Biking the Danube
September 15th, 2008
Wow, what an amazing trip. Patrick O'Fallon and I biked for six days along the Danube River from Passau, Germany to Vienna, Austria. We spent a total of ten days in Austria.
The route follows well-marked bike trails that weave in and out of small picturesque villages on each side of the river. Every village has a Renaissance town square with requisite Baroque churches and cobblestone streets. Vineyards line the lower valley and castles guard the hill tops. The trails and roads change character with every kilometer, and the ride can be as easy or as hard as desired (I conquered a few cat 5 climbs for some stunning views). If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend this trip. If you are thinking about this fantastic ride or are curious about the logistics, I have a few tips and some random advice.
The pictures are more or less in chronological order with some exceptions. From over 800 photos, I had a terrible time winnowing them down, but these should give you the general flavor. Just imagine hundreds of additional medieval villages, castles, palaces, quiet country roads, orchards, etc.
Our starting point in Passau Germany.
A Baroque Cathedral in Passau completed in 1695 and containing the world's second-largest organ with 17,974 pipes. Churches like this one dominate the landscape and form the center of every town. Each has amazing frescoes, ornate alters, huge pipe organs, and lavish sculptures.
Castles also lord over the landscape, appearing every few bends in the river. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that most castles are still privately owned and largely inaccessible. We grunted up the hill to this Neuhaus Schlossl (castle) only to find emphatic signs stating "privat, verboten."
Patrick bikes an atypically busy road. Most were significantly less crowded. ;-)
A more typical road. Narrow, quiet, beautiful, and stretching to forever. There's rarely any traffic. Cycling heaven.
Near Engelhartszell shortly before entering Austria. A classic Danube view.
A Rococo parish church in Obernzell. The inside is every bit as ornate as the larger cathedrals.
When you get tired of the view on one side of the river, ferries like this one will shuttle you to the opposite bank. Fun.
Lunch is easy to find at roadside taverns and cafes like this one.
Patrick enjoys a typical evening. Beers and brats make sure that you don't burn too many calories on the day's ride. Beer has never tasted better.
The town of Ottensheim, looking jigsaw-puzzle picture-perfect. We saw a lot of fog and rain on this trip, and this photo was taken after several hours of riding in a freezing fog. Patrick kept insisting the fog would make nice photos. He was right. Now that's what you want in a travelling companion -- enthusiasm and optimism in the worst of conditions.
Classic views up a cobblestone street in Ybbs.
Ybbs. I have dozens of pictures like this from each small village. It's wonderful to just wander and lose yourself in these narrow alleys.
Bike sculpture. This part of the world is very bike centric. People don't drive to the market, they ride. Even 80-year-olds cycle down the street with loaves of bread sticking out of their bike basket. The US could learn a lesson here...
Entrance to the Mauthausen concentration camp. This was a very gut wrenching place to visit. Over 123,000 people died here (possibly many more), and after looking at the gas chambers, I road away feeling very sick to my stomach.
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