Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Danube looks more sage-green than blue

I feel like a real bike-tour veteran now, having finished the last two days of biking without a single incident of getting lost or riding the relief van. Of course it helped that both days we biked along the Danube and the course was mostly flat. 

On Sunday we took a river barge from Passau to Schlogen, and then biked along the Danube to Ottensheim - a distance of 32 miles. About 3/4 through the ride, we crossed a dam, just as hail began to strike us. Fortunately it was a brief shower, it never rained hard, and it came toward the end of the ride. However, we then had another transport - by bus - to our hotel in Weissenkirchen. It was a lot of transports in one day, and the need to meet the bus meant there was some pressure to finish the ride a bit faster than I would have liked. While I love having the van support and the company making arrangements and figuring out good routes, I definitely prefer going at my own pace - and would have liked more freedom to stop for photos or just a little rest.

Our hotel in Weissenkirchen was quite impressive, however: an ancient building in a renaissance village. It felt like stepping into a fairy tale.

Our final day of cycling was a 40 mile loop, cycling upstream from Weissenkirchen to Melk, where we stopped for lunch. I was desperate for vegetables. The hardest part of traveling in Bavaria is the meat-heavy culture...a true carnivore's paradise. I've had plenty of delicious whole grain, seeded breads, cheeses and tasty yogurt, and plenty of fruit. And I've been the lone person loading up on the raw veggies always included with breakfast. I walked round and round Melk and finally - in the butcher store- I was able to get a plate filled with 4 different vegetarian salads: cucumber, potato, cabbage, and a carrot/turnip blend - all delicious. I practically licked the plate!

From Melk, we crossed to the other side of the Danube and biked beyond Weissenkirchen to Durnstein, taking our bikes across the river on a tiny ferry. I biked most of the day with Katia and we took it slowly, stopping often for photos. I was proud of finishing 40 miles and we had the most perfectly glorious weather - sunny and temperatures in the mid 60s to low 70s. The ride upstream took us through many small villages and the ride along the other side was more rural - with many of the vineyards that produce the region's white wine. The color of the Danube indeed was a lovely shade of sage green, as once it blended with the Inn river in Passau it contains glacial sediment from the Alps. My one regret of the day was that I didn't know in advance that there was a beach by the ferry to Durnstein. It would have been my one chance to dip my feet into the chilly waters, but alas, I was running late so I'll have to return for another chance.

This morning we said goodbye to our VBT tour guides, who were unfailingly helpful and patient: Jan more animated and entertaining, and Andy more calm and low-key. We took a bus to Vienna, and it was a bit of a shock to be back in an urban environment...not such a welcome one, but perhaps a good transition before I have to return home. I wore my feet out walking, getting a little lost, tasting yummy foods at the naschmarkt, viewing amazing art at the Leopold Museum (featuring Egon Schiele - one of my favorites - who tragically lived only to the age of 28). Exhausted, I took the metro back to my hotel, discovering that I just barely qualify for senior-priced tickets (two rides for €2,80...less than $2/ride). I also got senior admission to the museum - yay!

Two more days to explore Vienna, and then home...with strong thighs and fond memories.

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