Old Bikes, First Experiences: Wine Street
We started this thing with bike touring during the first lockdown. We don’t really care about speed, we are into slow exploring and the freedom that these light wheels provide.
Our first routes were around Vienna, where we both live. Only short day rides of two or three hours. It took us six months to take the first serious step and bike a few days in a row. The selected place was in the very south of Austria, known for its amazing white wine and beautiful landscapes, something like an alpine Tuscany: Südsteiermark. There is a route called Weinstraße that translates to Wine Road. It sounded like a good place to start everything, in the beginning of the falling leaves season.
ROUTE, MAPS AND PLANS
We got the train to Leibnitz with our bikes. Cycled south to Gamlitz, Ratsch an der Weinstraße, up the Kreuzberg and to Kitzeck im Sausal. In the end we rode up-north to Graz, where the train to Vienna would leave, hopefully with us.
Kreuzberg: A hill with a tower is always an attraction and to have a snack break – we tend to have many of them – with a view is much appreciated. As a surprise, there was a small apple tree right under the observation tower with dark red low hanging fruits. Time for Gabriel to show his climbing skills in complicated form, when just a stretched arm would be enough to pluck. But adventure can be everywhere, even if not necessary.
Some well fed Scottish Highland cows with hair over the eyes also add some animal comedy. They always look stylish and funny.
Austria and their funny names for villages and streets. The case with a small dorf called Fucking is world famous. Gabriel had its own experience with it when passing by the glorious dorf of Heimschuh, literally translated to Home Shoes. Total lack of creativity or a country for low profile jokers?
ALL SAINT’S DAY AND ROMAN TEMPLE
The day started with a stop at Frauenberg, on All Saint’s Day. This is a big holiday in Austria. Many families make sure to clean and embellish the graves of their deceased ones. Naturally, it’s also a day to remember them. If not entirely, most of the cemetery is covered with fresh flowers and candles. It’s apparently only done by older people. Probably, the ones that already lived long enough to lose someone.
It’s very common to see people with working gloves, having conversation with friends and acquaintances, catching up with the life stories of each other. Cemeteries are a surprisingly active social place during this day.
Apart from enjoying the stunning idyllic scenery with millions of different colour tones of red, orange and yellow, what made this trip special was the tasty regional delicacies. Maroni (sweet chestnuts) and Sturm (grape must / young wine) are in season during autumn in South Steiermark and provided us with some extra energy and happiness after riding uphill.
In the middle of a small road, there was a set table with full cutlery, cement plates and small cakes. And the menu for the day, or the year, was pebbles avec dry cactus.
FINISHING THE ROUTE
Our last day would also be the longest ride, summing up to five hours from Kitzeck im Sausal to Graz. At the same time, it was the goodbye from such wonderful last days, so our moods were already accepting that it would be a boring ride. The beginning was stunning, with a perfect colour palette of yellow, brown and red leaves, green grass and sunshine in an unfrequented route in between some farms. People might say it’s photoshopped. We believe that reality is definitely prettier than the saturated colours on a screen.
Most of the ride on our last day was quite chill, slightly downhill or flat. We saw some cute curious goats, a funny multi-generational pig family, and twenty roosters looking exactly the same, as if they were put to life coming out of a template. No chickens, no chicks. Only identical individuals.
By coincidence, we bumped into a long-distance biker! Maybe that was a sign! We stopped to talk to him, since he had a big Brazilian flag attached to his luggage carrier and Gabriel is from Brazil too. Right on the bike lane we sat down to have a coffee with him directly prepared with the good old gas stove he was carrying with him and he was telling us about his bike adventures so far and what inspired him to do a bigger tour. At that moment we had already been talking about bike touring, but hadn’t made any plans yet. We talked about dumpster diving, sleeping in the cold and freedom. Perhaps it was then when we first dreamed about doing something similar.
A really cool feeling was getting to the last stop, Graz, a town full of university students. Cycling from the countryside to a town is a nice experience because of the lifestyle transformation. More traffic. More lights. More people. While cycling on the Wine Road was full of still, relaxing moments, in Graz we could notice that the visual and acoustic impressions were a bit exhausting in this moment. These differences of how lives are lived differently is probably one of our main motivations to do a bigger bike trip. Not just between a village and a city, but also between different cultures and landscapes. And what would be a nicer way to slowly perceive these varieties than on a simple bicycle?