A bike-tour diary along the Austrian Danube...

Laura and Ivan in Passau (D)

Prologue: this "bike trip" started with another tour, from Krimml falls to Passau, along Salzach and Inn rivers, about which you can read in other pages of the site.

August, 7, Saturday afternoon
After the visit to "the three river city", Passau, in the German country, Laura and I, riding our faithful bikes carrying big bags, continue the road towards Austria along the right side of the Danube (Donau in German), going on the path we stopped last year (from Donaueschingen to Passau, the German Donauradwanderweg). The path is easily indicated and without car traffic. We follow the advice of our friends Otto and Helma to go along the lovely right side, while the left side of the river has a cycle path beside a national road with lots of running vehicles, ... too dangerous we think. After some kilometers we found "something to sleep-in" in a "privat zimmer", the house of two not too young retired persons, but yet active; unfortunately they do not speak english...
Very very very low prices and nice guests. Curiously, two italians sleep here with us. Stage stopped after 86 km (approx. 16 km from Passau) for total 6 (six) hours on the bike. Very romantic dinner next to the Danube river. Strange menu: beef meat with pasta!
The Danube river in Austria
Along the Danube bends
August, 8, Sunday 
Waking up on the Danube. Start after 9, as usually, and immediately we love the path, carefully asphalted, probably till to Wien. After having talked, of course, with the Italians who slep in the same house, coming from Turin after 13 hours drive. Today there are no special towns to visit (tourist guide docet...). Only to pedal. In the nature, along the large slow and sleeping river, following the light fresh wind which little by little is replaced by the warmth of the central day hours.
Oh, how much we are far from the Salzach valleys in the Tauern National Park! At the end of the day we arrive to Linz after approx. 90 km and many stops to freshen up. The most beautiful part of the path is the one which follows the Danube bends near the village of Schlogen. Bike paths without cars, sometimes it is necessary to go across the river with ferries, a cycling heaven! The city of Linz does not offers any surprises.
August, 9, Monday 
We leave Linz in the middle of the morning after a bike check. It is not a good choice: the path is easy, but the weather is very hot. The road is full of cars and it is fastidious. After few kilometers the path goes beside the river, on the right side, and we arrive to Mauthausen, where we have to get the ferry boat.
the village of Mauthausen
The concentration camp
In the village we met a group of Italian people with families who live next to our town, who tell us they started the trip only few days before. They come from the prisoners "lager" on the hills. The slope is hard. The concentration camp visit takes two hours, the hottest of the whole day. What we see is impressive. Word are not enough to tell about feelings and upsets looking at these pain places. There are lots of Italian tourists. We go on the path along the left side of the Danube. It is late, under the light sunshine we cycle without efforts.
Some stops and we arrive to Grein, where the river starts to open a narrow valley among mountains. In 5 hours we covered 75 km approx.
In the evening a thunderstorm lights up the village houses, creating a suggestive show we see from our hotel room and not under the strong rain!
The bike tree in Ybbs and Laura
August, 10, Tuesday
Waking up after storm we see a cloudy sky: probably today we will cycle without too much heat. We start early to profit by the freshest morning hours. We follow the left side till to Ybbs after having listened at the hotel owner experience. Here a surprise happens: a flat tyre and a stop to the repair shop for replacing the used tyre. Then a visit to the village openlight market and the bike museum (very poor, really...). We continue the path towards Melk, before rain. Too late: the rain starts and it is fastidious. We have to stop our trip in Melk, to look for an hotel, under the rain, even if it is not so late in the afternoon. We park our bikes and visit this village and its abbey, typical example of Austrian baroque architecture. The legend says that Austrian nation is born in this abbey. Only in the evening the sky becomes blue. We take some suggesting photos with sunset and then by night. Today "only" (bad luck, rain!) 55 km approx.

the library stairs in Melk abbey
Melk abbey in the sunset
August, 11, Wednesday 
Starting from Melk in Wien direction (we hope...). It is our goal, but fatigue and heat win. Today we want to arrive to Durnstein, nice village, but another show will concentrate our attention, the sun eclipse. Here darkness will cover the 98%. The path is lovely, the temperature is fresh. We go across small villages in the green country, vineyards and wheat fields replace hills populated by sweet and quiet farms. At 11 o'clock the sun starts to be covered by shadow, but it is visible only with special glasses. People we meet tremble: it is not an usual show! We continue cycling and arrive next to the village of Durnstein, at the ferry place.
Waiting for the ferry
What about sun eclipse?
We talk in German with a Dutch cyclist ("talk" is not the proper word, I think, because my German language knowledge is very very poor) and then we go across the river just next to the most dark period of eclipse, after having called the ferry man with the bell (yes, why are you surprised?): probably he damned us because he was watching this nature show drinking a fresh beer in total rest. We see the total eclipse on the other side of the river.
Then we meet again the Italian family group we saw two days ago: they are visiting the medieval village, which is overhung by the Lionheart Richard castle prison ruins.
We have lunch in a old tavern and in the afternoon we go on toward Krems. Then the fatal decision. We go home. Heat won the battle. It is gìbetter for us to have rest at home in Italy. The train carries us to the car to Hallein after some hours. Next time we will go to Wien, maybe next year. Continuing our path towards the Black Sea, we hope... By bike, and with our faithful bikes of course!
Durnstein houses
AUGUST 99 holidays;
first published in FEBRUARY 2000 (italian version);
translation in SEPTEMBER 2001.