May 22 – Aschach an der Donau to Passau
As we readied ourselves to ride away from the Renaissance castle, we considered our layering options. What should we wear. We threw caution to the wind, donned a veil of optimism and rode off without wearing our coats. The sky was grey and there was definitely mizzle, but we were sure, SURE I tell you, that there were patches that were definitely “brightening.” We’d be right without coats, things were going to improve! Aaah, no. No, they did not. We got 4km down the road and the mizzle turned to drizzle and the drizzle began to feel like rain, so we stopped and…once again…for the umpteenth time…we got out our coats and put them on. Again. We were now on our third consecutive day of rain and nineteenth day of rain for the trip. Sigh.
Despite the rain, the first 25km of today’s ride was probably one of the most beautiful and spectacular, scenery speaking, as any we’ve had. We had a wonderful traffic free path beside the river and we were riding through the river valley because we had towering forested hills soaring to the sky on either side of us and the river flowing fast beside us, with the low cloud and mist hanging over the trees and hovering in the valley. It was gorgeous. It was wet and it was cold, but it was gorgeous. Not for the first time, we were reminded of New Zealand, hills of trees and the river reminded us of the South Island, down around Doubtful Sound. In fact, it was grey and raining when we were there in New Zealand too, so the weather and atmospherics were spot on as well. Have you established the pattern with weather and our travels by any chance?
We had a few cyclists coming towards us again today, with smiles and waves and we were all in it together, with the weather, but riding past some splendid scenery. I stopped to add a fourth layer under my coat and we pedalled on, with the wet becoming wetter.
We saw a hotel near a ferry landing and made use of their benches and undercover area for elevenses. While we sat, we spied a few cyclists on the other side of the river catching a little ferry across to our side and pedalling off the way we’d come. Then we saw the big ferry arrive and the skipper do a masterful job of turning that big vessel in a circle and coming to a perfect landing, with the side of the ferry gently kissing the jetty. Some cyclists got off and some cyclists got on and Steve decided to check out the timetable…y’know…just in case a ferry trip to Passau could become an option…if we wanted to….y’know…get out of the RAIN! It would have been cool actually, not to catch the ferry to get out of riding, but to take a slow, gentle ferry cruise up the Danube. As it was, it was going the opposite way, back to Linz before turning around and returning to Passau this evening. We’d get there before then on the bikes, so after I had stripped off some cold, wet layers and replaced them with some dry warmer ones, we hit the path and pedalled on.
Our beautiful scenery and peaceful path immediately disappeared and we were on a path beside a busy, noisy road. Then that disappeared and we were on that busy, noisy road. We weren’t using a GPS today, but instead we opted to ride old school, taking the R1 cycle route, which is part of the Eurovelo 6, and just followed the route markers. Not long after we’d joined the busy road, there were two signs pointing to Passau in different directions. One was telling us we could go straight ahead and the other was to cross the river. We decided to go straight ahead, which we did for about 500m, at which point it became clear that the road was not going to improve. it had no shoulder, was busy and we’d be on it all the way to Passau. No thank you.
“That must be why the people on the other side of the river were crossing over on the ferry,” said Steve, “the other side must be a path and then they cross at the point where they can join up to the quiet path we rode on.”
So it would seem, so we backtracked lickety-split, pedalled over the bridge and yes indeed, the riding on the other side was along a path and quiet roads again. Nice.
We came upon a cafe and park, that seemed to be a stopping place for cyclists and they had benches outside, so we sat to have our quick lunch and book some accommodation in Passau. Back to solid walls, yet again, with the rain still coming down. Sigh once more. No camping.
As we pedalled on, we passed by a campsite flying the German flag. Hmmmm, interesting.
“A German flag,” I called to Steve, “are we in Germany? We haven’t had a sign to say we’ve crossed the border.”
Steve checked the map and yes, we were indeed in Germany. Well that happened with a whimper rather than a bang. We snuck in without fanfare or a border sign selfie. Feeling a bit ripped off! From the look of the map, one side of the river was Austria and the other was Germany, so we had pedalled over the border and could see Austria on the other side, but we had most definitely just entered our fifth country for the trip. Auf Wiedersehen Austria.
We pedalled on and it was really hard going. The other element that had decided to join us again today was wind. We had a headwind all day and it got stronger. The rain had stopped but it was a real slog, thanks to that wind. I’d been riding in front, but as we pedalled off after lunch I called for Steve to take the lead. I rode his back wheel and tried to use him as some sort of windbreak. I slipstreamed behind and tried to take cover from the force that was driving against us. Of course it meant I no longer had any forward vision, had no idea what was ahead, had no idea where we were going and all I could see was the great expanse of the Orange Wonder and if Steve had, at any moment, ridden down a pot hole, over a cliff or into quicksand I would have had no time to take evasive action, glued to his back mudguard as I was, so I would have gone into any disaster right along with him. Still, it would have been a dive into a hole, cliff or quicksand with less of a blustering wind in my face! Silver linings!
We passed by an interesting sculpture of a mermaid, with a sign in German beside it. So here is she and this is the story, translated, as it is told:
Mermaid Isa – At the foot of the Jochensteins, a rock towering high up from the Danube waters, stands a magnificent fairytale castle. The lovely, golden-haired mermaid Isa, a sister of Loreley on the Rhine, rules in this castle. In shimmering clothes, a green reed wreath in her hair and in a thread of colourful flowers, she appears in bright moonlit nights from the depths and shows herself to the fishermen and shipwrights. When the dense fog of the river becomes dangerous, it appears to the boatmen as a warning. Woe to the wretched one, who follows her seductive temptations and her wonderful song, he has fallen for her and must dwell eternally in her rocky castle.
So there you go, it seems even the Danube has a problem with sirens! Beware those mermaids singin’ a tune! As we neared Passau, we passed another statute, so it seems Isa is a bit of a fishy celebrity in these parts.
As we pedalled along that busy road, we rounded a bend and Passau came into view. What a sight. In amongst the grey, the colour of the buildings and the steeples and domes, were so eye catching and it was a lovely looking city rising out of the grey ahead of us.
We navigated the cobbled streets and then, had to navigate a street under water. They’ve had a lot of rain and storms here and as we rode along, the river level was almost to the pavement and we had to ride up off the road to avoid the water that was still covering the street.
As we were walking the bikes through the pedestrian square, on the way to our hotel, a couple approached us with a “Bonjour” and asked if we spoke German. When we said English, they switched to that and asked us where we’d come from. They told us they were about to do a 5 day ride along the river to Vienna and were wondering if they would be able to get through because of the water. “It was terrible here yesterday,” they told us. We assured them there was no water on the path, the river hadn’t broken its banks and they could enjoy their five days along the river. The weather must have been pretty hairy here just before we arrived.
“That wasn’t our fault,” Steve was quick to point out as we walked off, “that flooded street. We didn’t do that.”
No, that all happened before we arrived, our superpowers can’t take the blame for that.
We checked in, got out of our wet clothes, sat for a moment and then set off to navigate a new supermarket experience and try to learn a new system and find new supplies in our new country. Country number five, but the same language we’re still trying to grasp, so that’s good. It had been a really great ride, with beautiful scenery for a while and then…not so much. It was wet, we were in single digit temperatures again for most of it, so it was cold and that darn wind just made things extra tough, but hey, First World Problems! We’re here! We’re in Germany! Passau looks like a place worth a roam, so we’re going to stay an extra day to explore. Then we’ll ride on and see what else the Danube can give us, before we head to a different river and continue to weave our way through this country as we make new discoveries and capture new memories. We shall weave and wonder as we wheel! I do have some reflections, observations and learning so far though. Here we go.
- Austria is beautiful, with mountains and hills and green and pretty villages and snow on the peaks.
- The people in Austria are very friendly and very helpful. Lovely people.
- Austrian drivers are brilliant and wonderful for cyclists. They are patient and understanding and generous and they were all round amazing and we thank them again.
- Don’t bother trying to pack groceries into bags at the supermarkets. Over here, the checkout operators don’t pack, like they do at home, the customer packs and it’s taken us until now to get our supermarket routine worked out. The checkout people are fast and the groceries would come flying down the checkout and we’d be making a mad effort to hurl them into bags. Nope. Don’t do that, it just holds people up, creates a bottle neck and gets way too stressful. Do what the locals do and don’t pack them at all. Have an empty trolley waiting at the end of the checkout and as the groceries come flying towards you from the speedy hands of the operator, just throw them all in the trolley and worry about packing it all later when you’re in the car park. That’s the way to do it. That’s what the locals do. They walk out of the supermarket with a trolley load of groceries, just sitting in the trolley, open the back of their car and then start packing the groceries into bags. We now have a system after weeks of observation, trial and many errors, and now we know what to do. You heard it here folks, handy tips for all…supermarket tactics 101!
- Always try and use the local language, even if you’re no good at it. It’s appreciated and worth having a go, if only to give a local a smile at your feeble, and no doubt hilarious, attempt! We always get a smile when we try!
- Austria has lots of beautiful places, towns and villages that I’d never heard of and it’s been fantastic to go beyond the “celebrity cities” that get all the attention and discover little hidden gems. Sometimes the quiet ones are the most special.
Distance ridden: 70.4 km
Time in the saddle: 4 hours 38 minutes
Weather: cold (9-11C), windy, wet, grey
Number of dry layers at the beginning of the day: 3
Number of dry layers at the end of the day: 0