From BikeTours.com president and founder, Jim Johnson
This video captures much of why I’ve been returning to Austria for more than 50 years: the majestic beauty of its mountains and lakes, the rich culture and history of its towns, and the scents, sights, and sounds of its peaceful countryside. See for yourself in this virtual ride!
As I’m sure you know I believe there’s no better way to experience a place than by bike.
So, that’s what I did with friends in October 2019, showing them some highlights of the Salzburg Lake District and the Tauern Bike Path–where I did my first European bicycle tour in 1994, researching articles as a freelance writer. And where I got hooked on the bike tour experience.
The video opens in the Lake District, overlooking the parish church in St. Wolfgang on Wolfgangsee, a picture-perfect lake with an alpine view on each side. That day, we’d been joined by our partners at Eurofun Touristik, who’d also put together a wonderful picnic.
The next day, we traveled to Hallstatt, a village tucked between lake and mountain. Although much of the village’s charm stems from its 16th-century buildings and alleyways, it’s been a center for the salt trade since prehistoric times.
We continued by car to the start of the Tauern Bike Path in Krimml, site of Europe’s tallest waterfalls–wild with the rains from the previous days. From there, the bike path follows the Salzach River to Salzburg and eventually to Passau, where the river enters the Danube, and the Tauern Bike Path transitions into the Danube.
In 1994, I wrote this introduction for an article in the Los Angeles Times: “The two-year-old Tauernradweg (Tauern bike path) in Austria is a bicyclist’s dream come true. It cuts across some of the world’s most mountainous terrain, yet it’s almost all downhill. It passes through dozens of picturesque towns and villages, yet it stays almost totally clear of the traffic of daily life and commerce–meandering instead through alpine meadows and woodland and along the banks of the Salzach River. And it’s clearly marked, with signs at every turn, for worry-free riding.”
The route hasn’t changed much in 25 years, an asphalt bike path following the river in some places and traversing farmlands in others. For nearly the whole ride to Salzburg, mountains rise on both sides, some snow-capped year-round, all deeply wooded. And, for the record, it’s not “almost all downhill”–perhaps a sign of my enthusiasm. But it’s greatly flat or downhill with few climbs, none substantial.
Just as I’d done in 1994, I ended this Tauern experience with a climb to Salzburg’s historic fortress. And just as I’d written a quarter-century earlier, “I could see the bicycle path along the Salzach disappear gradually into the mountains. Memories of the past four days came in a flood, buffeted by the bells of the city calling the faithful to Mass. Despite the glorious view below, however, the feeling that lingered was somewhat bittersweet; on a bicycle tour, after all, getting here is all the fun.”