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In the Austrian Alps
That day did not put me in a good mood. It was raining every now and then, but thanks to my Gore-Tex jacket I was able to cope with these unfavourable conditions. That day, for the first time in my life, I spent a night at a complete strangers' house. I just knocked on the door, asking for accommodation. With my limited command of German, I struggled with making myself understood. However, I succeeded in getting a room for free. Next day, I visited Dachstein Caves. The ticket was quite expensive but they were worth seeing. I especially recommend visiting Giant Ice Cave – one of the most breathtaking ice caves in the world. Mammoth Cave, in turn, was not that interesting – just a huge tunnel, without any dripstones. Later, I visited Hallstatt - a beautiful village with bewitching narrow streets and interesting architecture.

As I mentioned earlier, my right knee was hurt. With time, my left knee started to bother me as well. I had dark thoughts. The only consolation was that the wound began to heal nicely and did not trouble me anymore. I headed for Lake Constance, visiting Liechtenstein Gorge on the way. I paid ATS 30, but it was totally worth it. That gorge impressed me much more than Dachstein Caves. On the way, I cycled on bike roads - they were well marked and ran at some distance from the main road. I met dozens of cycle tourists, some of them pretty advanced in years. They usually had trekking bikes and one huge rear pannier. I got back on the main road because its surface made cycling easier and above all, faster. Bike roads usually had worse surfaces (sometimes dirt ones) and there was more uphill cycling. The only disadvantage of the main road was heavy traffic – many cars and motorcycles, which were very popular there. Being overtaken by a few crazy and noisy motorcyclists going over 100 km/h was not a pleasant experience. However, I got used to it, all the more so because I was very often greeted by them and by car drivers with honking, thumbs up and flashing headlights. żśPannier bikers” were well respected there.

Cycling on a bike road, I reached the Krimml Waterfalls. I left the bike at the base of the waterfalls and climbed to the top (height difference of 500 metres). The passing tourists were looking at me with admiration as I was running uphill with no sign of fatigue. The views were breathtaking. In the distance, I could see the Gerlos Pass (1528 m above mean sea level) – the first serious task on my route. Having crossed the pass, I was rewarded with a downhill run, many kilometres long. Next day I reached Innsbruck. Walking in the Old Town (I recommend visiting Hofkirche), I almost felt like a tourist attraction because I was constantly approached by people asking where I was going, and wishing me luck.

Next day was a test of my stamina – I cycled uphill for more than 60 km to reach the Arlberg Pass (1800 m above mean sea level). Despite proper diet and hydration, I was getting more and more fatigued. A few kilometres from the top of the pass, I sat on some bench to recover. The owner of a nearby homestead, intrigued by my bike, invited me for tea and a snack. At times like this I feel like the happiest man in the world. Next day, cycling on excellent bike roads, I reached Lake Constance, in the meantime stopping by in the town of Bludenz, home to the Suchard chocolate factory. I cycled around it, breathing in a nice smell. Later on, in a park in Feldkirch, I was buttonholed by a local bum. He was talkative, but I only understood that he was a former cyclist and wished me luck. A moment later he brought me a bunch of radishes and a bottle of beer. No comment...

In Bregenz, I asked about prices of accommodation at the tourist information centre. I chose a camping site because I wanted to stay there for two nights. On the next day, I intended to cycle around Lake Constance, but a storm spoiled my plans so I headed for the land of William Tell.