By noon, Steel and I were packed and on our way towards Austria. Although sunny and hot, it felt good with bicycle breeze. About an hour into the ride, we meandered across a cow filled pasture and came up behind an older couple on bicycles but stopped. The path had two option so I asked them the way to Traunstein, where I knew a there was a direct bicycle route to Salzburg. The nice German couple not only told me, but changed their route and showed me the way. The English speaking wife had lived in NYC for four years many years ago, and just last year, they took their adult children and grandchildren back for a visit. I followed the couple for about 5 miles to the quaint old city center where they asked if I might like to have a coffee and ice cream with them. I oddly declined and then was feeling bad about it. Such a nice offer, but I had only been on the road maybe an hour and I feared that maybe I would not get to Salzburg. Still I felt bad to say “no” given how nice they were to guide me. They then showed me to the main bicycle route to Austria. I’m sure they saved me an hour or so of time.
As I was bordering Austria, I was thinking how unfortunate it was that I did not have a picture of Steel and I in a bier garden as this is so traditional Bavaria. About that time, we cycled upon a little outdoor bier garden. We pulled in for a brew. When I went to pay, the non-English speaking waitress lead me inside to an English speaking patron who was wearing nifty multi-color wire rimmed glasses. She turned out to be an interesting local ceramic artist and had two children who had lived in the US. At 72, she was on the verge of making a major life change that she was to announce the next day, and so we found ourselves very quickly in a person in-depth conversation. I felt like meeting her was the reason I was meant to say “no” to the earlier coffee. She kindly invited me to stay at her home if I would like, but again, the mission to get to Austria prevailed.
I finally made it to Salzburg as the sun was setting. A lovely river separates older and newer Salzburg (which both look very old to me) and kiosks selling all sort of wares and food were set up alongside the river. I consumed a quick ice cream and then continued on to find a campground.
Ahh…then came a wonderful twist of fate. I found a campground quite near the city, but then I did two things that I have never done. It was around 8 pm. when I arrived to the campground and I was hungry. I normally would set up my tent and then make diner, but this night, I headed with Steel loaded up directly to the pizza place nearby. After I ordered my pizza, a woman dining alone chatted me up and asked if I would like to join her. That’s when I met Anita!
She looked summery and happy with short blond choppy hair and wearing a sundress. We immediately hit it off. Anita had just come back from enjoying her day off at a near-by lake with a friend. We talked and laughed (I was needing to laugh so this was so so refreshing for me). Towards the end of dinner, she offered if I might like to stay at her home. It was so unusual that I was not already set up at the campground and she was so nice, so I went for it. On the way out of the pizza joint, she said Hello to her neighbor Bjoern, who was there eating and wearing a Moab (Utah) bicycle jersey. He had been to Moab last year to mountain bike with his father and father-in-law. We chatted for a bit and made a plan to go for bicycle ride the next day after he got of work. Anita lived very nearby. Friendly neighborhood felines welcomed us to her apartment with lots of light, nice plants, and walls adorned with artwork from various friends.
Anita, a native Austrian, was not only super nice and fun, but she was the perfect person in introduce me Austrian “stuff” – from reknowned pumpkin seed oil, to Knudles (balls of bread stuffed with meat or fruits, local honey, and Salzburger Stiegl Radler (radler is beer with fruit – I like the grapefruit infused one). Radler is supposedly popular with bicyclists as it is refreshing and low in alcohol.
The next day, I had a great day touring around the city attempting (Monday lots of things are closed) to do or get things. I was back around 4 p.m. for my bike ride with Bjoern. He took me on a lovely ride out to Lake Wallersee, where he spent his childhood and now brings his family. All was great until the rain! We had no sooner stopped for a drink lakeside, and a storm came on…full-on (wind, thunder, and lightening)! We got a bit wet as we waited it out. About an hour later, it let up and we had a nice cycle home. Anita had warm and tea and warm clothes waiting. A very fun day…I slept very well again.
Anita works for the Salzburg theater festival which I now know is renowned. Beginning in another two weeks, over 200 performances will happen over five weeks in the summer -mostly opera and classical music related. The festival employs 200 people year round, and 3000 people during the five weeks of the festival. She turned me on to an a guided tour that takes you through the three main theaters that hold the performances. I love theaters! So first thing the next day (Tuesday), I went for the tour. One of the theaters, Rock Theater (Felsenreitschule), was built 1640 into the rock on the side of the mountain, and famed place where part of the Sound of Music was filmed. It was originally built as a horse arena by an prince Archbishop, but the arches in the rock still remain, although they get covered for many of the performances.
On the tour, I met a super cool couple from Redwood City, California. He is a high school, and together they spent the last 18 years or so bringing high school students to Austria and Italy in the summer (along with their children). So the Cali couple were having a rather special trip coming back alone this year. Little do they know, they totally influenced the direction of my travels. They told me about some supposedly beautiful areas in the Dolomite mountains in Italy. After we departed and I began my research regarding travel over the alps and into Italy, I found that I have two primary bicycle route options when I get to Italy, and one leads to the area that they suggested. I shall attempt to go that route.
Anita and I met for lunch and she took me to a restaurant where I could try some traditional Austrian food –sweinbraten (pork & saucu) & knudle. So good! I dug the salad – yellow and orange carrot shavings, next to potato salad, covered in greens and topped in a homemade yummy dressing. I gathered maps and other little things I needed for my departure over the Alps the next day!
…and then I awoke to a downpour of rain! Ugh! Anita very sweetly encouraged me to hold up. This proved to be a very good thing as I not only got some writing done, but Bjoern came by and so kindly offered to give Steel some much needed attention! His brakes were not quite working right and I have not been able to shift into my big chain ring for awhile. Need-less-to-say, both fixes made me feel much better about crossing the Alps. After the fixing, I joined him and his nice wife, LLona, and sweet 12 year old daughter, Carmen and we looked at options for my crossing. Bjoern has been on bike through the Alps before so this was very helpful! For all this I am so so thankful! The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me!!
Today I am actually off…like now!!!