We have just recently arrived in Vienna, and look forward to sharing with you all soon about our travels here. But we’ll use this blog to update you about our last few days.
Since leaving Passau, we have been enjoying cycling down the Danube (in German: the Donau). It has been interesting traveling this river after already cycling the Rhine. The section of the Danube we are cycling has been far less developed than the Rhine and thus seems even more dependent on tourism, especially cycle tourists (however, we have not seen one other tourist yet… we are really understanding the term “off-season).
Like the Rhine, the Danube has incredible gorges and we have caught the fall colours at their peak, incredible reds, yellows and oranges. Unfortunately, we have had a lot of rain and overcast days since beginning on the river which has dulled their vibrancy. But we woke up to the sun for the first time this morning and had an absolutely fantastic trip to Vienna: crisp yet very comfortable.
Although the (Austrian) Danube is fairly rural, with small towns along the way, there are a few significant cities. After Passau, we visited Linz, which we really liked and wished we could have stayed longer.
Despite its small population (approximately 200,000) it had a very vibrant cultural scene: elaborate parks, many museum and some very nice town squares. We especially enjoyed visiting Linz because of the parallels to Hamilton. Linz is also a steel town by heritage, but has managed to diversify its identity to become a modern city; and this has been internationally recognized since it was the European Capital of Culture in 2009. Interestingly, Linz is also where Hitler grew up and he envisioned it as the new capital of Austria and disassembled many of the factories in the Czech Republic and brought them to Linz. While in Linz, we explored the Ars Electronica museum, an interactive facility dedicated to modern technology. Very, very cool!
One of our big highlights on the Danube was that we pedalled our longest day yet – 114 kilometers! It was pouring rain the whole day, which provided great motivation to go the distance. We were very proud and rewarded ourselves with a sleep in a gasthaus (guesthouse) in the quaint and cobblestoned town of Melk.
The guesthouse was at the bottom of the Stift Melk, an incredible Baroque abbey that is now a UNESCO world heritage site. We took a guided tour of the abbey the next morning and were blown away by its magnificence and grandeur. It was founded by the Benediction order in 1089, but was entirely rebuilt in the 1700s with support from the ruling Habsburg family, and thus the building reflects much of their aristocratic elegance, and many of the 500 rooms were for noble guests. The abbey has recently undergone a 25 million Euro renovation and attracts 500,000 people annually. The current main attractions of the abbey are its “marble” dining hall, its extensive library of over 100,000 books (the oldest being 1100 years old, which we got to see), and its extremely ornate church. There are currently only about 30 monks and priests living in the abbey, but its many tourist visitors make it seem a very busy place still!
It has been quite cold here in Austria (which isn’t really a surprise…) we have been having fun composing a list of the ten (somewhat facetious) reasons why we enjoy cycle touring during this time of year in this country! We thought we’d share.
- You have the cycle paths entirely to yourself… no one else is here. No one.
- Your water is always very cold.
- You have lots of space in your panniers because you’re wearing all your clothes
- You look forward to hills so you can warm up (the bigger the better!)
- Yogurt and milk will keep for days on your bike
- You cannot order a bad coffee, tea or soup. If it’s warm, it’s delicious!
- The sun sets at 1830 and rises at 0730, so you get LOTS of sleep
- You get to eat breakfast in bed every morning because it’s too cold to get out of your sleeping bag
- Your clothes don’t smell that bad
- You don’t need to wear sunscreen
Well, to wrap it up, spirits are high, we’re having fun, and we’re looking forward to the hospitality of friends in warm places over the next week!
Alec & Caitlin