It’s been really hot and humid here for the last week or so. No afternoon thunderstorms to clear the air, so we’ve been stuck with warm sticky evenings too. I’ve not had a lot to do but pedal around the beautiful Tirolean countryside. Unfortunately, my new shiny camera decided to malfunction last week, thus I’m back to some grainy mobile phone photos. Luckily I got a couple good shots before it’s demise.
This is looking South-west, across Innsbruck towards the Stubai Mountains and the Brenner pass. The road snakes along the northern edge of the valley. Considering I live on the south of the city, I’ve almost always been riding south as well. Although only a mile or so across, the town centre is a huge barrier for me to explore this side of the mountains, simply because I’d rather pedal the 2.5 minutes from my door to the singletrack, rather than negotiate 10 minutes or so of traffic. It’s silly, considering I’ve been told by many people of the treasures nestled into the side of these hills.
Treasures like this for example. On the left is the church in Gnadenwald. Gnadenwald is a collection of small villages dotted around a plateau just above the valley floor. You climb through the trees without realising you’re gaining much height, but once you’re up there, the road rolls through big farms, lots of horse pastures, and all in the shadow of some massive mountains. On the right is the small village of Absam in the shadow of the Karwendal Mountains. A small military base fills the shoulder between forest and fields.
A thousand plus years of habitation has endowed the Inn valley with many roads – there’s always multiple routes between each village. This plays into my advantage in my never ending quest to avoid out and back routes. With the Strawberry harvest in full swing, I took some turns down farm tracks that for some reason are almost always paved. The reward was another vista across the open valley towards Innsbruck (left). When you’re standing on the shoulders of the surrounding peaks, the valley can feel small and narrow; your elevated height allows you to cup whole towns in the palm of your hand, the mountain ranges are simply the breadth of your arms. When you’re standing down in the bottom, the expansive fields in front of you, and the increasing slopes of the hills pulling out from either side, this feels like the only place in the world. It’s a big valley, if you’ve got enough imagination.
With big adventure comes big appetite. I’m going to miss the readily available local meat and cheese selection. In fact, I think it’s one of the things I’ll miss most about here. Every day in Innsbruck there are at least two markets where you can pick up farm made delicacies such as salami, strong mountain cheese, and really good bread. Although not cheap by Austrian standards (the same stuff would be a fraction of the price away from the city), it’s very affordable by UK and US prices. I’ve been indulging! This platter is called a ‘Jausenbrettl’ or simply ‘snack board’ and it’s pretty similar in style to a hearty English Ploughman’s Lunch. I haven’t found the American equivelent yet, but I’m sure it’s deep fried! Always, though, no matter where I am in the world, my day is improved by a good strong cuppa. Miles tea; blending in the Westcountry. If you’re not from the UK, you probably don’t understand!
With all this talk of amazing meat and cheese, I decided to pay a visit to the cows themselves. These ones were enjoying the buttercup filled meadows next to the Birgitzer Alm, about 1000m above Innsbruck. In winter this place sits on the side of the ski slope; it’s just around the corner from Axamer Lizum, meaning that it was a lot quieter than in the peak months. The Singletrack descent made the ride to the top worth it!
I’m hoping my camera gets warrantied in the next week, so normal service can resume!