Transalp From Munich To Bovec
Updated: Jan 10
To make the most out of a short vacation, I decided to use my days most productive. After I returned home from my last deployment, I went to the doctor to get my fit for work and on the same day went to the Oktoberfest with a few of my colleges. We moved around the festivities from tent to tent, always checking the offered beverages' quality extensively. So, within my first vacation day, the hiking part was already taken care of. The next day I embarked, slightly hungover, on the next venture: Cycling. I had five days until my kayak's club annual outing to Slovenia started. And slightly drunken me, with the help of Google maps had noticed the day before that five days would be enough to ride a bike to the very same town in Slovenia my club intended to go. So I went to pack my stuff and prepare my gear for Kayaking. I left this package in our Clubhouse as one of my buddies was so kind as to transport it to Slovenia. I took a saddlebag full of energy bars, a handlebar bag with some clothes and a backpack with a second set of cycling clothes and with all that I started my journey towards the Southside of the Alps.
Day one: Munich to Vorderthiersee
I left Munich early in the morning, dark clouds looking over, a street still glistening with rain beneath the wheels. From Munich, I first followed the Isar-Cycleway up until the small satellite town of Strasslach where my track deviated towards one of Munich's favourites spots for a day's outing: The Deininger Weiher, a small lake in a shadowy narrow valley. Without stopping I passed the deepest point of the valley, getting only a short glimpse of its dark and muddy water before I went into the first climb of the tour up the valley on the other side: Two sharp curves, fifty meters of ascent and flat again. This climb felt comfortable and relaxed now, but before I would reach my destination a few days later, I reached a point at which even climbs as small as this would become a painful challenge.
The journey's next leg up to the enormous lake Tegernsee consisted of a constant up and down through the Bavarian pre-alps. A series of hills, starting rather tiny, progressively reaching higher and higher until they finally transitioned into actual mountains. The road is the same as the hills, going up and down with a nice flow. An equal descent always follows a climb with time to relax the legs for a bit, the road winds in many bends through fields, pastures, small villages and forests. On the shores of the Tegernsee, I went for the first brake of the day. With some energy bars and some salami for good measure. The sky had somewhat cleared, and the sun was coming out. After the break, I went for the first long uphill of the tour, towards the border town of Bayrischzell. But the uphill was so smooth and soft you almost did not notice it during the ride. In Bayrischzell I took another short break to drink some hot chocolate in a small cafe situated opposite the town hall and refill my water bottles. From the typical Bavarian town, it was only a short and again a soft climb towards the Austrian border after which a long and gentle descent brought me down towards the Bayrischzell's Austrian equivalent, the village of Vorderthiersee. Finding a room for the night took some back and forth, as I was in the last days of September, the off-season, and some hotels had already closed, but luckily in Austria, there is a big culture of small family-owned bed and breakfast places, so I was still able to get a bed for the night.
Day 2: Vorderthiersee to Fusch an der Großglocknerstraße
The second day started with a descent into Kufstein's city, leaving me with almost no elevation gain compared to my start in Munich. In Kufstein, I met some relatives and stayed there for lunch. That was another item I could cross of my holiday to-do list. After a lovely lunch, I took to the bicycle again, now for the first right climb of the tour, a mountain road from Kufstein to the small town of St. Johan. Multiple hundreds of meters in elevation gain on the main street quite busy with traffic was not the most delightful experience, and I noticed after the first climb that there would have been an excellent cycling way.
So I went on that instead for the rest of the way up until St. Johan or at least I wanted to because it deteriorated after some time to gravel and I was not too trusting in my race bikes performance on said gravel. If there are any recommendations, I could give to someone doing this tour it is this: Get a Gravel Bike. There are many great long-distance-cycle ways all through Austria and Germany. Unfortunately, a good portion is unpaved, and by picking a true road bike, I had constrained myself often to the less scenic route along the big roads. After a short stop to photograph some of the traditional houses in St Johan, I went on to do the next climb, to about a thousand feet of elevation now and down again into the town of Leogang, one of Austria's prominent mountain bike regions.
Again, I mostly rode on the small cycling ways, which quite frequently take an amicable and scenic route, winding through towns and villages, on small paved ways through farmlands and quit often adding an extra bit of climbing compared to the direct route on the road intended for cars. The direction was very well marked, but again and again, I was confronted with a perfect stretch of asphalt ending in gravel without warning, leaving me to either retrace my way back to the main road or risk the chance of a puncture. Or worse damaging my rims. And tracking the way back was sometimes easier said than done. In one case, I had the choice between losing about five kilometres in progress or descending about one hundred meters of elevation on an ungodly steep gravel slope. I took the later, without puncturing, but with my butt feeling every little stone under the narrow wheels. All this got better though after I arrived in Leogang. From here on out it was a long descent until Saalfelden and after Saalfelden either flat or smooth ascent towards Fusch. Because of my late start in Kufstein, it was quite late, already dark almost when I arrived in Fusch and took a hotel for the night.
Day 3: The Climb over the Großglockner
The Alpine Road over the Großglockner is one of the famed passes within the alps. Build almost a hundred years ago it winds up the steep slopes of the Tauern mountain range, first in a long and steep ascent, and afterwards some narrow hairpins one after the other. Almost one thousand and eight hundred meters of ascent I had to climb from my Hotel up to the Fuscher Törl, the road's first peak. I say the first as afterwards a short descent, and then another two hundred meters of ascent wait until you pass the Hochtor at exactly 2500m over sea level.
After a hearty breakfast, I went early in the morning and almost directly saw the advantages of my lightly packed bike as I left some bikepackers with lots of bags behind me on the first climb. Despite feeling very good, I was careful with the speed. I did not want to outpace myself, after all. Climbing higher and higher, I took frequent brakes to take pictures, eat or refuel my water bottles. The weather was perfect with a smooth breeze and the sun out in full force, making the temperatures comfortable for cycling. The trees slowly changed shape to smaller bushes, and finally, I reached a parking spot at about five kilometres from the Fuscher Törl. After a little more extended break I set out again but only for a few meters until I suddenly had a cramp in my leg. I stopped, tried to start again, but the high was gone. Now my legs felt like lead, and just a hundred meters of climbing felt like my legs would fall off. So instead, I started to push my bike. Walking somewhat worked, and after a short time, I made my way to the top. I took some photos and then went to my first short descent. The next ascent up to the Hochtor I walked my bike up again. However, all the pain felt worth it with the next drop. On the southern side, the mountains seem even more rugged and steep and like this the road descents in many small sharp bends and racing down it was one of the best experiences of the trip, only darkened by on the last ascent shortly below the treeline. Arriving in the town of Heiligenblut, I went to search for a room. Sadly not as successful as before. Almost everything had closed, so I instead went further downhill until I had success in another small village.
Day 4: The Long descent, Heiligenblut to Villach
The next day started again with beautiful weather and me looking forward to the tour's longest descent. All my 130 kilometres today would be downhill, at least I hoped so. Of course, it turned out somewhat differently. The cycleway I took went along the river Möll but frequently deviated from its shores to pass through some charming villages, old churches or castles, and other sights of the valley. And naturally, each deviation from the river's banks meant another climb. And while all of those happened to be short, so short even that they would not have bothered me at all during the first days, with yesterdays climbing still in the legs, it was not exactly a fan. The same problem with the sometimes paved, sometimes gravel surface of the road persisted; however, now the gravel pars were much softer, especially once I had reached the Möll and Drau's confluence. The Cycleway along the Drau is one of the famous long-distance cycleways in Austria and was very well maintained as you would expect. I crossed through the town of Spittal, a little slow as traffic was quite thick and then continued further through the fields. The whole valley at this point is vast and open, with the mountains again reduced to small hills, so it is yet a harsh change in scenery. Only after you follow the river along its winding shores for quite some time, the higher mountains of the Slovenian mountain range turn into view. But shortly after that, I arrived in Villach, where I stayed in another a small hotel with great food.
Day 5: Rain all up the Predil Pass
The next day started with torrential rains that would, at least according to my forecast, persist during the day. Despite the weather, getting out was no challenge, I had my wet weather gear ready and all the motivation necessary to best the weather. The leg at this day would be the shortest and also one of the easiest of the tour, even if it featured the second-highest mountain pass I had to conquer on this tour. The reason for this was the comparably soft gradual ascent up to the Predil Pass that made riding it feel like a holiday, despite the freezing temperatures. However, the descent was something else. The already heavy rains increased once more in force and so small rivulets running over the streets accompanied me on the downhill ride. After arriving in Bovec, I had to wait for some hours until my friends from Munich arrived by car, carrying my camping gear and some dry clothes, so until then I was cold. Still, I could bask in the feeling that I was the first one out of my club to reach our camp. But of course, I had a five-day head start.