Saturday 13th August – Inzell to Grein
The heavy rain started around 3.00 or 4.00AM. I just zipped up the tent and left the towel. I expect I’ll get it dry eventually. The rain had eased by the time I got up at 7.30AM. Half an hour later it stopped so I actually got out of the tent. After a good, big breakfast I was ready to gat 9.30AM but decided to go for a coffee at the guesthouse. As I was loading the bike Hannah appeared and we started chatting. She couldn’t make me coffee as she’d got up too late so she gave me a Snickers bar instead. She revealed that she was 72 and had played bassoon in an Amsterdam orchestra for forty years. “Goodbye son” she said with a twinkle in her eye as I pedalled off.
I tried the ferry intercom by the campsite but the reply I got could have been in any language. So I decided to look for a river crossing further along. In the end I decided to stay on the south bank until I got to Linz. Out of Inzell the road was tree-lined and shady, with occasional gaps at villages and campsites. The steep valley continued until Aschach where it widened and the trees disappeared.
When I arrived in Linz I thought I’d stop for coffee and buns, the Austrians being even more renowned for their cakes than the Germans. However, Linz was busy and the square I arrived in was lined with expensive bars and cafes. I didn’t want to waste lots of time searching a big city for somewhere to eat so I headed across the river and out of town. The path continued along the river side through lots of industial areas, then a section of road, followed by lots of dodging and weaving through miles and mile of corn fields. I’d decided to stop at the next campsite on the map in a town called Grein as I’d already done 100km with 15km to go and my legs were telling me it was time to stop.
I arrived at the busy Grein capsite at around 6.30PM. As I was setting up camp I got chatting to Richard and Linda, a couple from Swindon travelling on Thorn Sherpas. They’d followed some of the Tour de France in their motorhome then set off from the source of the Donau heading for Budapest. After getting set up and having a shower the three of us went for dinner at the camp restaurant and chatted away for a couple of hours. Before settling down in the tent to write my journal I took advantage of the normalo power sockets that were part of the nearby caravan power point to charge my various bits of electronics.
Sunday 14th August – Grein to Krems
Slept like a log and got up at 8.00AM. Before doing anything else I popped into the town to see if I could find any milk for my cereal. No luck, Sunday morning. However, if I’d turned right instead of left at the campsite gate I’d have quickly found the petrol station that I eventually got my supplies from. The mango flavoured milk I thought I’d bought, no normal suff, turned out to be mango juice. Worked with the meuseli anyway. A bit of a lethargic pack-up saw me on the road at 11.00AM.
I’d decided that Krems was a likely stop for the evening but I’d see how I felt when I got there. Heading out of Grein the valley was narrow, steep and very pretty. There was a bit of a head-wind keeping my legs honest and my speed a bit pedestrian. I cut the corner of a meander in the river by following the road from Persenbeug then stopped for coffee and cake. The path continued alongside the main road and the river with me pushing into the head-wind, until I got to Melk, where the wine country started.
The steep valley sides suddenly became covered in grape vines, mostly Gruner Veltliner of Domaine Wachau according to the signs. The path left the main road and started going up and down through a series of pretty little wine producing towns and villages. This was obviously a very popular part of the Donau cycle route. Loads of cyclists and other tourists. Cycling through all this potential wine got me feeling a bit thirsty. I couldn’t resist any longer and stopped at the bar of a small, contemporary looking hotel for a very good glass of the local grape. I could have happily checked-in and sat there drinking wine all evening. However, only 16km to get to Krems. I was definitely stopping there for the night. The next campsite on the map was another 30km after that and my dawdling through the vines meant that it had suddenly got a bit late.
I found the campsite on the edge of town and pitched my tent next to Richard and Linda’s, the couple I’d met the previous evening. Chatted to them for a bit and then to an older English couple on hired bikes. They were travelling from Passau to Vienna at a very leisurely pace with the husband towing all their kit in a trailer. As I didn’t really have a proper meal’s worth of food I set off in to town for dinner. I found a likely spot and tucked in to a big plate of calve’s lung and heart in a creamy gravy, accompanied by two big slices of dumpling. This excellent meal was washed down by a couple more glasses of good local Gruner Veltliner. Back to camp and bed.
Monday 15th August – Krems to Orth
Up at 7.30AM, shower then breakfast. I’d have got away before 10.00AM if I had spent less time blethering to my neighbours and more time getting packed up. They both left before me. A wrong turn on the edge of Krems meant I had to double back a good few kilometres. Not an ideal start to the day. I wanted to get as far as possible today so I could make it to Komarno the next evening. The stron head-wind wasn’t helping either. Once I was going in the right direction I started slogging into the hot, dry wind. Coupled with a hot, dry day it was tough going.
The path crossed the river at Altendorf, where I bumped into the older English couple from the campsite. Back to the north bank at Tulln, another nice looking town that I passed through with barely a second glance. The river and the valley were very wide as I continued my slog towards Vienna. Nearing Austria’s capital the big black clouds that had been creeping up behind me finally caught up. The wind started swirling around strongly and the odd drop of rain started falling. I hoped I’d reach the city before the heavens opened. Unfortunately not. As it started to bucket down I sheltered for a while under a big metal thing. It looked like it could have been an upturned hopper from a river barge or maybe part of the lock machinery.
The rain eased so I set off towards Vienna, hoping to stop for a snack before heading off again. By now the path was on a long, narrow island in the middle of the river. It seemed to go on forever and the rain got heavier. I eventually found the bridge across to the south bank and headed into town. I found myself in the midst of a big, permannet fun-fair which had almost completely emptied as the rain got even heavier. I sheltered in the entrance to a childrens theatre as the rain pummelled the canopy over the door. The rain continued like this for quite some time. By now it was 6.00PM and I was entertaining thoughts of looking for a cheap hotel. I reckoned this could be difficult in a place like Vienna.
The rain was easing and clear sky was appearing to the west. I decided to take my chance. I quickly found the right bridge across the river but took a while to find how to actually get on to it. Back on the long thin island the rain started to get heavy again. The only consolation was that the wind was now behind me. I finally came to a bridge across to the north bank and sped off in to the rain. Which was still getting heavier. I had the vague notion that I could make it to the campsite at Hainburg, 30km or so distant so I pushed on as quickly as I could.
I caught up with another lonely cyclist on the wet road. Burt was from the Netherlands and on his way to Budapest. He too didn’t want to spens big-city prices for a room. We cycled along together, getting gradually wetter. The rain was showing no signs of stopping and I was soaked throgh. At least it wasn’t cold. We eventually saw a sign for rooms 3km further away. I decided to forget the extra 20km to Hainburg. It was getting dark and the prospect of a dry room was much more appealing than setting up my tent in the rain and the dark.
We rung the bell of the gueasthouse in Orth an der Donau. “Only for dry people” was the good humoured reply we got on asking if they had room for us. I quickly unloaded, changed in to dry clothes and went off to find the nearby restaurant before it closed. It was almost 9.00PM by now. I needn’t have worried, the place was open ’til 11.00PM. I tucked in to a big plate of pan fried river pike-perch, potatoes and salad, washed down by a cold pint. Feeling much better I had a couple of beers with Burt at the guest house then went to bed.