Archive for the ‘Austria’ Category

Slovakia

15 August 2010

It took us ages to extricate ourselves from Vienna which we did by taking the industrial tour, and then receiving assistance from a woman, aged probably in her 70s, who led us to the Donauradweg. The bicycle path took us past an area that’s popular for Viennese nudists who were stripping off to lie in the sun. Then along a long dike with forest on both sides. Our last Austrian town was Hainburg with Roman ruins and fort on the hill top. We could see Bratislava in the distance and crossed into Slovakia past the now disused border post.

Outpost on hill overlooking Hainburg

So we have arrived in eastern Europe. It is a distinctively different place from its neighbour. There was not time to become closely acquainted with Bratislava, but we stopped for a drink in the central mall and then began another gritty tour through high rise suburbs, then low rise outskirts and countryside that featured chemical factories, bad roads and dumped rubbish.

Bratislava street

Eventually we made our way back to the Donau, now a vast expanse with wetlands and recreational beaches, people fishing, roller blading, cycling and picnicking. We had to find a place to stay so left the path to go into the town of Samorin.

It has many blocks of flats, the old town centre a little neglected and lacking the charm that we are accustomed to. There were no tourist facilities or accommodation at all, so we returned to the river which does have these things. Our pension in Cilistov was comfortable and we dined at the Hotel Kormoran. This area is called the Riviera.

Cycle route:
Wien – Samorin

Vienna

14 August 2010

Vienna is Mozart Central. It’s full of people dressed up in Mozart costumes flogging concert tickets to tourists. The tourist groups here walk around with wireless receivers and earplugs listening to their tour guide – at least better than the system where the tour guide has an amplifier. Going around in a horse-drawn carriage is also popular. Vienna gets 3 Ukuleles for having the largest number of unusual museums, including the Museum of Crime, Museum of Torture, Museum of Contraception and Abortion, Funeral Museum, Esperanto Museum and the Third Man Museum. We went to the Museum of Torture – not sure why really except that it was nearby. It is not recommended as it only displays dusty old scenes of medieval torture and ignores any contemporary situations. It is linked with Amnesty though and has a display about human rights. Next stop: St Stephens Cathedral. It is being repaired but the hoardings have the image of the walls they are covering, so well done the person who thought up that idea. Like all the great cathedrals there was a stream of people walking around, including us. Incredibly there was a wedding ceremony taking place – it seemed an enormous intrusion to have tourists talking, taking photos and milling around, even though the front area of the church was off limits.

roof tiles of Vienna's cathedral

After a rest we decided to go on a self-designed Third Man tour so we went to the spot where Harry Lime didn’t get run over, and then headed to the Prater. Only the Garmin took us to another Prater, the Laaer Berg Prater, a kind of permanent side show alley, via the gritty area of Vienna, seldom seen by tourists. No Mozart costumes here. We had to ride through a lot more grit to get to the desired destination so that we could go on the Wiener Riesenrad, the giant ferris wheel, that is featured in The Third Man. I played the theme tune on the ukulele as we ascended. A violent thunderstorm descended shortly afterwards with torrential rain.

Ian on the giant wheel

Cycle route:
Langenlebarn – Wien

Melk and the Wachau

12 August 2010

Before leaving Ybbs, we went to the church to see if we could find the carved tomb of Hans, Knight of Ybbs, from 1358, as described by PLF (A time of gifts, 1977, p.159 Penguin edition), and there it was! Gilt and cherubs were there in good quantity too. Onwards to Pochlarn beside the wide Donau, then the abbey of Melk could be seen high in the distance. Melk is Tourism Central with bus parking, tour groups and souvenir shops. The bicycle parking area had luggage lockers so bicycle tourists are well catered for. We mainly osmosed the history here – it was either that or join a tour or do a degree in European history. After leaving Melk, it was hard to make progress as we needed to stop many times to eat fruit, rest, see things, find shade (it was quite hot and humid). We chose the worst cafe where, despite being open for business, they didn’t want to serve any food. We had a toasted sandwich no better than you can get in a Tailem Bend roadhouse. This tragedy aside, the Wachau was beautiful with orchards, terraced vineyards, river enclosed between hills on either side, villages with narrow streets, views, lots of bike riders and cruise boats on the water.

Wachau valley on Danube

After Krems the river valley broadens and becomes more industrial with factories and power stations. We had a headwind too. Now we are at Langenlebarn, just past Tulln, for the night and will go to Vienna in the morning.

Cycle route:
Ybbs – Langenlebarn

Ybbs

12 August 2010

Today we cycled from Aschach to Ybbs. Our zimmer in Aschach was a room in a family home, one of two rooms that are available for radlers (riders on the Donauradweg). The first part of the route took us along a flat and open section of the riverĀ  valley. We arrived in Linz before 10am and were happy to find free WiFi in the stadtplatz. Public internet access is not easy to find and unsecured WiFi is rare. According to Fabian, it used to be more widely available in cafes and other public places, but people would camp all day with their laptops, so it has tightened up a lot. Travelling as we are, we have little time and energy to seek it out. Once we leave Austria it will probably be harder to check emails and update the blog.

We ate linzertorte and apfelstrudel before continuing. The weather was fine and warm and the cycle path full of cyclists with roller blading, Nordic walking and cross country ski training also featuring. We spent a bit of time getting slightly lost as we crossed the Enns, and found the Donau again near Wallsee, a pretty town with square on top of a hill and a fountain with cherubs Soon after this the gorge closes in again and the path returns close to the river.

Shady gorge on Danube above Ybbs

We are reading Patrick Leigh Fermor who walked here in the 1930s. If we run out of money, Ian intends to do sketches as PLF did to keep himself solvent. Only Ian says he will use the available technology to make it quicker and to produce a better likeness (digital camera and Gimp for various hand-drawn effects).

Cycle route:
Aschach – Linz
Linz – Ybbs

Deggendorf to Aschach

11 August 2010

Tues 10 August

Pension Pielmeier was pretty good but we had to mark it down because of the breakfast which included kraft singles-style cheese slices. You expect that in Australia but in Germany it’s not really good enough. Tough, yes but we need to be if we’re to retain the trust of our readers.

There is a lot of water in the Donau. After leaving Deggendorf we encountered a number of ‘hochwasser’ signs (high water), where water was over the path. Some of these we ignored, resulting in wet socks and shoes. Some we could not ignore. We had one detour along the edge of a muddy field and another along the road.

Arrived in Passau in time for morning tea before attending the organ recital in St Stephens Church (Bach, Tartini, Flor Peeters, Schutze). This church is thoroughly decorated in the rococo style with a high cherub count. This style is growing on me – I think it could inspire the next kitchen renovation.

Passau cathedral organ

The Inn River enters the Donau at Passau adding more water to the torrent. The river flows through a forested gorge from Passau to Aschach making this a spectacular section of the route, especially at Schlogen where there is a big bend. There are gasthofs, restaurants, pensions and all kinds of facilities for the hundreds of cyclists. But the route is not overcrowded. We have seen people of all ages, including small children, cycling the radweg. Child trailers are common – one carried a dalmatian!

We have noticed the beautiful palette of pastel colours of buildings in the towns we pass through and believe that this must be the result of some kind of regulation. It seems unlikely that it could occur by chance. Does anyone know if that’s true?

As we dined by the river in the evening a man walked by with a falcon on his gauntleted arm!

Bicycle route:
Regensburg to Deggendorf to Aschach