Melk to Krems – 41km. Up the Burgruine Aggstein and into Wachau. 27/08/18

After the worst night sleep in a long time, we finally gave up and got up! But what a day we have had. The sun was shining, so the makeshift towel shade went on, and we managed an earlier start.

Out of Melk, straight up a hill (felt like a mountain with the trailer), and along the south side. From the river bank you could see Schönbühel, a privately owned residence – imagine if this were your house!! You couldn’t get near it unless you swan down the river! But incredibly beautiful to look at in the morning light.

First stop was the St Rosalia Parish church and monastery, one of 15 chapels on a processional route from the Holy Land to Rome. So precious is this church that you can’t go in, but you can look in.

Also had a lovely vista

From here we peddled on, down a clearly very dangerous (small) hill! Given the hills I cycle at home, this seemed an extreme sign.

Down a beautiful woodland path… and then bike track roadworks!!!

We looked up at Bergruine Aggstein, discussed going up there, decided it was a silly idea…. then found ourselves going anyway. Well, I had seen a picture taken from it, and I’m a sucker for views! It warned of 20% climbs, so we thought we would bike as far as possible and then walk. What that meant was we turned the corner…. and then walked!!!

The ‘wanderweg’ sign suggested it would take 1hr 15mins. It was steep, it was beautiful, and it only took us 45mins (and we weren’t going fast). Through gorgeous woods, it was actually quite nice to be off the bikes and on foot for a while.

And the walk was worth it. The castle, another UNESCO world heritage site, was still in very good condition. It was very well set out (unless you are scared of heights!), lots of boardwalks to access high up and phenomenal views.

Somewhere you didn’t want to end up, the 8m deep starvation put!

The views really were just something else.

And it had a nice cafe / restaurant!

Reluctant to leave again, but we still had another 20km to cover. Walking down we were attacked by killer-corns, raining down from the oak trees. I think there may have been a cheeky squirrel up there throwing its acorns at us!

Back at the bikes and we were off. Passing by lots of orchards and then into the start of the vineyards.

We crossed on a ferry to Spitz, as the north bank at this point was said to be beautiful.

Now have you ever seen a little ferry that has flower pots on?!??

And it was beautiful. At this point the bike trail comes away from the Danube and you wind your way through vineyards and really old small towns.

I loved this church in Spitz, look at the roof. It was getting later so we didn’t go to see inside.

The vines were loaded with grapes. Not knowing much about it, I don’t know if this was normal or exceptional due to the hot summer.

From Spitz to Weißenkirchen , this church was literally on route, although again you couldn’t go in. They obviously don’t trust the cyclist passerbys!

We continued onwards through the vineyards

And through the beautiful old small towns of Dürnstein

And Stein

We stopped to try the local gin (and bought some – just a small bottle mind)!

Before continuing on our way

To Krems, our stop for the night

In my opinion, this has been the best day yet, very varied and three completely differing beautiful types of scenery. Some, what I would normally call undulating roads, towing this load I call mountains!! But worth it…. in fact I would love to do this day all over again!

Grein to Melk – 47km 26/08/18

Having listened to pouring rain all night, we were a bit ambivalent to how today may go. But it’s fair to say, we lucked out!

Leaving our accommodation (surprise surprise) later than planned, knowing we had a reasonable ride ahead of us, we decided against visiting the castle in Grein.

So straight down to the ferry landing past a famous sundial (no sun in the sky though) and onto the boat, Evie already asleep!

One last view of Grein before we headed down the south bank, because it was the quieter of the sides.

It was a lovely small road through beautiful trees and back to wooded sides to the river, turning autumnal.

First stop for us was Ybbs, where we specifically went to go to the Radfahre museum (history of bikes). Small but worth a visit.

We went on the penny farthing….

Saw the fire engine bike….

The first inflatable rubber tyres (made by Dunlop)

The army bikes with sword attachments!

A bike with a waterproof cover (we need these back home!)

And a candle lamp (how did they stay alight? And how did they really guide the way?)

Ybbs itself was small but nice, although for a small place it had some massive buildings!

We crossed the hydroelectric bridge to Persenbeug, on top of which was a good view of one of these boat locks

And continued on our was along the north bank. Back through villages and agricultural land, until we found a nice lunch spot at Metzling, on the opposite side side of the river to the Theresien Chapel, a former Cistercian monastery. Looked nice but you can’t be on both sides of the river at once!!

We woke Evie for playtime and wiggle time. She chomped on more cucumber and tomato and then it was time to move onwards. Leaving Metzling, we passed these fun little stick men

We twiddled through the bumpy backstreets of villages because the cycle path was being replaced (will be super nice and smooth for whoever gets to ride on it soon!) until we came to a super curly bridge bike ramp!

The clouds were gathering so I feared they may unleash their worst

But as I said at he beginning, we lucked out and the sky got bluer.

Only 4 km to go to get to Melk, and our goal of reaching the Benedictine Abbey for getting our tickets before 4.30pm, the latest they let people in.

Impressive from a distance and ever bigger as you get nearer, this is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

However, despite its obvious popularity with tourists, there were no signs of how to get there by bike, which was odd considering it must be one of the major attractions on the cycle route. Anyway, we went up through the town (note the up, with the trailer, with a time pressure, equalled hard work!), and mum rushed in to get our tickets just in time whilst I did a much needed nappy change!

You enter through into a very impressive couple of courtyards and We then had 1&1/2 hours to scoot round the buildings and gardens. A well done exhibition of all things church related and super old (artefacts dating back many centuries), then through the library

Down some super fancy stairs

And into a highly ornate church with so much gold and colour

And a very impressive done

Back outside, the views from the balcony show us our route tomorrow

And we see a very old clock, that until recent times was made entirely of wood

Back out into the courtyard

Leaving 30 mins to see the gardens (don’t be late, you’ll be locked in behind massive metal gates!)

I rather likes this (amongst a set)

By going

By feeling

By speaking

By loving

By seeing

By thinking

By questioning

You are

(At least I think that’s how it translates)

And then it was time to leave, bump down the cobbled streets of Melk, and find our accommodation for the night.

Never easy, the owner had to search for somewhere suitable to store the trailer (I think it’s in his own living room!).

A tag-a-long with a difference

I am writing this as a reminder to myself in the future, when Evie has grown into a little girl. In the hope she will being riding her own bike some of the time, but maybe get tired and need some help along the way.

I saw this contraption in Germany and have seen a few variations along the Danube cycling trip, and they seem to make it possible to allow kids to have independence when they have energy, and help when tired. Therefore allowing families to cover reasonable distances!

I’m not even exactly sure how it works, except that when not in use it live on the parents bike. More weight = greater fitness training!!!

Au an der Donau to Grein – 29km

Only 14 degrees today! When we arrived at Au an der Donau at gone 7pm two days ago it was 27 degrees. A shorter day by far, that started after breakfast in the campsite ‘pool’, another lovely natural pool, but which must have had its source from elsewhere. It was so refreshing it left me tingling with cold. Too cold and deep for Evie, she practiced her sitting!

We set off in the rain, but it didn’t last too long, nor was it too heavy.

First thing of interest was at Machland; a fish ladder, considered Europe’s largest. They’ve even built an impressive viewing tower to look down on it.

…. and a massive man-eating fish!

After a while the cycle path left the Danube and headed inland. We were thirsty and in Mitterkirchen, a small little village, was an amazing restaurant called Radlerbauerhof, Familie Moser. I thoroughly recommend a visit if you are passing through this village.

Evie got to play in the pumpkins!

We got to drink homemade award winning cider and wine! And eat very tasty homemade soup.

It turned out they had a shop and were also a hotel. Somewhere I would happily return to stay. And that they made a large number of different wines, schnapps, brandies and even a whiskey!

Sadly it was time to leave again. So we cycled off through now very agricultural land, fields filled with corn and sugarbeet.

Before we knew it we were back by the Danube and in woods

Then the scenery changed again and the river got narrower, we were definitely going downhill (it’s the hardest gear I’ve needed to use yet!). It’s has also become more woody again. Sadly no sun to bring out the colour in the trees but pretty nonetheless.

Then suddenly…. we turned a corner and there was Grein in front of us. Even from a distance you could see it was a pretty town.

But it did have a short sharp hill just to get into it!

Having struggled up the hill to our lovely guesthouse, a lady who speaks no English welcomed us into her home. I was glad of my (somewhat terrible) German. I think she would have played with Evie all evening if we had hung around!

It wasn’t till we went to walk back into Grein I realised that the hill up really was quite steep, so I needn’t have berated myself for not being able to cycle up it!

We went up to the Schloss, but were to late to look around. The view was good though!

I knew Grein was old, but not quite how old. First documented in 1147, with major renovations in 1642, after a great fire had consumed most of the city.

We had an interesting hour looking around, in part because we accidentally visited two places at the same time as an American tour group off a Danube cruise was being shown around.

The Old Rathaus, from 1563, converted into a Municipal Theatre in 1791 was very interesting.

It was very quaint inside

Bit of particular interest were its original ‘locking seats’ – you owned a seat and locked it up so no-one else could use it

A loo with a view, so if you needed the toilet during a performance you could peep through the curtain to continue watching!!

And the fact that there was a prison cell attached to the theatre, but there was a peephole through, so the prisoners could watch the performances!! It is even said that folk brought them brandy and food to keep them quiet!

And the theatre is still in use today, but we didn’t get the chance to see a performance.

On into Grein church, with beautiful vaulted ceilings

We were lucky in that the American group, and therefore us to, got a short organ recital, which was very nice to listen to.

Then out for dinner, which is becoming ever more entertaining with Evie!

Tonight, she was after my wine big style!!

From there an amble back up the hill, in the rain. I had not taken out the bundle bean as I wasn’t expecting rain again, so ended up in mums waterproof worn backwards!

And the all essential evening play!

Enns – Austria’s oldest town – 24/08/18

When organising this trip I spotted that we would be passing close to Austria’s oldest town, Enns. We were not going to pass through it directly from the North bank, but I did want to visit it.

From the north bank you can catch a little ferry from Mauthausen that runs back and forth all day long. From the far bank it is only 6km to Enns, and beats cycling along a road with traffic.

Unfortunately I was expecting too much. Don’t get me wrong, the buildings were very impressive and well maintained. And it had a massive clock tower in the middle. But for me it was ruined by the number of cars driving through and parked in the square and the number of advertising flags hanging from buildings.

We enjoyed a late lunch anyway in the square. Evie enjoyed a play on a little rocking horse in a bank (random!), and then we had a wander around the back streets to make sure we weren’t missing something more special.

With very dark clouds appearing in the sky, we cycled the 6km back to the ferry and enjoyed a ride back over. Which just left time for an ice-cream on the front in Mauthausen and a bike back to our accommodation for the night.

Mauthausen – 24/08/18

So from a postcard we saw in an exhibit today, Mauthausen used to be a holiday destination from which people sent postcards.

It has a beautiful front running along the river bank and a gorgeous old town to match. But it has a darker side to, up a slight hill (or a massive hill when towing a trailer and a baby), is the site of a concentration camp. This was in operation at the same time that people were sending their postcards, in which they complained about the nearby smell.

Some 190,000 people were ‘processed’ through the camp. It was a ‘working’ camp, where the prisoners were put to work in a quarry or in nearby factories, but most died within 4-6 weeks of arrival. The conditions there were brutal and appalling. You first come across many memorials, put there by the countries whose people ended their lives at Mauthausen.

There was a lot, but not all, of the buildings left, and some of the sites are now mass graves.

It was a sombering experience, walking through not only the huts where prisoners slept, but through the crematoriums and gas chamber. A room with a very modern exhibit displaying 81,000 known names of people that died there and in satellite camps.

If you go, definitely pay the €3 for the audio guide, as it was very informative. It took about two hours to absorb, and I was glad that Evie slept through most of it.

Feeling a bit subdued, we cycled back down the shorter but steeper route into the town of Mauthausen. We headed to the river to catch a little ferry for the next part of our day…

Mühldorf to Au an der Donau, 51km – 23/08/18

I promise I won’t generally write about hotels, but Hotel Schloss Mühldorf was a pretty special place, and because of this we struggled to leave!!

We started the day with a swim in what was actually a pond but made to look like a swimming pool. And it’s water filtration was a reed bed. In fact all but it’s shape was very natural and just delightful.

Even the grey cat was pondering a swim!

From there to breakfast….. I’m not sure I have ever seen such a beautiful breakfast buffet!

Well, we stayed long enough but could have stayed for hours more!

One final stroke of grey cat….

….. and, at nearly 11am, it was time to leave.

Evie was asleep within 100m of cycling off after the excitement of the morning. That was the upside to leaving so late. The downside was it was hot hot hot again.

Our first place we cycled through was Goldwörth, where they tried to pan gold somewhat unsuccessfully. We peddled along pretty lanes surrounded by agricultural crops until we met up with the official route again.

This section of the Danube is very wide and is surrounded by much flatter woodland. We even saw the bees that made the mornings woodland honey! Well the hives were very jolly and in woodland anyway.

Inspiration! Came across a family from Canada who are away cycle touring and camping for two months! It can be done. And they had two children, a 6 month old and a 2 year old. All they had were pannier laden bikes and a laden trailer. They were even carrying a balance bike for the 2 year old. Their secret, only to aim at about 30km a day in one hour stints.

The main town of note was Ottensheim, with its lovely main square. Had Evie not still been sleeping then it would have been a fabulous place to stop and relax over a drink. It’s church was surprising. Looked super old on the outside and then modern on the inside.

The next stage of the journey was not so nice, we continued on the north bank as there was a cycle path off the road, so there was no risk from traffic, but it wasn’t pretty as we cycled through Linz suburbia. The South path though was on the road, even if prettier, not recommended when towing a child.

We thought that we would go and see The old part of Linz, so cycled into its Hauptplatze. It was nice, full of cafes. But we were hot, we had a packed lunch, so the shores of the Danube were calling louder! And somehow Evie was still asleep.

At this point we were back to Costa del Danube, with the pebbly shores full of sunbathers and people enjoying swimming safely downstream before getting out, walking back upstream and repeating the whole thing.

Even Evie had a bit of time in the very shallowest parts of the shallows. She wasn’t so sure of the waves from passing boats but did enjoy splashing and playing with pebbles. Without knowing it I’m sure she also enjoyed cooling down!

Highly reluctant to leave, but we still had nearly 30km to cycle in the unrelenting sun. Thankfully the break had tired Evie out and she slept again, but we were running out of energy.

Still, trying to see the positives, there were lots of beautiful swans, and the distance to our end point was getting closer, even if it didn’t feel like it.

Evie woke at an appropriate moment, and we found ourselves in a ‘Texan’ bar, where we parked our bikes in the ‘Harley’ spaces! The music was great so Evie had a dance. Then there was even some live music. Evie got into the swing off it, desperate to join everyone else drinking from beer glasses! Sadly we had to leave the fun behind, and Evie was NOT happy to go!!

This made the last miles very hard, and seem even longer than they were already feeling. Typically, she fell back to sleep just as we were arriving at Au an der Donau! But that was a good thing as it took us a while to find our accommodation and get sorted…..

Looking forward to a day around here tomorrow.