Cycling Europe Day 39: Hit In the Face by a Mountain

Today I realized that I’ve been cycling through the Alps for the past couple of days.

The picture does the view no justice at all.

The picture does the view no justice at all.

I remember when I was in Spain, I was looking at my maps one morning to figure out my route. I wrote a post on Facebook saying matter-of-factly that most of that day’s cycling would be at 1200 meters. I was already at that altitude. A few minutes after posting that I thought, “Wait a minute. When the heck did I climb up to 1200 meters??”

I’ve discovered that there are two kinds of climbs. There are the sudden, very steep climbs that are almost always followed by sudden, very steep descents. Then there are the very gradual ascents. You barely notice them. You see that the mountains that were in front of you two days ago now surround you. Your legs feel that the ground is not flat beneath them, yet your eyes can’t exactly see the ascent. You cycle like this for one, maybe two days, sometimes three, and then suddenly you find yourself at the top of a mountain. And just as suddenly, like today, you find yourself coasting rapidly, almost back down to sea level. It is the strangest thing.

At the top of today’s mountain I cycled through beautiful little skiing villages. The ski

My view while writing this blog post.

My view while writing this blog post.

slopes were completely green. But as I crossed to the other side, I could see a snow capped mountain in front of me. The sight made me gasp.

The mountainous part of today’s cycle was the best. I’m going to definitely have to come back to Austria some day. Then, as always with big cities, as I got nearer to Vienna, the navigation became more difficult and the roads more crowded and scary.

But I was in a rush and I would not let anything hold me back. I wanted to get into Vienna early enough to catch a quick tour of the city. It’s been one of the things I’ve been most looking forward to since I organized this trip early in the year.

There have been several places I’ve wished my husband was with me in. This is one of them. Vienna is a very big city. Outside the center, it looks like any other very big city. The inside reminds me of Madrid: crowded and crammed yet regal. Next time I come I must go to the opera.

I’ve noticed that it seems to be a “thing” in Austria to do exercise walking with trekking poles. I’ve noticed many people doing this alone and in groups. They are mainly women or older people who do this. I haven’t figured out if they use the poles to make sure they move their arms as well or if it’s to minimize impact on the knees. I’ve found it very strange.

One of the things I haven’t been able to do much of on this trip is to get to know more people. That and food are my two favorite parts of traveling. I’ve made it a point to keep a low profile since I’m a woman traveling alone. I pass through places as if I were a ghost; I can see everything but I am not seen. Invisibility is one of my super powers.

I was hoping I’d come across a place in Vienna where I could get my eyebrows done. If I can’t get an Egyptian woman to do them, the next best is to find an Indian woman. Those are the only two nationalities in my books who know how to do eyebrows. I haven’t found either (not that I went out of my way to look for them). I am not risking getting my eyebrows completely removed by letting a European woman touch them. I guess I’ll just have to keep cycling with bushy eyebrows till I get home.


  1. The trekking poles thing is probably “Nordic Walking” which is supposed to exercise more of your body than just “going for a walk”. On the other hand some of us use poles because we need them and wouldn’t get anywhere without them.

    Regarding eyebrows, get them done and you’ll go faster. Less wind resistance; hope this useful advice is helpful.

  2. I was aware that many cyclists have the hair on their legs removed, by never heard about eyebrows. By the way, I know people in Barcelona that also go out for long walks with those trecking poles. And another by the way. If you have not yet left Vienna, do not miss to see the Hundertwasserhous, an amazing house built by Hundertwasser in the 1980s. If you have not seen it, have look at the pictures I posted in my blog recently (the 2013 EUSJA General Assembly was held in Vienna):

  3. I will confirm sixwheeler’s guess, the sport with the poles is in fact “Nordic Walking” which I had the pleasure to learn and exercise when working in Austria for a spell. the sport was invented by skiers who did not want to lose their form in summer. You actually use the poles to push yourself forward as skiing on flat ground using your arms, shoulder and chest muscles, you would be amazed at the speed you can gain when doing it right. the exercise for your upper body is also not to be frowned at.

    Otherwise best of luck in the days to come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s