Innsbruck — Bolzano - 2022 Spring Forward While We Can - CycleBlaze

March 2, 2022 to March 3, 2022

Innsbruck — Bolzano

Innsbruck in the early hours is way too cold for bike riding. Instead we opt to get colder by taking a series of cable cars up to 2000 meters where there is plenty of snow. The first stretch takes you up perhaps 800 feet to a plateau above the city where there is an extensive suburb (Hungerburg). You ride a train on rails that has a rigid frame in which compartments are suspended, so that as the frame of the train-car angles up the steep slope, the individual compartments hang level. 

The grey frame follows the contour of the track — sometimes at extreme angles — while the yellow boxes swing free and stay level, suspended by the overhead pivots. You don‘t notice this when the train is on a level grade at the station. That‘s how they trick you….
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The second run takes you up to Seegrube at about 2000 meters in a genuine gondola hanging from a wire. We are surrounded by people carrying their skis and poles — though luckily there are fewer than the 95 people that the gondola is rated to carry. The views are stunning and the skiers fairly blase about the sheer drops they are about to voluntary go down.  If we had had more time we could have taken the final cable-car up to the peak at Hafelekar, another few hundred feet above — instead, we took some photos pointed up that way. 

The tracks suggest others have been here before us.
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Distant chair lift, people go off the other side. Really.
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Apparently we needed a dose of icicles this season.
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Then it is off to the train that takes us to Bolzano. We had forgotten about the need to fill out an electronic person locator form (covid) when crossing the border into Italy. The first hour of the ride we missed the scenery as we frantically tried to complete it on both phones while going in and out of tunnels and cell service. We arrived at the Brenner Pass (Italian border) just as the second form was completed. The train sat for a bit and then rolled on. After all that, we wanted to show off our brand-new pdfs - no luck.  Not only were there no brusque border guards to check our passports and locator forms, there were also no train guards to check our tickets or vaccination passes.  The trains here run on trust, backed up by the threat of significant fines.

When we got to Bolzano it was apparent that something big was happening. As we rode along the Adige we saw lots of families out on a Tuesday and then many were in costumes. Ah, it is Fasching — one of the pre-Easter celebrations, a.k.a. Mardi Gras, a.k.a. Carnivale. Many kids and a few adults were dressed up in the normal range of Halloween costumes — princesses, chefs, sharks, clowns, pirates, superheroes, etc. — and much confetti was being thrown everywhere.  The carnival-like feel combined with the sunny weather and the lack of masks outdoors was euphoric. 

The Bolzano piazza at 4:30 pm was so full we had to sit inside. Parents enjoying drinks and kids all over.
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(Side note from Ken — Zelda took that photo from the inside of the Cafe Walther, and you are seeing it without any post-editing. I am amazed at how beautiful the light is, and how painterly the result is. Note also the name of the hotel on the lilac facade: Stadt Hotel Città. This can be parsed as German (Stadt Hotel) or as Italian (Hotel Città), both meaning „City Hotel“. Bilingual Canadian signs often use the same trick of sandwiching a common word between and English and  French one.)

A tiger and friend walking by.
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Second day in Bolzano — March 3 2022

Great breakfast at our Industrial Zone hotel. They get it that there is nothing close and have a good buffet that is both German and Italian. The only drawback is a single coffee machine which has a steady line. The plus side is that you can return for as many self-serve refills as you like.

We set off at 11:15 am — late for us but we had to wait out the chill. In no time we were headed down the Adige River on a dedicated bike trail (part of EV7) which was the same one we came up last July. The first part of the ride, until 1:30 pm, gave us the sense of expansiveness and strength. We looked up, ahead, and all around trying to understand the settlements on cliffsides and the history. Lots of active logging alongside the trail as part of flood and fire control. 

Quick stop for tire pressure check. Picnic tables every kilometer in this part.
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Never tire of the valleys and mountains views.
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For the upper half of the ride (nearer to Bolzano) all signs were in German and Italian. This stopped around Forneo when it became all Italian.
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More of the strong similarity to the Columbia River gorge (think of the Dalles/Klickitat river section).
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Cliffside ruins.
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As we ride we can see a lower set of ruins in the saddle.
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Panorama view captures some of the expanse.
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Every patch along the route, between river, road, and rails (and Radweg) was cultivated or part of flood control.
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At 1:30 pm this ground to a halt when we found that the bike path and the agricultural access path were both seriously barricaded. No chance of ignoring and going around. We backtracked to Neumarkt (Egna) and had lunch. The staff offered suggestions for how to go around the blockades and we took their advice — ride across two bridges, turn 3/4 at roundabout, continue on through orchard roads and eventually you can cross again. The restaurant boss at Hotel Rathaus was unsure that we understood so he diagrammed it all with sugar packets, narrated in German.

The shrine of St. Sebastian right before the pathways were blocked. We didn‘t want to end up this way so we backtracked.
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Checking for directions, first time, where we learned that the parallel road was possible but very dangerous. Maybe we turn around and ride back to Bolzano?
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Refreshed by a „veggie“ burger (big hash brown with chives inside a bun), fries and coffee we followed the directions which worked exactly as stated. Nice easy orchard roads, light traffic, and the chance to see lots of pruning and spring arriving. Cherry blossoms, apple buds, and green shoots along with fresh manure. 

We also gained a serious headwind. Suddenly we went from an easy lark of a ride to making every pedal revolution count. We never came to a standstill but did have some gusts shift us sideways. 

We pushed on, one of us reassured that there were frequent train stops in between New Markt and Trento, our destination. It was satisfying to see familiar cliffs and turns in the river from a different direction. The hope that pulled us along was the small chance that a little cafe along the path would be open again (The Bicicafe Faedo). And it was! Even the same chatty kid working there. Sacher torte and coffee gave us energy for the next push. (One of us is a sacher for pretty much any torte, even mediocre ones, but the more discerning of us thought that this was an exceptionally good instance of the kind — light but not dry, the external ganache not at all waxy, and the apricot layer richly caramel-like.) 

Distant peak looks almost like Mt. Hood. The whole area feels like the Columbia Gorge maybe 200 years from now. This is the Pallon peak of Monte Boldone.
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The Bicicafe run by Först, restauranteurs in Adige valley.
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Happy with cake and coffee and riding.
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You know it is spring when you are warmer when you stop riding and need to shed layers.
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We trundled southward fighting an increasing wind. A pace line of Bromptons really works! After 68 km we arrived at Trento finding landmarks to guide us (the narrow tunnel is the right way even though it feels wrong, the faux temple on the hillside is across from train station etc.). 

Sun is disappearing. We better pedal harder.
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Train back to Bolzano where it was completely night time. We opted for a cab — another plus for folding bikes — to get us back to the hotel. Our driver explained that he learned English from a teacher who had a precision throw of chalk if you failed to pay attention. She could get it right between your eyes. His English was excellent.

Today's ride: 80 km (50 miles)
Total: 105 km (65 miles)

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Rachael AndersonI’m impressed you did such a long ride on a chilly, windy day! Glad you found the cafe.
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