Exploring The Hilly Part of Lower Austria: Kalte Kuchl

Lower Austria is called Lower Austria because it happens the be the lowest part of Austria. Most of the country is filled with alps. This is why the stereotype that every Austrian is a good skier exists.

Imagine my surprise when Michal Krajcir commented on DriveTribe to suggest a different route to Zell am See. This one went via the Kalte Kuchl. I sat there wondering what this mysterious place could be. A quick google search revealed that it is in the South-West part of Lower Austria. Then it turned out that it is only about 1 1/4 h drive away from me, since I live in the South-East part of Lower Austria.

“Well, then …” I muttered to nobody in particular. “… I might as well.”

Destination: Kalte Kuchl

Kalte Kuchl literally translates as “cold kitchen” and it is called this way because of the roadhouse “Kalte Kuchl” which was found in the 15th century and exists to this day. It was "cold kitchen" because ... er ... actually nobody is sure.

The mountain pass is part of the Gutensteiner Alps which are Alpine foothills aka baby alps. This becomes obvious when you stack the highest point of the Gutensteiner Alps - the Jochart with 1.266 meters - against the 3.789 of the Großglockner – highest point of Austria.

This did not make it any less tempting. Nowadays, it is a popular destination for bikers. They start in Vienna go via Bernau, Ramsau and back home again via Zellenbach and Alland. Furthermore, because this is a popular road for bikers it can be full during the weekend in summer.

I set off with four wheels on a Saturday mid-November, and let’s put it this way: I could count the vehicles I came across on pretty much one hand.

Since I do not live in Vienna but about 25 km South, I had a slightly different route. I set of in the sparkling metropole of the Vienna basin that I call home and drove West. To the Kalte Kuchl, I decided to avoid the Autobahn because driving through the Hellenthal is a lot of fun and an arm’s reach away from home. It did not disappoint this time and I even consider doing a post on it in the future. After Alland I headed towards Ramsau bei Hainfeld.

Then I suggest turning left right before Rohr im Gebirge, not only does it offer you an opportunity to hike up all of the mighty 1.266 meters of the Jochart. You also end up off the beaten track and on 10k of a fun road that twiddles through the mountain area.

It brings back some memories from (arguably) the best driving road: The Großglocker Hochalpenstraße.

Driving in the Kalte Kuchl is similar to seeing the son of a great racing driver. It isn’t quite the same and maybe he’s not as good as his father, however, you can see the spirit. This road felt similar: Of course, it wasn’t the Großglockner, however, it had its spirit. It had the small touches, it had a pretty view and you had fun driving around the corners.

A small plus is that you can actually go a bit faster. While I barely touched 3rd and let’s ignore 4th on the Glockner, my standard gear was 3rd in the Kuchl. Unless we’re talking about the back road between Rohr and Gutenstein. There some turns were tighter, and the preferred gear happened to be first.

Furthermore, the Kuchl is not specifically made for car/bike tourism while the Hochalpenstraße is. This can show because there are fewer turnouts, and for the odd photo opportunity you have to block the exit of a farm track .

At the same time the road is open throughout the whole year and what do you pay for it? Nothing. There is less traffic in Lower Austria. Should you happen to block part of the road, nobody is going to notice. Maybe for the first time in my life I had an open road in front of me:

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