Riding from St. Anna
Ride - Day 4, Jennersdorf, AT - Lavamund, AT (actually St. Anna, AT to winery outside Spielfeld, AT)
59.5 km (37 miles)
Monday morning dawned clear and bright. After the clouds and rain of Sunday this was about as gorgeous of a spring morning as you could imagine. The colors were back around us and it was going to be a perfect day for cycling.
Today we would leave the Austrian-Hungarian border region and move to the Austrian-Slovenian border region. In fact late in today's ride I would be riding on a road that effectively straddled the border, so even before the border crossing (which would occur tomorrow), I would make a very brief journey into Slovenian territory. But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit here.
Our first sign of grapes on the ride. It would not be the last.
There was over 30 miles of riding before I got to this point.
The day started with a short drive to the area just outside St Anna. On the 40 minute drive I noticed the region getting significantly more hilly (not mountainous mind you, but hilly). We were leaving the Burgenland region of Austria and entering Styria. Finally we arrived at a departure point at St Anna. As we were unloading the bikes from the trailer a gentleman drove by parked his car and came over to talk with us. Speaking German, he talked to Klara and Renata initially but when he was informed that the rest of us were Americans he switched over to a very fluent English. He came over and talked for a good bit with C.
The gang's all together riding along the trail.
C. and myself asking us where everyone was from, speaking about a visit he had made to the States and commenting on our route for the day. Mostly downhill, then flat along the river valley, and some hills at the end. He was justifiably proud of this region of Austria as our rides over the past two days had already demonstrated and told us that today would be a beautiful and enjoyable ride. It was this spirit from everyone that we met and talked to that added another amazing element to this trip.
St Anna and our ride started at about 400 m (1315 ft) above sea level. As we rode the first 15 km or so principally downhill, I noticed a steadily increasing number of vineyards along the sides of the roads we were riding along. By the end of today's ride we would be seeing vineyards everywhere we looked.
C.C. pedaling along the bike trail.
Within an hour or so were in the town of Halbenrain and our downhill portion of the ride was over. We had descended to 223 m (730 ft) over the course of this section. We were now in the Mur/Mura river valley which formed the Austria/Slovenia border and were moving off the roads for the most part and on to a series of bike trails.
Another fantastic lunch just before the town of Mureck at a small campground/park/swimming pool. As a side note today we began seeing other groups and individual bike riders on the roads and trails. A host of people speaking many different languages. A simple hello, guten morgan , afternoon, was always welcome and appreciated from both sides from everyone we met. While we may not have spoke each others language (or more likely we Americans didn't speak theirs) there was a silent comraderie of being cyclists out on the roads.
Steve presenting Renata with a peace offering for some transgression (I think the evil bike trick of using her jersey for momentum).
After lunch we had a short journey to Spielfeld (15 km). We crossed the Mura as it came completely into Austria at this point and met Klara and the van again. At this point there was an option to continue riding 13 km further to our destination in Styrian Wine Country or take the van. Renata and Klara stipulated a warning that the route would be hilly. Jeff, Steve, and I decided to soldier on and Renata would ride with us as well. Carrie, Chris, and C.C. opted to take the van to the winery (ultimately not a bad decision in the slightest).
We turned off the main road and immediately started a climb (we really hadn't done any noticeable climbing since Halbenrain so we were still at 230-240 m or so. The road immediately turned upward into the hills.
A picture is always a good excuse for taking a break after climbing a steep hill.
I went to a lower gear to spin and Jeff and Steve immediately leapt forward. I quickly learned that while I had gotten into better shape over the winter I was still carrying a bit too much weight and that gravity was going to have its way with me. I was able to climb but simply not as quickly as Jeff and Steve were able to on the longer and steeper climbs. The first climb ended about 2.5 km from where we left the van. We had climbed back about 180 m (600 ft) in the 2.5km (1.5 miles) and were now back over 400 m above sea level. For comparison purposes to people back in southwest Ohio, some of the steeper hills leading from the Little Miami River climb 200-300 ft in say 0.75-1 mile (these are probably 12-15% grades).
Time to toast a few glasses of wine.
So this hill was comparable to those just longer. And we would be doing these for the rest of today's ride. I stopped to recover and take a quick picture across the valley. Our route would take us on a quick down hill into the valley and then we would have to climb the other side. As I made the descent and pedaled into the next steep climb (Renata warning us to get some speed because the next climb was a killer (20% grade or so, but only for 500 meters or so). I picked up my speed and as it quickly bled off on the next hill shifted down into a lower gear; and pedaled hard enough to take my chain right off. "@#$%", I thought as I got off my bike to reattach the chain. At this grade there was no getting back on the bike and starting from where I was, so I turned the bike around back down the 150 meters or so of the road that I had already climbed so I could get some momentum.
Our winery. Sat drinking wine on the porch at the left side of the picture as a reward for a long day of biking.
Worked all the way to my lowest gear combination to make it up the 1/4 mile of road at this insanely steep grade.
At the top of this hill we were now on the Slovenian border (Renata kindly waiting for me and wondering what had happened - but not enough to ride back down the hill to check, not that I can blame her, I'm not sure I would have ridden back down that hill either). The border was painted on the road here, and I weaved back and forth between countries for a while. To this day I'm not sure if I was purposely doing it or if my legs were so wobbly that I couldn't pedal in a straight line.
At this point we still had about 8 km left and about 4 more short steep hills to climb as we bounced our way between 300-550 m (980-1640 ft).
A tired crew on the transfer to the hotel.
A final 17% descent for 400 meters or so took us to the winery we were going to visit for some welcome glasses of wine.
We enjoyed several bottles of local vintage and conversation among our group. I was surprised that my legs quickly felt better with a couple of glasses of wine. For the oenophiles among my friends we had bottles of the following wines (note that Austria is much better known for its white wines than its reds):
- 2005 Welschriesling - white
- 2005 Rheinriesling - white
- 2005 Samling 88 - white
- 2004 Blauer Zweigelt (Barrique) - red
I'll leave any further investigation of the wines to the reader.
After the wine tasting/sampling/drinking we were up for another transfer to Lavamund.
Hotel Harrach just outside (and up from) Lavamund.
The drive would take us to the true edge of the Alps region. On the way the "Tired Trio" would take the opportunity to nap and miss out on some amazing scenery as we journeyed into the mountains. When we arrived at our hotel a bit over an hour later everyone was simply stunned by the view. Out hotel actually sat above the Drau/Drava river valley with the mountains to our south on the Austrian/Slovenian border. The setting sun prevented any good pictures that evening until sunset, so other than the sunset views the ones you see below in the daylight are from the next morning. We had another great meal (even with the mushrooms) and interrupted our evening meal to get some pictures as the sun finally set behind the mountains.
Sunset from the hotel, while eating dinner.
After dinner I just spent some time sitting out at the back of the hotel amazed at the awe inspiring view that was laid out before us as true night slowly settled in around us.
- Maypoles in May all around the Austrian countryside.
- "Who Framed Gilbert Grape" (this is one of those you had to be there moments, no amount of explanation can convey why I still laugh when I think about this).
- Keeping the wine glasses full so the wind doesn't blow the glasses away.
- The Tired Trio never knew that I had handed my camera up from the back seat of the van to Renata in the front passenger seat so she could take the two pictures. All three were completely out.
- This tour was amazing for staying in these smaller hotels in smaller towns in Austria and Slovenia that I would never have found planning a trip on my own.
In fact planning a trip to Europe I probably would never have thought about visiting the cities and towns we went through on the trip.
Zooming in a bit as the sun dips behind the mountains across the valley.