(written by Nancy)
We said goodbye to the youth hostel today – might have to try a few more of those out along the way up to Sweden as it was pretty comfortable and cheaper than a hotel or pension. Of course, I think it depends on how many other ‘youth’ are around at the time – we lucked out and it wasn’t too busy. The staff was very friendly and even without air-conditioning it was cool enough to sleep at night with the window open. No mozzies either – not sure why but it was nice not to have to worry about that with the window open.
So, today we decided to try the ‘European’ way and ride the bike paths. This area is covered by bike paths and it seems that most cyclists use them in lieu of riding on the road. I’d say we were generally pleased with the paths today, though there were a few spots where the path veered annoyingly up into the hills when we could see the road running along the flat valley below us. The path was only paved about 50% of the way but the unpaved bits were mostly hard-packed gravel or dirt so were okay for our bikes.
The path took us mostly along the Drau river as we left Villach, making its made its way along the foothills of the valley. It is easy to lose track of where you are at, as you don’t see the road signs along the way. The paths often do not go through the towns either – you need to take an exit to go into a town. We had a few times of getting a bit lost, when signage wasn’t as good as it could be, but eventually would see a sign and find our way back to the path. Toward the end we were getting a bit annoyed after climbing a very steep hill (17%) while the road stayed flat along the valley floor. At that point we decided to say forget it and ride on the road, but of course just then the path returned to follow the road!
We did take a diversion into the town of Spittal, where there was a café that we had read about. The Café Moser is supposedly owned by various landlords of the land the bike path goes through and an apple strudel was highly recommended in some of the tourist information we got in Villach. Well, what more incentive do you need? So, we wound our way into Spittal, searching for the elusive Café Moser. We found a café that might have been it but it appeared to be shuttered. Fortunately there was an information center just down the street so Dave went to ask and came out with instructions to go around the corner. There it was, a very nice looking café with a great little garden area for seating. We tried the pastries – Dave had an apple strudel and I had a nut-filled pastry (should have written the name down). Both very delicious, washed down with a good macchiato.
We finally made our way in to Obervellach, our intended destination for the day, and stopped at a store to get something for lunch. We sat in the shade of some trees outside the store, eating some bread and cheese, and then made our way to the only campground in town, the Aktiv-Sport-Erlebnis-Camp, just at the edge of town. There are lots of people here for rafting and kayaking, as the river is right here next to the camp. We have a nice spot for the tent away from the masses so should hopefully have a peaceful night.
We spotted several men today wearing lederhosen, though Dave hasn’t worked out how to surreptitiously take a picture yet so you will have to wait to see that. And, he says, it looks more like Austria than Slovenia did (I wasn’t going to put that in but he insisted).
Happy 4th of July to our friends and family in the US – a nice bbq’d hamburger sounds really good right now, but we will have to settle for some pasta variant unfortunately. And Dave also insisted that I put in “sorry for the Blues” as NSW lost to QLD in State of Origin Rugby overnight.
Tomorrow we head to Heiligenblut, about 54k from here. It is at 1300m so we have a bit of climbing to do to get there, but whatever we do tomorrow we won’t have to do on the next day to get over the Grossglockner pass. We have taken to calling it Gobsmacker pass as I am sure we will feel gobsmacked by the climb and by the views – even started seeing signs for it today. The weather looks okay right now – snow forecast only for the afternoon of our climb day, with sun in the morning, so that will just give us more incentive to keep our pace up on the way up (hahaha).