Dear Readers, we are in Obergurgl for one of the sporting highlights of the summer season, the Öztaler Cycle Marathon (or Radmarathon which sounds even cooler to me, though I suspect that ‘Rad’ means ‘Road’ rather than anything more exciting). It covers 227 kilometres, and over 5500 metres of ascent and descent, including the Brenner, Timmelsjoch and Jaufen passes, and the Kuhtai saddle). The fastest cyclists will do the whole lot in less than seven hours. It makes me feel exhausted even reading about it. It’s warm today too – in the mid twenties here in Obergurgl, so it will be a lot warmer down the valley in Söelden, where the race starts and finishes. As I write this, the first man across the line was Manuel Senni who managed the whole lot in 6 hours and 49 minutes, with Janine Meyer first woman across the line in 6 hours and 55 minutes. It makes me feel exhausted even reading about it, but 4400 people started the race this year, and the last ones will complete it around 21.30 tonight. In some ways it feels like an even bigger achievement if you aren’t a super athlete. Good luck to all of them!
For us here in Obergurgl however, the road closures mean that we are somewhat confined to quarters, with no buses and most of the lifts and huts closed too. Fortunately we’ve decided to have a little rest day, as various parts of my body are complaining, as they do, and this cold seems to be lingering on. What a pleasant day for a walk in the good old Zirbenwald, though, followed by a coffee at the Zirben Alm. This used to be called David’s Hutte and was not a very happy place when we visited, but there are new owners and it feels much more welcoming, though I’m not sure if there isn’t something a tiny bit sinister about that smiley face.
On the way back down, I stop to take some photos of the various shrines along the way. In some places, these are placed beside roads where accidents have happened, but in Obergurgl I think that they are more meant as remembrances of people who have passed, and as reminders of Jesus and Mary, and the local saints such as John of Nepomuk. They are very beautiful, and often appear in unexpected places.
This one is at the entrance to the Zirbenwald.
This one is on the bridge before the Zirben Alm, and below it there is a small collection of engraved padlocks. It doesn’t seem to have grown much since I first noted it a few years ago, which is probably for the good – there are bridges in Paris and Prague where the whole superstructure has been compromised by the weight of all that romance. There must be a metaphor in there somewhere…
And then there’s this one, which I hadn’t noticed before – the carving of the Virgin and Child is really lovely. This is a valley of woodcutters, so it’s nice to see the tradition being continued.
And then it’s back to the hotel to have a cheese roll on the balcony and watch the swifts, who clearly have a nest nearby. I didn’t realise until recently that they basically hoover up insects until they have a kind of ball of food in their crop, to bring home to their nestlings. We spotted the lesser kestrels who live in the valley yesterday, and when one of them appeared the sky cleared of birds, even though the kestrels live on small mammals. I hope to get a photo of them at some point to share with you, but they were feeling uncooperative today, and who can blame them?
I spent some time watching the tiny bit of path down from the Hochgurgl lift which should contain cyclists, but they are either too fast or taking an alternate route, because I didn’t see one. I did see a helicopter though, so I can’t have been too far off the mark. Fingers crossed for a safe and happy outcome for all the participants.