizzle off and on (Schnürregen it’s called in Salzburg), I got on the bike and rode around the immediate area trying to orient myself. I had to hose the bike down to get rid of the grid in the chain and rear derailleur. Daily distance: 31 miles. 

July 12.   German classes started today in the local high school and the drizzle continued. I rode to Golling on the Tauernradweg and returned on the west side of the Salzach. After getting cleaned up I met the others for lunch. My wife went with the group to Hellbrunn Gardens and I took the bus to the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof checking train schedules to Rosenheim and visiting book stores for bike maps.  Daily distance:  31 miles.

July 13.   The sky was overcast but it looked promising. Right after my wife went to class I jumped on the bike and rode towards Berchtesgaden on B 305. Before I even got there the sky opened up. I stopped under a big tree for a few minutes but when I got wet there, I just kept going.

I rode non-stop through B’gaden, Bischofswiesen, Bad Reichenhall on B 20 and back via Salzburg on B 21/1, soaked to the skin and full of dirt and grit. After the usual clean up and lunch I was so disgusted with the weather that I just watched the Tour de France on TV till about 5 pm. Of course, by then it was sunny and stayed that way till 8 pm when we were hit with a thunderstorm. Daily distance: 43 miles. 

July 14.   My wife and her group went on a day trip to Dachau and Munich. I had been in Munich several times and we planned to stop there in August anyway. After lunch I took the bus to Salzburg and walked around, watching people and visiting book stores. It rained again until the afternoon. Upon my return I rode for 10 miles just to get the legs moving and to look for an easy access to the Tauernradweg..   Daily distance: 10 miles.

July 15.   Class for my wife. This day was a total bust. It rained all day. I ended up reading some magazines in the morning and planning my weekend bike tour. In the afternoon I joined the study groups for the tour of the Stiegl brewery in Salzburg.

In the evening I accompanied my wife to the orientation session for the group trip to Venice. By now I was really well rested.     

July 16.   In the early morning my wife left with her study group by train for three days in Venice. I had visited Venice years ago and also thought that three days including the round-trip was not enough time for a city like Venice. I filled my water bottles, packed my gear on the bicycle and set off for St. Gilgen am Wolfgangsee

(birthplace of Mozart’s mother and summer vacation spot of German ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl) under rather cloudy skies. I left Grödig and rode via Eichet and Gneis into Salzburg where I crossed to the east side of the Salzach on the Nonntaler Brücke. I followed the bike path north through Salzburg heading against the throng of bicyclists rushing to work. I had some vague instructions where to turn off as my plan was to reach Eugendorf first. Naturally, I missed the turn. A few days later I finally was able to obtain a decent map for bicyclists in a book store. After crisscrossing the area and having to turn around several times as no bicycles are allowed on Schnellstrassen and, of course, the Autobahn, I swallowed my pride and asked for directions. The first attempt failed. It was an Aussie on a bike with camping gear who knew where he was going but couldn’t help me. At least he complimented me on my excellent German. He didn’t say anything about a German accent in my English. The second attempt failed also as this Austrian gentleman’s best high German was unintelligible to me; the lack of teeth didn’t help. The third attempt worked better. However, as I later learned, he sent me in the wrong direction towards Fuschl via Grazer Bundesstrasse (B 158) not Eugendorf. I could have saved at least an hour if I had pulled out my Salzburg city map and just hacked through the Linzer Gasse and Schallmooser Hauptstrasse. By now it had gotten warm and I was gaining elevation to about 900 ft. I passed the Salzburgring where one could hear motorcycles practicing for the weekend race. In Hof (bei Salzburg) I stopped and ate my ham and cheese sandwich which, on the insistence of Anna Ziegler, I had brought with me. I then biked along the Fuschlsee and stopped in Fuschl for “einen gespritzten Apfelsaft” (50% apple juice, 50% mineral water). Then on to St. Gilgen. Now the road goes mostly downhill with a nice shoulder. At this time I also discovered that something was wrong with my three gears in the hub. I could not shift anymore and was left with my rear derailleur and its 7 cog freewheel and basically one chain ring instead of three reducing my options from 21 to 7 gears. This may sound insignificant to some but in the mountains low gears help old people climb, especially those with arthritic knees like me. On the outskirts and above St. Gilgen I stopped at the Pension “Zum Seeblick” (06227 2682) where Frau Reitinger in Grödig (Tourist office) had made reservations for me for a single for two nights (OS 300);

small but very adequate, even with cable TV where I could watch live coverage of Lance Armstrong riding in the Tour de France. My bike was locked in the garage. The noise from the road leading up and out of St. Gilgen outside my window was of no concern to me as I always carry foam ear plugs. I went for coffee and Pflaumenkuchen at the “Haus am Hang” and threatened the cheerful waitress with my return in the evening for dinner. On foot I rushed back to the pension as the skies opened up once again. Daily distance: a very modest 33 miles. 

July 17.   Morning fog gave way to an almost cloudless sky. The first day without any rain since July 8. The young landlady offered to make some phone calls to bike shops as I was unable to correct my gear problem. The choice was either to ride to Mondsee or Bad Ischl. As the ride to Bad Ischl was nearly flat via B 158, there was no choice although there was a slight climb out of Ischl to the bike shop. The issue was, however, if the shop would repair it as they don’t generally repair bikes on Saturdays as I was told on the phone. I rode quickly to be early and hoped they would feel sorry for me and fix it. Indeed, the lining of the cable was internally frayed, probably from the crash I experienced in April this year in California where I pinched the cable severely (I also broke my shoulder blade and a rib). The whole cable had to be replaced (OS 600 tip included). The young bike mechanic was very helpful and lubricated the bike as well. Everything worked again and I was relieved. I rode “kreuz und quer” through Bad Ischl, the Imperial city. Emporer Franz Joseph I summered there every year until 1914.  I really liked the town. I then proceeded toward Strobl. I was amazed that there were so many “Zimmer” still available, probably due to the lousy weather up to this point. Of course, this was not a main road but a small country road with very little automobile traffic. Strobl is small and compact which I liked. It may also not be as well known as the other towns on the Wofgangsee which probably is an added attraction for some visitors. I sat in the lakeside park watching the boats and bathers enjoying themselves. Everybody had come out to take advantage of a real nice sunny and warm weekend day. After a couple of Bratwürste and a “Gespritzter” (no beer for me when riding or during the day) I casually rode via Au to St. Wolfgang.

I wanted another leisurely look at St. Wofgang. After my first visit I thought it was very touristy, loaded with shops aimed at visitors and also very crowded, almost like the Getreidegasse in Salzburg. Aside from shopping and tours with the Austrian Navy it has the cogwheel railway to the Schafberg and a doll museum. But this didn’t change my mind. I prefer St. Gilgen or Strobl any day although Bad Ischl may probably be the town which offers the most choices what to do as it also has an operetta festival during July and August. After a “Kugel of Eis” it was back to Strobl and via Reith and Gschwand on to St. Gilgen. I did not venture up the Zwölferhorn with the cable car but watched paragliders (parasailers?) use it as a starting point. Dinner of Hirschragout, Spätzle and Apfelstrudel with Schlag and Eis was consumed at the “Haus am Hang”, this time on the terrace overlooking the town and lake. The young female waitperson was the most cheerful and friendliest I encountered in Austria, Czech Republic and later in Germany. Daily distance: 47 miles. 

July 18.   Another gorgeous day. I paid and thanked the landlady for her help with my bike and left the Pension right after breakfast at 7:30 and rode on Route 154 over to Scharfling and then along the Mondsee (the warmest of all lakes in the Salzkammergut) to St. Lorenz and the town of Mondsee. We had visited this town before and I just crisscrossed it looking at everything again. The journey continued north to Zell am Moos along the Irrsee (Zeller See) to Oberhofen, Irrsdorf, Straßwalchen and then southwest to Neumarkt, Köstendorf and Matsee (Niedertrumer See). Matsee seemed very popular with locals, tourists and also local bicycle groups. The parking lot at the beach (Schwimmbad) was jammed with cars, motorcycles and any type of bike (motorized or not) imaginable on this Sunday morning. After stopping for a “Gespritzter” in the main square and watching all the commotion, I rode to Obertrum along the Obertrumer See to Waldprechting and Seewalchen on the Wallersee. By the time I finally reached Seekirchen the generous breakfast was digested and I was famished. It was a really hot day and soaked as I was, I just stopped at the McDonald’s in Seekirchen which I happened to pass to get an iced drink and something to eat. I also had to refill my water bottles. I pushed on to Eugendorf where I found the cops had closed the side roads for a huge parade. 

All marchers in native costumes, men with their Stutzen (short barrel guns) on their shoulders and many bands, flags, horse drawn carriages, a really big Fest.

It was the annual Schützenfest with tons of visitors and participants. The ubiquitous beer tent was just enormous. In that throng I had difficulty maneuvering my bicycle, even on foot, and I decided to keep going rather than lock it up somewhere with all my gear on it. The ride from Eugendorf to Salzburg on a blacktop bike trail, converted from the old Ischler narrow gauge railroad bed, is very relaxing, all downhill. Once in Salzburg I took note where I had made my mistake two days earlier and continued on the Tauernradweg on the eastern side of the Salzach to Elsbethen, Puch und Hallein where I crossed over to the west bank and rode back to Pension Bachmann in Grödig in dire need of a shower. Daily distance: 62.3 miles. 

July 19.   After a good night’s sleep I decided to use the superb weather and hit the road again. This time I turned south and left Grödig via B 159 and rode to Hallein, Kuchl and Golling an der Salzach. At Golling I caught up with a local fellow my age on a racing bike and we rode together over Pass Lueg and its short tunnel to near Werfen where I had to stop and adjust my rear wheel as the tire was rubbing on the frame. Unfortunately, I did not succeed to get a conversation going with him. My collapsible bike with 20" wheels was usually a conversation piece in Alsace last year, but not this time. To my amazement this fellow did not carry a repair kit or even a pump. Leaving Bischofshofen I committed the biggest plunder of my three weeks of biking. It is said on this board there is never a wrong turn. I strongly disagree when you ride a bike! I missed a turn because I was too lazy to stop and pull out my map amid the heavy traffic on the road. I was very leery of  bike paths by then. Some had gravel and were only suitable for mountain bikes with real low gearing. I decided on the spur of the moment to follow Route 164 which immediately turned into some switchbacks. I climbed for a thousand feet to Mühlbach where I became convinced a look at the map was warranted. I now had the choice to climb another 1500 feet on the Hochkönig Bundesstrasse to Saalfelden (and miss a lot of country I wanted to see) or turn back and take the correct road. After cooling off a bit, draining one water bottle and eating a couple of Granola Bars (or something Austrian like it), I turned around. Unfortunately, I caught up with a bus and I had to slow down in all these turns for him. I didn’t even get a good ride downhill! This time I got on the correct road ( B 331) and stopped in St. Johann for a light lunch. I was somewhat dehydrated and drank almost a half gallon of my favorite, “Gespritzter”. After filling my water bottles, I continued to Schwarzach im Pongau where I switched to the Tauernradweg on the east side of the Salzach. Another huge mistake! The bike path immediately climbed out of the Salzach valley up along to the edge of the valley. I estimated the initial rise at greater than 20% which was followed by another beauty. I got so winded that I had to stop twice to catch my breath. I was not happy at all with the path even though it had a blacktop surface. It was very picturesque, winding along the hillside and past farms with the main road, railroad tracks and the Salzach a few hundred feet below and all the mountains in the distance to the north (Hochkönig and Dientener Berge) but it really was taxing. Near Loifarn the path dropped back into the valley and I was able to get back on the main road, B 311, and continued towards Taxenbach, the next town. Bicycles are not permitted to be ridden through tunnels (lack of light and road shoulders, I presume) and one has to find a way around them. Sometimes there is a small but level path around them and sometimes one has to climb over them on a secondary road or a bike path which might be hillier terrain with a rougher surface. This bike route (Tauernradweg) is commonly ridden from Krimml to Salzburg following the river Salzach which means it is generally downhill with few rises. I rode it uphill, so to speak. I passed Taxenbach and stopped in Gries for another quart of my favorite drink of “Gespritzter”. Thus refreshed I actually almost sped to Bruck an der Großglocknerstrasse where I arrived at around 3 pm. Bruck is the starting point of the road to the Großglockner. I decided to look for an overnight stay. All the better looking pensions were full (voll belegt) and I ended up im “Weißen Roeßli”. I was the only guest and after seeing the inside of the place I could understand why. The house was clean but smelled moldy and looked pretty worn. But I had a huge room and my own bath (OS 250) and my bike was locked in the house. After having cleaned up I ventured through the town and saw a lovely house with a Zimmer near the bike path; too late. After a decent meal in one of the many restaurants and a coup Bonaparte in another garden restaurant I retired. Daily distance: 59 miles, but with all these hills in the heat it felt more like 80.

July 20.   After a remarkably good breakfast I set out on the Grossglocknerstrasse for a few miles hoping to see more of the mountains but I turned around when the real climbing began, just past Fusch. It was to be another real hot day and I wanted to get back to Grödig by evening. I rode to Zell am See and looked around. I am sure this is a good place for winter sports. I was not overwhelmed by it as a lake resort but hikers probably love it with the extensive lift system. Route 311 goes here through a lengthy tunnel, verboten for bicycles. I rode past the Zeller See on its east side to Thumersbach, Maishofen, Gerling, Bsuch. Again I had ended up on rolling (this means up and down!) bike paths which sent you one way and then back another, always with very little distance gained. I eventually ended up in Saalfelden. After having climbed several rises needlessly I decided I have had it with bike paths and would stay with roads, especially as truckers, bus and car drivers were exceptionally considerate of bicyclists. I never saw a road or racing bike on any of the bike paths either. They only used roads. I was waved at all the time as my bike has drop bars, skinny tires and I wore a colorful bike jersey and tight bike pants.

The touring people generally wear baggy pants and T-shirts or regular short-sleeved shirts. I guess the assumption was that I was one of the racing fraternity but little did they know. The road (B 312) from Saalfelden to near Unken  was one gentle downhill with heavy traffic, however, and one could cruise easily at 20 mph on its shoulder. It would have been a different story going the other direction. I stopped at St.Martin and Lofer which seem to be other major winter sports centers.

I did use the bike path (Tauernradweg) for some stretches several times but only when it paralleled the road without any climbing involved. At Unken I stopped for a very early lunch which consisted mostly of a quart of my customary drink and a couple of wieners.

Approaching the German border there is a long tunnel, bicycles not allowed. This time there was a choice: bike paths to the right or left of the tunnel. I picked the right one which looked more level than the left one. It became shortly the worst section of any path I had ever encountered anywhere, totally unsuitable for a road bike with relatively skinny tires (1 3/8") and even difficult for a MTB. The path literally ran through a gravel pit (Kieselgrube) where one was warned that stopping there was dangerous due to the overhead machinery, short but very steep hills with deep loose gravel where even walking was a problem (biking was out of the question) and finally ended up in a cow pasture with a gate. I thought I was lost again and consulted a Belgian couple who were on a self-guided hiking tour with their two teenagers. They used a very detailed map as they walked daily from pension to designated pension, their luggage being transported for them. We did the same last year in Alsace with bikes. Well, I was on the correct path and now I understand well why the Tauernradweg was not recommended for road bikes. I caught up with an Austrian loaded down with camping gear. He really had a time pushing his heavy trekking bike through the gravel. Eventually it became better with the surface firm enough to enjoy the ride through some woods. Once across the border I got on the B 21 and rode into and around Bad Reichenhall. The first time I was here, I was soaked to the skin from rain and had no interest in sightseeing. Generally one is allowed to bike (“im Schritt”, pedestrian pace) through Fussgängerzonen (pedestrians only) which is an advantage. One can cover a lot more ground comfortably and in a shorter time than by foot. And one can also dismount anytime for something interesting. I then turned towards Bayrisch Gmain and Großgmain (Austria) trying to find the road over the  lowest part of the Untersberg via Fürstenbrunn to Grödig. I didn’t succeed and meandered between Austria, Germany (Marzoll) and Austria (Schwarzbach) ending up in Austria again (Wals). After a few more wrong turns in Gois where I caught up with a lost German family vacationing in Bad Reichenhall, I eventually ended up on the Moosstrasse near the International School, familiar territory. This road is a long straight run for several km from Salzburg to Glanegg. It was built by a bishop across a moor for the transport of marble from a quarry for construction projects in Salzburg. I arrived in Grödig at about 2:30. Daily distance: 65 miles.

July 21.   Today was to be a day of rest, also thunderstorms were threatening in the afternoon. I decided to visit the Salzburger Freilichtmuseum in Großgmain. I rode back towards Salzburg and Wals where I got confused the day before. This time I found my way readily and then followed the signs to the museum. It is located just off the Salzburgerstrasse, a road somewhat parallel to the Austrian Route 1 (B 21 in Germany), east of Marzoll.

I locked up my bike and wandered around for a few hours. We had visited the Freilichtmuseum (Vogtsbauernhof) in Gutach in the Black Forest last year but I almost liked this one better. They both are very similar, however. It has about 60 farm houses and barns from the 16th - 19th century. What set this one apart was the number of shops (blacksmith, cooperage, mills, country store). It also has a garden restaurant, play area for kids and it wasn’t as crowded. I had a discouraging conversation with one of the Austrian employees of about 50 years of age regarding the air raids in Kosovo. He thought American Jews were behind it all. Prejudice is still very much alive. As the skies started to darken suddenly, I hastily left but only got down the road for a couple of miles before the rains started. I stopped at a restaurant and had a leisurely lunch until the rain stopped, just long enough for me to get back to Grödig. Daily distance: 21 miles.

July 22.   I joined my wife’s study group and we visited Salzburg in intermittent rain. Mozarthaus, farmers market and then we wandered through the streets for most of the day.

My wife loves to look at jewelry of any kind, antiques and especially fabrics as she started quilting a couple of years ago. It stands to reason that these stores leave me totally unmoved, I probably should say outright bored. I usually disappear into a bookstore or just watch people. In the evening we had our orientation for our three day trip to Prague the next day.

July 23. We left by bus for Prague at 8 am via Linz. Our first stop was Freistadt, still in Austria. It is a pretty little town with a center square surrounded by colorful old buildings. But there are hundreds of those in Europe. Crossing the border of the Czech Republic one little can of coke was passed from the bus driver to the border guard and we were waved almost right through with a most perfunctory inspection. Once across the border hookers lined the road trying to earn a living. We were told that there were even larger numbers along the road coming from Dresden. Do the Germans have more money to spend than the Austrians?  In Budweis (Ceske Budejovice) we stopped for lunch and I tried an ATM, successfully. I found this city not particularly attractive and were it not for the Budweiser beer, probably unknown as well. There were several waiters in the Restaurace Masne Kramy but it seemed only the senior one was allowed to handle the checks and the money which really slowed things down.  We were warned to be patient with all waitpersons. Good advice. I wanted venison for lunch but had to settle for boar. The whole lunch experience was very forgettable, but we probably selected the wrong restaurant.

Next stop was Lidice, the site of the little village by that name which was razed in 1942 and all of its male adults and many boys executed. Some boys of proper Aryan demeanor were sent to homes in Germany. Most females ended up in concentration camps. This happened in retribution for the assassination of SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich (deputy and right hand of Heinrich Himmler) by British trained Czech freedom fighters. Aside from a museum which was already closed for the day and a very impressive and touching large sculpture of women and children, there is little to see.

The village was never rebuilt and it is now a large open space in a quiet little valley with only some foundations visible. We finally arrived in Prague at 6:30 and stayed at the Hotel Piramida. It is a fairly modern, average hotel right next to a streetcar stop which was very convenient, 15 minutes to the city center. There were a fair number of tourists of all nationalities staying there. Our younger crowd had to check out the local beer in the city after dinner but we passed.

July 24.   On a clear but almost chilly morning we started with a city tour with an English speaking guide who was working on her second Ph.D. And it showed. She bombarded us with so much historical data that it became extremely confusing after a while. This lasted from 9 am until 1 pm. I don’t believe she left out a single building, bridge or monument in the city worth mentioning.

She answered the most obscure or trivial questions in lengthy detail spiking everything with lots of dates. We certainly got our money’s worth. But she also arranged tickets for my wife and three of her young friends for that evening’s performance of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” in the same theater where it was originally performed. After several hours walking the city by myself (my wife checked out the jewelry stores for bargains which I much later noticed on our credit card statement) in now fairly warm weather, all of us met for a two hour dinner cruise on the Moldau (Vltava). It was an ideal summer evening with low humidity and clear skies. After the cruise my wife and her friends rushed off to the opera and I went back to the hotel. As Mozart is too modern for me in respect to classical music, I watched a very interesting program featuring Blues on CNN, some tourist, eh?

July 25.   We left Praha at 8:30 am on a beautiful and sunny morning. Our first stop for the day was the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov (Krumau), now in the UNESCO register of monuments. The Vltava (Moldau) divides this lovely walled town with the castle on top of a hill.

We were informed that the town was originally 95% German. Everywhere were tourists and judging from the language mostly Germans. Canoeists were practicing on some rapids and several lost their balance and fell into the river to the delight of the spectators on a bridge. We spent three hours walking around and also had lunch there.

No linguistic difficulties here, German was generally understood. The next stop was Mauthausen in Austria, the location of a former concentration camp (KZ). We were rushed into a room for the viewing of a movie about the history of the KZ. We barely had enough time to look around as the allowed time was much too short to our greatest regret. Of about 200,000 inmates, more than 123,000 were killed or worked to death on little food, watery soup and bread every second day. My wife had seen Dachau earlier but she was more impressed with Mauthausen. This memorial is only a short distance from the Donauradweg (Passau to Vienna bike path) and there were dozens of bike campers and bike tour groups visiting. We arrived back in Grödig at 6:30 pm. Even though I enjoyed this trip to Prague, the time allowed was much too short as expected. With group travel one is mostly on the move, sights become compressed in time and mind and there is no time to digest anything. Independent travel is the only answer!

July 26.   Monday. My wife’s classes started again and I decided to go for a morning ride to Bayrisch Gmain via Fürstenbrunn. Coming out of Fürstenbrunn and climbing over the lowest part of the Untersberg, one encounters immediately a 22% grade. Now that may be nothing for a young guy but this old man got so winded that he had to dismount to catch his breath. Even though I have low gearing on the bike, it’s not like an MTB. I returned to Grödig the same way and found that the road through the forest rose more gradually going east. The afternoon was spent accompanying my wife on a shopping trip to Salzburg for a new jacket and locally for Mozartkugeln (chocolate balls with a Marzipan interior wrapped in foil with a picture of Mozart; made in Grödig).

She had placed her jacket on the hot train from Venice in the overhead luggage rack and took it down later full of chewing gum. Several cleaners in the Salzburg area had been unable or unwilling to take care of it. It was easily cleaned once we were at home again; I guess experience counts here.  There was a dessert evening in the restaurant where the student groups took their meals. Host families and the restaurant had donated most of the offerings. It was large scale pig-out time. There must have been 20-25 different types of Austrian specialities: cakes, pies, Schmarren, Salzburger Nockerl, Palatschinken (crepes; gefüllte Pfannkuchen in deutsch), all of them sweet, delicious and loaded with calories. Daily distance: 21 miles.

July 27.   Class for my wife in the morning and then preparation for a final exam. With the beautiful weather still holding I rode to Berchtesgaden today to work off some of last night’s offerings and explored the city from top to bottom by bike. The first time I had passed though here on the B 20, it was raining and I couldn’t see anything. I did not ascend to Maria Gern, however. I must agree with Ben, it is a lovely town and a good location for day trips. I continued on to Bad Reichenhall avoiding B 20 which promptly called climbing a hill again. A visitor has many options here, from a casino, salt museum, performing arts to glass blowing. It is bigger and was to me less impressive than B’gaden. I continued to Bayrisch Gmain, then Großgmain and the now routine climb over the lowest part of the Untersberg to Fürstenbrunn and Glanegg. I impulsively continued on to Salzburg via Eichet. I crossed the Salzach and rode the bike path back (south) on the eastern bank to the dam at Puch (Urstein Kraftwerk) where I returned to the western bank and Grödig for lunch. In the afternoon I rode the cable car to the top of the Untersberg and watched some paragliders put their equipment together and take off from the top.

I had my bike shoes on and couldn’t do much hiking but I did slip slide up to the memorial for the mountain troops (Gebirgsjäger) of WW II. But the view was gorgeous. One could see all of Salzburg and watch planes take off from the airport. I sat outside the restaurant for an hour enjoying the sight and the cool air, with a Gespritzter, of course. We ate a good dinner at Noppinger’s in Grödig. Daily distance: 45 miles.

July 28.   My wife had her final exam. I decided it was time for my last ride before cleaning, disassembling and packing the bike back in its suitcase. Königsee was the destination. I arrived early when the first boat was just being loaded. The lake is impressive due to the abrupt rise of the wooded banks (more so than Lake George in NY) from the shore and the immense east wall of the Watzmann mountains.

I found the quality of the water similar to the lakes in New Hampshire, e.g. Newfound Lake, but greener. Unfortunately some fog started to roll in. I also rode up through the Dorf to the Jenner cable car station and visited the Bobbahn, Watzmann Thermen and looked at the Eisstadion. The ride back to Grödig was disappointing. It should have been a very swift downhill but a strong head wind made work out of it. By dinner time the bike was packed and it was time to address the next phase of our trip. Daily distance: 31 miles. I had covered only about 476 miles, mostly because of the rainy weather in the beginning and some of the time spent with my non-biking wife.

In the evening there was a “grill” party to which all the host families and the local teaching staff were also invited. Austrian specialties from grill were served. Before we could even got started in the Biergarten, it started to rain and we had to relocate indoors.

July 29.   The last day. In the morning the study groups performed an art and talent show for their peers and host families. The offerings consisted of musical performances, art exhibits, readings of prose and poetry. My wife was the only individual to read in German. She also translated it into English for the other students. I missed the show as I took the bus to the Salzburger Hauptbahnhof (about 20 minutes) for the short train ride to Rosenheim where I was to pick up our car from AutoEurope (speak Avis) on the Rosenheimerstrasse. Car rentals are significantly cheaper in Germany plus we wanted to drop it off in Frankfurt. Upon my arrival I was told there is no Rosenheimerstrasse in all of Rosenheim. After studying the phone book, it became clear that Avis was actually located in Kolbermoor, a town west of Rosenheim. I quickly jumped on a commuter train which was about to leave and the first stop was the right one. Leaving the Bahnhof I found myself on the Rosenheimerstrasse. It was still a hike to Avis. They insisted on me taking a Renault Clio, 1.4 L engine and smaller than a Golf. The car had plates from Mainz and they obviously wanted it returned to Frankfurt. I was not happy as I had two huge suitcases with all my gear and my wife had two somewhat smaller ones. We also always carry two small duffels with toiletries and containing a change of clothes for overnight stays, so that we don’t have to move all of our junk every night. I smartly entered the Autobahn and floored the accelerator. At 140 km/hour the car began to vibrate noticeably which made me slow down to a very conservative 130 km/hour for the rest of our trip. But at least it had air conditioning! I have never cared for any of the French cars I have driven and this model did not change my mind. In the evening a group of native performers from Eugendorf entertained the study groups with native dances and songs. Reciprocating, some of our college kids showed them how a real jitterbug was done.

Travel Report

July 30.   Nearly all the students and counselors left with two busses at 6 am for the Munich airport for their return flights to the States. Some of the younger students were crying that they had to leave; they were the same ones who were very unhappy due to homesickness in the first days after arriving. We had to load our rental car. I stuffed two suitcases in the trunk and folded the backrest of the backseats down for the other two. The smaller duffels and wind breakers were piled on top. The car looked like we were moving with all of our earthly possessions. We took our leave from the Frühstückspension Bachmann and the two ladies Ziegler who had treated us almost like family, even offered to do our laundry twice without charge and supplied us with travel literature. Final gifts were exchanged amid lots of hugging and the promise to write; a small violin and a scarf for my wife and a booklet about Salzburg and the area for me.  We left for Berchtesgaden which my wife really hadn’t visited yet. After having earlier biked through the town I found it very slow and tedious to have to walk it. Naturally it was another market day and a lady from Marktschellenberg had a stand with amber and lapis lazuli jewelry. According to my wife the prices were right and she purchased enough items for Christmas and other events for our three daughters and another generation of females in the family.

We skipped the Königsee expecting huge crowds at this late morning hour and we went on to Bad Reichenhall. After a relatively short stay there, I assume she couldn’t find the right jewelry store, we took the B 21 going south in direction of Zell am See. I had earlier biked this segment in reverse. We drove over the Lofer Pass and arrived at Zell am See. After cruising around for awhile in heavy traffic, we left for Kaprun and entered the Kapruner Tal. I initially wanted to see the glacier as a former Austrian colleague of mine used to go there to ski. Glacier skiing is generally fairly boring due to the gentle slopes but it does provide skiing even in a snow poor winter, a major concern if one specifically travels from the States to Austria. We arrived at a toll booth where we were asked for several hundred Schillings to pass. I didn’t want to see the glacier that badly, so we turned around and had a picnic lunch next to the Kapruner Ache instead.

We drove back to Kaprun and turned west towards Mittersill. Here we had to make a decision. I always wanted to visit Kitzbühel, a major ski resort in Tirol, but we also wanted to see the Krimml Falls (Krimmler Fälle). We did not have time for both. On to Krimml then. It was crowded with busses, cars and visitors. July/August is just one lousy time to travel. We kept going and drove another 500 meters up the Gerlos Paß on the Gerlos Alpenstrasse with its numerous switchbacks. At various points on the road one could stop and have a magnificent view of the Krimml Falls across the valley. This road (B 165) is very scenic passing a couple of artificial lakes (Speicher Durlaßboden und Gmünd).

We stopped several times before reaching Zell im Zillertal. The route was a lot of fun to drive, especially with a smaller car where one has no problems avoiding oncoming busses on the sometimes narrow road. It was a pity, however, it didn’t have a Porsche engine in it.   I have driven my sister’s Porsche in the High Black Forest (Hochschwarzwald) and it is a thrill cranking a car like that uphill through switchbacks.

We tried to find a Zimmer in Zell for one night without success. The place was full on this Friday night. We drove north through the Zillertal and stopped in Aschau trying to find a room there, somewhat removed from the train tracks. At the second house we stopped, the gentleman jumped in his car and guided us to a place where we surely would find a room. He knew correctly, it was his daughter’s place (Frühstückspension Hauser, 0043/5282/2092, OS 300 pp. includes OS 50 for only a 1 night stay), a most pleasant young lady.

All of her guests were Germans, not unexpectedly. A fellow from Mainz was happy to see our car with Mainzer plates. I don’t know if he was disappointed to encounter Americans instead but he did express his regret that we would stay only one night.  We had an outstanding evening meal at the Aschauerhof in the garden. Venison and Spätzle, of course. I had consumed more than enough Schnitzel in Austria. 

July 31.   We had a very nice breakfast the next morning and left early after having had to promise we would be back some day. Today it was basically a straight run to Ottobrunn, south of Munich, to my cousin’s place. We were already late. The Zillertal is a lovely valley with farms on both sides high up on the mountains. We drove the Achenseestrasse and stopped at the Achensee. Then over the Achenpass through congested Tegernsee to Gmund. Near Holzkirchen we entered the Autobahn and exited at Ottobrunn. I hadn’t been here in 10 years and I couldn’t remember the exact location of my cousin’s street. But we eventually got there.

August 1-5.  We had intended to stay with my cousin for 2 or 3 days but couldn’t get away until Aug. 6. A lot had happened in our families over ten years and much information was exchanged.

On Sunday, 8/1, we all drove to Holzkirchen and went on a 6 mile hike on a hot day, not my favorite pastime, to some of the local lakes (Kirchsee, Weihersee). It gave me an opportunity to judge the local female topless figures on the beaches. I was also somewhat surprised that younger people now change clothes in public without the benefit of a towel wrapped around their waists. Times have certainly changed since I left Germany. My cousin and her husband decided to take a swim as well. My wife and I retreated to a nearby cloister with a Biergarten where we waited patiently having some refreshments (speak Bier) and pretzels. The next days were primarily spent by taking the S-Bahn 1 into Munich and wandering around the city. We did some of the tourist things like watching the Glockenspiel in the Rathaus, visiting the Residenz and Hofgarten, Englischer Garten, University, Olympiastadion and Olympiaturm, BMW Museum.

We also went to the Botanical Garden even though I am only mildly interested in plants.

The garden had been designed by a relative of my maternal grandfather, a Karl von Goebel, who received nobility by a grateful King for his efforts. We also spent several hours in the best bookstore in Munich, Hugendubel, right on the Marienplatz. Anybody needing a book or maps of any kind, that’s the place to go; plenty of English speaking assistance as well. We spent a whole day in the Deutsche Museum and didn’t get through it all. I just love technical exhibits of any kind, old cars, planes, whatever. There was a home made plane on exhibit with two motorcycle engines.

The plane was constructed in sections which could be transported easily by car. The builder was a former East German who wanted to fly across the border to West Germany with his wife and two children but was caught before he could take off. The plane had never been flown before but was later judged flight worthy by aeronautical experts. Just amazing. The pleasant evenings were generally spent in Biergärten or Gartenwirtschaften  in various suburbs. There is also a very good and popular vegetarian restaurant, Buxs, right behind the Viktualienmarkt.

August 6.  High time to leave but we got a late start. Some of these German retirees don’t seem to move until 8 am! Our initial destination was to be Innsbruck as my wife had never been there and wanted to have a look. Her former physician who delivered our last two children, used to visit his aunt there every year, during the ski season of course. We drove the Autobahn to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and from there to Mittenwald but really did not spent any time in either. We vacationed a week in Oberammergau several years ago and had visited the towns, Ludwig’s castles and surrounding areas already. Both towns were terribly congested with vacationers and also had Stau due to road construction. The city of Innsbruck itself was rather ordinary as we had been forewarned and was also crowded at lunch time. Parking was impossible to find. Our problem is always that I like the countryside and my wife the cities and towns with shops and markets. This time I won out. We ate lunch outside Innsbruck and continued in the direction of Imst. On a spur of the moment I decided to enter the Oetztal and drive to Obergurgl where I once had spent a week of skiing with one of my daughters. When we reached Oetz, the going became slow. Oetz was also the only place in five weeks where I tried my ATM card unsuccessfully in two banks. We concluded this side trip up into the mountains was too ambitious and time consuming and turned back. In front of and behind Imst the police had set up radar and were pulling over all the cars who had passed us, slow pokes at 130 kmh, with such elan. When we approached St. Anton am Arlberg and St. Christoph we turned north over the Flexenpass past Zürs to Lech. This area of Vorarlberg and the Lechtaler Alpen is serious ski and hiking country. For many years my father used to ski two weeks every winter in Oberlech with his friends. I had never been in this area. It was advantageous to have a small car on the Flexenstrasse (B 198). The larger ones had to stop for oncoming busses to pass. The scenery was spectacular, the huge boxes of hotels less so. There were hikers everywhere. At Warth we continued northwest on B 200 and finally stopped for the day in Schoppenau. This is a smaller town seemingly trying to become a major player in the tourist business. We found our Zimmer for OS 250 pp (I lost the name and number) and had a good meal in one of the hotel restaurants. It was another pleasant evening although our elderly German neighbor with whom we shared our balcony, was stinking the place up with his incessant smoking even though he continuously coughed. At 2:40 am we were awaked by a horrendous thunderstorm; it rained buckets.

August 7.  It still rained. We left after a solid breakfast and cautiously drove down the very wet B 200 to Bregenz. About half way there the sun came out and it turned into another beautiful and warm day, this time am Bodensee.

We found a safe place to park, a major consideration with all of our luggage in the car being very visible, and wandered through the city and along the shore to the site of the Festspiele. There was still plenty of evidence of the high water and floods which had occurred earlier this year. We encountered numerous bike campers on the bike paths touring around the Bodensee. It was a Saturday and also market day here, where my wife always manages to find a bargain.  We always seem to end up in cities on weekends. This place was full and getting fuller.   Leaving Bregenz we wanted to visit Lindau which was one long Stau with Germans coming in from the north. We fought our way to the Insel and had a leisurely lunch there - no choice anyway, the service was slow due to the crowds. Then it was high time for more pastoral settings and we drove to Dornbirn on the Autobahn via the Pfändertunnel. The Stau wasn’t as bad here even though the road constricts from 4 to 2 lanes prior to the tunnel. We turned into Lustenau where we crossed the border to Au, Switzerland. After purchasing the Autobahn vignette (SF 40) I had plans to hightail it to St. Gallen, wander through the city and then end up in Appenzell for the night. By the time we reached St. Gallen even my wife was finally fed up with cities and crowds and we immediately left for Appenzell. We could have avoided St. Gallen altogether by driving a more scenic road from Au directly to Appenzell via Altstätten and Gais. We weren’t very interested in the Bodensee area on this trip anyway as both of us had been there several times before and I knew about the summer crowds there. Approaching from Gais one can get a very good overview of Appenzell lying below in a valley. It is the typical small and well preserved Swiss town with narrow streets and old buildings.

We checked into the Hotel Hecht which someone on the Swiss board had suggested as a small but good hotel. In my book a hotel in Appenzell with over 100 rooms is not a small hotel; only if compared to a Hilton in Zürich. The cost of $110 was above my favorite price range but in view that it was our wedding anniversary, I wasn’t very concerned.

It is a well run Swiss hotel with some drawbacks due to its location. Parking was a quarter mile away in a public lot, some concern to me with all the luggage in the car overnight. Fortunately this is rural Switzerland. The biggest issue was, however, that the open window in our room (no ac, of course) faced the Catholic church across the street. Its loud bell rings every 15 minutes two times in a cumulative manner. At 10 pm we enjoyed the bell 4 times 2 plus 10 for 18 strikes. In addition, all hell broke loose for at least 5 minutes for the Saturday evening and early Sunday morning service. I used some of my trusty ear plugs but my wife confirmed it struck 11 pm and midnight as well. Before dinner we walked through the town and found a Rolls Royce and Bentley Rally was taking place on the town square. About 40 spotless and shiny cars were assembled from several cantons (Kantone, States of Switzerland), most of them antique or vintage cars with one of them dating back to 1913. After dinner at the hotel we left to avoid the “Appenzeller Brauchtumsabend” (native music with yodeling and the usual dance exhibitions) at the hotel and looked for an outdoor cafe for some ice cream. I have never seen in one town as many pictures of cows on articles and cow bells in store windows in all my travels and student days in Switzerland. Some cow bells were too big to get into any type of suitcase. I wondered how they would have been accepted by Lufthansa as a carry-on around one’s neck.

August 8.  After a thunderstorm during the night I retrieved the car in the rain, intact, and we were off to Schaffhausen to play tourists and view the Rheinfall as my wife had never seen them. We arrived in sunshine. Thanks to the church bells in Appenzell we were very early and avoided the crush of tour busses with Japanese and Spaniards just in time. This is certainly a scenic site.

But after having seen Niagara Falls and the Bridal Falls in Yosemite National Park several times, it doesn’t appear quite as imposing. After the purchase of some chocolates we drove slowly north and then west through my favorite area, the southern Black Forest. As a high school student I have often biked here and, even though these roads have changed drastically and more have been added with the advent of the heavy automobile traffic, the scenery has not changed and still recalls pleasant memories. We arrived in Bad Säckingen for the night. Our favorite place here is the Hotel am Hochrhein (07761/92420, DM 108 for a large double with an excellent breakfast buffet and underground garage). Bad Säckingen has thermal springs and tries desperately to become a player in the spa business but really can’t cut it. The clientele is not well heeled and is usually sent there by Krankenkassen (medical insurance companies). It has some old buildings,

a nice cathedral (Fridolin Münster) and the longest covered wooden bridge in Europe, across the Rhein.

It has some very traditional and interesting Fastnacht (carnival) practices, although not in August. It’s also close to Basel and Zürich bei Autobahn (30 minutes each). We first took a walk to the Schlossgarten for coffee and Zwetschenkuchen (plum pie), my favorite. My wife was exhausted from the previous night’s entertainment (Glockenspiel?) and took a nap while I walked around town looking for my parents’ former homes and to get oriented again. I had lived here from 1947 to 1952. We repacked our suitcases for the return flight as the final few days would be hectic. We spent the rest of the day with old friends from my high school days. We had a very good but not cheap meal at the Restaurant Storchen in Rheinfelden-Riedmatt (Germany), probably the best eating place on the German side of this Rhein area. We reminisced late into the night over some excellent wine, Oberbergener Baßgeige from Kaiserstuhl. In years past we not only exchanged children with relatives, one of their children spent a summer with us in the States as well.

August 9.  After only a short stop in Basel, where we parked very conveniently in the Elisabethen garage, it was off to the Thuner See to reacquaint myself with Thun. From there we drove slowly through the Simmental to Zweisimmen and then to Saanen near Gstaad. This stretch seems popular with bicyclists, there were many of them.

We had already spent time last year in Gstaad and continued on to Enney near Gruyeres to visit family. We were served a fabulous meal of Hirsch (venison), Spätzle, Weckknödel, Preißelbeeren, red cabbage and a great dessert of ice cream cake.

We watched family videos of the newest generation and it became again a late evening.

August 10.  We were driven to Bern for our first real visit there and toured the city for most of the day including the Bärengraben, Rathaus, Bundeshaus and visited the Paul Klee exhibition.

On the return trip we stopped in Pont-en-Ville to visit some acquaintances who had started a private golf club there.

August 11.  The day of the infamous solar eclipse which really screwed up our travel to Frankfurt.  We did see some of it as we had bought the special glasses in Munich, at the Olympiaturm of all places, but we were still too far south to experience the full eclipse. That day the State of Baden-Württemberg had the worst traffic jam in its history on all of its roads and we ended up in the middle of it when we approached the Baden-Baden exit on the Autobahn. It took us from Bulle, CH to Heidelberg 8 hours which compares with a normal 4 hours of very conservative driving.

In Heidelberg my patience ran out and we left the Autobahn. We drove via Neckargemünd and Erbach to Michelstadt which I had visited many years ago. We stayed for the night in a very mediocre place, Gaststätte “Zur Frischen Quelle” (DM 88 for a double with hall toilet and shower). I tried better places but they were “voll belegt” and I was ready to settle down for the night. We looked at the old central part of the town with its unique Rathaus and surrounding picturesque buildings and stores.

My wife, of course, was fascinated with the ivory and amber carvings in the stores for which Michelstadt is famous. Fortunately everything was closed at this time of day.

August 12.  It was a short run to Rhein-Main via Dieburg, less than an hour. We got gas in Kelsterbach, turned the car in, checked in those heavy suitcases, got our VAT back and then killed time until LH decided it was time to board. The 747 was full and our seats behind the bulkhead of the galley did not make for comfortable viewing of the movie. Newark seemed as hot as when we left. We needed two luggage carts and used the large elevator on the far right facing the terminal. All the others are too small. We picked up our rental car from Avis for the two hour drive and once that horrendous amount of luggage was stashed, I breathed a sigh of relief. We were finally home by 8 pm.

We had a great time even with all that rain in the first week. As usual the trip was too ambitious. We never did have enough time to stop and see everything.  I would have preferred to go in late September where one might spend less time waiting around and finding parking. My wife’s course left us little choice. July/August are not the ideal months to travel in Europe. We will certainly be back next year!

Trip Reports and Journals

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