Vienna to Venice🚴
Four of us went on a 2 week, 450 mile bike camping adventure across 3 countries, I recorded it all with a Garmin, a Moleskin, a Hasselblad and Twitter.
Day 1 — Payerbach
62.5 miles, 1687 feet climbing.
15 miles into the first day I was feeling like our goal of 30 was going to be too easy, we were making pretty good time. I called our day 2 couchsurfing host Conny and she said it would be fine to show up that night and setup tents in her yard.
I told the group the new plan was a 45 mile day, hah. Turns out everything ends up being a little longer than Google says. A series of detours and generous food stops pushed the ride past the 60 mile and 12 hour mark.
We ended day 1 in Payerbach, we were delirious and exhausted and it felt like we were rolling into the shire.
Day 2–Langenwang via Semmering Pass
28 miles 2520 feet
Conny made us a kick-ass breakfast entirely with food from the farm she works at. Proud of our day 1 ride, we took our sweet time running some errands in town and didn’t hit the road until 2:30pm.
We started day 2 right at the base of our first climb, Semmering pass. Riding a flat road while pulling weight isn’t more difficult, you just go slower, But climbing while pulling weight is a whole new kind of misery. Although in retrospect, this was before we encountered heat. Three days from now we would have given anything to climb a mountain in a cool Austrian breeze.
After Semmering we camped in the first of many public camping areas, that turned out to be a big backyard in the middle of town that you can pay 6 euro to setup a tent in and take a shower. This kind of cheesy version of “camping” is apparently a pretty popular family activity in Europe, they were always full.
I made a note that tomorrow I should try to take less photos of bikes and more photos of Austria.
Day 3— Lanzmaierhof
44.7 miles 1751 feet
Still 4 days from heat-wave-apocalypse, we were naively thrilled to finally have a sunny day instead of overcast.
We went to 3 cafes looking for something that resembled an American breakfast, the best we managed was a boiled egg to go with our ham and bread.
My free t-mobile international data didn’t have it in it to download the Airbnb app so I chatted Chrissy and she booked us an apartment for the next day in Graz.
Day 4— Graz!
17.7 miles 489 feet
Getting to Graz was really as far as I had planned the trip. I was pretty thrilled just to make it this far, everything after this was winging it.
After a quick ride into Graz we dropped our crap off at the Airbnb and spent most of the rest of the day eating ice cream and walking around a surprisingly kick-ass mall.
We never managed to find any fuel that was compatible with our fancy campstoves, cold dinners all the way.
Day 5— Maribor, Slovenia!
49.5 miles 1049 feet
The first part of the day was a little bit downhill and mostly straight so we took this opportunity to practice our team drafting skills, which was all fun and games right up until Sasha nearly had a heat stroke. A soda water stand saved the day.
Getting across the border involved climbing a laughably steep hill, we had to stop about every 100 meters. It took ages to climb but the view when we made it over the top was just ridiculous. My favorite moment of the trip was bombing down into the Slovenian countryside on a well earned 18% grade.
Day 6— Slovenske Konjice
This was the day we learned just how many things we’d taken for granted in Austria, like bike paths and not 100 degree weather. Slovenia kicked our ass.
It was supposed to be an easy day to recover from the climb into Maribor. We slept in, got breakfast and then hit the road at noon, right as the temperature kicked up to about 95F. As it turns out, you can’t really safely ride a bike all day in direct sunlight in this kind of heat. We were stopping every mile to hide in the shade and douse ourselves in water, I started to feel pretty sick.
To add to the fun, we couldn’t find anywhere to eat lunch and ended up skipping it and pushing through to dinner, and Marji crashed her bike and I lost all my GPS data.
It ended up taking us 8 miserable hours to go 25 miles. Tomorrow we needed a new plan.
Day 7— Ljubljana!
Scarred from yesterday, we hit the road at 6am sharp and perfected the yogurt cereal breakfast on the go. No more hour long cafe breakfasts, every cool morning minute lost is a minute you have to spend suffocating in the heat later.
Our goal for the day was to make it 40 miles to the top of Trojane pass, where we were told we would find internationally renowned Trojane donuts. The idea of incredible mountain pass donuts motivated us throughout the entire day and we made it to the top by 1pm.
The donuts where underwhelming.
The cool thing was, we were only 25 miles from the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana and it was all downhill. If we hid from the heat all afternoon we could fly down the mountain at 6pm and get to Ljubljana 1 day early.
Ride in the morning, siesta all afternoon, ride at night became the new routine.
We got into Ljubljana without a plan and found that bizarrely, every hotel and hostel in the city was completely booked.
Achievement unlocked: one solid week of bike touring.
Day 8— Break day in Ljubljana
0 miles 0 feet
Today we took a little break from each other. Mike and Sasha got their own Airbnb and Marji and I stayed with my wonderful friend Katarina. Of course, 6 hours after we split up we ran into each other on top of the incredible Ljubljana castle.
Mike and Sasha’s Airbnb had a scale so we killed a precious 30 minutes in the morning weighing all of our shit. I think Mike actually had the most crap but my weight is pushed up by the weight of the trailer/extra wheel setup.
Total weight of bike, water and bags
Day 9— Postojna
40 miles 2277 feet
The first thing we managed to do outside of Ljubljana is take a wrong turn and end up climbing a mountain on a gravel fire road. A local on a mountain bike got a real laugh at us being out there on pannier laden road bikes and pointed us in the right direction.
An event of special note was meeting a man on the road with a one wheeled bike trailer just like mine. His panniers were made of metal, it looked liked he was pulling 100 pounds of gear. We stopped and chatted and I found out that he travels around on his bike and does oil paintings. I traded him all the cash I could muster (30 euro) for an original painting of a boy dreaming of cyclists in the sky.
Note: He asked me to do him a favor when I got back to America and tell Coleman that the camp stove they sold him was an absolute piece of crap and broke in 3 days.
Not 10 miles later I met a couple on a tandem bike who had been cycling together for 40 years. They backed up and rode past me again so I could get an action shot and send it to them.
Today’s Siesta Town™ was Postojna, a town we would learn at the last minute was world famous for its cave system. A tour of the caves is 90 min, at around 3:30pm we spent an ironically long time debating about how if we did the cave tour we would never make it to our campsite. We did it anyway and it was totally worth it, credit to mike for persuading us.
The caves put us on the road with only 50 min until sunset and no idea where we were going to sleep. We were honestly looking for friendly farmers who might let us stay in their yard when Marji spotted the sign for camping.
Day 10 — San Vito al Torre
We woke up right at the base of Nanos plateau, quite the sight.
The real exciting part of today was that we crossed the Italian border. We had decided that Croatia’s lack of trains would make it too hard to get back to Vienna so we set our sights on Venice. Vienna to Venice, now that would make a catchy blog post title.
The day was pretty uneventful up until we finished siesta in Gorizia and took off in search of a place to sleep, then everything fell apart. First I dropped my Garmin cable into the bike spokes, ruining our GPS tracking abilities for the last 2 days of the trip. Then Google maps took us to a similarly named farm 10 miles north of the campsite we wanted. Then I dropped/smashed my phone.
Lost in the dark without our precious gps directions and way too far from the campsite to make it, we rode down the highway for about 2 miles until we came across hotel sketch-town and decided this was probably our best bet…
That went about as well as expected:
Day 11 — Ca’ Martin
This day was mostly about getting as close to Venice as possible so that our last day would be a short one. After days of riding on highways we had hoped to find a real bike path today, the EuroVelo 8, but it was no where to be seen. Remember Austria? Those were the days.
Day 12 — Venice
“don’t bring your guns to town” — Johnny Cash
“don’t bring your bikes to Venice” — @cba
Where do I even begin? The triumphant end to our trip quickly became sitcom level ridiculous.
We arrived at the ferry into the city to learn that under no circumstance were the regular ferries going to bring our bikes into Venice. Our only option was to take a ferry to a different island, and then catch a large vehicle ferry into the city. After that, we stored our bikes in a fancy looking car garage.
It took us half a day to make it to the train station in Venice where we learned our fun was just beginning. No Italian trains would sell us a ticket back to Vienna that included bikes.
The photo below was taken while Mike was on the phone with Trenitalia for hours trying to work out our train logistics. We ended up cutting our stay short and leaving Venice 24 hours after we arrived to head back to Vienna. Don’t bring your bikes to Venice kids.
I didn’t shoot much film for the rest of the trip. We gleefully peaced out of Italy and went on a spider filled 2 day train adventure, getting ourselves and our bikes back to Vienna. Everyone else left on a Sunday morning and I stuck around for 2 extra days to practice entertaining myself.