Cycling The Friendship Path | Munich to Venice
The majestic Alps of Austria…..the inspiring Dolomites of Italy….towering, seemingly insurmountable barriers since the dawn of humankind. The fight to conquer these challenges began in early Roman times when Augustus Caesar began his quest to build a crossing through their midst to connect the two great trade routes of the time, the Danube River and the Adriatic Sea. Today, although many passes have been developed, winding along and over the slopes to allow automobiles to travel through, most traffic chooses the interminable tunnel routes or avoids the mountainous areas altogether. But what about bicycles? Surely it would be lunacy to cycle through these peaks!
Surprisingly, it is not nearly as difficult as you might imagine. Beautiful river valleys twist between the mountain giants carving gentle upward paths while reclaimed railway beds patiently climb at an almost imperceptible slope of up to 3%. Not only is such a ride achievable, it is a journey of monumental beauty with an extraordinary vista waiting around every curve of the trail. The route does climb the formidable Brenner Pass between Innsbruck, Austria and the town of Brennero, Italy, a challenging thirty nine kilometer climb that can be made much more enjoyable by taking advantage of a memorable and scenic forty minute train journey.
The experience is not all about the mountains. The Friendship Path encompasses the traditions and cultures of the three countries that it traverses as well as their distinctive and delicious culinary delights. Our adventure begins in Germany with its unique and well-preserved architecture from centuries past. Bavarian tables are laden with hearty mouth-watering entrees and thirst-quenching world-renowned beers. You will marvel at the beauty of the colourful flowers that adorn the traditional homesteads in the Tirol area of Austria and delight at the glimpse into bygone days as you make your way through historic Italian piazzas. In Italy you will be amazed and captivated by the exquisite yet extremely affordable selections of fresh-baked breads and pastries, pizzas, pastas and seafood prepared using time-honoured recipes, the plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables and of course incomparable Italian wines.
Our chosen route offers constant variety and stimulation for all of your senses. The cycle path oscillates regularly between excellent paved cycleways, gravel forest and river trails and mixed traffic secondary roadways. You will never suffer from the boredom of monotony as the expedition climbs and descends, twists and turns its way through lush, peaceful valleys; over alpine meadows tinkling with the whimsical sounds of cowbells; along shady, evergreen forest paths; nearby the shores of racing rivers and shimmering lakes; and culminates in the leisurely finale across the downhill plain to Venice. Of course, the highlight is Venice itself with its countless bridges and winding lanes that lead you on an enchanted walk through the fading splendour of past glory. The weather in this part of Europe promises to be warm and sunny for most of the 590 kilometer journey. Rainfall is minimal and winds are usually gentle, however, weather conditions and temperatures do change with the rise and fall of elevation.
While this bicycle trip could prove to be moderately demanding at times, a little physical preparation beforehand can make all the difference in your ability to thoroughly enjoy yourself. After considerable cycling and thought, we are happy to present what we believe is the best combination of all the splendour that this region has to offer in an enjoyable and easily achievable package. We certainly hope that you will consider joining us for what promises to be an exciting, invigorating and memorable Coasters Cycling Club tour.
Day 5 | 62 KMS
Cycle alongside Achensee, enjoy a thrilling descent into Jenbach then follow the Inn River into Innsbruck.
Continue along the secondary road which runs parallel to the primary road, passing through some villages.
- 1 km – Reach the center of Achenkirch village, a well-known holiday resort.
- 4 km – Reach the banks of the lake and turn left, passing a small fuchsia coloured bridge, to keep on the eastern bank.
- 4.3 km – Pass the rustic Hotel Scholastica which once played a role in the movement of salt through this area. Our cycle route now follows the banks of the lake with only slight undulations and many panoramic views.
- 6.5 km – Go around a long highway tunnel.
- 11.5 km – Skirt the edge of the town of Buchau with the trail continuing along the lake next to manicured lawns and beach areas.
- 13.5 km – Reach the southernmost point of the lake and turn sharp left at the railway lines. (If you continue straight you would arrive in the town of Pertisau, about 3 km away). The cycle path continues along the railway lines, slightly uphill and heading towards Maurach.
- 14 km – The cycle route crosses both the railway lines and the regional road.
- 15.3 km – Reach the center of Maurach. Here, if you are interested in history, there is the Ethnographic Museum of Lake Achen to visit and an opportunity to ride a steam-powered train.
Between Maurach and Jenbach, the Achensee Steam Railway, a single gauge train, huffs and puffs its slow and determined way to Jenbach, through dense pine forests with excellent views down the mountain and along the valleys. This steam-powered cog railway runs a 7 km route and rises 440 meters in altitude with a maximum grade of 16%. With its beginnings in 1889, the Achensee Steam Railway is the oldest of its kind in Europe and is still in constant use today. The steam engines and open carriages are over 100 years old and beautifully maintained. The journey takes 50 minutes each way and the round trip costs about 29 euros. Its timetable is coordinated with that of the Achensee Ferry Company which runs steam boats down the length of Achensee. Bicycles are allowed on this train with prior reservation and at a cost of 6 euros per bicycle.
From the center of Maurach, continue along Ebenerstrasse, with the railway on the left. There is a descent and then a small climb.
- 16.5 km – Reach the center of Eben am Achensee (940 masl).
Eben am Achensee is proud of its Church of Saint Notburga, one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in Tyrol. Saint Notburga, born in 1265, is the only female saint of the Tyrol. Within the church stands her skeleton, shrouded in costly gold-embroidered robes and carrying a sickle, a pitcher and an apron full of bread. She was well-known for her care of the poor. The Museum of Saint Notburga tells the story of her life and miracles. Legends attribute three miracles to Notburga. In the first one, she was reputedly on a journey with food for local poor people and was stopped by the region’s Count. He tried to expose her as a thief, commanding her to open her apron, only to discover it contained wood shavings. The second miracle tells the story of Notburga working in a field with other workers. The farmer wanted to finish his harvest and tried to force the work to go on beyond normal quitting time. Notburga laid down her sickle, reminding him that their contract allowed only regular working hours. Then she called upon God to provide a sign whereupon her sickle rose and floated in the air. The third miracle is said to have happened after her death. Her wishes were that her coffin be placed on a cart and pulled by oxen to wherever divine providence would dictate for her to be buried. When the cart reach the Inn River, the river parted and the entire funeral procession was able to cross to the other shore without harm. The procession continued to Saint Rupert’s Chapel, a wayside chapel partway up the steep slope to Eben, where the oxen stopped. She was buried there but moved to the church in Eben in 1735 as a full body relic. This church has been a pilgrimage site for hundreds of years.
- 16.6 km – Cross the railway lines and immediately turn right onto a dirt forest road and start a steep descent, through the midst of woodlands, with lots of twists and turns.
- 18.5 km – Ride under the primary road B181 and continue descending on the dirt path. Reach a paved stretch and turn left, then right, followed by the next right.
- 19.3 km – Go under the primary road once again, still descending.
- 20.8 km – Arrive in Wiesing (566 masl) at the beautiful Church of Saint Martin and Saint Nicholas, dating to the end of the 18th century. Immediately after the church turn right then at 21 km take the first left.
- 21 km - Head towards the forest tree nursery.
- 21.3 km – Pass under the motorway viaduct and then the railway bridge shortly afterwards
- 21.7 km – Arrive on the banks of the River Inn and begin following the Inn River Cycle Path.
- 24 km – Reach a large sports center.
- 24.5 km – Go under a large bridge. To the right if you choose you can visit the centre of the town of Jenbach (563 masl).
Jenbach has an unusual railway station that serves three different railway gauges; the normal 1435 mm gauge of the Austrian Railway, the metric 1000 mm gauge of the Achensee Steam Railway and the 760 mm gauge of the Bosnian Zillertal Railway. In the town center you can visit the Jenbach Museum which displays the history of the local mines and metal working.
Continue along the Inn Cycle path heading towards Innsbruck, pedalling alongside the motorway at first.
Watch for Schloss Tratzberg on the slope to the right of the route.
Schloff Tratzberg was first documented in the 13th century. It was used as a border stronghold against the Bavarians and also as Emperor Maximilian 1 ‘s hunting lodge. It was destroyed by fire during the late 15th century. In 1590 it came into possession of the Fugger family, a well-known wealthy family of merchants and they expanded and refurbished the castle.
- 29 km – Cross a small bridge over a tributary of the River Inn and, if you desire, you can detour to the right here to reach the town of Stans and an inspiring hike.
Wolfsklamm Gorge, named for the wolves that once lived here, holds an unforgettable 1 to 1.5 hour circle hike with altitude gains of 254 m. This route was first opened more than 100 years ago. It wends its way through a gorge between savage rock walls, over numerous wooden footbridges and past thundering waterfalls before it climbs 324 steps up to the Benedictine Abbey of St. Georgenberg. St.Georgenberg was a mountain hermitage which was first mentioned in 950 and is the oldest place of pilgrimage throughout the Tyrol. The church is always open. Just before reaching the monastery you cross the Hohe Brücke (High Bridge), a particularly complex stone bridge which was built in 1497. Also near the monastery is a gasthof that serves food and refreshments.
The starting point of the hike is at the church in the heart of the village of Stans. Start at the church parking lot and follow the signs for “Wolfsklamm”. The return route from the abbey follows the pilgrimage trail to the Maria Tax Church and back to Stans.
There is a small fee of 4.50 euros per person to access the hike. This fee is used for the protection of the gorge and its trails.
- 32 km – Reach the foot of the Spitalskirche (a large church) and a bridge. This is the entrance to the city of Schwaz. If you would like to visit the town, cross the bridge here.
Schwaz is famous for its 15th and 16th century silver mines and its houses reflect the wealth of its original inhabitants. If you’re ready for a break, there are numerous places here to refuel and recuperate. Watch for Freundsberg Castle, perched high on a steep hill to the left, just past Schwaz. This castle was built in 1150 and its original five-storey residential tower is preserved to this day.
- 35 km – Pass through the center of Altmahd.
- 36.5 km – Pass under the motorway
- 37 km – Pass the beautiful Weisslahn Lake near the town of Terfens at the foot of the Karwendel mountains. The name, Terfens, is of Celtic origin and means “oak woods”.
- 39 km – Pass in front of the Terfens-Weer railway station then turn left.
- 39.5 km – Reach a bridge over the River Inn. Cross on this bridge to the other side and continue on.
- 40 km - Turn left
- 41 km – Turn right, then right again.
- 44.5 km – Turn left. Watch for Kristallwelten and, if desired, pause to visit this shimmering world.
Swarovski Crystal World (Kristallwelten) in Wattens celebrates the beauty of these Austrian crystals. Some of its unique attractions include “The Giant” with its internal “Chamber of Wonders” , a fantasy world created through the collaboration of many contemporary artists from around the world.. The crowning piece of the new garden is the Crystal Cloud. This mystical masterpiece is the largest work of its kind in the world. The “cloud” consists of around 800,000 hand-mounted Swarovski crystals. A descending path draws visitors to the Mirror Pool where the crystals’ light is captured like stars shimmering in the nocturnal sky – even in broad daylight. The innumerable sparkles flit and dance and accompany visitors across the footbridge. There is, of course, a shop within the complex as well.
Kristallwelten is open every day from 9 am to 6:30 pm. If you do visit Kristallwelten, you might want to think about getting an Innsbruck Card. (See info under “Exploring Innsbruck”; the card can be purchased here and includes free admission to most attractions in Innsbruck)
- 43.5 km – return to the banks of the Inn River near the center of Wattens.
- 44.8 km – Turn left, keeping the Austrian Automobile Club on your right.
- 45.5 km – Pass a sports field on your left and continue through farmed fields with many greenhouses until you arrive at the town of Volders. Watch for the silhouette of its two castles, Schloss Aschach and Schloss Friedberg.
- 47.5 km – Turn right, passing under the motorway and back to the riverside
- 48 km – Pass in front of the Church of Saint Charles, a Rococo style building.
- 49.5 km – (C6) Pass under a railway bridge
- 52 km – Ride across the beautiful bridge that crosses the Inn River at Hall in Tyrol.
Hall in Tyrol made its fortune from salt and was once the most important economic centre in Tyrol. Its name comes from the word “halle” which means “city of salt workers”. It has a splendid medieval historical center which is one of the best preserved in all of Tyrol.
After the bridge the cycle path continues to the left and passes through the Hall industrial area.
- 54 km – Cross the railway lines, turning left onto a narrow path
- 55 km – Pass under the motorway and carry on through a beautiful green area
- 57 km – Pass a water park and continue among parks and gardens into the outskirts of Innsbruck.
- 60.5 km – Cross the Inn River once again on the Mühlauer Brücke, then turn right and continue along the opposite side of the river. Take note of the old suspension railway bridge beside the new bridge. Pass a wooden footbridge over the river.
- 62.5 km – Arrive at another bridge, the Innbrücke. Cross over this bridge to find our hotel for the next two nights.
The old part of Innsbruck can be easily reached by walking across the Innbrücke and straight into the pedestrian area of the city. There are many restaurants in this area. There is an MPreis supermarket just inside the pedestrian area. There is also a large Eurospar supermarket located by going back along the River Inn Cycle Trail – it is across from the cable railway river crossing.