The first blog post of 2018. I'm back...
This is my first blog post of 2018 as I have been using my spare time to write articles for football magazines, prepared and delivered a successful architecture photo talk to the Rochdale Photographic Society and also visited Riga in Latvia where the closest I came to anything cycling related was taking a photo of an old Soviet-era ‘shopper’ bike! (See below...)
To be honest, the weather this winter has been too bad to go out on the bike with frequent snow and heavy rain at weekends, so I’ve had few cycling-related stories to tell.
That said, I still managed to get one ‘winter cycle tour’ in between January and March, but I had to go to Austria of all places to do it!
Off to Austria for only £25...
The last Sunday ski flight of the season to Salzburg was priced at only £25 one way with Jet2.com and after about two years of promising to go over and visit our cycling holiday partners, I decided to head back to one of my favourite countries in Europe and spend time with the team in Salzburg.
I then booked another cheap flight with Ryanair back to Manchester from Nuremberg with a night in Innsbruck to explore a different part of Austria.
On-board the last Sunday ski flight to Salzburg...
As this was one of the last flights of the winter schedule to Salzburg from Manchester, the plane was practically empty.
There were approximately thirty people on-board and whilst I had a row of three seats to myself, the combination of a light plane and a warm, yet strong wind from the Mediterranean called the ‘foehn’ caused one of the bumpiest and turbulent flights I’ve ever experienced.
After a relatively steady flight until about twenty minutes to landing, we flew over Passau and the plane started shaking so much that I had to hold onto the row of seats in front to steady myself.
I could even see the air-frame flex from my position at the back of the plane! The bad turbulence only lasted ten minutes but was still quite scary.
The flight might have been bumpy, but I should have been thankful because the warm winds from the Mediterranean increased the local temperature to around twenty degrees! This created the perfect conditions to cycle around the nearby lake region.
I was met at the airport by Claudia who looks after the international partners around mid-morning.
Superb homemade schnitzels...
She had planned an itinerary for me and we went back to her house for Sunday afternoon traditional Austrian schnitzels with the family. I was impressed that they were almost identical in shape to the outline of Austria!
I can also say that as a fan of any food in breadcrumbs whether fish, meat or vegetables, the homemade ‘Wallner’ schnitzels will be hard for any restaurant to beat in the future!
Swifty scooting in Austria...
One of the other reasons for visiting Salzburg was to finally try out one of my PR ideas for Freewheel Holidays. I had the idea of doing one of the cycle routes that we used to run in Austria on a Swifty Zero Scooter in partnership with the local Manchester-based company.
This story generated some good coverage and I ended up on the front page of the business section of the Manchester Evening News and even on local TV.
As a proud Swifty owner myself, I enjoy riding their scooters and this was a great chance to ride their fastest model in Austria. The plan was to do a 25km scoot with Claudia cycling alongside on one on a bike.
There aren’t many people riding scooters or ‘tretrollers’ as they are called in German and I generated a lot of attention as I passed through the various villages.
We followed a mixture of cycle paths and quiet rural roads that are typical in this part of Austria. Some ice was still on the ground and much of Wallersee was still frozen. The cycle tracks around the lake were a mix of tarmac, gravel and dirt, so I ended up caked in mud as the Swifty does not have a rear mudguard as standard.
Claudia’s husband, Norbert met us on his bike at an excellent local café where we enjoyed cakes and coffee in Seekirchen before heading back to the lake for random photos next to one of Austria Telekom’s retro phone boxes!
I was pleased that the cycling and scooter combination worked out and I would like to do a long-distance scoot alongside a cycle route such as the Danube Cycle Path for example. I still think it is a great idea and could work really well as an active holiday option!
Claudia dropped me off in Salzburg city centre in the early evening and I was met by Verena who runs the walking holidays team. I did want to go to a traditional Austrian brewery type restaurant, however, we went somewhere even better and had a nice meal on a top floor hotel restaurant overlooking the city. I had been up since 4 am, but there was no time to be tired today.
At the office in Obertrum...
I had a great first day in Salzburg and this continued the next day at the Eurobike office where I met with the manager of the company Thomas and the rest of his growing team to discuss plans for the upcoming cycling holiday season.
At lunchtime, we went out for more schnitzel in a traditional Austrian ‘guesthouse’ restaurant in the centre of Obertrum next to the Trumer brewery. I had the chicken schnitzel option rather than the usual veal or pork version!
I felt sad as I returned to Salzburg train station to catch my train bound for Innsbruck. I love Austria and have visited many times over the years for various reasons and still have a strong attachment to this part of the world.
Beating the ticketing system...
Annoyingly as I went to buy my RailJet ticket to Innsbruck a week before, the price jumped up to €40 one way from €19! I could have paid the extra for sure, but as there was no real rush to get to Innsbruck, the detour into Bavaria wasn't a problem.
Unlike the UK or Germany, there are no or limited inter-city coach routes operating in Austria and the national train operator OEBB benefits from a monopoly on long-distance travel. However, with a bit of ticket investigation, I beat the system by booking via Rosenheim in Germany on Deutsche Bahn.
Onwards to Innsbruck via Rosenheim in Bavaria...
The combination of a regional train and an InterCity reduced the cost down to €19 again, but I would have an hour to spend in Rosenheim about an hour away from Salzburg. To be honest, I didn’t know much about the place other than that the city was in the news frequently throughout 2015 as the first arrival point in Germany for Syrian refugees.
After a quick stroll around the city, I walked back to the station and bought some essential supplies for the onward journey (pretzel, chocolate milk etc...)
The Innsbruck train arrived at Rosenheim station a few minutes late but made up time as we approached the city centre. The InterCity train was very quiet and I stayed in a carriage compartment for the duration.
I had a quick snooze (power nap) and arrived in Innsbruck around 1930. I then made my way through the old town to the superb Austria Trend Congress hotel. The hotel is situated close to the river Inn with great access to the mountain railway and the Nordkette ski centre.
I also planned on going to the Spar supermarket next door for a quick snack, but in keeping with the ridiculous retail opening hours that still operate in Austria, the shop closed at 1930 and the only convenience food places still open were back at the train station!
A schoolboy error for someone who goes to Germany and Austria so frequently.
I went to bed hungry which is never good, but this was an extra incentive to get up early and explore the city first thing anyway.
Needless to say, I was at the breakfast room in the morning before anyone else and ready to ascend Innsbruck’s surrounding mountain range located on my hotel’s doorstep...