2009 – The Tyrol

Monday 24th August

Caught the late afternoon ferry to Ijmuiden as usual. Had an excellent buffet dinner, again as usual. The next table was occupied by Paul Scott, an artist in ceramics, on his way to set up an exhibition in Sweden. The night club was not up to scratch, however, with the usual dancers replaced by a distinctly second-rate magician.

Tuesday 25th

Route
Up early for a continental breakfast. It was after 10:00, however, before we got off the ferry – some bother with the authorities apparently. As soon as we left the ferry it started to rain, but this eased off after a couple of hours. I was pleased with the new HG trousers and all-season gloves I was wearing, as it meant all my gear was now waterproof and there’d be no more struggling with over-trousers if it came on to rain.

The traffic was heavy and slow until the German border, at which point everyone speeded up. A huge tailback, caused by a burnt out lorry, necessitated filtering for several miles behind some Dutch bikers. Our hotel for the night was the Hotel Heckl, just outside Kinding. We were made very welcome, and the landlord’s father insisted on the bike going in his garage.

Wednesday 26th

Route
The 150 miles to Ruhpolding passed fairly uneventfully for us, but two 10-mile tailbacks in the opposite direction reminded us that German motorways can be very slow in a car.

We spent several hours in Ruhpolding, chilling out, having lunch and taking the same photograph of the railway station that Pat had taken 45 years previously.

0826_RuhpoldingStation

Then a short but very scenic journey over the border took us into Austria and up to Hinterthal. We were staying at the Hotel Simonhof

0826_Simonhof

– a very nice and very welcoming biker hotel – one of a group of hotels calling themselves the Motorrad Hotels. We’d be staying in 3 of them – this one, the Gran Paradiso in Campitello, in the Fassa Valley, and the Enzian in Landeck, a little west of Innsbruck. During dinner the heavens opened, flooding the cellar and requiring the fire brigade to pump it dry. Dinner was delayed but worth the wait.

Thursday 27th

We decided to have a day off the bike exploring Hinterthal and its environs. The local supermarket provided provisions, and we set off for a wander up the valley. We had intended to do a circuit, but the footbridge we?d been planning to cross had been washed away by the previous night?s storm. So we picnicked by the river, admiring the view

0827_Hinterthal

then headed back the way we’d come. The hotel provided complimentary Kaffee und Kuchen at teatime, and I then caught up on emails and newsgroups (notebook from tank bag and wifi from hotel) while Pat stretched out on the terrace with a book until dinner.

Friday 28th

Route
Time to head for Italy. A prompt departure saw us at the first stop by coffee time – the stupendous Krimml waterfall.

0828_Krimml

One of the car parks had special bike parking bays (free) and lockable biker lockers – also free. Dumping our gear we had a nice wander to the foot of the waterfall.

Back on the bike we did the short round trip to the top of the Gerlos pass and back, haring up so I could have fun on the bends then taking it easy on the way down so Pat could admire the views. About halfway down we stopped at a designated biker view point. Excellent views, marked bike bays and five huge signs each with a suggested biker route.

0828_KrimmlBikerRoutes

One was the Grossglockner – a recommendation we agreed with. And what a nice reception Austria gives bikers. Compare and contrast with Wales, which doesn’t have as much to offer anyway.

We stopped for lunch at a posh but biker-welcoming hotel (The Spa, near Dolach), then onwards and upwards to the Stalle pass. Absolutely beautiful.

0828_StallePass

The border with Italy is here, and the road on the Italian side is one-way alternate half hours. By the time our turn came there were a dozen bikes at the front of the queue waiting for the red light to go out. Seemed to ring a bell! It would have made quite a nice little race, except for the cows and cowpats half way down. Our route through the Dolomites was a bit curate’s egg. Absolutely stunning scenery, of course, but the traffic-free mountain roads were outnumbered by the very busy roads through the valleys. Arrived at the Hotel Gran Paradiso just after 6:00. Another very warm welcome and an excellent dinner. This hotel turned out to be the best of the lot in terms of facilities – particularly the huge swimming pool of which Pat made good use.

Saturday 29th

As the weather was looking iffy, and we wanted to explore Campitello (not least as a potential skiing base), we decided on another day off the bike. We wandered into the village centre and decided to start with a nice Italian coffee in a nice local café for local people – except it turned out to be owned by an Italian who’d spent 15 years in England and wanted to practice his English. We dodged a shower, had a picnic lunch back at the hotel and then chilled out for the rest of the day.

Sunday 30th

Route
The weather was looking fantastic, so onto the bike and up

0830_Sella_slab

and over the Sella pass

0830_Sella_from_top

to Selva and thence to a valley I’d wanted to look at – ending up in Santa Maddalena. Back to Selva for lunch in a café, then a bit more cruising round the Dolomites until we had overloaded on mountains. The Dolomites are our favourite mountains, not least because you’re right in amongst them, and they tower above you in a way you don’t find in the Alps.

As an example of the scale of the mountains, this is a view from a little above Selva.

0830_Sella

Zoom in a little, and you can just see a car (the white dot circled in red).

0830_Sella_car

Monday 31st

Route
Away by 9:00 or so heading for Austria. First up was the Passo Nigra and yet more absolutely stunning mountains – our last sight of the Dolomites. Heading across country we eventually hit the bottom of the Timmelsjoch. I’d been wanting to do this pass from Italy to Austria for some years, and now was my chance. It lived up to its expectations, both in terms of the number of bends

0831_Timmelsjoch

and the view at the top.

The road down the other side was a toll road. The top half was great fun but the valley at the bottom had too many villages and too much traffic for real biking fun.

The Enzian hotel proved to be as nice as the others in the group. Our room was actually a small suite, complete with sitting room. It was also nice to meet up with 8 friends from UKRM for the second week of our holiday, and to hear of their adventures getting there. Andy had had two different bikes break down on him en route, each time returning home for another. He’d eventually had to use one of Adie’s. Another four had been stopped by the Swiss police just as they were about to cross into Italy, and were fined huge sums for using a left-turn lane to overtake. A trivial offence, not-so-trivial holes in pockets.

Tuesday 1st Sept

Route
We split up into three groups – Champ, Burnt, Ogden and Krusty who wanted to join a tour of local roads organised by the hotel (most of which we?d done the previous year on our Bavarian trip), the Bonwicks who had done much biking the previous day and just wanted to tootle around, and Wessie, Ginge and us who wanted to do some miles but at a more leisurely pace.

We started off up the Silvretta Bundesstrasse through Ischgl, where I’d skied 45 years previously, thence up and over the Silvretta Pass.

0901_Silv

A short bit of highway past Bludenz enabled us to head north-east via Faschina (and a lunch stop) to Au, over the Hochtannbergpass to Lech, over the Flexenpass to Stuben and finally over the Arlbergpass to St Anton. A really satisfying day – great roads, great views and glorious sunshine.

Wednesday 2nd

Route
Although the previous night’s weather forecast had not been good, the day actually started well, so 8 of us headed for the best of the previous day’s group tour, the Hahnten-Joch, for a bit of fun. This involved stopping to plan a route

0902_BendFun1

finding a nice bend and photographing some of the lads coming round it – photographer

0902_BendFun2

and photograph.

0902_Champ

After lunch the weather was still holding up so we did the run up the Pitztal for beer and ice cream at the head of the valley.

0902_Pitztal

(Footnote – this is one of my favourite photos. Taken by one of our friends, we’ve just spent the day enjoying some wonderful views and great twisty roads in the Tyrol on our motorbikes, and we’re about to indulge in some typical Austrian ice cream sundaes in good company. No wonder we look content!)

The run back to Landeck included a detour via Piller for more stunning views.

Thursday 3rd

Route
Off to the Black Forest. We elected to take motorways through Austria and Switzerland, getting to Germany at lunchtime. By now the wind had really picked up and there were a few heavy showers about. We stopped for lunch at a really nice restaurant – the Waldhaus just outside Remetschwielin. It was quite posh, with the staff all in traditional costumes, but despite it being full we were made to feel very welcome and the food was delicious.

Then back on the bike and up to Titisee (the Black Forest’s answer to Windermere), where we stopped for a wander. We were flashed a couple of times by drivers, apparently because we overtook them when they thought we shouldn’t (such as over a single white line). We got to the hotel, the Hotel Adler-Post in Obertal, late afternoon, to find that 5 of the others were at the nearest police station paying huge fines. They’d been complained about by a couple of people en route, to the extent that the police had set up a road block to catch them. When they eventually arrived at the hotel, looking somewhat chastened, it sounded like they’d been quite fortunate to have escaped with just fines.

Friday 4th

The others were heading for France, whereas we were staying a second night in the Black Forest. As the weather was looking a bit iffy, and we didn’t fancy doing a lot of miles on the bike, we decided to spend the day in Baden Baden, just up the road. We had a bit of a fright on the way there, as we lost the front wheel on a tight bend not far from the hotel. Luckily the bike recovered, after keeling over enough to ground Pat’s foot. When we went back over the road the following day I could see a very bumpy repair to the road surface which had been just enough, combined with a somewhat flattened off front tyre, to disturb the bike.

We had a nice stroll in BB for a short while until the rain set in. We therefore settled for a leisurely lunch, then wandered in shops until the rain eased a little. On the way back we had fog, blustery winds and a cloudburst.

Saturday 5th

Route
Off to Heidelberg, via a bit more scenic Black Forest. The northern part has some really nice pretty villages. Roadworks on the subsequent motorway caused a huge tailback, which didn’t hold us up for long as there was plenty of room to filter – except past one German girl who moved sharply over just as we were about to pass. She did the same a few seconds later when we did pass, so it was clearly intentional. German motorists, apart from Bavarians, are not good drivers. Having said that, we found out later that filtering is illegal in Germany!

We arrived in Heidelberg at lunchtime, and went straight to our hotel – the NH. There was no room ready for us, so we wandered along to the old town for a sarni (Feuerwurst in Brotchen) from a stall. Back in town later we had a good wander through the old town. It’s a University city and very cosmopolitan – and very nice.

As an example of the architecture, entering the town from the old bridge you see the gate

0905_Heidelberg01

and then the town.

0905_Heidelberg02

Exiting you see the gate from the other side

0905_Heidelberg03

and the bridge.

0906_Heidelberg_AlteBrucke

We were amused to see a mobile bar, 4 stag parties, 3 hen parties and one mixed party. We dined at the Sahara (Hauptstrasse 167) – absolutely excellent kebabs and falafel, and highly recommended.

Sunday 6th

Route
We didn’t fancy paying either E19 each for breakfast or E10 for wifi internet access, so we wandered back into town for breakfast at the Café Extrablatt (Hauptstrasse 58), followed by hot chocolate and a connection at a Star café. We eventually got underway about 11:00 and headed north-west to the Rur, via an unintentionally scenic route in the shape of an unpaved road. The See was pretty enough, but we did the few extra miles to Nideggen in order to have a pre-prandial wander there as well. Nideggen proved to be a bit of a find. We were only staying there because our first choice of hotel, the Alte Muhle at Aachen, was fully booked, and it turned out to be a very compact old town, small but with several hotels and cafes. We wandered up to the Heiliger cafe for tea

0906_Terrace_Nideggen

and then had a quick look round the rest of the town.

We were staying in the Ratskeller, our bedroom overlooking the tiny market square.

0906_Square_Nideggen

The room was as quaint and as comfortable as the hotel, but we ate out at the posher Ewigen Lampe as it was our wedding anniversary.

Monday 7th

Route
We covered the 180 odd miles to Ijmuiden by lunchtime. Meeting a bit of a queue going through Duren I decided to adopt the alps-run meme and managed three left-turn only lanes and two solid crosshatch areas – but without getting nicked.

There were a lot of roadworks on the way, but only one long queue – negotiated as on the way out by following several Dutch bikers at speed (well, speedy for us) down lane 2½. Having bought sandwiches en route we discovered a delightful little park a few miles from the ferry terminal in which to eat them and chill out until it was time to check in.

The entertainment on the ferry home was somewhat better than on the way out – particularly the dancers.

Tuesday 8th

Cloudy but dry arrival at Newcastle, only to be held up for a while on the quayside because only two Immigration officials had turned up. Our holiday officially finished with a good fryup at home.

Total distance covered – around 2,200 miles.