Part 1 of this blog described our trip from Passau, an overnight stop in Schlogen and onwards into Linz. This blog will cover the remaining 3 stages towards Vienna.
The riverside cycle path was a short walk from our hotel and the following morning after a good breakfast we were back on the trail heading east out of Linz. We past the modern suburbs that had grown up around the centre, and large industrial complexes further out. Today’s leg would be the longest of the tour at 41 miles and our destination the small town of Grein.
Leaving the bustling cityscape behind we enjoyed the bright sunshine, and peace and calm of the countryside, interrupted only by the river traffic, the passing of an occasional massive freight barge or river cruiser. Much of the river traffic features very long low container barges moving freight up and down between countries on the river. For much of its length the Danube is wide and deep enough to allow this traffic to pass unhindered, and the locks built into these multi-purpose barrages which span the river at regular intervals to control the water levels aid this process.
L-R: Silver Birch trees in the landscape; River cruise boat; Freight barge
The landscape was flat and open with field and forest scenes. Andre built in numerous re-group stops and short breaks to refill water bottles and give the less capable cyclists a chance to rest. Shortly after one of these stops, as we cycled past a row of fruit trees close to the trail, I heard Lyn shout out. She had been bitten or stung on her ankle by a large insect of unknown variety. We applied an anti-histamine and as there was no other discomfort we carried on.
At Mauthausen we crossed the river by small ferry and cycled through the town on the cycle way. A small town now, Mauthausen was once a notorious Nazi concentration camp and there is a Memorial building in the town dedicated to around 190,000 people imprisoned there. Sadly we did not have time to visit and were soon back on the road to our lunch stop, a cafe adjacent to a Marina at Au an der Donau.
L-R: Ferry to Mauthausen; Mauthausen from the opposite bank; Us on another bike ferry.
After lunch we covered the remaining 18 miles in reasonable time, arriving at our next night-stop, Grein in the late afternoon, weary after a long hot ride.
Grein is a picturesque small town on the Danube which is home to Greinburg Castle, built between 1488 and 1493 and since 1823 owned by the Saxe Coburg family and now owned by a family foundation. Next door to our hotel was the oldest Theatre in Austria. We did not visit but others who did spoke highly of it.
As with many Austrian towns, Grein has a small but very pretty square, and it is here that the group assembled for the next days ride to Melk. Surrounded by classical old buildings and very clean and tidy, Grein left a lasting impression on all, especially in the warm sunshine.
Views of Grein Square
Once again the landscape is changing as we leave the flat plains behind and ride into the steep sided valleys, the surrounding hills covered in trees many starting to show the hues of autumn. Our morning coffee stop was at another charming riverside cafe with views across to the steep hills beyond. Lunch, prepared by Andre was in the wooded shelter of a local rowing club and once again was outstanding.
Clockwise from top left: Lyn ready to ride; Bikes on a Ferry; Us at a rest stop; Lyn on the trail.
Clockwise from top left: Into the valley; Danube barrier; Boys will be boys – Andre 2 (red cap and Andre’s assistant) playing table football with three of our group; Bikes by Lyn; Marina at our lunch stop; Picnic lunch.
If you remember, on the previous days ride, Lyn was stung or bitten by a nasty flying thing of unknown variety. We thought no more of it but when we stopped today it had swelled up and was turning a violent shade of red, although she was in no pain. Andre provided more cream and two anti-histamine tablets to help reduce the swelling.
We arrived in Melk mid afternoon and crossed the river on the ferry and walked the short distance to our hotel. Melk is noted for its magnificent Benedictine Abbey which sits on a rocky hill overlooking the town, dominating the skyline.
L: Lyn sprouts wings; at the bridge with Melk Abbey in the background, R: Melk Abbey from the river bridge
The abbey was founded in 1089 when Leopold II, Margrave of Austria gave one of his castles to Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey. A monastic school was founded in the twelfth century, and the library soon became renowned for its extensive manuscript collection. Today’s Baroque abbey was built between 1702 and 1736. The Abbey survived many attempts to disband it, notably during the Napoleonic wars, and in the period of occupation following the Anschluss in 1938, when the historic school and a large part of the Abbey were confiscated by the state. The school was returned to the Abbey after the Second World War and now caters for nearly 900 pupils of both sexes. The Abbey is also home for around 30 Benedictine Monks who are required to work in the local community as teachers or priests. Adjacent to the Abbey is the stunning Abbey Garden but as the group were running late we did not have time for a good look round for fear of being locked in!
Views of Melk Abbey – Photography was not permitted inside the buildings
Top: Panorama of Melk from Abbey roof; Middle: Melk Abbey at night from town square; Bottom: Abbey Garden steps;
Selfie time again!
On our last day in the saddle we awoke to cloudy skies and the town square was damp with overnight rain. For the final time we gathered with our bikes ready to ride. Our route would take us through a number of delightful villages in the Wachau Valley, noted for being Austria’s wine and fruit growing region. Within these villages there were some beautiful old buildings and the odd castle and ornate church.
Clockwise from top left: Lyn at the bridge at Melk; Wild Flower meadow; Two views of orchards in Wachau Valley
We had time to visit one of these old buildings. It was an historic church with an Ossuary close by. An Ossuary is a building built to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains. They were frequently used where burial space was scarce. A body was first buried in a temporary grave, then after some years the skeletal remains removed and placed in an ossuary. The greatly reduced space taken up by an ossuary meant that it was possible to store the remains of many more people in a single tomb than if the original coffins were left as is. The remains were on view through small windows cut in the wall and door and the sight of the skulls and bones added a chill to the already cool atmosphere. The grave yard of this church had many large family tombs which were tastefully planted with roses and other flowering plants
Shots of the Wehrkirche St Michael we visited including, bottom left, a view of the inside of the Ossuary shot through the window. We were not allowed in.
L – Castle on the Hill; Centre – Another Selfie; R – Here comes the rain!
The bad weather held off until after lunch; as we arrived in Durnstein the rain came by the bucketload. Sheltering as best we could under trees near a cafe, the end was in sight but we had to wait about 45 mins for the storm to pass down the valley before cycling the last 6 miles into Krems.
A visit to the local winery had been organised for the group. However, Lyn’s ankle bite had got notably worse during the day, and although she felt no ill effects and had full mobility, the swelling was now bright red and purple and spreading up her leg and down into her foot. On the advice of one of our cycling companions who was a nurse, we decided to seek medical help in Vienna. We hitched a ride with Andre (2) to Vienna in the baggage van whilst the rest of the group enjoyed a tour of the winery, sampling some of the produce.
Two shots of Lyn’s ankle which meant a visit to A&E in Vienna
We were dropped at our hotel and quickly found a pharmacy. They had nothing that could help her and suggested we head to the A&E department of the local hospital. Once in A&E we eventually saw a young doctor who took blood tests and recommended an intravenous anti-histamine treatment. After about 4 hours we were free to go and after a walk round to find an open pharmacy for a prescription, eventually made our way back to our hotel to unpack and find somewhere to get something to eat.
Our arrival in Vienna was not as we anticipated, a Friday evening in A&E, but it gave us a chance to sit and reflect on a wonderful week of cycling and sight seeing, thankful that Lyn was able to complete the ride.
We had followed the River Danube for just a short length of its 1770 miles but had seen and visited some magical places, made better by our excellent guide Andre and the wonderful weather. Everything was meticulously planned, the comfortable accommodation each night and the excellent food. Would we go again? Yes! We are already anticipating next years programme.
I don’t normally do this but we enjoyed the trip so much I have included the link to the Mercurio Cycle tours website so you can see for yourself. And yes, there is some limited availability of electric bikes for those who enjoy cycling but don’t think they can manage pedalling all the way.