I had thought that riding the valleys would be straightforward. How wrong I was! Very quickly the terrain has become monumental in scale, and to describe it as breathtaking would be doing it an injustice. When I rode my first gorge, it was so deep that it was impossible to look at the tops from the riding position. Human beings are reduced to a very insignificant scale.
The sheer mass of the valley sides is impossible to show in a photograph, but to give you some idea of their size, in the following picture there is a large winding-house for the chair lift in the left third, almost invisible to the naked eye.
The Austrians are well practiced at living and working on almost sheer slopes. I watched a tractor driver yesterday on a side slope gathering hay. I hardly dared look it was so precipitous. Local knowledge. The housing can be equally impressive. Bad Gastein is at the junction between two valleys, and consequently holds a commanding position. It must have been a popular resort for some time because many of the hotels and casinos date from the 19th century. I walked up through it because the streets were too steep to ride, and even that had the heart thumping.
The great joy about going up on a bicycle is that invariably there is a down. Having taken the train under a mountain( which you are obliged to do as the road ends) I was confronted with this superb downhill. A fully loaded touring bike can reach some impressive speeds on a road like this, and it concentrates the mind wonderfully.
Having made bad decisions about provisions yesterday, I found myself without food, which will never do. I decided to treat myself to a full meal, and escape my usual bland cuisine. Great decision. I have developed a craving for fat, something I don’t tend to eat much of at home. You may remember the peanut brittle episode in Norway, well this is just an extension of that. I suppose if you are shedding weight the system calls out for a rebalance, as it always did in prehistory. A clever thing the body.
Anyway, this is how I found myself seated at a table in the Landgasthof Bertahof waited on by some very friendly ladies who made the solitary traveller feel most at home.
The appetizer cosisted of several bits and pieces, one of which was Boar fat in a runny state, flavoured with chopped garlic and onion. I have never tasted anything like it. It was delicious. I couldn’t resist the Pork knuckle as a main course which came out sizzling on a stone. It was enormous, with crackling all over it. That satisfied my fat craving. The waitress even tied a bib around my neck to stop the spitting joint spoiling my immaculate dinner jacket. Probably the best meal I have ever eaten. This is all that was left of the fish soup starter.
Tomorrow I will turn a corner and head west towards Lienz, which is a short ride from the Italian border, my final country. Somehow I feel that many adventures await me there.