Innsbruck, Austria and the last of the mountains

Don’t worry, we’ve been busy. We’ve moved our butts, gotten sunburns and passed passes. We biked through snow and slept in fields.

So we crossed the Alps. In terms of altitude, it was no small matter, but not half as bad as any of the endless climbs in South America. The first pass in Italy was Cimebanche. At 1530, it was the highest, and the wildest, as we came to it by an old railway converted into a cycling path. Those are the best! Hundred year-old stone tunnels, fantastic mountain views, meeting other cyclists and spring water. But the best part of course is there aren’t any cars. Say what you will, even if fast traffic moving a meter from your bike doesn’t bother you, or if you’ve gotten used to the smell of petrol, no one can deny the dreadful ambiance of a well-travelled roadway as compared to a quiet country road or, better yet, a bike path. And the bike paths here in northern Italy are made to get to the pass with a steady climb, which suited the railways best. Sometimes you go through fields and farmers’ terrain, I even chased a half-dozen chicken going up a hill once. So we were really greatful for the bike path, even if the highest parts were still covered in snow!

There was a path we followed from Calalzo to Brunico and then it kept going th way we were, which was nice, all the way up to Brenners’ pass, the second pass on our way and also the border into Austria.

We knew we’d been close because a few days before the border, Italian was giving way to German and things were announced in two languages. So we learned that Sud-Tirol used to be an Austrian province before the first world war. So the food became more germanic, internet more readily available and people were drinking beer rather than coffee on the terrasses. The architecture was cuter too. People had painted wreathes and other ornamentation around their windows. And also, the towns and villages we passed were no longer as sad as they were in Italy: there were more people, more activity… Austria was around the corner!

When we actually did get to the border, we were happy to have crossed Brenners’ pass, another 1400m, and so we started a 30km pure descent into Innsbrooke, at 600m high. What a race down! If only it wasn’t so windy… But we had a great view on a secondary road passing by each little village, bustling with life and promising of all kinds of new yummy treats each as unpronouncable as the others.

Innsbrook was the real discovery of the journey though, and we had a prime chance to get an insiders’ view because we were lucky enough to stay with a warm showers’ host, and he and his roomate and friends gave us an awesome welcome. Good internet, a place to plug in our devices! A hot shower! A real bed! After 7 nights of camping, we were exctatic.

So we had our first day off since Auronzo, we visited Innsbrook, which is a town of 120 000 people. And we had a great time.

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