May 26 – Straubing to Regensburg
Who needs a wake up alarm when you have the thin nylon walls of a tent and a cacophony of birds. I was awake at 4:45 with the dawn chorus in full stereo outside. Well, I’m awake now, might as well leave those members of the team who can sleep through a stampede of trombone playing elephants, to enjoy their undisturbed slumber, while I head out for a run. I took the road back towards Bogen, attempting another running selfie, since the official running photographer was still in blissful slumber and I watched the sun come up over the hills. It was only a short run, just enough to knock the dust off, but it was worth it for the sunrise. Very speccy indeed. I also watched a hare run like a…well…a hare. Flat out across the paddock and then a pheasant popped its head out of the grass, so the world around me was waking up and starting its day.
When I returned to our pitch, the slumbering one was yet to emerge from the East Wing of the Nylon Palace, so I pottered about until he emerged and then fired up the Trangia for porridge and a cup of tea. The morning was fine, a little nippy but clear and all the signs signalled another day of sunshine. Jackpot.
We packed up and rode out towards the river, then we were again on flat, open countryside, with fields of green and yellow and long stretches of flat, quiet road. The German section of the Danube hasn’t been quite as scenic as the Austrian section yet, but I am loving the traffic free roads and the carefree way in which we can pedal along, untroubled by motorised wheels around us and with the peace and quiet of nature.
We rode along a quiet road and then up onto the levee bank. As we were making our way down off the bank, to pedal through a town, another solo cycle tourist was making his way up. He made a comment about our big load and as he made the comment in English, we’d found someone we could chat to, and so we did. That was how we met Andy from New York who is on a one month cycle tour from Nantes in France to Vienna. He was amazed we were going for six months and couldn’t believe we’d also done this for a year. I asked about his other tours and he said he’d ridden across the U.S. a couple of times, “But I haven’t got to Australia and New Zealand,” he said.
“Yes, you should come,” I said, “and you should see our little part of Australia, down in Tasmania. It flies under the radar but has beautiful wilderness and coastline…plus some hills,” I added, I mean I can’t go spinning false advertising – have to tell it like it is!
“But Australia is where everything tries to kill you,” he said, with a tone that spoke of reluctance to risk life and limb cycling Down Under, “you have all those things that bite you like snakes and spiders and all those critters that kill you. I’ve seen the nature documentaries.”
Now, this is not the first time we’ve heard this. In fact when we were travelling around the U.S. a few years ago, more than one person spoke those same words to us, as if we live in a place with snakes on every street corner, hanging out in gangs, ready to launch themselves at unsuspecting tourists and dig in their fangs. It seems we have a reputation for being a danger zone with biting and stinging things. Discovery Channel has a lot to answer for!
“We really don’t” I reassured him, “we’re a lot more innocuous than that.”
“And those Tasmanian Devils,” he added for good measure, “do you have those, like in the cartoon?”
“Yes, we do,” I said, “but they don’t spin around and they’re a lot cuter than Taz.”
“That’s all I know of them,” said Andy.
We did our best to sell Tassie as a non-biting, sting-free destination for cycling and then chatted to Andy about his and our travels so far, what we’ve all observed and how we all get on with the language barrier. It was nice to meet a fellow pedaller and share stories of life on two wheels, taking each day as it comes. He was a really nice, friendly, chatty man and I’m glad we crossed paths at the same time, to meet and have a chat.
We rode on, passing other cyclists and the occasional roller blader. That seems to be quite a favourite pastime here too. We’ve seen a few roller bladers on the path, again all ages and many of them older than us. Some skate along, in a leisurely way, others have the head down, hands behind their back doing the full Bradbury.
We stopped for elevenses in Worth an der Danau, a little town that lies at the foot of a 12th century castle, built atop a mountain. In the 16th and 17th centuries it was redesigned into a Renaissance palace and is certainly striking, sitting atop the hill overlooking the little town. Guess what it’s used for now though? I think this is pretty darn great. That huge, beautiful, historic palace is now…a nursing home. Far from being tucked away out of sight to eke out their days, those older residents who are in need of care in their later years, can spend their time in a Renaissance palace. Just so! Looking after our older generations in the style they deserve!
Our onward ride continued to take us along the river, with barges chugging past, through some trees and farmland again until we rolled into Regensburg, our pit stop and a town we thought we’d take some time to explore. (We’ve been pronouncing this ‘Reejensburg’, as in ‘region’ and ‘regent’ , but after speaking to a cyclist on the path the other day, I think he pronounced it ‘Raygensburg’, so we’re going with that now).
Regensburg’s history goes back 2000 years and the Old City with its cobbled streets, is a UNESCO world heritage site. It still has many original medieval buildings, because Regensburg didn’t experience any bombing during the Second World War, so the original buildings survived. It has a famous, imposing cathedral, which dates back to the 8th century and the Steinerne Bridge is not only the oldest functioning bridge over the Danube but the oldest bridge in Germany. It was commissioned by Duke Henry the Proud (what a great title!) and was built in the first half of the 12th century.
We roamed the streets and lanes and it certainly has a medieval feel, with the labyrinth of alley ways, cobbled lanes tucked away behind buildings and the style and character of the buildings themselves.
Then, as we roamed beside the river, there was drama on the Danube! The river is still really full and flowing fast and all of a sudden, there was someone in the water! A crew member from one of the cruise boats was immediately on the phone, while simultaneously reaching for a life ring. At the same time, another crew member dashed back inside the cabin and reappeared with a pole with a hook on the end, ready to fish the person out of the water. The man with the life ring was on the bow of the boat and shouting and then…the person in the water emerged from the water, pulled himself up onto the path and proceeded to saunter, in his board shorts, down the street, without a care in the world, completely oblivious, or unfazed by, the drama unfolding around him. Then we heard the sirens! An ambulance came flying down the street, followed by an ambulance support car. It seemed the crew member on the phone had called in the emergency services! The two ambos weren’t enough though…then the firies arrived, then the police and then…the water police came speeding up the river, against the current, with one of them in full readiness stance, standing up and leaning over the side of the boat as it sped up river, ready to dive in if needed. There were seven emergency service vehicles lining the street, with police and paramedics striding towards the river and men in full high-vis dry suits from neck to toe, all at the ready for action stations. I wish I could have sent them the message…false alarm, it was just a young fella in boardies being a turkey. I don’t know what the young fella was doing. He looked to be about eighteen or so, wearing just his board shorts, so whether he just thought it would be fun to dive into a flooded river, or whether he was jumping off the bridge, we don’t know, but he sure started a full-throttle rescue mission in the streets of Regensburg. As we strolled back, we saw all the first responders getting back in their vehicles, peeling off their dry suits and taking off their helmets, realising that the call out wasn’t quite the emergency they’d been expecting. I don’t know if they caught up with the young bloke or not, but they’d probably want to charge him a call out fee! It was full on, just for a young guy being a bit of a plonker!
Drama over, we finished our roam and Regensburg did indeed turn out to be worth a look and a stop over. So too had Straubing yesterday. It’s so good to discover these places that we’ve never heard of and would probably never get to, if we weren’t on the bikes. So the Danube served up another great experience for us and even threw in a real life movie scene for us too! The things you see when you’re riding a bike!
We’ve pit-stopped in Regensburg and tomorrow we ride on, continuing to follow the river. We’ll see where we end up, we’re not too sure yet. The Danube has been delivering though, so if it stays on form, wherever it is, it’s bound to be worth a look!
Distance ridden: 55.1 km
Time in the saddle: 3 hours 36 minutes
Distance run: 6 km
Distance roamed: 6.3 km
Weather: warm, sunny, a little breeze, 21C