Fluff is in the air; waltzing through to our end in Vienna

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May 29th 2019
Published: May 29th 2019
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Arriving into Emmersdorf was so very welcomed when the general distance measure had exceeded 100 kilometres. ‘Are you tired’ said our Hungarian host, Henriette. Affirmative.

Those laden saddle bags saved us from a dry and simple dinner. Out came the tea, miniature wine, beer, nibbles, and vegetables we’d stocked up on, knowing now that the smaller spots were minimally serviced and usually very quiet. Someone somewhere over the river however was having a blindingly good night by the sounds of it, changing this backwater to that with a thumping background bass. To 5am.

We were too tired to notice and with sun up early it roused us to appreciate a gorgeous and warm morning. Heat of the high 20s was ahead.

That good advice of the Persenbeug café owner stuck with me, that I went off myself that day to see what this stunning view was about. Villages above Emmersdorf are quaint, with working small farms and several stately castles, such as Artstetten. Men in lederhosen and women in frocks around many small towns indicated something other than a national election was occurring!

Maria Taferl is situated above the
river, at a decent altitude, which after the previous day, felt like a thigh burning 300m of ascent. The café owner was not wrong, and through the heat haze, it was very impressive.

We left Emmersdorf after midday, still quietly humming in its Main Street with very few folks. Back on the path, Krems was our target via Melk.

The unmistakeable view of the Melk monastery was glistening once we finally got to the hilltop, on the southern side of the Donau. Too, several buses in the car park had discharged day tourists, that were milling about the main garden next to a large group of foreign cyclists. Melk had appeal, as widespread as the rest of the Donau demographic.

A short day helped us add on some pleasurable extras.

The heat was heading up fast, being 27C at 2pm, and as muddy as the Donau looked, the feeder rivers had to be clearer. Passing through more green belts, a view of craggy Aggstein castle (12th Century), and a village we marked for a lunch stop offered shade and potentially a cooling stream. Whilst I went ahead to set up the picnic and test the waters out in Schwallenbach, P2 agreed it was meant to be. Two buildings of the 17th century were nearby, both of the year 1616. Famous for Cervantes and Shakespears deaths, for us it was the lucky 16 again, multiplied!

We’d entered the Wachau valley when the vineyards appeared. Rows of vines with buildings marked ‘Domane Wachau’ mixed with almost as many cyclists. All ages, it was a demographic of 30 years up, with the biggest quantity we saw as over 60 and some clearly into their 70s on normal and E bikes. So good to see people being active, although I’ll not quite adopt the wearing no helmet habit.

Motorists have been a mixed bag for us in this part of Europe, and cycle paths haven’t always guaranteed safety either, with some law breakers cutting corners by paths, and nearly taking us or other riders out. Sadly, it seems more younger than older people at the wheel. Our host, Ferdinand, once we got to Krems, put it to us aptly; ‘the path has been here for 40 years, we ran the cyclists over for the first ten years, then began to learn otherwise’.

Decades to change. I wonder how long will our cycle network and culture change around road user respect will take, to change for the positive.

Well before the 6pm curfew for check in, we made it to outer Krems. Without any planning, we pulled into Café Wachau, a bar masquerading as a café, with so much passive tobacco we got takeaway coffee and sat on the bench by the river. The fifth largest town in Austria had more going on, more tourists on bikes, and many more cafés, that the other choices showed Café Wachau well up. Hindsight. It’s a great thing.

After a kind welcome over a regional white wine by Ferdinand, of Gastehaus Kunstmeile, we took in what remaining light of the day was left, and settled in to someone else making dinner. The Italian pizzeria restaurant across from the guesthouse ticked multiple Mediterranean food origins, but hit the spot, as we hit the decks of blanket bay hours later. Cumulative fatigue, but mentally poised for the final push to Vienna.

Monday morning was lovely and quiet, and after someone
else made breakfast, we had precious little time to see Krems more than the previous night. Briefly, we poked our heads into a medieval church, and saw what was the last turrets / old town tower standing, after all other walls were destroyed in extending the city in the 1800s.

A day of 80km flat sounded easy with our host and maps.me advising 5/6 hours would be needed. Did that include photo stops, asked P2. Add an extra five hours at least we agreed.

So in cloudy skies and rain forecast in Krems, we headed directly east towards Tulln around 11.30am. Navigating out of town led us to a road work area with multiple German signs, indicating cyclists and pedestrians could continue. That soon became a track, beside two diggers doing significant dirt works. It was repair time on the Donauweg, but our young driver allowed us to push past. I’m not sure if that would happen in NZ.

Long stretches ahead over next 40km were beside a very full river. Crossing at Attenworth, the Kraftwerk Bridge (hydro power plants) was flowing heavily, with water management probably at critical levels. It
really put a good shower to shame!

A few kilometres out of Tulln we hit more roadworks, a German speaker promptly putting us right on potentially another transport health and safety risk. Deviating on to the main road, we passed those whom we’d directed back in Krems. How did they, an older couple, get here so fast when we’d been amping up the pace. Photo stops, and E bikes.

Tulln had a river view and beautiful sculptures in its centre, that put our other picnic spot down the list immediately.

We were under 40km from Vienna by now, and the gear drop curfew meant we needed a better pace again. A long 20km or more into a moderate headwind was tranquil and always interesting. Flood banks for starters shielded quirky looking holiday homes or residents from what could be catastrophic waters. A few metres of water height could make all the difference of a good or bad day.

As we rounded the northern banks towards the city, moving in now a southerly direction, that forecast wind built up much more, then, the rain started. What had been a day of intense fluff (aspen tree seeds appearing like snow, everywhere) now centred around worsening weather. Wearing glasses never is easy for P2 riding wet, and slightly slower, we carried on to our city apartment, Living in the heart of Vienna.

You know you’re in a city when graffiti appears, but for the peak traffic hour, it felt very safe and very efficient. For just the last 800 metres of our journey we hit our first and final set of traffic lights, into Rembrandtstrasse, meaning you can cycle or be a pedestrian in and out of a big metropolis unhindered. What an incredible concept. Everyone was moving.

Vienna is a metropolis. I’ve been here 15 and 10 years ago roughly, spending probably briefer time and less money as a backpacker in the central city. Our self contained apartment lent itself to being a great base, a stones throw from Augarten, short walk to the historic centre, and very generously hosted by Christina with a late check out. In between the heavy rain showers, we went on a long walk via one of Beethoven’s homes (in Pasqualatihaus), The Volksgarten, Michaels Church, the cathedral (in the
throes of much refurbishment) and the Austrian Academy of Sciences which has very well preserved ceiling paintings from the 1700s. Fascinating architecture as usual, absorbed in our slightly travel weary state.

Stepping out of the academy, the fine weather spell had ended. ‘Ah Vienna’ I said to a bystander, whom smiled. Although Salzburg was good competition for wet times, and a higher density lifestyle.

Space revelations have featured on this trip and lead us to question our housing culture. The idea of an apartment or adjoining home need not mean lack of privacy, lack of multiple rooms, or even gardens, with modern features like double glazing, using the rooftop as untapped space, or sharing outdoor areas common. Every arable piece of land or home space is utilised. That’s normal for most Europeans, if not any other citizen of a populated country.

The places we’ve stayed in since the 2018 upheaval at home have also been thought provoking for property/ garden renovations, in the least, and like travel does, how people are in many parts of the world.

That ‘game’ or grim face of the city, the grumpy folks, those that don’t say hello when spoken to or smiled at, and prevalent smoking habits, are fortunately outweighed by all the positive (and mainly rural European) experiences we’ve had. When 70 year old Johannes (our ‘representative’ for Austrian cyclists!), our host in Krems Ferdinand, and also ourselves, get honked at by a car when on a bike or on foot, we know our incidents or feelings are not exclusive.

And full circle, I’ll channel that man we saw, highly tripped out in Granada, Spain. ‘Positivo!’ he exclaimed. Exactly.

After all that final day sightseeing, two Austrian panadería in hand, it was time to move on to the Moxy. ‘Foxy’, ‘Poxy’, and ‘Boxy’ were obviously already used to come up with this title, a chain of the Marriott hotels. Travel on the fast CAT took 16 minutes from Vienna Mitte, directly to the terminal, and fortunately the bad weather option of an underground walkway connected us dryly. Flood prone landscape wasn’t a hindrance to construction.

Our burgeoning packs needed final nursing. Accommodating an extra 4-5kg of weight and size each required CPR. We put our trust in the backpack from Kathmandu I have, and less so for zips, P2s High Sierra!

Nearly four months is a big journey. Of places, weather, people, to reconcile it all into this mass of photos and story, that always catalyses plans for the next one.

And it will happen....

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