A cycling holiday on an electric bike is the perfect way to explore Austria’s stunning scenery reports LOUISE MIDGLEY
The Sound of Music, set in pre-war Austria, has captured the imagination of millions around the world since it made its debut in 1965. This spring I visited Salzburg’s Lake District, otherwise known as the Salzkammergut, on an E-bike cycling holiday to visit some of the sites used in the film and many others that simply took my breath away.
I travelled in a group of six and our starting point was Mondsee, a pretty town and UNESCO World Heritage site on the shore of the crescent-shaped Lake Mondsee, 15 miles east of Salzburg. It was a glorious day and the snow-capped mountains wrapped around the shoreline were reflected in the tranquil turquoise waters below.
The ornate old buildings in the market square radiated typical Austrian charm with their brightly-coloured facades of reds, yellows and blues and a welcoming, delicious aroma of coffee wafted from the numerous cafes strung along the cobbled streets.
After a ride by the lake we enjoyed a tasty lunch of Wiener schnitzel washed down with the local nectar of herby lemonade in the Marktwirt restaurant. Here you’ll find a menu of hearty Austrian dishes including generous portions of fish, meat and vegetarian options all reasonably priced.
The restaurant was opposite St Michael’s Basilica, the venue for Captain Von Trapp and Maria’s wedding in the film. I couldn’t help but feel a tingle of excitement as I followed in Maria’s footsteps down the central isle; stopping only to peak at the 13 Baroque side-altars.
Later and only a short distance from the town we took a calorie-burning hike to the Ruine Wartenfels. There are no waterfalls but a ruined medieval castle perched on the side of the local Schober Mountain, offering panoramic views of Lakes Fuschl, Wallersee and Mondsee.
Our cycling tour started in earnest on day two. Everything had been meticulously organised by Headwater Holidays, specialists in walking and cycling trips all over the world. My E-bike was a perfect fit for my height, (5ft 8ins), and it took me no time to master the mechanics, which was just as well as I’m not an experienced cyclist.
E-bikes are much the same as ordinary bikes. They have gears plus the added enhancement of a battery pack with three power settings which provide a bit of oomph when needed, which I was grateful for towards the end of the day.
Most of the ride was on wide cycle paths so perfect for cycling novices or older less-confident riders. It’s also worth noting that Austrian drivers are incredibly considerate of cyclists.
There was only one hill climb on our journey, for the remainder of the trip all routes were on the flat.
We lunched at St Gilgen, on the north-western shore of Lake Wolfgangsee. I was astounded to learn we had already covered 15 miles. It was here in the local courthouse that Mozart’s mother, Anna Maria Walburga Pertl, was born and where many years later his sister Nannerl returned from Salzburg to live.
There is a small museum that gives an insight into the lives of all the family members but ironically the composer never visited the town.
On we travelled through lush alpine meadow pastures with wild orchids, giant clovers, lavender coloured scabious and cheery buttercups billowing in the light breeze. I was on a high, loving every minute of the adventure and capturing the images on my camera.
I felt like I was reliving the scene where Maria took the Von Trapp children on a cycle ride, dressed in their new curtained apparel, with the wind in my hair and a song in my heart.
At our destination of Strobl, we hopped on the ferry, bikes and all, to the market town of St Wolfgang across Lake Wolfgangsee.
The gently sloping meadows above St Wolfgang provided the location for the opening scenes of The Sound of Music when Maria runs up the hill and appears as a dot spinning before coming into view and singing ‘The Hills are Alive’.
Our next morning’s pedalling adventure took us from Strobl to Bad Ischl where a visit to the Café Zauner with its vast selection of pastries and coffee with whipped cream made for a delicious break. The slice of apple strudel would have fed a family.
It was market day and a chance for the locals to dress in traditional costume. The gentlemen in their dapper lederhosen and long socks and ladies in their dirndls. It seemed that everywhere we turned Von Trapp lookalikes appeared and we were back in a different era.
Back on our saddles we set off off to Gmunden for lunch at the fairytale Castle Ort. This triangular-shaped island castle in Lake Traunsee is reached by a long boarded walkway.
Here we dined on a platter of locally caught fish followed by a dare devil speed boat ride back to the town.
The final day was spent in the charming lakeside village of Hallstatt, one of the oldest inhabited villages in Europe and famous for being home to the world’s first salt mine. A leisurely day was passed sightseeing, souvenir shopping and soaking in every last minute of this magical location.
Visit Headwater Holidays for further information on E-bike self-guided or guided holidays. www.headwater.com or phone 01606 828566/ 0845 564 7157