Further down the Danube
I ended the post Cycling down the Danube (1) with the prospect of a 3km hill climb to my hotel at the end of a day of being lashed by wind and rain almost constantly.
The rain had stopped, the wind had dropped to breeze strength as I arrived at the junction where the road to Maria Taferl left the Danube’s riverside road. I stopped and retreived the map and route instructions from the waterproof pannier. It was a forlorn hope, but I was looking for an alternative. It was then I noticed a note under the days instructions which read
“Stop for a coffee and cake at Cafe Braun in Marbach and ask the waitress to call Hotel Krone-Kaiserhof. By the time you have finished your coffee and cake the hotel will have sent transport for you and your bike to Maria Taferl”
How had I missed that note? I needed no second invitation to seek out Cafe Braun and partake in the very German custom of Kaffe und Kuchen. The waitress duly arrived and at my request called the hotel. By the time I had finished the hotel van with a bike trailer had arrived. Dripping water everywhere and steaming gently in reception I was relieved I had not had to climb the hill on my bike. It was incredibly steep with numerous hairpin bends.
The Hotel Krone-Kaiserhof where I stayed has terrific views across the Danube Valley and Upper Austria. More importantly it had a spa and was very cyclist friendly. I collected my luggage delivered by the previous night’s hotel and headed for my room and the spa to soak away the aches of a day in the saddle.
The following day it was still overcast but lurking on the horizon was the promise of a better day. To reach the river it took a 5km ride east through woods and farmland; all of it downhill. After the effort of the previous day it was sheer bliss to cover 5km with hardly a turn of the pedals.
Melk was to be my mid-morning destination where hopefully I could refuel with some Kaffee und Kuchen. The town is dominated by a Austria’s most magnificent Baroque abbey. Above the streets the abbey sits like a castle and stretches the full length of the old town. The old town is full of boutiques and souvenir shops with several cafes worth making a a pit stop at. I stopped at one which spilled out onto the cobbles. I guiltlessly consumed an apfelstrudel and lashings of cream in the knowledge that the extra calories would soon be burnt off.
As I left Melk and headed back down to the Danube the sun succeeded in its effort to break through the cloud cover. It was particularly welcome as the previous two days had taken on the feel of an endurance test and I was about to pedal into the Wachau.
The Wachau is the most beautiful part of the Danube’s journey through Austria and begins just beyond Melk. The Danube weaves its way through the Wachau with the mountains sometimes close at hand; sometimes at arms length.
The cycle path often weaves through the vineyards and orchards before returning to the banks of the river. The leaves were beginning to change to russets and gold. The grapes were ripe on the vines and would soon be harvested to make the wines the region is noted for. Orchards of apples, pears and apricots filled all the gaps left by the vineyards.
Cycling through such countryside it was easy to see why the likes of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Brahms came here to escape the hothouse of Vienna and seek inspiration. Locals like to claim Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony was inspired by the Wachau; who am I to doubt them?
Although cycling is the best way to see the Danube countryside it can be hard work too. The passenger boats cruising up and down the river looked inviting. So at Spitz I decided to take a break from cycling and cruise down the river in style. Half an hour later found me on board, bike safely stored aft and enjoying a very expensive coffee as I took in the scenery without expending the energy.
Durnstein is the prettiest town on the Danube with its Baroque architecture, cobbled streets, abbey and its magnificent views along the river. However, for the English it has a dark side. Above the town is the castle, now in ruins, where Richard the Lionheart was incarcerated until a ransom was paid.
I was beginning to feel guilty that I was not working off the morning’s apfelstrudel or taking the chance to explore the Durnstein.
After a brief stop at Durnstein for passengers to disembark the boat continued downstream a few kilometres to the town of Krems. The delightful town rivalled Vienna in the 11th and 12th centuries and is renown for the beautiful architecture of the houses, the courtyards and churches. As I approached along the Danube I was struck by the number of spires reaching up from the town, reminiscent of the “dreamy spires of Oxford”. Like Oxford, Krems is a university town with a lively and buzzing cultural life.
I might have reached my destination and settled into my hotel by mid afternoon by I felt that somehow I had cheated myself out of a section of the Danube and hurried through the Wachau.
In the next post about my cycle down the Danube you can read about how I rectified this error of judgement. To be sure of being informed when the next instalment is posted sign up in the sidebar to receive a notification by email.
Declaration: I travelled as a guest of Donau Reisen who organise cycling tours in several European countries and the Austrian National Tourist Board. As always I retain full editorial control and write from my experience and was not bribed with apfelstrudel or sacher torte.