Posted on February 23 2020
Kitzbühel and Pörtschach am Wörthersee Austria, Europe.
A day cycling in the Austrian Tirol – Kitzbühel. Mountain magic.
During this trip to Europe, we had already spent some time in England (Surrey, Devon, Cornwall), France (Paris, Epernay) and were travelling through Germany and Austria by train to meet up with friends in Vienna to start another cycle tour from Vienna to Prague (next blog). Our route had been selected to pass through parts of Austria where Jen’s father had been based between 1952 and 1954 as part of his role of heading the CIO’s branch in Frankfurt, FRG. He relocated to Klagenfurt, Austria at the end of 1952 to direct the FSS centre that sent couriers into Czechoslovakia. The combination of the stories he told of his time here during the Cold War; the dangers and risks and the friends and countrymen he relied on; a couple of old black and white photographs of his group on the lake of Wörthersee at Portschach and Krumpendorf; and knowing that my mother and brother had spent some time here with him in one of his rare breaks; prompted us to travel here to see where he was involved in the Cold War intelligence operations over the Austrian border and into Czechoslovakia.*
En route to Portschach and Vienna we stayed in the delightful medieval town of Kitzbühel in the Austrian Alps at Pension Johanna with hosts Trine and Fritz Schipflinger for 2 nights. Not wanting to miss a chance to slowly explore this beautiful mountain region on bikes, our hosts directed us to Mountain Edge Bike Hire to hire a couple of mountain bikes for a day. Rob was very helpful and for 23 Euros each for the day we set off with our Blue Kona mountain bikes with front suspension and a map of the area. The sky was blue with jet streams crisscrossing and the sun was warming our backs as we headed towards the snow-splashed mountains looming in the distance. Quiet roads took us up onto the gentle valley sides with lush green alpine meadows where hay was being cut, farm animals were contentedly grazing and the scent of freshly cut hay permeated everything. The mountain peaks appeared as steep bare, jagged rocks, with remnants of snow surviving on the shaded slopes. Buildings showed an amazing array of timber work – large slabbed walls, hand cut wooden stairs. Steep rooves, window boxes filled with bright flowers, gardens full of summer vegetables. Woven wooden fences and neatly stacked firewood in a variety of sizes. We followed this farmland valley to Hintergrub and on to St Johann in Tirol with its beautiful Baroque church in the main square. A well-earned iced coffee in the ice-cream parlour revived us for the next part of our cycle.
The crystal clear icy cold water of the river tumbled along beside us tempting us to dip our toes. Sure enough it was oh so cold. The Kitzbüheler Ache river. Further along we came to Kirchdorf. Here we turned back down the other side of the valley to the villages of Oberndorf and Reith. All charming Austrian alpine villages with frescoes painted on the public buildings. Some shady forest cycling and a stop for a picnic lunch before arriving at the water playground and lakeside of Schwarzsee. A newly married couple going for a romantic paddle out onto the lake to contemplate their future together. People enjoying all kinds of water sports. For us a dangling of our feet in the water to cool down followed by a refreshing tall, cold beer at a lakeside bar. Having managed our navigation correctly we then had a gentle cycle to return to Kitzbühel. A truly delightful day in the Austrian Alps with warm sunshine, lush green meadows, soaring mountains, crystal clear blue skies and icy waters. Witnessing the locals enjoy their playground on the water and enjoying the local foods.
Jen and Greg
(Ridden 16th June 2012). See more photos below Note.
* "Major Jaroslav Stuchlý AKA “Bill ” or “Pitter ” (1913–2007). A Czechoslovak army officer; participated in the Western resistance during WWII. Worked in the UK from 1940 as a cryptographer and analyst in the II. intelligence section of the Ministry of National Defence (MNO). He returned to Czechoslovakia at the end of the war only to leave again on 30 March 1948 and join the CIO in 1949. Initially he led the operating department at CIO’s HQ in London, later headed the CIO’s branch in Frankfurt, FRG. He relocated to Klagenfurt, Austria at the end of 1952 to direct the FSS centre that sent couriers to Czechoslovakia. He left for the UK for good in 1954 when the CIO’s activities in this area came to an end and emigrated to Australia in 1954 to finally end his participation in the European turmoil of the time.
The Czechoslovak Intelligence Office (CIO) was formed at the turn of 1948 and 1949 as one of the branches of the planned exile intelligence organization. As such, it was initially a partner, and later a part of UK’s Secret Intelligence Office (SIS).
Until 1953 the focal point of activities was sending couriers across the border into Communist controlled Czechoslovakia to make contacts and gain intelligence for the Western Powers.
The main executive base for the CIO’s activities was in the Wörthersee lake area in the British occupation zone near Klagenfurt, Austria. There was a courier training centre and radio centre there. Couriers obtained information and built intelligence and radio operator networks in Czechoslovakia."
Taken from “On the Cold War Front Czechoslovakia 1948-1956” published by The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes Prague 2009.