I am painfully aware that I haven’t taken you, the reader, all the way to EuroBike yet, let alone back home. The account of this journey is currently incomplete and, therefore, it is time that I overcame my writer’s block and got on with the story. Either that or write it as a ridiculous number of tweets, a 450 tweet thread anyone?
It is an odd thing that throughout lockdown and the pandemic I have dreamt about and longed to travel across Europe again, but I haven’t been able to write about it until now. So on with the story!
After a pleasant break staying with Ulli’s family and some time doing a bit of hill climbing training, it was time to get back on the road. However, rather than start from somewhere east of Innsbruck, we took a train west to see Ulli’s cousin and family in Bludenz, a small town in Austria’s most westerly province, Vorarlberg. Bludenz’s main claim to fame is as home to Fohrenburg brewery and the Alpinale Short Film Festival.
As the film festival wasn’t running at the time, we settled for having dinner in the Biergarten across the road from the brewery. The meal was enjoyed by all, including Bernie’s daughter, who slept through most of it, but then she was only # months old at the time. The following day we took wee Sandy (as none of her family calls her) on her first cycle tour, all the way to the charming town of Feldkirch, with Sandy being towed in a trailer behind her mother, Karin. The interesting thing was that Sandy enjoyed being in the cycle trailer, as she hates being strapped into the back of a car. Clearly, cycling is going to be a big part of her future.
The route from Bludenz to Feldkirch was mostly off-road through the farmland and woods on the (former) flood plain of the river Ill, with the alpine mountains on either side. One of the curious sights along the way was a large number of cranes rising about the trees to the south side of the path. There was no apparent reason for large-scale building development in such a rural area. Finding a gap in the trees, I went up to the perimeter fence to take a closer look. It turned out not to be a building development, but the home of the Liebherr crane fabrication yard. The Mobile Tower Crane was invented by Hans Liebherr (and a team of design engineers) in the late 1940s, when the reconstruction of Germany was underway. The Liebherr company moved to this site sometime in the 1960s and has been there ever since.
On reaching Feldkirch, we stopped for lunch at a rather pleasant restaurant in the Marktplatz. I forget which one, but it was worth it. Following lunch, Karin and Sandy turned back to Bludenz, while Bernie accompanied Ulli and I down the Ill to its confluence with the Rhine, where he too then turned for home.
Having reached the Rhine, a river we had last seen from a train in Germany, turned north to follow it downstream. One of the curiosities of this section of the Alpine Rhine is that the prevailing wind is always southbound. In the days before powered watercraft, this was very convenient. If you want to go upstream, you could simply raise a sail and be blown along, then when you wanted to go downstream, just reef the sail and ride the current. However, for the modern touring cyclists wanting to follow the river downstream, it is a damned nuisance.
Along this section, the Alpine Rhine floodplain is fairly wide, so we mostly cycled through farmland along an off-road path. The Rhine itself is mostly canalised, apart from a short section of the Alter Rhein (Old Rhine) where it swings around Diepoldsau. Part way along the Alter Rhein path, we came across an ice cream trike, which provided a welcome break on a warm day in early September. Beyond Lustenau, the cycle path took us across to the west bank for a few kilometres until we had to recross to turn east for Bregenz. After leaving the river, we followed a main road through Hard; albeit on a separate cycle path, which was the least enjoyable, dare I say, the hardest part of that day’s ride?
After crossing the Bregenzer Ach at possibly its least dramatic and scenic part, we were able to take an off-road path along the shore of Bodensee (or Lake Constance if you will) to the famous Seebühne opera stage, home to the Bregenzer Festspiele. In 2019, the stage was set for Verdi’s Rigoletto (see photo above). After stopping briefly for photos, we cycled on to Lochau, where we would be staying in a flat while we visited the EuroBike trade fair. At that time, we didn’t know that 2019 was to be the last year that EuroBike would be held in Friedrichshafen.
Maybe this is a point to take a break and continue in another post?