Subject: Biking the Alps
We are back from a short vacation in the Alps along the Italian-Austrian border. There's a valley up there, Val Pusteria in Italian and Pustertal in German (all the area is bilingual), a smooth extension of emerald green meadows between two high mountain ranges, with the Drau river in between. The Drau river is there only a creek, but it's a very long European river which flows across Austria, Slovenia and Croatia before reaching the Danube. You can easily hike to the springs and drink the ice-cold water from the source! There are many little neat towns both on the Italian side, like Dobbiaco/Toblach or San Candido/Innichen, and the Austrian one, like Silian and Lienz. The border is just a line, no checkpoints and no documents needed, so you can hike or ride a bike back and forth as you like. We went there because of a unique feature: you can ride a bike for 25 miles down the valley on a bicycle trail in the woods fron San Candido to Lienz and come back by train, loading the bike on a special railcar. We rented our bicycles in San Candido/Innichen (plenty of rental shops with all sizes) and rode on a gentle slope, along the river and across villages and dark woods. The trail is paved, has many picnic tables and seats, well marked everywhere and definitely easy, even for my 7 year old daughter. When we arrived at the end of the trail in Lienz, our legs were a little numb because we are not used to biking, but we still had strenght to walk around the old town, have a frankfurter (sausage) and apfelstrudel (apple pie) before boarding the train for going back. The trip takes from 3 to 4 hours (according to your speed) plus 50 minutes on the train; there are four different trains in the afternoon from 2 to 6 pm. The cost, including rental and train ticket is about 50,000 lire (22 USD) for adults and 40,000 lire (18USD) for children. As we almost skipped lunch (the frankfurter doesn't count...) we then enjoyed a Tyrolean dinner with lots of fats and calories to replace the ones we had spent in the morning! If some of you like biking, this is a real treat.

Bye Paolo