Sept 2 – 9, 2017 Frankfurt to Vienna
(no photos yet)
Ringing their door bell at 7:00, I woke my Frankfurt Warm Showers hosts, Anne and Jan Schwarz, a bit too early on this Saturday morning. They were expecting me but I am sure they still would have enjoyed another or hour or so of rest. Anne commutes to Berlin every week and so must be thankful for some extra sleep time on the weekends. Anne and Jan are not yet experienced bike travelers but have motor biked from Cape Town to Germany and have hosted other bike travelers.
In my sleep deprived stupor it took twice as long to get my bike together as normal and then Jan lead me to a close train station where I purchased my train ticket to Regensburg. He then sent me to the central station to look for a sim card for my phone, and I found one that would work but naturally I didn’t bring my passport. The sim card has still not been purchased.
Back at the apartment I dozed for a few hours; Anne and Jan were out for the night. I woke about 11:00 and then tossed and turned, read a bit and fretted about imagined problems until just before I had to be up.
Jan made me a bit of breakfast and I was the station about 7:20. My first train arrived exactly at 7:35 as scheduled. Each of two other trains were as prompt. Each train was different, but all were immaculate, quiet and fairly fast. It took me five hours to get to Regensburg, about three underway. Each got a bit busier as the day wore on, and at each station I had to get my bike down off of the arrival platform and up onto the departure platform. I carried the bike up and down the first two until I discovered elevators were at the far end of the platforms. The cars that had bike space had a bike painted on the outside. Fast trains do not have these cars.
In Regensburg I fiddled around a bit finally finding the Danube and the 900 year old “Steinere Bruke” that took me across it for the first time. I needed something to eat but left it too late and so had to use a McDonalds on the outskirts. It was now after 2:00, but I had hopes of getting part way down the river before I ran out of gas. Mostly the “rad weg” (cycle path) followed the river and so it was not hard initially to stay on route. Mostly the trail was paved, but I had about 10 km of nice gravel. The trail would be on the berm beside the river or below it sometime wandering off through the fields. I saw quite a few tour boats right from the beginning.
At the start of trips I often run on excess adrenalin. It only took me an hour to catch two cyclists who were ahead of me when I stopped to eat at McDonalds. I pulled into Straubing, my most ambitious target for the afternoon about 5:00 as it started to rain. Sunday, the information centre closed; the hostel apparently terminated; the first hotel I asked at quoted me 99 Euros, more than twice my hope. The hotelier took in my dripping bedraggled state and phoned around and got me into a Gasthof for 56.
Showered, beered, fed and the eye lids gave up on me. But I was wide awake at 1:00 so again I tossed awhile and then read for a few hours before getting an hour or two before breakfast.
The second day was very hard. I got out of Straubing on the wrong track and it kept going wrong. It was overcast all morning and again I had some gravel roads, whether on course or not I will never know. I had a nice Goulash at a little kiosk on a part of the route that was car free. I was passing about 4 or 5 people an hour at this point, mostly going the same direction. Two young one-pannier riders actually caught and passed me. Silly to be going so fast. After yesterday’s experiences with route finding (good) and accommodation (poor) I had made a hostel booking at Passau and so that was my target. Going through two small cities I lost a lot of time looking for the route signs and missed eating or drinking. For a while I was on a busy road, obviously off track. Finally as I got into the Passau outskirts I was now pretty punchy and so hit a road bump too hard and my rack, too heavily loaded, collapsed on my wheel. In Passau I found that the hostel is in the old castle, lovely. But it is at the top of a long, steep, cobbled road, horrors. It took all my remaining energy to push my load up. I had to have a beer and a rest before I could drag my stuff up two more flights to my room.
Not all is bad. The ride is wonderful, the miles of quiet tree lined trails soothing. The Danube started big and gets bigger with every new river joining it. I have seen swans, sea gulls, ducks, crows, rooks, many little flitters I can’t identify. I am not going into every advertised attraction, but I didn’t plan to. I the meanwhile the jet lag is killing me
Passau is where most people begin their cycle trip. They will rent their bikes, all hotels will be booked and they will ride to Vienna in 5 or 6 days. The trails are well developed almost the whole way on both sides of the river. I have seen all manner of people doing the ride. Please, if you have gained a little weight and your old team logoed spandex was bought some years ago, don’t wear it. The 100+ page cycle-path description is filled with useful information. One surprising note is the three or four pages listing e-bike stations, where you can charge up during the day. Perhaps 40% of the now 100s of cyclists I am seeing ride rented e-bikes. And the vast majority wear appropriate clothing.
The days unfolded. I was on both north and south side, crossing by bridge, on dams but mostly on little bike ferries. The paths were mostly pretty quiet but only periodically for a few kms were they completely car free. This would happen when the route went through a park or protected area. But when we were on roads there would be at least 10 times as many bikes as cars. It sound bike busy but I was often alone, particularly early. I would stop mid-morning for coffee and strudel. I had some good meals, mostly soup, and some hit and miss other things because I didn’t know what I was getting.
My next night after Passau I tried to get a place in Linz. I was again quoted 90 E and up so I headed on down the road and in a much smaller place I found a Gasthof for 30 E. Stay away from big places. Another poor sleep but a bit better.
My second day I promised myself I would not go past Melk and I found a 36 E place right away. But I got ripped off for a 6E coffee in the main square. I have been paying no more than 2 E. Stay away from tourist squares.
Third day out of Passau and Vienna is only 120 km, but I don’t want to get stuck coming into a big city with no reservations so I will stop early. I can’t get a sim card and the wifi connections are not working for me. I think the world is moving to data cell connections. The morning was slow but lovely. Riding the north side I went through and area called Wachau, a wine area. The route was on quiet roads connecting little towns or wine estates every 4 or 5 km; a lot of slowing down and dodging people on wine tours. A good thing I’m not going far. I stopped for a coffee about 11:00 but should have had wine in the middle of this richness. A glass of wine is half that of a small coffee as well. I had tasted both red and white grapes from the side of the road and need try the wine.
Back on the south side the path again enters quiet forests or river side berms where I cranked it up a notch. Lunch was a bit more upscale than normal and so I had a glass of white wine with my chicken and mushroom spaghetti.
My day’s stop was at Tulun, about 30 km from Vienna, and I found a campground that advertised wifi, which also did not work. I think the days wore me down a bit and I just started to feel terrible. When the wifi connected for me I reserved two nights in Vienna. Expensive, but I need a short day and a longer rest.
The hotel has been great; two nights in one place has helped. I have suffered stomach issues as well and much of my time here in Vienna has been in bed. Today I got to the Leopold museum where I got a better appreciation of Gustav Klimpt and Egon Shiel. The day is lovely and all of Vienna is out walking. Unfortunately my energy level didn’t take me far.
Tomorrow I will move on down the line towards Bratislava, which is an easy day’s ride. We will see how I feel and where I will get.