St. Moritz: Alps to Slovakia by bike. I’ve been planning this trip for years. Making the journey from the Alps to Slovakia was a dream of mine 15 years ago. But then I got more into hills, so I kept putting it off. I’ve been vacationing in the Balkans for the past few years, which I’ve written a few articles about, and I just wanted a change. Also, circumstances after the spring COVID-19 and health issues suggested it was the right time to take a break from cycling.
First, we have a direct train connection from Bratislava to Zurich, which we need to take advantage of. On the map, I have a starting point for my cycle route in Feldkirch. From there, I draw a path to St. Moritz along the Inn and Danube rivers to Bratislava. At the beginning of July, I tried to buy tickets. For July, the only available seats with bikes are for Friday 14th July, even 1st class for a super price of 60 Euros per person complete with bike and seats (usually it’s easily up to around a hundred). Well, I am arranging a holiday with a friend, and we have ten days in total for about 1000 kilometres. As the departure date approached, I found out while researching the route the proximity of the dream Stelvio. Of course, I immediately saved an alternative route. After all, we will see the circumstances, weather and strength after the initial hills.
Day one – the train and the initial three countries
The day of departure is here. Unusually, on Thursday, after a typical working day, I have to quickly pack everything ready in an hour, load it on the bike and catch the last train from Banská Bystrica to Bratislava, where we leave early in the morning towards the Alps. Hopefully, I haven’t forgotten anything. We’ll see the first day on the road. After a short night in the centre of Bratislava, in the morning, we get on the luxury Railjet 1st class, and after almost 9 hours of travel, even at over 230 km/h, I wonder how this trip will turn out. I mean, there was always the possibility of returning home early for health reasons.
Start from Feldkirch
It’s a little after 15:00, the train finally catches an hour’s delay, and we get off at the end of Austria in Feldkirch. We pack all the bike cargo and leave in the right direction. After a few minutes, we are already entering Liechtenstein. We shop, and after a while in the bushes, we change our bikes and enjoy the fabulous bike trails with mountains in the surroundings.
Today’s destination is supposed to be the accommodation arranged through WarmShowers in Thusis, but we have 90 kilometres to go and only a few hours to go. We’re weaving our way around Vaduz, entering the third country, Switzerland, and losing internet. The kilometres are racking up slowly, even though the route is flat, and I am still determining if we will arrive at the overnight stop.
It’s just after 7 p.m. We’re somewhere in Chur and still halfway there, So we pedal up the initial hills as well, and before the town of Thusis, we consider how to end the day: camp in the city for 30 euros or climb 150 vertical to the agreed accommodation? We risked the hill; surprisingly, the family awaited us on the terrace with dinner before 9 p.m. We just quickly set up the tents, shower and discuss the rest of the evening. We are their first guests from the east. And also the first ones who didn’t sleep inside but camped in the garden, we just had to test the new tents in the mountain conditions.
Day two, climb to St. Moritz
In the morning, we prepare breakfast, sign in their guest book, stick a flag in the guest map and set off for our initially only mountain stage to St. Moritz. I had originally prepared a route via Julierpass. Still, on the advice of the locals, we opted for the supposedly quieter way via Albulapass, where the Unesco-listed railway line also runs.
Of course, in the morning, we drop the evening elevation metres and climb up the mountains on the opposite side of the valley. Modestly packed gravels pass me with a shout of Viel Spass, so it’s immediately apparent that it will be fun today.
And indeed, the more significant climbs alternate with even bigger ones. We pass under the railway bridges of the winding track. I’m getting used to driving with a couple dozen kilos of cargo until we come to the last village before the summit, Bergen.
We sit for an hour. I finally caught the wifi of the local hotel and asked for the password. The Swiss don’t have free wifi, and especially nowhere sells data sims—the good old Balkans.
Lai da Palpuogna
After refreshments, we struggle to climb to Lai da Palpuogna Lake, where I take a moment to risk the drone. Then it’s the final but brutal kilometres to the summit of Albulapass at 2315m. We check prices at the hotel: soup for 14 francs, pasta for 25 francs. I don’t even read any further, and we whizz downwards.
By the way, if this was a quieter road and less traffic, I don’t want to see that thoroughfare through Julierpass. We take the descents up the valley, and turn off the route back to St. Morit
Crossing another saddle, we must return about 15 km, but I just wanted to check out this snobby town. Even those short kilometres are hard to go against the wind. We pause in town at the train station, catch wifi from the train, and I also buy souvenirs trinkets, and immediately 50 Euros are gone. A Ferrari whizzes past, then a Rolls Royce, and I see we’re right here.
We take a short circuit of the city. I see luxury hotels that I’ll never get to. We pass a small lake for a few photos and whiz back on the trail towards today’s campsite in Chapelle. It’s going downwind, and we have 30 km in an hour. The reception is already closed, but a local shows up, and we stay for 15 Euros per person. The showers and campsite overall are charming.
We get up in the morning, the dream climb to Stelvio Pass awaits us.