Many years ago as a young girl I used to cycle to my old convent school in Dublin, down the Lower Dodder Road, seemingly always against the wind. Then, in 1984 after months of training, I participated in the historic Maracycle, when I pedalled furiously from Dublin to Belfast and back over a two day period. Since then, I have barely looked at a bike.
However, a few months ago I went with fellow travel blogger Tom Weber, The Palladian Traveler, to Lido di Jesolo, where we borrowed two bicycles from the hotel we were staying in and rode to the lighthouse and back. I thought this was a once off, but – as it turned out – it was merely a taster and confidence-giver, confirming the statement: ‘Just like riding a bicycle.’ You never forget how.
In early September Tom and I were in the Alta Pusteria in South Tyrol, a truly beautiful area of the Italian Dolomites, as guests of Christian Pircher of the Hotel Adler in Villabassa. He was encouraging us to try many of the summer pursuits available there, which are in stark contrast to the normal winter activities, for example settimana bianca (white week), when skiers assemble from all over the world to ski in the popular resorts which dot the region.
“Hire a bicycle in San Candido!” suggested Christian with his customary enthusiasm. “Cycle to Lienz in Austria, leave the bike there and get the train back.” Then he added: “It’s only 45 kilometres, downhill most of the way.”
Swallowing my objections, I remembered my Maracycle days, when a bicycle ride of 200 kilometres was no problem, I was fairly excited and self-confident about the idea, as was Tom. So, having donned our tracksuits and down gilets, we hopped on the train from Villabassa to San Candido to begin our adventure.
Alighting onto the station platform, we immediately spotted Papin Sport with what looked like thousands of bicycles of all shapes and sizes, from City Bikes to Mountain Bikes to Trekking Bikes to accessories such as red and yellow canvas dog carriages on wheels.
The hire of the bicycles was €16.00 each, plus a fee of €5.00 to have them transported back to San Candido. (And you have to show your ID). Our bikes came with little baskets on the back into which we carefully placed our complimentary bottles of water.
My start was definitely a wobbly one; I was fine when pedalling in a straight line and downhill. Turning corners and heading uphill on the way to join the cycling path was slightly challenging for me! Then we were off; whizzing down the gradual gradient and across the Austrian border.
Absolutely immaculate, the cycling path through the beautiful countryside was no problem at all, even for me. It was warm and sunny most of the time, but quite cool in the forests where the sunshine could not penetrate.
Adding to the fun, we overtook – and were regularly overtaken by – many of the little dog carriages, which meant that the trip to Lienz was punctuated by regular sounds of excited woofing and whining noises as we negotiated the cycling trail.
Passing Heinfels Castle we paused for a breather and a drink of water.
We then continued towards Lienz until we spotted a bar, directly on the cycling path, where we stopped for a welcome lunch of bratwurst, chips and ice-cold beer.
Arriving at Lienz, after just a few hours, we headed for the railway station and returned our bikes to Papin Sport, where they were promptly loaded onto a trailer for transporting back to San Candido by road, while we boarded the train to Villabassa.
A 45km cycle sounds like a lot, but honestly there were small children and people of all ages on this trip. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves the great outdoors and it’s the perfect way to see the beautiful countryside of the South Tyrol.