Saturday, July 31, 2010

Austria into Slovakia

An obstacle course to test your bike skills.

My last day in Austria was a quiet one. I loaded up early and was out of camp by 6am. I hoped I was bound for more entertaining waters. The first half of the day had me winding through the beautiful wetlands of the Donau-Auen National Park. Beautiful. Super scenic. Very fertile. Lots of trees. Tons of birds chirping in the morning light.

Donau-Auen National Park

Heading to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, would be a short 85km day so I took one big side trip to Austria's most important Roman ruin sight. I have never thought of Austria as having important Roman ruins, but I figured why not. It did not disappoint, but the ruins might have been the least interesting part. It was also an open air museum where they reconstructed some ruins using the old building techniques. It was great to see, and not need to imagine, what things were like. They even had real garlic, onions, and other food in the kitchen. They were not the fakes ones I am used to seeing in US exhibits. It is probably cheaper that way and maybe the staff gets to use them when they are a little bit aged? I don't know. Also on site, was a small hive of archaeologists uncovering more ruins. I am not used to that in the US. We have a lot more separation. If anything is being dug up, it is probably off limits to the public.

An old Roman amphitheater.

Archaeologists uncover ruins.

Reconstructed Roman buildings beside ancient ruins.

Rebuilt Roman ruins.

An old arch, thought to be for a victorious army to march through.

After a few hours in the morning sun at the ruins and an amazing ciabatta sandwich with mozzarella, basil, and tomato, I was ready to move on. My only other stop was in Hainburg, a small town that was valuable for controlling the Danube. The entire city was walled, had three gates, and fifteen towers overlooking the river. The wall and its gates still regulate access to the city by creating a single lane bottleneck. I can't imagine a better way to keep a city pedestrian friendly than by restricting access like this. I loved it, though I am sure I would hate it as a driver, lucky I am a biker.

Vienna Gate in Hainburg restricts traffic.

Next up was crossing the border into Slovakia. It was neat to cross the border, see the old guard booths, and just keep on going without even a single wave. I cannot imagine how much longer it used to take. I wonder if it was as bad as the US-Canada border crossings are these days. Ugh.

A typical scene on the trail (castle in the hills).

Actually, along those lines, does anyone know if we make foreign nationals show their passport to get a hotel in the USA? At every hotel I go to, they have to see a copy of my passport to collect my information for the local authorities. Do US hotels do this same thing, but with our driver's licenses? I don't even pay attention to the US process anymore. I pay cash here and credit there. Maybe they use my credit card to get the information.

For some reason, all the firewood in Austria is cut to this length, maybe a meter. I am guessing they just have bigger fire places.


  1. I never thought of Roman ruins in Austria either. Interesting though. Sabah is fine. Heat and humidity has kept all animals low keyed.

  2. I'd be interesting to see what your bike currently looks like and what gear you are hauling. Make it more clear what an 'easy' 85 km day would involve carrying.

  3. Drew,
    Working on the gear posts for you. I need to get in a place where I can lay all my gear out. Hostels are not great for that and neither are campsites.

    However, until then four things make for an easy 85km:
    1) If you have done 100km a few times, doing less than that is easy. Just like running 20mi for marathon, your 8 mile ones suddenly seem easy.

    2) Coming off a rest day.

    3) Following a river that makes sure there are not many hills.

    4) I know I thought of a 4th while biking . . . . who knows.