Vienna to the Netherlands 1

Our first day cycling together along the Danube. We used the cycling route on the south side of the river for the day. It has been cleaned up and except for about 50 m, was easy to ride. The short part still under water had a paved path as a detour. We did 106 km today in warm mostly sunny weather; Inge did well for a first day, still adjusting to the time change.

This a beautiful part of the Danube with hills on both sides, vineyards, castles and small towns. The path is flat and often right by the river but it also moves away and goes through fields and towns.

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Vienna to the Netherlands 2

2013.06.24 Monday, Wallsee, Austria
A change in the weather. It has been warm and sunny, 36 degrees in Vienna last week. Last night a cold front arrived with wind and rain. The forecast high for today was 13 degrees. It rained all day, hard at times.

We did 74 km, happy we have wet weather gear. Many soaked cyclists went by making the best of it but not looking too happy. The river seems to be rising but the weather should improve as the week goes by; I hope there will not be more flooding.

The river and the towns are pretty. With the flooding, there is no commercial traffic on the river. The water is too high for large boats to go under the bridges. Normally the river would be busy with barges and ships moving all sorts of cargo, and cruise boats taking people along the Danube and beyond. Inge’s flight from Amsterdam to Vienna was full of tourists from the US booked on a cruise from Vienna to Amsterdam. They are probably seeing the Danube part by bus, or worse, sitting in Vienna watching the river rise as the rain comes down.

Almost everyone cycling the Danube travels downstream, from west to east. It isn’t because the grade is downhill, the grade is so slight the benefit is unnoticeable, it is because the prevailing wind is at your back. We are doing it the hard way because a friend decided to do a bike trip in Turkey in May and that sounded appealing to me. Inge and I have talked for ages about cycling some part of the Danube and here we are, doing it in the “wrong” direction.

2013.06.25 Tuesday, Aschach, Austria
Another cool, wet day with a headwind. About 80 km. Less rain than yesterday and tomorrow should have less again. We encountered one flooded section of the path but the detour didn’t add much distance.

Riding in rain isn’t as bad as you might think. We are warm and mostly dry, although the water sneaks in around your neck and sleeves. It isn’t fun in hilly country as you sweat inside your rain gear and end up wet, but on flat ground you find a comfortable speed and adjust the zips to let in enough air.

Cafés and hotels are accustomed to wet cyclists on the Danube. No one gives you a “look what the cat dragged in” look. Hotels have bike storage.

With days full of cycling, we are staying in smaller towns. They are easier than the cities; hotels and stores are all in a small area.

Little English spoken here. Most tourists are European. English is the working language for tourists who didn’t speak German, but no one from Canada or the US is here. A big group in the dining room spoke Italian, musical and lovely to hear.

No photos. I must buy a waterproof camera as a backup.

Vienna to the Netherlands 3

We are in Germany, last night in Passau and tonight in Bogen.

Passau is a lovely city at the junction of three rivers: the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. Because so much water comes into the Danube at one point, Passau suffered terrible flooding three weeks ago. Near the river the water rose more than 3 m (10 feet) above street level, filling basements, submerging the ground floor of buildings and flooding the floor above. The cleanup in three weeks is remarkable. Many businesses near the river are closed, but many are open already. The street level floor of the small pension we stayed in was a mess of walls being torn out, but upstairs the business was running.

The section between Passau and Vienna is the most popular part of the Danube cycle path and for good reason: it is dramatic with steep hills and bends in the river, and there are pretty towns along the way. It makes an easy one week bike trip with an interesting city at each end. Now that we are beyond that section, the number of cyclists has dropped and the path is less developed.

Inge should have birthdays more often. Today we had some sunshine, no rain and no headwind.

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Passau

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Flooding. The high water mark is visible on the left.

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Previous floods and the mark from this one, highest of all.

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A narrow street in Passau

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Town hall in Bogen

Vienna to the Netherlands 4

It has been a busy four days, three dry and one very wet. We are in Ulm, our last day on the Danube. Tomorrow we take a train to Esslingen near Stuttgart to begin cycling north along the Nekar river which will take us to the Rhine. It feels sad to leave the Danube after cycling 750 km from Vienna.

The last few days have been full of variety: cycling in all sorts of terrain including a few hills, a ferry ride through a 6 km section where the Daube goes through a gorge, a night we had a hard time finding a hotel, some very muddy riding, dinner with a couple from San Francisco who are doing a commercial tour, a bike repair, getting lost, some lovely towns.

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A new bottom bracket bearing set. Great shop, great mechanic, amazing stock of parts.

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River boat

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Regensburg

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Regensburg

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From our hotel room in Regensburg

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Ferry through the Danube Gorge

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Ice cream

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Vienna to the Netherlands 5

2013.07.02 Tuesday, Marbach, Germany
We started the day in Ulm on the Danube with a good breakfast in our hotel in the centre of town. We met a couple at the hotel from Perth traveling on a Cannondale tandem with a Bob trailer for luggage. They are headed for Vienna, on to Prague, then Switzerland and finally a bit of time in France to catch the end of the Tour de France. Fun to talk to like-minded travellers. Too bad we didn’t meet them the evening before.

The 9:10 train out of Ulm took us to Esslingen, about 11 km south of Stuttgart. We chose Esslingen as it is a smaller town with the railway station beside the Neckar, making it easy to get on the bike path. It worked well; we breezed through Stuttgart on the cycle path with no city traffic or difficult route finding.

This part of Germany is Mercedes Benz land. Countless factories, a big port on the river. Interesting to see and we’ll see more as we go through the heartland of German industry.

Early afternoon we pulled over to contemplate a simple donnair lunch place when a local cyclist pulled over and recommended a nicer place 2 km further with a good beer garden. (German restaurants don’t have terraces or patios, they have beer gardens.) Nice of him and a good lunch.

The river is narrow, with high, terraced vineyards on either side. The river is deep enough for serious river barge traffic and many locks. Very winding giving good views.

Marbach has old half-timbered houses and is set on a hill. A pretty place.

2013.07.03 Wednesday, Neckargerach, Germany
About 90 km today, mostly in rain, but not a bad day. It was warm but not hot and the rain was moderate, not bucketing down. We cruised along the mostly flat trail making good time. It is a green valley with agriculture when it widens and vineyards on the hills.

The rain brings out snails who want to cross the path. Some have shells almost the size of a golf ball. It is a challenge to weave between them without squashing any.

Inge fell today on a sharp bend with wet metal grating that comes into view only at the last moment. We were riding in the midst of a group of four German riders. Inge was following the leader of the group. He fell in front of her, sliding on the wet metal and she fell moving on to the grating to avoid him. I was just enough behind to stop without crashing into them and able to signal the riders behind to stop. No damage to Inge other than some bruises and a sore hand. A wet grating on a curve is like black ice, your bicycle goes down suddenly, without warning: it is like a hand pushed you down and when you make sense of things, there you are, on the road, surprised. It wasn’t serious and we carried on.

The small hotels in the this area don’t generally have WiFi and they are expensive. We have been off the internet for two days now.

2013.07.04 Thursday, Mannheim, Germany
We have reached the Mannheim, where the Neckar flows into the Rhine. Three days and about 215 km to do that part of the Neckar was quicker and easier than I expected. We have enough time to cycle the Rhine valley to Holland without rushing or taking the train through parts of it.

It was a warm day with only a tiny bit of rain and some warm sunshine. We had the fun of dining with a friend we met hiking in the Dolomites last summer. Good dinner sitting outside on a warm evening by the Rhine.

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How cool is this? Handhold on a bike signal post in Stuttgart.

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Bridge over the Neckar

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Ship entering a lock on the Neckar

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Tight fit

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This much room

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In the lock

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Heidelberg

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Heidelberg