Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Krems to Vienna

A good breakfast and we were on the road.  We had to walk a bit and I led us into a woodcutting yard rather than the road we actually wanted to take.  A bloke had followed us in and we all had to waddle the pannier laden bikes around before cycling out along busy streets looking for the river and a place to cross.  It was a bit scary as it looked like we might have to get on a dual carriageway.

We followed other baffled looking cyclists and ended up by the river.  I asked some old guy out walking and he game me directions all the way to Vienna.  All I understood of his wonderful route plan was - go down there, through a tunnel and then turn left. 

Another old boy out walking with the ski-type walking sticks that are popular here gave us more directions, which were basically to stick on Euro Cycle Route 6, but again, with every twist and turn explained in detail.

We headed up and over a bridge to the south side  of the Danube, then back the way we came for a little while until we were rolling to Hollenburg where Lou desperately needed a pee so I drank apple juice at a Radler station to justify our use of their facilities.  Those facilities were really horrible, and now I'd added apple juice to my bladder, so I cycled on quickly to a luxurious boat club with sparkly clean toilets and no minimum purchase.  Luxury.

Lou was unwrapping and eating Starbursts as she cycled along, and wanted to offload the strawberry and blackcurrant ones to me as they came up.  The plan worked well until we reached the kraftwerk at Attenworth.  I speeded up to take the last strawberry sweet but overcooked it a bit and realised as I sped past, grabbing the sweet as I entered a sharp bend with a steep decline.  I controlled the bike with a bit of a wiggle, but was consumed by giggles as Lou choked on her sweet behind me, making a comedic sight for oncoming cyclists.

We got a bit confused with our route as we didn't want to cross over and an Italian family joined us for a map conference.  We worked it out and stayed safely south.  It was hot.  We peddled on to Tulln, promised a "strangely decorated crypt".  When we got there we parked the bikes by the Minorite church and I went to sit in the cool while Lou had a fag.  I was lathered up with Factor 50 sunscreen but had a heat rash which was driving me crazy with itchiness.

The church was OK, but we were excited to see the crypt.  We went down and Lou looked disapprovingly at me because my cleats clanked on the stone steps no matter how gently I stepped.  It was indeed strange.  Several of the bodies had been moved from their mortuary cubbyholes and marks on the walls indicated flood levels two tombs up.

We strolled through the town to a restaurant and I had the special - spinach noodles with gorgonzola sauce.  They were divine although the Austrian noodles weren't what I expected, sort of like chewed gnocci.  I wanted Kaiser pancakes for pudding but despite my best efforts I couldn't attract the attention of the waiter so paid and left instead.

The American couple we'd seen a couple of times on the road were also in the restaurant, she was easy to spot, cycling in an ankle length denim skirt, which mast have been uncomfortably hot.

From there we cycled to Muckendorf where I had a Magnum ice cream bar to make up for it.  A woman from Munich came to chat.  She was cycling alone, staying in campsites and liked to have a bit of company now and then.

When we rode on there was a little wiggle to avoid crossing a kraftwerk again and on long straight levees all the way to Klosterneuberg with only elderly naked people sunbathing on the riverbank to distract us. 

The tourist office at the station would not book us a hotel in Vienna.  Meanies.  We parked and locked the bikes then walked up the hill to the monastery.  It was very pretty.  We were super-heating so stopped at a café and I had an Almdudler, Austria's favourite soft drink.  It was great, a bit apple/pear-ish with some bubbles and herbs.  I had another.  I had to go to the bar to get it so opted to pay while I was there as otherwise we may have waited all day for service.

We looked in the church, but could only get to the back, the main body was closed off with huge metal gates.  There was a cool side chapel with murals on the ceiling warning of the fates of bad people which involved some alarmingly rude looking fruits.

Out of Klosterneuberg to Vienna which was only a kilometre away.  Through a few suburbs and we entered a Vienna of more suburbs, parks and bungalows.  We quickly got lost and re-found the route.  We crossed the canal and then got really confused.  We met the Italian family who we'd been lost with before.  They were looking for the Hotel Park as they were on a self guided tour with pre booked hotel stops.

We found a bridge and crossed.  After aimlessly riding around we asked for help and found ourselves at Islam Zentrum, a huge mosque.  Two people confirmed we were going exactly the wrong way.  A third suggested we take the tube, but that would involve taking the bikes underground and changing lines, and perhaps more importantly, knowing where to go and where to get off.  Instead we used the tube map to navigate our way overground to the bridge and back towards the centre of Vienna rather than the Vienna Islamic Centre. 

We were so far off route our map didn't cover where we were so we were relying on a vague sense of direction and a tiny compass until we reached a street name we recognised.  We cycled and walked for miles before deciding to get a hotel just outside the central ring rather than risking getting lost again.  We saw the Hotel Stephanie.  It looked fancy, and expensive, but we were tired and disoriented and needed a rest so agreed to try every hotel we saw until we found one with room at the inn.  No need for the plan, Hotel Stephanie had a twin room (after a little bed manoeuvring) and were in, washed, refreshed an ready to go in no time, but it was already dark. 

I wasn't keen on just staying in the hotel all evening so we agreed a on a quick stroll and if there was no where to eat within ten minutes we'd head back.  We found "Frank's American-Italian Bar and Grill", a strange Austrian concept.  It was almost empty but was still open.  I had tuna and stir fried vegetables, oh how I loved those vegetables.

I realised I'd been wearing my top inside out all evening, but no-one seemed to have noticed.  We strolled back over the Danube canal, past a Corona beach bar and back to the hotel where we drank a big beer in the little bar before bed.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Ybbs to Krems

Breakfasts so far have been fabulous - buffets with fruit, cheese, yogurt, croissants, bread, jam, Nutella, nuts and cereals. Today's was a basic affair which would have been luxury in Spain, but was a little disappointing here.

The road out was confusing, along a busy industrial route and then retail parks. We finally turned off into corn and turnip fields, far more like playing Agricola. Then we got lost in a little village before a woman tending her huge back yard, dressed for the 1930's, shouted us to go down a track. It took us past more land and tractors before rejoining the tow-path.

My chain came off on the hill up to the tow path and as a result I cracked the new second skin I'd applied so painfully before setting out. It hurt.

Onwards to a levee and around another kraftwerk. The cycle path jiggled around and into carparks before finally spewing us out into Melk and its fabulous monastery. It's unattractively yellow, but impressive.

We went past an American tour party heading back to their Danube cruise boats, not moving out of anyones way. One bloke said "These high water marks aren't real are they?" Fool.

We pushed the bikes up the cobbled streets to the main square and chose a bike park. We locked up, I changed into Crocs so that my cleats wouldn't clatter, and we hung our damp washing off the bikes. Classy. I did up the bikini to fixing it on the handlebars so it wouldn't blow away. We walked to the tourist office and she told us where the pharmacy and the steps to Melk Abbey were.

At the pharmacy I quickly found second skin, but not antiseptic wipes. I looked up antiseptic in the dictionary and said it in my best German accent. The pharmacist looked puzzled then said "oh, you want antiseptic, yes of course, I have a spray", in a more credible English accent than my German one.

We sat at a cafe in the square where I asked for 'tomatensaft' - go me. They didn't have any, I settled for apple juice. We sat and drank and chatted and chose food, then we tried to get the waiter to take our order. He was incredibly skilled in avoiding eye-contact whilst striking handsome poses. I'm sure this was nice for him, but I was more hungry than horny and quickly got fed up. We ordered cheese toast, which turned out to be a grilled cheese sandwich American style, served with ketchup and without cutlery.

As I was happily eating it the "Golden Girls" from last night arrived, looking just as glamourous although they had clearly cycled in.  They laughed at us snacking again.

We tried to pay, with limited success.  The waiter ignored me twice so we went inside to pay where he ignored me some more.  When he graciously agreed to let us pay he was grumpy that we didn't give him a tip.  Idiot.

Melk Monastery was dull at first, a big courtyard where the windows were being replaced and a couple of rooms of bad modern art followed by reliquaries galore - hurrah!  There was a gold head with missing scalp and ears where St Agnes' head was stored.  There were little fancy bejewelled reliquaries with bits of St Peter and John the Baptist.  There were unlabelled shin bones and bits and pieces of unsung saints.  Fabulous!

The library was impressive as was the view over the Danube.  A couple asked Lou to take a picture of them.  She did so, badly, but they returned the favour anyway.  The church was a festival of gilding.  It was spectacularly ugly.  We plodded back down to town, repack our now dry washing, sun screened up and set off.

I stopped on the road to get a cold juice from a petrol station.  Travelling on cycle routes you don't see many BP stations.  They didn't have any Rennies, Tums or Bisodol for Lou though.

The cycle route took us up, up and up on a track along the side of a busy road, then we had to cross it and cycle on it.  It was hot, steep, busy and scary - just like Spain.  We then rejoined the cycle path across the river which was a tiny stretch of the Austrian portion of the Camino de Santiago.  We whizzed down from the bridge onto smooth cycle path beside the road close up against the cliff face.

We came up to Grimsing where we sang grim songs until stopped by two German firemen who chatted.  The steep banking and cut out terraces on both sides of the river were amazing with Gruner Veltliner, Riesling and what I assume was Pinot Noir below us.

There were terraces cut into the slopes although some around the edges looked to have been abandoned years ago.  Farmers were busy turning over the ground at the base of the vines and cutting off leaves to encourage better fruit production.  I was fascinated, but the road called.

A short climb up Durnstein was made harder by tourists randomly strolling into the road.  I had to get off and walk when the combined effort of climbing, weaving through people and breathing through a fog of expensive aftershave and perfume became too much for me.  There was a fancy hotel at the top.  We stopped for water and to admire the views of miles of vines and Durnstein Castle up above.  Richard the Lionheart was held there for "A King's Ransom" on his way home from the Crusades.

We rolled down through the cutesy tourist town and out through yet more vineyards up to Stein which melded into Krems, our last station stop of the day.

We rolled in trying to follow information signs but ended up circling the town and coming back to the slightly scary looking Steiner Tor and seeing the information place around the corner in a shopping mall.  We booked a room, a double after the woman told us there were no twin rooms in Austria, at the Under The Linden Tree Hotel. It was a great choice with a secure courtyard garden to store the bikes and pull apart twin beds in the room.

We strolled around looking for somewhere to eat, but everywhere seemed to have closed at six.  We found a bar and I ordered a Sekt.  It wasn't nice.  I had tuna penne, it was heavenly with loads of tomatoes and vegetables in the sauce.  We wanted to order pizza toast as a side as we were super hungry after the hills but the waitress advised it would be too much.  She was right.  Lou had ordered ribs and wings which came on a bread board and would easily have fed four.

I had a Gruner Veltliner from Krems, it was divine, wines are always so much better when you've seen the grapes growing.  We strolled back and had a beer in a café by the Steiner Tor before bed.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Linz - Ybbs

Up a bit late, then ate a giant multi-part breakfast stocking up on fruit and cheese washed down with coffee and juice. A wiggly route out of town through a one-way system. My new layer of second-skin felt tight but the expected bruising didn't appear.

We took the northern, left-bank, pootling happily through Linz's main park and then along levees for miles. My front wheel creaked and I tried moving it sideways to little effect. We got overtaken a lot. It was wonderfully dry and overcast with no wind. Heavenly.

We had to move away from the Danube to St Georgen to stay on track. We'd opted not to go visit the concentration camp memorial nearby, but had just commented on how beautiful the wooded section we were in when we spotted a roadside art work. A memorial to the slave labourers from Spain, Poland and Russia who had built the bridge we'd crossed to bring people to the camp. It was a grim moment.

There were loads of Sunday cyclists out. One tried to talk to me, I tried English. He liked my Jim Morrison/Andy Warhol cycling jersey, but didn't want to order one from England. We stopped for ice cream at a bar. Everywhere was cycle stands sponsored by beer and cigarette brands.

We carried along a levee which was lots of lovely miles of traffic-free smoothness with an occasional break up of cobbles as we'd taken the wrong road. We stopped at a radlerstation at MitterKirchen where I had sparkly apple spritzer and nut strudel. It was cake-y rather than pastry-ish, but good. We left and took a few wiggles, we missed a turn and stopped sharply. The cyclists behind us laughed out loud at our ineptitude. On through more track which seemed to have been diverted from the road to take us past lots of silly museums.

From there it was a steady ride to Grein, where we stopped for lunch, although it was already 3pm. I had pizza and a radler (shandy). The tourist office charged us E2 to book a room in Ybbs, that was great value as it allowed us to relax.

We asked at the ferry platform, but it didn't seem to be running so we walked back through Sunday strollers towards the bridge, but another ferry-man shouted to me. I waved and he waited as I lowered the bike slowly onto the ferry as he gestured that I should keep the brakes on. This is when I learned that the trick to getting a laden bike onto a ferry safely is to reverse it on.

It was a five minute crossing and soon we were zooming along the south-bank past lovely cottages nd holiday caravans in the woods. Lou's knees were creaking so we took it steady. I got a giant bug stuck in my eye so had to stop to cry it out. As we set off again a German voice said 'Hullo' - it was the men from yesterday. They checked on my knee and where we were staying but they were set to be on the other side of the river. We followed them for a while before losing touch. They crossed at the Kraftwerk and we carried on into Ybbs.

We saw a sign to the hotel in 300m but all we got at 300m was a statue made of broken bikes and another sign saying the hotel was 400m further on.

When we got there it was heaven. Our bikes were stored in racks in a secure courtyard an we went straight for a beer in the garden and sat happily chatting. We decided to stay for dinner. I had grilled prawns and zander from the Danube with mixed veg, including yellow carrots. Odd but good. I creaked audibly as I walked and a group of middle aged Austrian women laughed at me. We smiled back and after a series of little mimes we became friends in that weird kind of travelling way.

Back upstairs to shower and I sat in the shower to peel of that day's second skin. It hurt. I washed myself and my clothes and I realised that I was struggling to stand up without bashing my knee. I started to panic that I'd have to get help to get out of the shower, and I knew I couldn't put wet lycra clothes back on so I'd be naked and bleeding when the fire brigade came. This was not an option so I hauled myself to a crouch using the soap dish and the showerhead and poked my bum out of the shower stall to sit on the floor and wriggle backwards so I could free my legs. It was not an attractive thing to do.

I went to bed and listened to road noise, I woke fearing that the noise outside was the wind reaching gale levels, but it was just trains passing and they 'rocked me back to sleep'

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Passau to Linz

Listened to the rain falling in the early hours. It wasn't comforting or encouraging. I tried to eat a good breakfast but I felt sick, I was nervous about the trip. We cycled out to St Stephans Cathedral, it was amazing, and the organ was mind boggling. We carried on towards the bridge past beautifully painted buildings wearing our rain jackets as a little drizzle was falling. Other cyclists were suiting up by the road. I spotted a cycle store by the bridge, the guy was lovely, he straightened my front wheel and repaired Lou's handlebars, then wished us luck.

We crossed the bridge over the Danube and cycled on the smooth, wide cycle track. We were rolling along and the rain was pouring down. Weirdly the Danube and Inn were very different colours and the two sides of the river stayed different colours for miles. The overall effect was more muddy brown than blue. Joining tributaries added new dark brown colours.

We were on the German side of the river looking across to Austria, we were up against the steep rocky face of a nature reserve but all we saw were slugs and snails enjoying the rain. It was easy riding with no other cyclists for 10km.

We stopped at Erlau to change the map over. The cycling guides are very detailed, but each section is really short, so they need changing often. We cycled on to Obernzell where there was a pretty parish church with a weird Mary grotto at the back. We had coffee at a grocers to dry out and warm up.

We cycled on to Haus am Strom where there was a cyclist station at the dam where we could pee. There was a strange jiggle in the road which would be easy to miss, but we stayed on the route. We crossed into Austria over a very unimpressive rickety wooden bridge over a drainage ditch. We were overtaken by four middle aged German men and followed them through the rain. It was cold and there was a strong headwind, which combined with the rain was very wearing.

We got to the ferry crossing at Au where there were two Irish women who were also following the John Higginson guide having done the Camino. They hated him too, but still followed the route! There was no ferry so we went to the next stop, where the bloke said the next one would be an hour if it came at all. We went back to Au and waited. When the ferry came the surface was slippery and it was hard to handle a bike with panniers. We cycled on in yet more rain along narroow roads, shouting 'Auto' to warn each other of oncoming cars.

We pedalled grimly on through beautiful countryside getting very cold and wet. At 50km we finally spotted a roadside cafe. We left our bikes in the downpour, stripped off in the hallway then sat down. Our German chums from earlier in the day were already tucking into pasta. We ordered coffee and I drank mine with milk and sugar - horrid, but I wanted the calories. The pasta was soggy with bottled sauce and economy mild cheese. It was great.

I put on my arm warmers which I'd forgotten. They were dry, I'd forgotten how that felt. Despite the rain the scenery was beautiful and we were on a levee with no traffic around. We rolled a few miles more when I realised I was really hungry, I wanted to stop but I lost concentration as I did and fell. It hurt. Lou rushed to get the first aid kit, but I wanted her to help me get the bike off me. My bum hurt at the hip but me knee was bleeding profusely. It was full of gravel and EOP thick. It looked gross. Lou's antiseptic wipes cleared some gravel and blood, it took a few to get the gravel and dirt out, but the blood kept coming. I painted second skin on liberally all over the top of the blood to try and stem the flow. It looked ghastly but it didn't hurt, I just felt dizzy and sick. I got back on and cycled slowly for another km before I remembered to eat the snack I'd stopped for.

The German men from earlier stopped to see if they could help. I was fine, but noticed my sock was blood soaked. We kept going towards Ottensheim where Higginson had promised us a crypt full of skeletons and a mummified woman. The tourist office was closed, our German friends were stying here but we were pressing on to Linz, after seeing a weird grooto but no mummies.

The roads were cobbled which bobbled more blood from my knee. We met up with the Irish girls from eirlier, they laughed at our crypt mission. A group of AMerican teens stopped to gawk at my knee and offer plasters, I pointed out my 'second skin', and the pre-med student amongst them said I needed third and fourth skin.

The cycleway became a pavement at the side of a major road into Linz. The paving was sprayed with ads for Linz 09, a music festival. The road got busy and trams joined the traffic, making it tricky, although the hot air outlets from offices felt good. At Hauplatz we found a tourist office and Lou booked a room whilst I went to a pharmacy to stock up.

We walked through town to our hotel. Shoppers were heading home and staring at my knee. Some looked and quickly turned away, some clucked sympathetically, most just stared, one or two made vomiting noises. Lou was walking behind me and the politer folk saved their horrified faces for her. The staring was beginning to annoy me. I might have found it funny if I wasn't sore, hungry, wet and tired.

The hotel was clean and dry, wonderfully dry. I took off my clothes and unpacked my panniers, even the clothes in their were damp. When I got in the shower I sat down to peel off the second skin and clean out the dirt. It stung but looked much better without all the dried blood. I had gummed up the drain though. The I realised I couldn't stand, my knee and hip had seized up. I had to fall sideways onto the floor then straighten out before I could get up. Classy.

We went out for food. The Cathedral was closed for restoration, which iced my cake. Most restaurants seemed closed except all you can eat Chinese buffets which just don't agree with me. We had BAguettes at Bug's Bar in the main square. The waiter was lovely and spoke English, well, he said 'Yes of course' in answer to all questions, but he brought me food and beer so I loved him.

We had a stroll about then a slice of pizza and some juice from a sho window before bed.

101 km.

On to Day 2 - Linz
Back to Day 1 - Home to Passau

Home to Passau

The highlight of the flight was the pilot giving us each a small bar of Swiss chocolate as we got off at Zurich. The next leg to Vienna was 20 minutes late, and when we got ther our bikes didn't seem to be in the luggage area. They'd been dumped at 'bulky luggage' which was in a public area of the airport - rubbish security. We got the bus to the train station, and I was hungry but everything seemed to be ham based. I ended up with a giant cheese pretzel.

The train to Passau was clean and on time. There was an Austrian couple on the next table with two cute toddling girls. The older, braver one batted her balloon at me and I batted it back. Her mum reminded her to say 'thank you' in English, the kid speaks more English than I do German and she hasn't even started school.

I read the maps to get an understanding of our first few days and we used the spacious luggage area on the train to rebuild our bikes between Wels and Passau, we didn't do well, missing a piece off my seatpost and putting the pedals on the wrong side. A twisted chain meant filthy hands.

We put the panniers on at the platform, but had to manhandle the bikes down the stairs and back up again to leave the station. Walking down the pedestrianised street I was excited to see a sign for 'Jumbo Speil' but it was a casino, not a game shop.

We found the White Rabbit Hotel easily and the drunked receptionist directed me to pu the bikes in the garage. We dumped our stuff in the room and went out for dinner. We were tired and didn't explore, choosing a Croatian restaurant on a river, but I don' know if it was the Danube or Inn. After dinner and a wheat beer we went back, watch a little of the Olympics and slept. The Olympics viewing is wierd. The main Eurosport feed is in English, with a loud German overdub.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Packing List For Cycling The Danube

This is my proposed packing list for cycling the Danube:

Antiseptic wipes
Bite cream
Insect repellant

Contact lenses
Sun screen factor 40
Shampoo - for hair, body and clothes
Tissues - for use as emergency loo roll
Deodorant - futile, but makes me feel better

Water bottles
Cable ties
Inner tubes
Lights - small and light doubling as torch

Waterproof jacket
PJ's - big t-shirt and big knickers for dormitories
Knickers - cheap thongs, comfy, light, and cheap enough to be disposable
Socks - again, disposable, worth a little extra weight for feeling clean
Cycling shorts - 2 pairs
Bikini top - 2 - underwired to double as bra
Cycling tops - 2
T-shirt - need something with sleeves to stop burn, for evenings and for churches
Sarong - for churches, doubles as all purpose large piece of light fabric
Cargo shorts - lots of pockets for off bike time
Cycling shoes
Crocs - can be worn in shower in dodgy accommodation
Fleece - for cold evenings
Arm warmers - for cold days

Credit/cash card
Flight details
Camera/memory card/charger/adaptor - cheaper and lighter than disposables I took to Spain
Phrasebooks - German & Hungarian