I don’t remember how I first heard about the Alpe-Adria trail. Maybe it was a magazine article but it’s more likely that aimless surfing on the web led me to read about it.
Right away, I knew I wanted to walk it. The idea of linking Austria (where my previous hiking experiences had left me begging for more), Slovenia (a country briefly visited a few years ago to give a talk at Ljubljana University and which instantly fascinated me with its history and forward-looking ideas) and a fairly unknown corner of Italy – Friuli Venezia Giulia – meant that the trail appealed instantly.
With my wife, Odile, we were also looking for longer hikes than the week-long or ten-day ones we had done in recent years. The 37 stages of the Alpe-Adria were exactly what we were looking for.
But when? Finding over a month in our busy schedules seemed tricky at first. And, as non-salaried professionals without the advantages of paid holidays, there was the financial aspect to consider. But a couple of well-paid subtitling jobs in late 2019 and early 2020 meant we decided to take the plunge and do the trail in July 2020. In the space of a few days, I booked accommodation for the whole hike. We were ready to go.
But then Covid-19 threw a spanner in the works. We both were hit pretty hard at the start of the pandemic, with Odile spending a week in hospital. The after-effects lingered for a good few months and when June came around our doctor advised against tackling such a long trail after what we’d been through.
I was able to cancel all our accommodation and, in cases where I had booked directly with hotels rather than through a platform, asked for the bookings to be transferred to the same date in 2021. A couple of places did so but most asked me to get back in touch in early 2021.
After two long-distance hikes in October 2020, which showed we were fit for such undertakings again, I redid our bookings in March 2021, for the same dates, July 23rd to August 26th, receiving a number of delighted replies from hotels contacted the year before.
And so, on July 21st, fully vaccinated against the evil virus, we left home early in the morning, taking first our local train to Paris and then a high-speed train from Paris to Munich. A night in Munich allowed us to wander around the city, visit the amazing Globetrotter outdoor sports store and have a great dinner in a funky craft brewery. The next morning, we took a train to Salzburg, with views of the Alps along the way, then a second train to Mallnitz (a spectacular ride through the mountains) where a connecting bus took us to Heiligenblut. And that is where the adventure would begin…