Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Danube River Trail: Melk, Austria to Tulln, Austria, Days 4-5

Schönbühel Castle

The Danube River and Burgruine Aggstein.

After a good midday rest in Melk, I was torn between taking the faster left bank or taking the right so I could go on another side trip. The first side trip had gone so well, I signed up for another to Burgruine Aggstein. The ruins are located up on a hill, perhaps the steepest hill that I have ever ascended on a bicycle. Though it is only 300m above the river, the guide book said most people push their bikes. I opted to pedal, but had to take 5 breaks on the 2km, 20% grade hill. It almost killed me, but what a reward. A couple people took a picture of me at the top because they had driven past me. I would have happily taken a tow. The ruins might have been my best visit of the day so it was worth. I loved these because sometimes the castle just continued on top of a natural rock wall. You went from giant stone to these little pieces that made the rest of the wall. Odd to think that the only major difference between these ruins and the castles I saw earlier in the day was money, care and time when they started to fall apart.

The ferry over to Spitz.

After the ruins, my day was supposed to come to a quick close. Climbing up those hills was taxing. I could have pulled up in Melk and just rested. Instead, I pressed onward to those great ruins. Afterward, I just wanted to take the cable powered ferry to Spitz so I would not have to wait in the morning. (The ferry was drug across the river by a cable, no engine!) Unfortunately, there was no camping and before I even looked too much for a hotel, I realized the town was overrun with wine seeking tourists. It was too much for me so I booked it out there after only checking on one or two hotels for availability. I was tired, but the next town was close.

Spitz is the start of the Wachau wine region.

I love how shop owners cater to cyclists.

Spitz is the start of the Wachau wine region, which is great if you appreciate wine. I don't. While the subsequent towns were quieter, they were also full or charging too much for my wallet because it was the popular wine region. The first one I found was $100, I could not do it. I had paid $12 the night before and would be in the room less than twelve hours. The next one was $75, but I was just 10k from camping. I pressed onward to Krems and camped for $10. The only problem with this was that my 60km day was now a 97km day with hills. I was hurting. Even if I didn't want to pay monetarily, my body was paying physically. Another lesson.

Another old street in another quaint town.

Part of the story of Jesus in Durnstein.

The dinosaur park that wasn't open. Sad days.

I barely remember exploring Krems or going back into the wine country area in the morning. They were all quaint towns and part of it is they run together, but I am realizing as I try to write this just how tired I must have been. It is odd, if someone is with me, I would have happily just grabbed a hotel room. On my own, I'll suffer longer to save that extra bit of cash for more ice cream, or a massage, or . . . .

I have no idea why Tulln, Austria has a statue of Marcus Aurelius. Also, is Caesar the same as Kaiser?

I have seen this a couple times in Austria. It might be the best way to clean up a men's bathroom.

The next day, I had an uneventful 63.5km day to Tulln. I didn't do much. I rested. It has a beautiful water front park where I spent most of my morning the next day before biking to Vienna. They have some beautiful, but small botanical gardens too. They were no Phipps in Pittsburgh or the Christchurch Botanicals. I think those two will always be tops.

A statue near the river in Tulln.

They really do use those gnomes more in Austria.

This snail probably spent the entire night climbing my tent. It took me only three short seconds to undo all its hard work.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Danube River Trail: Passau, Germany to Melk, Austria, Days 2-4

The Danube bike path and a little Austin Powers humor.

The bike ferry (my Trucker is on the right).

The rest of my second day did not goes as smoothly as the morning. It too me to the Danube Loop where the river could not cut through a granite mountain so it took a different route. The bike path stops there and you have to take a ferry down river or across the river. First up, I can't believe this bike trail is so popular that people make a business shuttling people back and forth across the river. I think there were 10 people on the ferry. They all crossed. I chose to continue down river on the same side because I wanted to ride on the trail instead of country roads. Unfortunately, while it was really peaceful riding, I did not get to next ferry point in time to get over to my campsite for the night. I could bike back 10km to a different campsite or stay in the one guest house they had. The guest house was only 40 euros and the room felt air conditioned. As soon as I felt the cool, I was game.

A huge rowing facility: lanes, building, floating transport, and who knows what else.

After getting the room, I explored all twenty feet of the one inn town. There wasn't really much of anything, but it was peaceful, which I liked. They did not have a grocery store so I had to use their pub for dinner. I got a pizza because it was easy, but I think this meal broke me. The entire time with my brother in Austria, we had been fighting flies at meals. Not just one or two, but five or six. At this meal, I counted eight. Very, very frustrating. I don't mind them being 'unsanitary' I just hate that they won't sit still. That is my job. I think someone could make a killing with flypaper in Austria. Anyway, after a meal so quick the waitress commented on it (though in Europe going out to eat seems like a longer affair than in the US), I headed back to my room. It had been hot. I had AC. I wanted to soak up as much of it as I could. Unfortunately, the room seemed a little warmer when I got up there. It turned out that I didn't have AC. The room was just that much cooler without the afternoon sun shining in. Oh well.

Check out the 'walk' signs just outside of Linz.

I love that so many people bike that they have these giant lots for bikes and they are still over full.

My third day, I found out I am an idiot. The ferry might have been running, but you have to page it with some weird intercom system. Once I figured it out, I got the ferry and put my foot to the pedal as fast as I could. I had great ideas for passing through Linz and sleeping next to the castle in Grein. I had been riding past a number of castles, but none were easily visitable or super visible from the river. I wanted to fix that. I get excited about castles. They inspire some romantic ideas of the King Arthur legend. I wonder if people in Austria are nearly as excited by them. I do not think you can go 30km anywhere in Austria without getting to a castle. There are so many, it can be as low at 5 euros to get in. It was a long haul to see it, but worth it.

99 castles in Austria, 99 castles in Austria, go visit one . . .

A great statue in Linz.


My night in Grein was entertaining. I chatted a few people up, but the best part was that I was camping next to other bike tour folks. We had an automatic bond. One couple wanted me to help them check in since I knew Spanish and English. They only knew Spanish and three other languages that were not English or German. The most notable part of the night was the soccer club next to the camp site. I do not know what they were celebrating, but I distinctly remember the men going from singing Ole, Ole, Ole, to Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive. Perfect.

Grein castle.

I really wanted to let this squirrel out. He was just hopping back and forth non stop.

After the long haul and a short night of sleep, I was tired. I was passing through a lot of great land, but I did not feel I was experiencing it enough. I was enjoying the towns I was sleeping in or taking my afternoon break in, but there were small sights on the way that I had been skipping. To fix that on my fourth day, I planned another big day with a ton of side trips to slow me down. Those side trips turned out to be my best decision of the trip so far. I hope to use them as a model from here on out.

Beautiful river scenery.

I do not think I have ever seen a lock being used. The Danube has a ton. Very cool.

The smell these guys give off will stick with me when I think of Austria.

After cruising the river for a few kilometers, I detoured to a climb up to Maria Taferi, a pilgrimage church. From there, I was off to Artstetten Castle and it did not disappoint. Big, inspiring, and just what I was looking for. Also, there was a fireman's carnival going on just below the castle that was great. From there, I cut across the farmland to Leiben Castle before dropping down to Melk. Leiben seemed more like a big mansion than a castle. It was still neat to get up close in the courtyard though. After that, I took my afternoon break in Melk. Melk was not the big city I was hoping for. I had left Linz without doing my trip shopping, assuming I could get it in Melk. I was wrong.

The Danube from Maria Taferi.

Artstetten Castle.

The farmland between Artstetten and Leiben Castles.

Leiben Castle.

My lack of planning is going to bite my in the butt eventually, but not yet. Who needs guide books, chargers, or whatever else I was looking for? Just details. I planned a lot of this trip, but also left a lot open. Some of those openings are falling into place. Others, not so much, but that is the point isn't it. We (or at least I) don't travel to stay in our comfort zones.

A bike race passing through Melk. I was tired, but I can't believe this guys arms were still pumping.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Salzburg to Passau: Riding the Taurenradweg, Days 1-2

July 15th. It is a day well marked on my calendar as the start of my bike tour to Budapest, over to Croatia, along the coast to Athens, across to Turkey, and down to Turkey. More than a lot of miles and less than a hundred days to do it in. I had planned to do it solo, but a friend might join me in Turkey and another in Jordan. I am sure it will be great to have some company by then.

An inlet to the Salzach River.

For my first day, I had no definitive idea about what I was doing or where I was going. I shook off my hesitation, loaded up my bike fully for the first time, made a list of stuff I still needed, and set out. The river route was great for a while, but I had heard too many people talk about Salzburg's lake district so I eventually just hooked it right, climbed my first giant hill, and kept going until I found the closest lakes. I have a hunch the best ones are farther in, but I just wanted a short detour. However, I should have taken a bigger detour. This was the best part of my day. The Austrian country side is where its at. I guess I was in that along the river, but it was river on one side and bushes on the other, not too much variety.

A typical scene on the bike route I was following.

After my trip to the lake district, I made my best decision of the day. I broke up my 100km day by taking a big old nap and eating in the middle. After that, I just put my head down and went for it. I wanted to make sure I was ahead on miles instead of behind. 100km was the maximum that Brian and I did in Tasmania so it seemed like a good stopping point. When I rolled into Obernberg am Inn, it was listed as having a campsite so I tracked it down and set up camp with plenty of time to have some chai and watch the sunset dip under the wheat fields.

Sunset over Obernberg am Inn.

Downtown Obernberg am Inn.

Day two started out like day one, but without the hesitation. I was in the middle of no where and had to get somewhere else. That is one of the beauties of bike touring. You don't have to think as much. You just go. You can stick to your route or think about it and head somewhere else. My map was in German, so I was probably just as likely to head one way as the other anyway. I chose to set out for Germany, my first border crossing. Before I got to Passau though, I took a wrong turn and ended up in Germany too soon. I pulled a U-turn and followed the river the rest of the way to Passau.

The Inn river.

Looking across the Inn river at Germany from Austria.

On the way, I almost ran down a 7" lizard. I saw hares/rabbits that were as big as some medium sized dogs. I would guess they were 30 lbs. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I swear it. I saw other ones later that were only big enough to give a chihuahua a beat down. Pulling that U-turn to approach Passau on the south bank instead of the north bank was a stroke of good luck. Approaching it from the south gave a great view of the old city walls and all the great architecture. Since I left from the north side, I am not sure I would have seen it otherwise.

I thought I had biked too fast and already made it to Cairo, but this pyramid came up a little short . . . hahaha.......ugh terrible...laugh with, maybe at me.

Passau, Germany

Passau is another medievil town. They have small streets. Lots of cobblestones and tons of quaint buildings. I love it, but the the cobblestones were a bit much with my bike fully loaded. I found a farmer's market to grab some fruit and then set to exploring. My favorite part was found on a lark just as I was about to leave. I realized there was a park where the two rivers met and was hoping for a repeat of my first day's nap. I didn't get the nap, but I did get the mixing of the Danube and Inn rivers. It was so drastic to see them beside each other. However, going into an 'internet cafe' with no computers where they hand you a laptop to use came in a close second. After spending half a day in Passau, I started my journey east on the Danube River Trail.

The mixing of the clearer Danube and milky Inn rivers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Luge and Salzburg, Austria

After a quiet morning in Hallstatt, we were off to the summer luge and Salzburg. We also planned on visiting the Eagle's nest, but it turned out to be more of hassle than it was worth. However, the summer luge was the unexpected treat of the day.

Jill gets towed up to the top.

Tait's short video of the trip down.

It cost us each ten euros for two trips up. I was pretty skeptical, but figured it would not hurt. This is another one of those things that traveling with others got me to do that I would normally skip. Not too much of a surprise, it turned out well too. The first time down, none of us went quite as fast as we could. I think we were worried about rolling out. I tried to record and go faster the second time, but it was beyond my abilities. I got the first two seconds and final two. Apparently, when I thought things were getting turned on, they got turned off and vice versa. Annoying, but oh well. My brother got some first person footage that works.

Our concert hall . . . or room.

A statue in the Mirabellgarten.

After the luge and our failed Eagle's nest visit, we headed to Salzburg to enjoy a string quartet and quintet (I had to look that one up) playing some of Mozart's works. While I can recognize a few classical pieces by sound, I do not have a chance of naming them. The first half was a treat. I enjoyed some pieces I knew and got to know some that I did not. Unfortunately, after intermission the breeze seemed to fade and room heated up. I was very ready to be done by the end. It felt like something I had been drug to as a kid. Curiously enough, just before the concert started, a high school group of 30-40kids came in. They also seemed very ready to go by the end. Afterwards, we met up with Hannan who had enjoyed about half the concert from the courtyard below, for free. Smart.

A large square and fountain from the Sound of Music tour.

Modern art.

The front side of the Von Trapp family home.

Our second day in Salzburg left a much better impression with me than the first. On the first, it did not seem bad, nor did it seem great. However, on the second day we took a Sound of Music tour. I can't say that I have ever seen the whole movie, but one day I will. If I am watching Julie Andrews, it tends to be Mary Poppins. Watching the Sound of Music should have been on the to do list for my winter in Antarctica. If only it had subtitles (for those of you who don't know, by chance I kept getting movies with subtitles to watch on my 12 inch TV screen).

Wheat and an Alp, if a singular form of Alps is Alp.

Seeing all their well behaved dogs definitely is making me miss Sabah.

I do not know why, but Salzburg had more unicorn statues than anywhere else I have been.

The first thing our tour guide, Yaltov, told us was that the movie actually is not popular in Austria. After that, we rolled. I loved it. I got to see the city by bike, learn a little bit about an American classic, and appreciate Salzburg a lot more. I even heard a few ideas to flush out my bike tour. For those of you who have seen the movie, feel free to name the scene that goes with the photograph. Our guide told us, but I have forgotten all of them. I just know that ice cream, cold weather, and Salzburg's bike plan are just a few of my favorite things, favorite things.

Bike paths along the Salzach River.

In the afternoon, Tait and Jill headed for the fortress, while I settled into upload photos with my brother's computer before he left with it the next day. I also took a glorious nap. It amazes me how much a hot day can put me to sleep which is so better than sweating through it. When we met up that evening, we went out for dinner where we had a great overlook of the city as the sun was setting. Afterwards, we went out to a place called Eisbar or something like that for sweet treats and beer. I got a strawberry milkshake that I devoured in about two minutes. I wanted another, but it was not to be.

Old city Salzburg and its castle.

I liked Salzburg. It seems like another super functional, livable cities that has great milkshakes too! Actually, could any city that is that hot in the summer be functional if it did not have a proper sized ice cream industry? Salzburg is also the right size at 150,000 (factoid, that small population is served by 24 churches). Sign me up for the US (or Kiwi) version!