The observant among you may have noticed that the title of this blog post has changed. No, I haven’t permanently moved to Austria, nor sold my Velomobile or my trike, but it seems that 95% of this blog is about our holiday in Austria (which included trike) so I thought it was fair to change the title! Next month we will be back to “Six Wheels in Germany”.
Holiday in Austria
The middle of this month was my 50th birthday.
Our original plan was to take a Cunard cruise on the Queen Mary 2 from New York to Southampton, but Corona put paid to that.
Fortunately chum Lindsay said we could stay in her flat in Saalfelden in Austria, as Germans are allowed to visit Austria. Lindsay had not been there since March 2020 so it wouldn’t hurt for us to check it over for her!
Our first problem came when Lindsay sent us the keys to the flat. She asked a work colleague to post them and this lady sent them normal post, not tracked, and they didn’t turn up. And they didn’t arrive. No sign of the keys. After two weeks we had kind of given up and were making alternative plans, arranging to visit Berlin for a week. But then three days before we had planned to leave for Saalfelden the keys arrived. Hurray!
This was a real relief for us and for Lindsay too as it’s tricky to get these special keys copied and she was only left with the master key if these hadn’t turned up. Anyway, Saalfelden was on and Berlin would have to wait another month as we plan to go with Lara at the end of July.
We also decided that we would take our trikes with us to Austria. Although they both fold, we cannot fit both of them in Klaus’s Skoda Octavia – so would need to transport one on the roof.
Klaus organised roof rails and the tracks/runners that you put the wheels in and after initially ordering something that didn’t fit we ended up with two roof rails and three Schiene/runners which we fitted the day before we were due to leave.
The width of the trike is such that we had to have the runners at an angle so that they were wide enough at the front. Here is a photo of how they looked when we removed them after the holiday:
This meant it was slightly more complicated lifting the trike onto the car but we practised several times and could do it together without difficulty. The trike went back into the garage for the night and the next morning we loaded everything up and were ready to go by 8:15.
Here is us stopped for fuel just before the border with Austria. Good news, the trike was still on the roof!
The journey to Austria was 800 km but it went very well. The trike didn’t add a lot of noise although we kept the speed to 130 or below. We just had a 20 minute traffic jam on the way but arrived at Lindsay‘s flat at 5:30 in the evening, so with plenty of time to get unpacked.
As I said above, Lindsay had last been in the flat in March 2020 and it had been completely shut up since then. We didn’t know what it would be like inside, but were pleasantly surprised that everything was fine. We checked the water and flushed the loo a few times, had to wipe up a few dead insects in the bathroom that come through the ventilation but otherwise all was well. All the curtains and blinds were closed so we opened everything and aired the whole flat out. It was good to be back, I last visited in 2007.
We went out for an evening meal at the Greek restaurant round the corner – I ordered my meal without carbs but ended up with a small bowl of chips too.
and Klaus enjoyed his first Austrian beer of the holiday.
And then it was time to share one of my favourite desserts, baklava, although it is not particularly low-carb!
Klaus had an Ouzo too.
Triking in Austria
On our second day the weather looked good and I planned a route for us to cycle to Zell Am See which is about 15 km away.
When we arrived we had decided just to keep the bikes outside locked to each other as the flat is fairly private and there is a police station round the corner. Unfortunately my trike suffered a heat-induced puncture (which has happened to me before) when the heat from the sun travels down the metal valve and makes a hole in the inner tube. This can make an almighty bang if you are within earshot but I hadn’t noticed anything until we were all ready to leave and I saw I had a rear wheel puncture.
Changing a tube on the front of a trike is easy as it has a single sided axle but the rear wheel is more complicated. I have an Alfine 11 internal gear hub which is one of the easier ones to remove but first of all we had the minor panic that I didn’t have the 15 mm spanner that is required to remove the nuts holding the axle in. Fortunately I did have it in my tools otherwise we would have had to go and buy a spanner.
The next issue was remembering what to do. I think it has been at least six years since I last removed the back wheel. You have to disconnect the cable for the Alfine and then try and wiggle the wheel out. Of course the rear parking brake blocks fouled the wheel a little but we were able to get it out eventually – it was only later I remembered you can disconnect the parking brake.
I put the new tube in, having seen that the old tube had indeed failed at the valve. Not entirely unexpected with such hot weather but annoying that we hadn’t let air out of the tyre earlier because we had thought about doing that a couple of times but never got round to it. The new tube was in, we put the wheel back in, tightened everything up and then… Bang! Another puncture.
So once again I took the wheel out and once again saw the same problem, a weakness around the valve. My one remaining tube was an extra thin one which Klaus had bought ages ago and we realised wasn’t great but hey, it’s all we had. So we went through the procedure again, knowing now that the rim had cooled down and so hopefully it would be okay.
We decided this time to pump up the tyre and not put it straight back into the frame before deciding it wouldn’t puncture again. So after it had done its thing for 5 to 10 minutes and not exploded we decided to put it into the frame. I was getting pretty good at this now, although we had run out of rubber gloves so I was getting oily hands, but we have the cleaning wipes from Aldi which work really well to get oil off.
So all seemed now okay and we put the wheel back in. We then went to get all the other bike gubbins, started attaching the seats and flags etc. I was then just putting on the rear battery on the rear rack when I noticed things seemed a bit squishy. Yes another puncture. We hadn’t heard it go bang but it was definitely flat now.
Once again I took off the tyre and tube and saw that the problem was more likely to be the rim tape. You could see that the first puncture seemed to have pushed the tape a bit out of the way next to the valve and it was a little bit sharp. So Klaus went off to buy some replacement tubes and some rim tape for me from the bike shop in Saalfelden.
Klaus returned with some expensive Continental tubes and some blue rim tape. He went off on the ride to Zell am See as I was too pooped for it. After half an hour and a cup of tea I decided to attack the rim tape, adding the new blue tape on top of the existing white nutrak tape.
This was my first go at fitting rim tape but it went okay and the dodgy area, above the hole in the photo, was completely covered. I put one of the new tubes in and pumped it up really high and all seemed okay.
After another cup of tea and an hour or so I decided to go out for a shakedown ride. Klaus was on his way back from Zell so if the worst happened and I ended up stuck again he could come and rescue me in the car after he had ridden home.
So I headed off on the same route that he was returning on, south towards the Großglockner.
By the way, you might be able to see my Garmin in the photo above looks rather plain – this is because I had forgotten to load the Austria Roadmap to the Garmin. So I had no maps, just the purple line to follow. This is not always that easy as you can’t tell whether the curve to the left is the road or a junction.
After just 5 km I saw a trike coming the other way – and this was good timing as I had just decided to turn round as the rear tyre was bumpy, it had a buckle in it and needed to be re-seated but I wasn’t going to play that game with a small hand pump. This does happen quite a lot with these marathon tyres I find. As I was riding a bit faster I was really noticing the bump each wheel revolution and didn’t want to fiddle with the tyre whilst underway.
So I was happy to turn round and follow Klaus back towards Saalfelden.
We decided we had probably deserved a slice of cake so did a detour to one of the cafés we had previously spotted.
We hadn’t fully understood the Corona rules in Austria and it turns out that even to eat outside you need vaccination or test. Klaus’s vaccination is valid in Austria as it was longer than 22 days ago but mine would not be valid until three days later so I should have had a test but didn’t realise. The lady let us eat anyway and I apologised to her. We had not been checked before our evening meal at the Pizzeria the night before, we were sitting outside and again I had assumed that was fine. The next day I had a free Corona test and it was negative so that was fine, but it is a reminder that the rules are different everywhere and it’s often hard to keep track.
A ride to Maria Alm
Two days later I decided I should have a bit of a longer ride on my trike, but first of all I wanted to remove the buckle from the tyre so that I had a smoother ride. Klaus and I were working down in the cool of the cellar to try and re-seat the tyre on the rim using washing up liquid to aid the tyre’s movement. The buckle was still in place so I asked Klaus to pump it up to 100 psi which should be enough – but unfortunately it went bang again and yet another tube was ruined.
I was getting really fed up of this but on the other hand we had made the effort to bring the trikes so we really ought to be able to ride both of them. So once again I removed the back wheel and we took it upstairs to check what the problem was. We diagnosed again a rim tape problem as it had moved a bit in one place (not around the valve hole this time) and as we still had some tape left we did some repairs.
We had actually almost run out of innertubes again. Klaus had bought one which had the Blitz Valve which neither of us normally use but would fit in my rear wheel so we decided to try that because if it also exploded it wasn’t the end of the world.
We managed to get the tube in okay after repairing the rim tape and inflated it and after a few attempts got the buckle in the tyre out of the way and it seemed okay. We put the wheel out on the balcony for a good hour in the warm to see if it exploded but it didn’t. Hurray! So we fitted the wheel back in the trike and decided to go for a short-ish ride so that if I had any more disasters Klaus could go back to the car.
I planned a route that took us up the valley towards Maria Alm which is a skiing village.
Unfortunately my route planning left something to be desired when I plotted for us to go through two cattle gates which were on a strong spring and meant we had to wheel the trikes through, over some rough cattle grids with click shoes, and then we crossed a field which seemed to contain half of the mosquitoes in Austria. I got at least five bites as I had bare shoulders but Klaus, who had sensibly sprayed himself with insect repellent, survived relatively unscathed.
I had originally planned for us to stop at a café in Maria Alm but it seemed a bit too early and instead we decided to see if we could find an alternative route back. Google on the phones seemed to suggest there was a way to the south and we decided to give it a go, even though it might be a bit hilly.
It was indeed quite hilly. Our trikes are good for slow hill climbing as you don’t need to balance and you can go as slow as your gears allow, and stop of course if you need. My problem with my trike with Alfine 11 is that I only have 11 gears and the lowest gear isn’t particularly low. I used to have a double chain ring at the front but now with the motor I only have one chain ring.
What this meant was when the climb became steeper, we saw up to 14%, I had to use more motor power to help me crawl up in my lowest gear with a very slow cadence. This is of course a bit unfair for Klaus, although he was able to pedal in a much lower gear with his normal gears and a triple chain ring up front. I did most of the ride with motor level number three out of nine, but for going up this steep gradient I was up to motor level six.
But actually it was okay. We both were able to winch ourselves slowly up the hill without dying and I was very pleased with how I felt about it, as I have previously been very anti Hill. I think losing weight has helped.
The map showed the asphalted road stopped and there is a short track before joining a new asphalted road. We hoped this track would be okay to ride but it was too narrow, too steep and too stony and we couldn’t get any traction with the rear wheel so ended up having to push the trikes 100 metres up the track. This involved lots of wheels going into grassy ruts, click shoes slipping on the stony surface and of course the ubiquitous mozzie bites. But we made it, we got to the top and there was a seating area where we could relax after the workout of pushing 20 kg trikes up a hill.
The way down from here was great fun, with high speeds but unfortunately they were resurfacing the road and had removed the asphalt so we were zooming down on loose gravel again. This rather slows you up and gives some concern about punctures but we both got through unscathed.
Rather than going straight home after our 14 km ride I thought it would be nice to have some cake. So we diverted to the cake shop which is next to the bike shop, having first relieved the bike shop of their entire remaining stock of 20 inch tubes. We now have tubes with all 3 types of valve… but between us we have the right pumps.
We had now bought six tubes from them at, as you can see, a pretty steep price. However I was glad to be back on the road with my trike and at least I had several spare tubes for the next explosion.
We ordered our cake in the bakery next door and this time the lady looked very closely at our vaccination certificates, the first time they have really closely been inspected. We also had to check in with a QR code which ends up sending a WhatsApp message to an account which you then cancel when you leave. Germany and Austria are all quite keen on data protection which is a good thing as you are giving your phone number and your email address to all these unknown companies.
The cakes looked good but were rather more mass produced than we are used to. When we get cake in Kempen and its environs we tend to choose the cafés that make their own cakes by hand and it does show when you go to a large chain such as we did today. But a cake is a cake and almost always worth eating.
When we got home we had completed 14.5 km but it was a good shakedown ride for the trike and I felt a slight inspiration to maybe try some more climbing during this holiday.
Am attempt to ride up a mountain
Our experience of riding up the hill in Maria Alm meant that I wanted to try doing some more hillclimbing and see if I was actually getting better at it. Ignoring the fact of course that I now have a cheating motor!!!
So I planned a route that followed what appeared to be a tarmac road as high as possible into the hills. It was not possible to tell if it was really tarmac all the way or if it would turn into loose stones but we thought we would give it a go.
It was another very hot day, with temperatures around 33° and full sun, but some good news was I appeared not to have a puncture in my rear wheel before we set off!
The route started going east from Saalfelden through the village of Rain where the path isn’t properly asphalted but because it is mostly level it’s not really a problem.
We reached the town of Maria Alm and then turned left/north towards the mountains.
The gradient wasn’t too steep at all and we were able to comfortably pedal our way up on the smooth surface.
I saw this road sign and ask Klaus to take a photo. I want to find a photo of me with a 50 sign, as I am now 50, but this wasn’t ideal.
We continued up the road, the mountains getting closer and the incline beginning to get a little steeper.
Then unfortunately, with almost 2 km to go to the end of the track I had made, the road surface changed from asphalt to loose stones and we were both unable to continue. Unfortunately with trikes there isn’t much weight on the back wheel and so it loses traction easily. Klaus also has a slick tyre on the back of his trike so had even more difficulty than me.
A quick look at the map on our phones showed that there was in fact a restaurant up another side spur of road and we thought that might be a possibility for us. So we turned round and joined that road, riding up to the restaurant and getting a bit more distance and climbing in!
We had a well-deserved cup of tea and alcohol free beer.
What I like about cycling in Austria is the views – you can see the progress you have made. In fact what you can see in the photo below is not the valley floor that we climbed up from, so we did even more than you can see in the picture.
After our drinks it was time to go home again, which basically involved pointing the trikes downhill and just occasionally using the brakes. Neither of us pedalled for about 3 km. you can see this in the cadence chart below, which has as a grey background the elevation profile.
We zoomed home and compared notes from our Strava.
As you can see, I had an elevation gain of 275 m. However Klaus seems to have ridden rather higher and also burned double the calories, which is probably fair as I was using my motor on number three and he has no motor!
When we got home Klaus was a bit perturbed as he had a maximum heart rate of 200 and an average of 160 or so and mine was so much less, but he realised looking at the heart rate data that his strap had been reading incorrectly and he hadn’t really blown his heart up at 200 BPM.
Klaus struggles more than me with the hot weather as he tolerates it less well so he stayed in our flat to recover from the heat of the ride but I soon ventured forth to supplement our diet with some Austrian cake. I brought them home and we enjoyed the rewards of our cycling.
Riding round Zell am See
Klaus had already cycled round the lake at Zell am See when I was fighting with my rear tyre punctures. But I also wanted to do the trip so we decided we would go fairly early one morning before it got too hot as the forecast was for 31 degrees.
There were workmen painting in the communal areas of the block of flats where we are staying and so we had to get the trikes out of the cellar without covering them in white paint and annoying the workers too much. But we managed it and set off in a southerly direction to head to Zell.
The route was the identical route to that which Klaus had taken last week when he cycled to Zell whilst I was playing with my rear wheel. There isn’t really a great deal of alternative as there are a few roads going along the valley and the main road is horribly busy, but this alternative route is nice and quiet, apart from other cyclists.
It was about 12 km to the top of the lake at Zell and then we started riding round it until we reached the town itself where we took a short detour up a road to find a café for some breakfast cake.
I chose a banana cake which is extremely unusual for me as I normally don’t like banana flavouring but it looked good and tasted good too.
Klaus had this Käse Sahne Torte and the way they cut it the Mandarin looked like a heart!
After the cake it was time to cycle round the lake. Klaus had also done this last week but some of the cycle route had been closed off due to roadworks, but fortunately this time the area at the very south of the lake was open. We saw another recumbent cyclist and were also overtaken at great speed by a cargo bike. It is lovely to see so many cyclists of all shapes and sizes and ages on their bikes, although 90% of the bikes are mountain bikes and probably 90% of those have motors, even for the kids (although fair enough if they live halfway up a mountain!)
We continued on, cycling through some roadworks where we had to push the trikes, but generally finding the section on the road was fine – this was of course because of the roadworks, that cars could not get through and so were having to go the other way around the lake. This meant much less traffic for us so was a big improvement from when I last cycled this about 15 years ago.
We stopped at a bench to look at the lake.
After watching one of the local anglers catch a fish, we continued on, returning to the north side of the lake and stopping again so that we could dip our feet in the cold water.
After 10 minutes or so we headed back north towards Saalfelden. This was retracing the exact route we had taken to get here, but the rolling hills are different from this angle so it felt like quite a different ride to me.
On a fast downhill my trike started making a very weird noise from the rear wheel. It sounded like something was binding to it so I fiddled with the rear parking brake and that seem to fix it, but the problem kept happening every time I was going at speed. In the end I discovered the problem was actually with the cable routing for my gear cable for the Alfine 11. The last time I had refitted the rear wheel I hadn’t noticed the cable was routed the wrong side of the mudguard stay and so would rub on the wheel when I reached a higher gear, which was of course when going fast. I managed to adjust this by the side of the road, but ended up with very oily fingers as a result. The rubbing against the wheel had worn away a small amount of the cable outer and so I put some insulating tape around it once back at the flat.
We got home for a well-deserved shower after 35 km and had apparently burned off the calories from the cake (supposedly 534 calories). As Klaus rides without a motor he burned rather more calories, his Garmin suggesting 784 calories, which meant he could probably have had another slice of cake!
We had ridden south a couple of times, north wasn‘t very inviting (Lofer, but we would have to ride on the main road most of the way) but we decided to have a short ride to the west, to Leogang, to widen our cycling radius a bit.
Klaus planned a route for us. Saalfelden lies on the Tauernradweg and it looked as though this Radweg would take us to Leogang on quiet roads or separate cycle paths. So we gave it a go.
As you can see from the photo below, we had some very nice quiet paths. This photo was taken just a couple of minutes after leaving the flat – we were very quickly our into the great outdoors.
As we headed towards Leogang we saw a ski jump site that must belong to Saalfelden.
The route to Leogang was very nice – quiet roads, a few minor ups and downs but all very relaxing. The bakery I had chosen for us to patronise was unfortunately closed for eat-in so we cycled a couple of hundred metres further and found a bakery attached to a supermarket where we could sit and drink and eat.
Klaus had a blueberry slice.
And I was randomly tempted by a football-themed pastry thingie.
We had only cycled 8.5km which didn‘t seem like very much so we decided to continue along the well-marked cycle route and see what we found.
What we found was a really nicely-done cycle route along the valley which kept us off the main road at all times. There was lots of separate infrastructure built for this cycle ride too, which was impressive.
The route was definitely climbing. Of course I am lazy and cheating and have a motor but Klaus was keeping a good pace up the inclines. Eventually, as it was past 5pm (we had set off very late) I suggested we turn round, which we did at this sign.
We didn‘t see any snakes though!
We now had a wonderful, fast, swooping downhill for many kilometres. I stopped to photograph this wooden carving of a unicycle (looks like someone had broken the handlebars off though). Not entirely sure what it was doing here, unless it was art.
We zoomed home, following the same outward route as it was the only really suitable choice. We went past a village called Sinning, I wonder what they do there!
Saalfelden the town has the official name “Saalfelden am Steinernen Meer“, which means Saalfelden on the stony sea. This is not referring to the lake that we walked round (Ritzensee) which is relatively recently man-made, but in fact refers to the mountains between here and Berchtesgaden. They haven‘t got lots of really high peaks but are more like waves of grey peaks, and on the cycle ride home in the afternoon light I could really see how it had got the name – it reminds me of paintings of heavy seas and grey waves.
We got home having really enjoyed the ride. And in fact over our evening meal Klaus looked and saw that we could have continued on another twenty five or so kilometres and we would be in St Johann in Tirol. That sounded like a good option to me, so we planned to do that the next day.
To St Johann in Tirol – or Fieberbrunnen
As mentioned above, our trip to Leogang had shown us a lovely cycle route and we decided to follow it further the next day. The distance would be about 80km which is a fair way on trikes, especially on such a hot day, but we thought we would give it a go.
We set off fairly early, about 9:30am, and enjoyed the cooler earlier morning temperatures, plus there were some clouds to ward off the strongest sun.
We were back on the great route of yesterday but it was busier – with livestock and with other cyclists. There were dozens of mountain bikers out.
There were lots of random sculptures and other things to look at on the way. You can see below a sheep shape made of various different silhouettes, with the clearly-painted bike route signs on the road. This made it really easy to follow the route.
We noticed further examples of good infrastructure for this cycle route.
And had lovely views all the time.
Klaus had checked the highest point we would reach on our ride and when we got there there was a bench to sit and admire the view from almost 1000 metres.
We had prepared sandwiches for the way – well, a Keto roll with some butter, ham and cheese. We had this as brunch at 11:30am.
The route did a few ups and downs at this point, so we actually ended up slightly higher in Hochfilzen where there was a large cement works. But after this point it was downhill, and a wonderful one at that! With some long, swooping sections where we didn‘t pedal for ten minutes or so. Great fun!
However, what goes down must go back up again on the way back. We were in Fieberbrunnen with 10km to go to St Johann and Klaus commented that we would have to turn round and ride back again, and maybe we should turn sooner. This was a good point as we knew how long some of the climbs were, and how steep some of the other sections would be, and we didn‘t want to overdo it. We decided to stop for cake in Fieberbrunnen and think about it.
Which was a good decision as the cake was tasty!
It was a chance to refill our water bottles as well as our stomachs. And we decided that it wasn‘t worth continuing to St Johann, we were already in Tirol, we would turn round and go back again.
And so we did!
We climbed up the long, scenic route to Trixlegg (great name!)
I found this climb very relaxing as I have definitely got more used to my motor and I know how to get the best usage from it. It needs a fairly low RPM to work effectively so if my cadence is too high then it doesn‘t provide much help. Weirdly, if I feel like I need more motor help then I have to change UP a gear. So it is better for me to ride with a slower cadence and then I can have all the assistance from the motor that I want – today that meant level 3 of 9. My cadence averages around 55-60 on the trike, whereas in my velomobile it is now around 75-80, and this is all because of how the motors work.
We had a short section on the pavement beside the main road as we headed into Hochfilzen, past the cement works again. This time we stopped at what had ended up as the highest point, where there is a boggy lake.
After this we had a bit of undulating riding again, through the fields of cows (and mosquitoes!), before the start of the downhill.
As we knew most of this downhill route from yesterday we were able to whizz down at a great speed – it‘s such fun on the trikes, leaning in to the curves. The cattle grids are less fun though! However, I concluded my rim tape woes were over as I didn’t get another puncture.
We were passing the ski station in Leogang when we did a bit of a race with some mountain bikers. We got ahead of them, zoomed off into the distance and then Klaus said to me “my gears aren‘t working!“ This was his gears at the rear, nothing happened when he moved the bar-end shifter.
I got a bit closer and could see the broken end of the gear cable so told him the gear cable had snapped. This does happen sometimes.
Fortunately he could still ride, just in the highest gear at the back. So with his three gears at the front he was back to the olden days of a 3-speed bike. What a relief that his happened after we had completed all the uphill bits! He was able to ride the 10km back to Saalfelden without any major issues except for the short 20% ramp at the very end, where he had to push the trike. We are glad that we turned round at Fieberbrunn or this might have happened in the middle of nowhere on some uphills. He would have had a long wait for me to get back and bring the car!
Klaus‘s velomobile Emily is also off the road at the moment due to broken gears (this time the gear hanger which is welded to the axle) so he‘s not having much luck with bikes at the moment. Malcolm the trike is still rideable, as long as you don‘t mind only having 3 gears, but this was clearly our last ride in hilly Saalfelden. With only two more days of our holiday to go that was OK. We planned to visit Salzburg by car the next day anyway.
We really enjoyed this ride again. For me, these kind of hills are now easy with the motor. For Klaus it was much harder work of course, even when he had all 21 gears, and he burned 1600 calories whereas I only managed 712.
Walking in Austria
Evening walk round Ritzensee
At home we have got into the habit of going for a walk each evening after our meal. We both try to walk 10,000 steps per day and a nice 3 km evening walk normally is sufficient.
We decided to eat at home on the second day and so had plenty of spare time after our meal to go for a walk. I suggested we walk round the lake at the south side of Saalfelden and Klaus knew of this as he had walked there with his daughter a couple of years ago.
It was an absolutely beautiful evening with excellent light as we set off.
We arrived at the lake and there were just a few people there walking round or sitting on benches enjoying the silence.
It turns out that walking round the lake involves walking up really quite high to get past a section of it so we found ourselves climbing again, going at a reasonable pace to outpace the mosquitoes.
Here is the Strava info for the walk, including the elevation profile!
This was a very enjoyable walk around the Ritzensee but we had worked up a bit of an appetite so we stopped for an ice cream.
Walk to Einsiedelei
When I was previously in Saalfelden I had regularly done the walk to Einsiedelei. This is a Hermitage which still has a hermit, and is halfway up a hill.
I found the following information with a quirky translation!
The hermitage at the Palfen nearby to Saalfelden.
In 1558, the hermitage at the Palfen in Saalfelden was first mentioned in a document. Since then, in a small cave, above the castle Lichtenberg St. George (patron and advocate for the cattle and growth) was honoured. Without electricity and running water the hermits lived in the Klause at the Palfen.
In 1664, Thomas Pichler, a farmer’s son from Embach, was granted permission to settle as a hermit above the castle Lichtenberg. He built the cave in which the portrait of St. George was honoured, to a chapel.
Below the cave, the hermitage was built on the rocks. For his personal edification, a small chapel is also set up in it. The Klausner got especially during the night the fire service. As soon as they noticed a fire, they rang the bell. As compensation, they were allowed to collect donations with the permission of the authorities in the municipalities of Saalfelden, Maria Alm, Leogang, Weißbach, St. Martin and Lofer.
Although the hermitism at the beginning of the 19th century was banned, the tradition ripped – in contrast to most other hermitages – in Saalfelden not. So even today, after the departure of a hermit, there are always enough applicants. They are praised by the mayor and installed by the Saalfeld pastor. Neither church nor church receive a salary. The hermit must be able to earn a living himself. This also applies to the “roof over the head”, because in the Klause the hermit lives only between the end of April and the end of October.
Even today, the hermit is in the hermitage throughout the summer months. The hermitage of St. George is today the only inhabited hermitage in Europe.
In the photo below you can see a white building, that is not the Hermitage but is Schloss Lichtenburg, a private castle. The Hermitage is built into the lighter coloured rock above and to the left. It’s a walk of just over an hour and you get some lovely views.
As it had been almost 15 years since I last did this walk I looked on the Internet for the route. Previously I had had a map with me but I didn’t see any maps in the apartment so just took a screenshot on my phone that’s the way we should walk. The route to the parking place for the walk was easy and just 10 minutes from our flat by foot (our flat is just above the name ‘Saalfelden’ on the map below).
So we walked up to the car park in Obsmarkt and at the start of the walk was this rather lovely idea – returnable walking poles!
So we each took one and started on the walk.
We were walking along the road and then came to a point where we weren’t really sure exactly where we should go. Looking at the phone it wasn’t entirely clear but we decided to head off on a track and leave the road because we had reached a sign for the castle which said no entry to walkers. However it soon became clear that we had gone the wrong way right at the beginning of the walk and were actually heading north east of our intended location, towards a cave. However we could see there was an option to loop back round to our destination Einsiedelei so we decided to carry one, despite the plethora of contour lines on the map!
We soon arrived at the Kühloch, a cave where we could sit and rest a bit.
We both really appreciated the walking poles as the track was quite steep in places with loose stones and lots of tree roots.
The weather was fantastic and we had some wonderful views as we edged our way around this hill. Below you can see the Großglockner mountain with its glacier and Saalfelden in the foreground.
It was a hot day and our legs are untrained for walking up hills, living as we do in the Niederrhein region which is flat as a pancake, but we were going at a sensible speed and stopping regularly for photos.
We reached the point where we needed to turn off to go to Einsiedelei and this would involve a lot of downhill. It turned out to be surprisingly steep as well, often with difficult tree roots. As we got closer to the Hermitage there were some metal cables fixed to the wall to hang on to.
We had wonderful views which made all the effort worthwhile!
And then we saw our destination in the distance, built into the rock.
Here is the little Hermitage. We didn’t go in and I don’t know if the hermit was there but he does still live there.
The walk back down was much easier as we were now on the correct path. We passed the point where our route down from Kühloch/Steinalm joined and noticed a sign that said this route is only for those with Alpine experience. I wouldn’t exactly say Klaus and I have Alpine experience but we survived!
And below is the Strava track of our route on the mountain. It was great fun but we definitely plan to walk the correct route whilst on this holiday.
And here was our complete walk.
And the elevation profile.
With all this effort we had definitely earned a piece of cake so I walked to the supermarket and picked up a couple of slices for us. This was mine, a very nice pudding buttercream flaky pastry thing.
Second attempt at Einsiedelei
One of the things I wanted to do on my birthday was go for a walk to Einsiedelei and try and actually do the correct route this time.
As I had been running in the morning it was early afternoon when we set out on what was a very hot day indeed. We used suncream and had some hats but were really sweaty by the time we had walked to the base of the climb.
Right at the beginning of the walk is a little stream so Klaus dipped his baseball cap in the water to try to cool his head before we started climbing up.
This time we took the correct route and were soon at the Hermitage, enjoying the views again although it was a bit more hazy than last time.
The hermit was actually there and talking to some other walkers. I wonder where he gets his water supplies from, and what he does for the toilet! if he is allowed water from the castle just down the hill then I guess it’s not such a job to carry it up.
Here we are at the top having a bit of a rest as it was really warm.
For the route down we headed north towards Bachwinkel which is the official route. That then doubles back at the bottom of the hill in cooler pine forest which was nice on such a hot day.
Rather than going straight back to our flat afterwards we diverted to the nice café and I had a piece of birthday cake.
Klaus went for a strawberry slice.
So here was our complete route. I think we deserved the cake!
A 5km evening stroll
One day when I was out running I found an interesting new route that went across fields rather than on roads and I suggested Klaus walked it with me one evening.
As it was a mega hot day we didn’t set off until nine in the evening, which meant although still warm it seemed very peaceful and we didn’t see many other people. The insects were out though.
You can see the route below, which is a screenshot from Klaus’s Strava as my watch didn’t record the route properly due to user error!
The route took us through a field of cows but we didn’t see any, but we could hear their cowbells chiming. I think they were actually sheltering in the trees from the heat. Klaus took this lovely photo of a mystery shed in the middle of the field.
On the way back from this walk I awarded myself an ice cream but Klaus had more self-control!
A long walk after dinner
When out running on my 10k route I found an alternative way to Ramseiden through the forest on the edge of the hill. It was quite a long walk/hike at 7km. I suggested Klaus might like to give it a go sometime.
So after our cycle ride to Zell, for our evening walk I suggested we tried this route. Klaus wasn’t paying close attention and said yes, not really realising how long the walk was. We had just had a fairly large evening meal and he likes to digest without too much activity normally.
We started with the climb to the base of Einsiedelei. Klaus wasn’t feeling great but ploughed on at great speed so he actually left me behind.
This is a lovely route through the forest with lots of little streams, some with wooden bridges across.
As you can see from the photo, it was a good path although with tree roots in places and some fairly sheer drops beside the path at times.
Klaus was not feeling good but kept on. He hadn’t realised we would do so much climbing at the beginning, nor that the route was so long; if so, he would have suggested we turn back.
However, we made it to Ramseiden and from there the 2km back home went fairly quickly as the light faded and the street lights turned on. Although it was June 21 and the longest day it feels like it gets darker earlier in Saalfelden. Perhaps the high mountains block the sun.
Here was our route and statistics.
Running in Austria
Next month is a year since I started running. I would never previously have imagined I could get into this as I never had any interest previously in running, and that was when I was younger! However, partly encouraged by my sister who did the couch to 5K program I also started it last July and I think I can now call myself a runner. I brought my running shoes and my Aftershokz headphones with me and took the opportunity to run in some new landscape.
When I go out running I don’t normally take my phone, I just have my Apple Watch and headphones. However here in Saalfelden I don’t necessarily know the best routes and was a bit worried that I might go the wrong way on my second run so I preplanned a route and took my phone with me. That meant I could also take a couple of photos.
Here is the Strava profile of the run I did with my phone.
As you can see, it’s a bit longer than my normal runs which are generally 4 km and also a bit slower but I did stop for photos, and of course had to do a small amount of climbing – 50 metres is not something that you see in the Niederrhein in 5.5km!
And here are some of my other runs:
And on the morning of my birthday:
I have really appreciated the different locations here to run, the uphills and down hills and also the chance to run in woodland and on stony paths.
One minor issue is that I run usually without my phone which means I don’t have a map. However, I bought a new app for my iPhone (WorkOutDoors) which downloads maps onto the Apple Watch and you can also plan a route. This has worked really well for me so I can plan my route in advance and just follow the purple line.
I had seen that there was a running route between Saalfelden Obsmarkt and Ramseiden that I haven’t yet tried and so I decided one morning to give that a go. The total route would be 7.2 km but I thought that would be okay.
The new watch app worked brilliantly and I run up the hill towards the start of the route to Einsiedelei. I passed the colourful Serbian church which had its service outside with the priest in a large white tent and the congregation all on the grass in front of the church.
The route then went the opposite way around a mountain and it was initially quite steep, running on tree roots and a basic track of soil, with several little wooden bridges covering small streams.
Although I certainly don’t consider myself anything like a mountain goat I seem to run well in this environment and I really enjoyed it. My running shoes (Hoka One One Clifton) are also excellent, I haven’t slipped once.
I was running through a forest which was quite cool. I saw several people walking the other way, many people in their 60s and 70s which is impressive as the minimum round walk would be 5 km.
Eventually the route took me across a field and I started to descend into the valley and was approaching Ramseiden. From there it was a relatively short way back to the apartment but I realised I would run for at least 7.5 km and as I was still feeling good I thought I might extend it a bit.
You can see from the track below that I did a couple of little circuits on the bottom left side as I realised I just needed 2 km to do my first ever 10 K.
And I managed it! I felt quite good and could have kept going a bit longer but I had been out of the house for nearly 2 hours and I thought Klaus might wonder where I was.
Below is the elevation profile of my run with heart rate.
What is also interesting has been watching my V02 max levels increase over the last seven months since I started eating Keto and doing more exercise. V02 max is an indicator of cardio fitness, measuring the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume during exercise. A higher V02 max indicates a higher level of cardio fitness and endurance.
When I started at the end of October my VO2 max was 23.3, which was in the ‘below average’ category. As you can see, it has steadily been increasing.
But what you can also see from this chart is that magically in June my values became much better in terms of averages, although they only marginally increased. This is because the age ranges for V02 max are 10 years, and I moved up from the 40-49 bracket into the 50-59.
It’s very clear in the monthly reading below, when on the day before my birthday I suddenly became very close to the top of the above average band!
I have to say, I am feeling very fit now. This is a mixture of walking, running and cycling, and of course eating a much better diet (except for the cakes). I hope to continue my fitness over the next years and I certainly feel the benefits.
I did a couple more runs whilst in Austria. The day after Klaus and I did the long evening walk I had very heavy legs and so cut my ride short.
Two days later I decided to run a walk that Klaus and I had done and really enjoyed that.
What I have found is that I like running on trails/tracks rather than tarmac and I don’t mind uphills up to 10%, although I find downhill running more tricky. I don’t get much chance for hills here in the Niederrhein but it is good to know I can cope with them and if I am on holiday in a similar area in the future I will take my running shoes!
When Klaus stayed with his daughter in Saalfelden a couple of years ago they took the driving route over the Großglockner pass. He suggested that this was something we could also do, and should make the most of the good weather.
So we went off in the car to the foot of the mountain. There you have to pay an extra total of 37.50 Euros for the car. It is a very impressive route up as you end up very high, above the tree line and in the snow line even in summer.
It’s a wiggly road on the way up with lots of hairpins but is wide enough for two cars.
There is a small extra section of road which is cobbles rather than tarmac which takes you to the highest point by car which is the Edelweissspitze. We went up there of course!
There is a building at the highest point of the road with a viewing platform on top and you can see the actual mountain quite close.
The views from the top are spectacular.
I am not a very good passenger in a car on hairpin bends so was relieved to be out and walking about once we got to the top.
We continued on further over the mountain and reached a roundabout where one route had not been possible when Klaus was last here. So we went to investigate where it went.
There was an enormous multistorey car park at the end with space for thousands of cars, although there weren’t that many cars here – mostly motorcyclists. We got out and had a look, you could walk down to a glacial lake but it seemed like a very long way and my feet were tired. I think there was also a lift or funicular or something to get back.
There were photos from 30 years ago comparing the amount of glacier to what was now there. It’s shocking how much has gone, and it made me a bit gloomy thinking of all the climate change affects and what a difference they are making to this landscape. In the photo below most of the grey rock to the right was covered in glacier 30 years ago.
Of course the visitor centre had a restaurant and café so we decided to fuel up with some Austrian cake.
Then it was time to drive back. We would retrace our route as there isn’t really any other suitable way back from this point, although I wasn’t looking forward to the hairpins again. On this journey back Klaus took it more slowly and gently so I had a bit less of a white knuckle ride.
There is very impressive Austrian engineering on a lot of these routes and there were two tunnels on this road, one of which was very long and was the border between two counties in Austria, Salzburger Land and Kärnten (Carinthia).
There were fewer cars for our journey back as it was now four in the afternoon but we did see two disguised Opel cars and one disguised Mercedes. I understand when cars are being developed they regularly drive them along this route to test them in these conditions.
All in all it was a very enjoyable trip out and was the highest I have ever stood on the ground (2,500 metres or 8,200 feet). I have been to the Dead Sea so I have also been 428 metres (1,400 feet) below sea level, so that is nearly 3000 metres difference.
A trip to Salzburg
One of our few bits of forward planning for this holiday was to have a day in Salzburg. I had visited several times years and years ago (I think last time was probably 15 years ago) but couldn’t remember much about it except for the Festung/fortress high up above the town. Klaus had visited a couple of years ago with his daughter when they stayed in Saalfelden.
We drove there, which took about an hour and a quarter, and found a parking space about a ten minute walk from the centre. We stopped and had lunch at an Italian before wandering into the main area of Salzburg.
Of course we wanted to walk up the road to the Festung.
We loved this road sign with not-so-up-to-date cars and motorbikes…
We knew that it is very expensive to tour the fortress so we would basically just walk up and then down again, but it was worth it for the views from the top.
Once we had got down to ground level again we did some wandering around the shops – the first browsing we have done for about a year because of Corona!
We saw some amusing window displays.
We had built up a bit of an appetite with our walking around so it was time for some cake.
We then decided to walk down to the river and along it.
There were some heavy clouds building so we crossed on the pedestrian bridge with the love locks.
And then it was a very brisk walk back to the car – we felt the first raindrops about 100 metres from the car park! We drove home in driving rain and I regretted leaving the washing drying on the balcony in our apartment but when we got back to Saalfelden there had not been any rain there.
I tracked our walking through Salzburg and you can definitely see we were wandering around aimlessly!
In total this was 6.39km.
We enjoyed our visit and were impressed by the number of cyclists in Salzburg. Interestingly, although in Saalfelden about 95% of the bikes are E-bikes, whilst we were sitting on a bench at the river watching the bikes go by I was counting and got to 36 normal bikes and 6 e-bikes, so for flat Salzburg, that is a University town, the motor is not so important!
Cakes and Beer in Austria
As Austria is well known for its cakes and other delights I thought I would include these separately in my blog to the normal cake roll at the end.
Returning to Germany
So after almost two full weeks in Austria it was time to go home. As it is an 800km journey and we would have to clean the flat before we left, plus wash the bedding and towels/teatowels etc, we decided to stop overnight on the way so we didn’t have such a rush to leave in the morning. Klaus has friends in Geislingen (near Stuttgart) and we arranged to see them that evening and booked a hotel locally.
So our last morning was theoretically just doing the washing, cleaning etc but we decided to do a short walk to recycle the wine bottles that Klaus had emptied during our holiday. I checked on the Saalfelden.at website and they showed a glass recycling place in the car park of the Spar and another near the supermarket Billa.
So off we went, bottles in a bag, to the Spar. But could find no recycling containers.
Never mind, we can walk to the Billa along the river. But once there we also failed to find any recycling bins. So we walked back to the flat and chucked them in the bin – not without trying to be green!
We finished all the cleaning, sent Lindsay the flat owner a video of the place, and we hope very much she can come later this year to snowboard as usual. We loaded all our luggage into the car and Klaus’s trike on top:
We left Saalfelden at 13:00 and were in Geislingen by 17:30. We had chosen the hotel Hohe Schule in Bad Überkingen and went past this hotel on the way through the village – not the best name for English-speaking guests!
We hadn’t kept 100% up to date with the hotel rules in Germany and didn’t realise that we needed a negative test to stay, so we went out to one of the local testing centres and got our tests done – both negative. We then enjoyed the evening with Klaus’s friends and some pizza, before heading back to the hotel. I was slightly peckish for some dessert so had a strudel.
Our drive home the next day seemed long, partly as the seats in Klaus’s Skoda Octavia are definitely not as good as those he had in his Insignia beforehand. But we were back by 16:30, reunited with Poppy and Gudula and Frank and unpacked the car. We took the roof rails off as one piece so the trike can be easily transported again.
Don’t worry, you are nearly at the end of this blog! Not too much more to wade through.
My usual cycling and running information follows:
Before our Austria holiday, and to get in the mood for cakes, Klaus and I did a trip in the Smart Cabrio to have some nice cake at Bauerncafé Winthuis. Their cakes never disappoint!
The following weekend we enjoyed a visit from Rashmi who I used to work with. She left the company a few months ago and is getting on really well in her new position. She had some cuddles with Poppy.
And then Klaus set off on his bike to Café zum Schafstall in Twisteden and we followed in the car half a hour later. We enjoyed their home-made cakes!
Klaus and I also went out for a cycle ride with his daughter. She rode my trike and I was in the velomobile. It’s manageable to ride at trike pace in a Milan.
I had another big milestone this month, just before my Austria holiday – my last day at work! After five years at the company it was a real relief to be able to leave and to start looking for something new. I will really miss my colleagues though, who have always been great (I won’t miss the management at all!!!!)
I brought a selection of pastries for us on the last day, and was also given some gifts by my colleagues.
Two of us were leaving on that day so it will be quite a big change for them. I was a bit concerned that the manager who bullied me might happen by, but the others said if he appeared they would send him away, hurrah. He didn’t come to our offices though, although he was in the building, so that was a relief. I walked through the production area and the warehouses to say goodbye to the staff there – we have loads of really good workers who do their best for low pay and with chaotic management. They are good people and I will miss them.
And as for future work? My last day at work was 30 June but I have already had one interview (I don’t think I got that job, although I wouldn’t take it if it were offered to me as I don’t think it is suitable) and an employment agency is negotiating for an interview with a company that sounds good. We will see, but I am registered with the Agentur für Arbeit to look for jobs and I have already made around 20 applications. I need to make sure I find something that is interesting and where I can make a difference, and I really want to get away from chaos and bad management. We shall see what happens!
I finish this month’s blog with a picture of some Poppies and the good news that Poppy the dog’s recovery from her torn cruciate ligament is going really well. She is almost back to normal and in a couple of weeks we can consider her recovery complete. We are grateful it has gone so well.