July 2010

part 5: Austria - Italy - Greece

5th of July, I wake up to pack my things and Luna who was kind enough to host me at Dornbirn sets off to work. We say goodbye and I start preparing my breakfast in no hurry as I wait for the rain to stop (without being sure that it would stop actually). The view of the surrounding mountains full of fog, clouds and rain was not attractive at all for riding. Finally, just before noon the weather cleared up a little bit so I start to make my way East for Innsbruck.

I leave sweet Dornbirn behind on L48 going East and I'm happy to experience a nice route from the very start with beautiful curves and (not too tight) bends. The scene is similar on L200 right after but rain came up again as I reached Au. Yes, this place with the short af name :) This is the point though were the route became even more interesting with some tunnels on the way providing me short but pleasant dry breaks from rain. Talking about the latter it went even harder later on and didn't allow me to enjoy the route as much as I would like. Fortunately things get better as I am close to Otztal – Bahnof where I leave B171 for L309. This looks like a circle deviation on the map going to Innsbruck but it worth doing so.

It adds some km on your way to Innsbruck and slows you down but it is a very beautiful route with no traffic at all while I was around. Probably due to the rainy weather as well. After lots of tight bends I make it up to Kuhtai which lies at 2020m:

As you can see above it's only me up there, a couple of (as crazy) bikers and a few cows that forced me to slalom under light rain.

Some km later down South East I arrive at Igls, South of Innsbruck were Axel is kind enough to host me. An experienced and well travelled biker working as a tour guide on motorbike adventure trips for decades. As you can imagine this made it dead easy to enjoy our chats having so much in common. Unfortunately the weather was not the best we could have during my stay there as it was raining almost all the time and though we wanted to do some riding around we finally did not. We had time to walk around Igls instead, up to the beautiful local forest and have a drink too:

Back to Axel's place weather allows me to take a proper panoramic of his nice balcony view:

Of course I'd never miss a chance to visit the city of Innsbruck too. "The capital of Alps" is so beautiful and ideally located with all these peaks surrounding that's impossible to regret. One of my most favourite and revisited cities:

Inn river

Hospital Church of the Holy Spirit on the right

This city deserves to be called “Capital of Alps”. Especially the old part of Innsbruck is a magical time machine. You can also find lots of nice restaurants around, many Italian ones as well since the borders with Italy are quite closeThis is another advantage of staying at Innsbruck – it is dead easy to go either to Germany or Italy. You just have to drive for a few km North or South respectively.

During the first night at Igls after a very cool restaurant me and Axel visited a nearby bar. As soon as he introduces me to his friends one of them turns at me "Έλληνας είσαι;" meaning "Are you Greek?". Emotional as it may sound, for the first time in my whole trip I meet someone speaking my mother language. His mother lived in Greece for many years and he has worked in the island of Rhodes for a couple of years as well so he knew the language quite well. A friendly and kind guy insisting in talking Greek to me through the night. The composition of people in that bar was actually quite funny: The vast majority are foreigners from all corners of the world - even the owner is from Sri Lanka. I had a short chat with him and I'm instantly surprised by how knowledgeable he is. He's way more spot on about the Greek crisis than the majority of Greeks.

Next day at Innsbruck I'm more than happy to catch up with my good friends from Australia, Patrick and Belinda Peck. This couple works for a year and travels the next one riding their Super Tenere 750. If you're curious about their adventures have a look here. This time they are going from Austria to Switzerland while I go exactly the opposite direction so we had the chance to meet only for a few hours.

On my last night at Austria Axel and Michaela invite me for dinner at Axel's home. The beautiful view from Axel's balcony drinking red wine and later on trying a tasty local recipe that Michaela cooked was a great ending to my Austrian days:

Next morning I wake up with a weird feeling. For the first time after almost one month my trip had a scheduled end since I've booked my ferry tickets back to mama Hellas. I have to ride up to Venice where I'd catch the ferry to return to Patra and then ride back to Athens. Axel offered to ride with me up to the borders on his bike and so we rode together following some nice side roads in order to make the route as beautiful as possible, though the whole area there is very nice anyway almost wherever you go. The funny thing was that we met an officer on a police bike who probably had the same idea with us rather than chasing the non existing crime up in the mountains. He also greeted us like bikers do when they meet on the road. Few km before Brenner I have to split ways with Axel and after thanking him so much for all I continue South to Italy leaving behind the last good friend I made on my trip.

The area around the borders is nice but SS244 later on is more interesting with lots of tunnels close to Onies and nice bends after the 22nd km. Things are even better on SP37 which leads you higher on the mountain passing through beautiful villages and SP24 right after takes me to Passo Valparola in pure Dolomitian Alpine beauty:

One stop there is not a bad idea at all as well as at Passo Falzarego which lies pretty close a few km later going south.

From there I start descending via SR48, but unfortunately the closer I get to the sea the less scenic the roads become while the traffic is more and more heavy, especially close to the cities where sometimes it's unbearable. In other words, it's clear that the joy of riding is over, same as my trip (almost) is and I just have to transport myself back home. Before Venice I make my way up to Padova for personal reasons (family routes) since last year I missed it due to lack of time though I was pretty close.

The family of my father has routes from this city that go back a few centuries ago. Unfortunately not much time in my hands to see the city cause I have to catch the ferry from Venice and the traffic is too heavy but I manage to ride around for a while. I arrive at the port of Venice later, weather is quite hot so as soon as I enter the ferry I leave my stuff to my terrible value for money cabin and go outside to enjoy some view from the deck.

The view Venice offers is unparalleled. See for yourself:

This superb view helped me forget the bad ferry I was on which brought me to Patra after a day and a half and I rode another couple of hundred km back home super rich in images and experiences from more than 5000 km, 17 (at least) Alpine passes, in 5 countries and 3 little states. Regardless the statistics, there is a whole world about it that is left inside you after such a trip that is hard to describe the impact it can have on you. Sometimes when asked the obvious "how was your trip?" I prefer to describe it as one of my life's short films. A well directed one with perfect casting: people I met on the road in other words - it would never be the same without them. Of course I've been to amazing places that in any case would impress me but the people I met around really made the difference and I want to thank every single one from the bottom of my heart, those who are already included in my stories and those who were “behind the scenes” and helped me or chatted with me but it is just impossible to include them all here, they all have their space at a more substantial place: my memory.

Finally, commenting the title I gave to the whole thing, of course it remained just a joke - the most difficult thing is to humanise humans. It really humanised me though and brought me closer to myself.

See you on the next one!

P.S. : As you may remember I was travelling without GPS or paper maps. The only aid I had was a map application on my notebook. What I was doing every night before a riding day was to prepare the route getting advises for the scenic ones from ViaMichelin site, with the aid of Google maps sometimes and having that map app on my notebook as a back up - no GPS on notebook either so sometimes it was time consuming to first find out where I am on the map at times I was lost in rural areas. To reduce that risk I was making my own "road books". I find these notes funny enough to not share them so... here they are (click to magnify):