Europe · 19 Days · 41 Moments · May 2017

Cycling Passau to Budapest

17 June 2017

Lifting the bikes onto the train was no mean feat- then they have to hang with their own reserved ticket attached ., We had to return a day early from Budapest to Vienna as there were no bike spaces available when we booked 1 week ago , for our preferred date -something to remember for a future adventure . Saturday 17 June - My travelling companions have already taken the train to Passau with my bike as well . I am waiting on Vienna station for the train which will take me to my next adventure in Poland .
Budapest Near to the Margaret Bridge is a bronze sculpture of shoes , a memorial to the thousands of Hungarian Jews who were taken there from the Ghetto and shot .The Parliament buildings are vast and ornately decorated . On Friday morning we wandered around a less touristy area , into the covered market , where the freshness of the vegetables made us think of the wilted offerings available in Langkawi ! In the early afternoon as were about to depart for the railway station and our return journey by train , the sky darkened and it rained lightly -time to go !
Wednesday 14 June - Budapest We breathed a sigh of relief when we reached our Airbnb apartment and found it was in a very large old building with internal courtyard. Ground floor,so no stairs and more importantly, easy bike storage . There were plenty of restaurants very nearby, so 3 weary travellers didn't need to walk far for a great meal at 'M' restaurant . Thursday was another scorching day and we walked the Jewish quarter , visited the Great Synagogue , then on through streets of never ending grand and beautiful buildings , some restored and some waiting . What a drop dead gorgeous city ! Next was St.Stephen's Basilica with the "mummified right hand of the saint "๐Ÿค”

15 June 2017

Esztergom to Budapest-87 kms Unbelievable - 12 days of cycling and no rain ๐Ÿšด๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ˜. The cycle trails were good , with a few kilometres sharing a main road . We had to cross the Danube twice on ferries in order to stay on the cycle trail. Our early start and the interesting stops broke the ride up nicely , and before we knew it , we could see glimpses of Budapest in the distance. We had to follow a rutted path for a bit , then the way was along the riverside , with holiday houses ,cafes , 'beaches' with sun bathers and locals generally enjoying themselves. Negotiating a detour around the railway yards was stressful , until suddenly we were on the pedestrian/cycle path looking across to the city (Pest) and the magnificent parliament buildings. The scenery during the ride was fantastic as we followed the loop in the river and had changing vistas .We had cycled a total of 735 kms , and although we saw many other cyclists, only a small percentage were carrying their own luggage !

14 June 2017

Esztergom is a pleasant town , but the contrast with Slovakian cities we had visited was obvious. Not so many families out in the early evening, eating ice creams or drinking and eating at cafes and bars . More buildings were in a poor state of repair in the city centre too, it seemed to me. We visited the Basilica then moved from Coffee and cake onto a bottle of delicious Hungarian bubbles at a pub in the main square, where a saxophonist / clarinet player was entertaining outside the next door icecream parlour . Excellent all round! We moved on to Mediterraneo, probably the only 'chic' restaurant in town , where we enjoyed an excellent diner before a 9,30 bedtime.

13 June 2017

We had read about the Basilica in Esztergom and stopped on the Slovakia side of the river to take a break and view the huge building . Esztergom is known as the Rome of Hungary - the church is the biggest in the country . It is massive !
Komarno to Esztergom 55 kms Today was yet another hot , cloudless day . To try and beat the heat , we left our hotel ' Banderium ' at 8.30 It was an easy exit from town across the river Vร h, which flows into the Danube there . The way was easy along a paved floodbank , with fields to the left and woods to the right . The long grass is a popular feeding ground for storks and we saw several close up again today . We made speedy progress ,even though we had to join a highway for several kilometres. We donned our high visibility tops and didn't encounter much traffic . The problem was trying to find a coffee , as two villages we passed through had nothing to offer. Finally after another straight ride alongside the Danube , where it widened and had overhanging trees and small beaches - we reached a town with a set lunch for EU3 - Reno ordered it and had a large bowl of soup followed by Schnitzel with potato salad . Popular with locals , some were coming in with Tiffin boxes for takeaway

12 June 2017

Komarno - Dinner was good , ice cream is excellent and it was still 30 degrees at 7.30 pm! Early night , all feeling wiped out . Random photos from my walk in Komarno this evening. They have built a 'Europe 'square with different styles of houses as shown in the photos below
Gyรถr to Komarno - 62 kms Today was pretty tough - it isn't about the distance but the ride ! Gyรถr is in Hungary and today was our first day riding there. Signage for the cycle trail was poor or non existent getting out of the city and headed in the right direction- We were travelling across country today and only hit the Danube again about an hour out of Kumaron ( the Hungarian side of the river from Komarno) . Cycling paths were few and far between - we had to ride for several kms on a deeply potholed trail , a main road , smaller roads with no cycle lane , 6 kms on a tiny dirt track through a wheat field beside the railway line , then to avoid another main road we cut down to the river on an unpaved road which turned to soft sand in places - There were short inclines often , so no wonder I am in bed writing this at 8.45 pm ! Komarno , where we are overnight is on the north bank of the river , so we are back in Slovakia using Euros .

11 June 2017

Random shots in Gyor
Bratislava to Gyor- 81 kms After a good night's sleep , I was ready for the longer ride into Hungary. With not a cloud in the sky , we crossed back to the north bank and made the journey across the Hungarian border towards Gyor . We cycled through green landscapes of wheat fields , sunflower and poppy crops, silent Sunday villages and saw few other cyclists or even motorised vehicles. The cycle lanes are virtually all the way , clearly marked with a green sign which is universal to all the countries we have been through. Our coffee in Mosonmagyarovar , our first stop in Hungary , was significantly cheaper than in Slovakia . Fortunately Euros were OK as we were unable to get any Forint from the ATM in the village . We reached Gyor on the other side of the river mid afternoon - a lovely town on the Danube which is not high on the tourist calendar. I showered then just wandered- see the photos
More Gyor

10 June 2017

Creative soundproofing of the small window in my loft room - worked well
A day in Bratislava-it began rather chilly with light rain , but that soon cleared into another sunny day. We climbed to visit the castle on the hill from where we had good views of the city . Bratislava is not only the busiest I have ever seen at restaurants, but also turned out to be the noisiest , with hordes of drunken young people partying until around 6 a.m . That meant no sleep for me ๐Ÿ˜ฅas my room is right by the streets and I don't sleep well at the best of times . Anyway that also meant that I haven't had the most energetic day. This afternoon we did an 'off the beaten track ' tour of another part of the city with a local guide - very interesting and informative about life in Slovakia before and after the communist era. Well it is Saturday evening now and as they couldn't ( or wouldn't) change my room , I have new extra effective earplugs and have created a slight soundproofing to my window with a duvet and my pannier bags ! Cycling 80 kms tomorrow so here's to a decent sleep

9 June 2017

Bratislava Old City is unbelievably full of restaurants, I have NEVER been anywhere which could compare- and tonight , Friday , the city is full of people enjoying themselves. During our after dinner stroll we came upon a live performance in the square by the Opera House, a quartet comprising a violin , double bass , xylophone and accordion player . There were also 2 female soloists , but the music was the main thing - classical music to make you want to dance ! Fabulous- and the chilli chocolate and salted caramel icecream finished a perfect day .
Bad Deutsch Altenberg to Bratislava, a mere 21 kms but it felt like 40 because we had some hills and a strong head wind all the way - The cycle path was through green wheat fields and the small town of Hainburg .We could see the city of Bratislava in the distance , eventually arriving at the bridge which took us across the Danube and straight into the Old City , where our hotel was booked . Unknown to us , the hotel is in a very grand old building right in the heart of it all , but up a stone staircase to the third floor - which is fine with luggage . To get safe storage for the bikes for the two days we are here , meant carrying the bikes up the stairs as well - which Claudia did , refusing my offer of help - bless her ๐Ÿ˜‘.We wandered in the afternoon , Michalska Gate, Cathedral, Blue Church , Market and enjoyed the atmosphere in general . This evening we had a delicious Thai meal ( a bit tired of Austrian / Slav food) then walked some more -

8 June 2017

Bad Deutsch Altenberg style
Thursday 8 June - 55 kms Vienna to Bad Deutsch Altenberg During the ride we took a short detour to Ekertsau, the former hunting lodge of the family Habsburg and last retreat of the last Emperor of the Habsburg dynasty - Karl and his wife Zita and 5 children. From there , they finally agreed to go into exile in March 1919 , although he refused to abdicate and left Austria still as titular 'Emperor' . Sadly he died two years later in Madeira at the age of 35 , after producing 3 more children . Zita lived for a further 67 years without him. We enjoyed the guided tour there after lolling around in the garden for an hour or so . We still arrived at our destination by 4 pm and stayed in a small local hotel / restaurant/ pub -just like stepping into the 80s again , as the decoration hasn't changed ! It reminded me of my years in the same business in England in the 80s
After a quite chilly day yesterday - today was perfect.We made our way out of Vienna City really easily via Prater Park - a large swathe of green in the city. We cycled along the cycle path on the north side of the Danube , and were soon in a green zone which is a National Park and stretches all the way to Bratislava . Much of the trail is along the top of a floodbank , and through wetlands ,which means we could have a good view either side . I heard 2 woodpeckers working , and a cuckoo . We had x4 wild piglets run across the trail in front of us , then saw a deer & a stork which had just caught a fairly long snake . To our left were vegetable farms for as far as the eye could see. , a green , flat and very tidy landscape. Between the farms and the great river , a natural green, untouched habitat for all sorts of plants and wildlife . A most enjoyable ride .

7 June 2017

Today was another culture day - The Stephansdom Cathedral - built originally in the 12 th century, with asymmetrical spires . It has an amazing chevron design , tiled roof and ancient carved stone pulpit . We took the underground, first stopping at the main railway station to book ourselves and bikes back from Budapest by train - which was problematic but eventually sorted by changing our return date . We then carried on to the Schloss Schoenbrunn where we took the guided tour and also visited the gardens and maze . It was the Summer Palace of the Habsburgs ,- we heard many stories and thoroughly enjoyed walking through the awesome interiors of the state apartments . Our last evening in Vienna before we move on , and where better to dine than in a traditional wine cellar restaurant-
Adolf Loos Public toilets - Built in 1905 by this Vienna based Czech Architect to showcase the design of a toilet manufacturer - these mahogany panelled , Art Deco public toilets - are still in use today under ground in Graben ! Now we know where the word 'loo' comes from ?!
We have been in Vienna for two full days - a fabulous city - full of grand buildings and cobbled streets . We have a lovely apartment in one of these buildings , perfect for exploring on foot . The bicycles are having a rest! The Hofburg was our main visit yesterday . It was built originally as a fortified castle in the 13th century , and was the seat of the Habsburg dynasty until the Austrian monarchy collapsed in 1918. What a fantastic complex and our English speaking guide brought Empress Elisabeth ( Sisi 1837-98) to life for us during tour , which really enhanced our experience of walking through the apartments where she and Franz Josef lived . We wandered , ate freshly baked brezels , tried locally brewed beer and generally soaked up the atmosphere.

6 June 2017

90 kms ride Tulln was our picnic stop by the river , before the long haul along a ridge / flood bank facing into the wind . Bottoms were getting sore , so an interlude by the river bank meeting Mum & Dad swan with one precious sygnet was welcome. We found a bit of left over bread , and the male swan was 'up close & personal ' with Reno ! Another 20 kms in the afternoon temperatures of the mid 20s got us to an iced lemon soda and apple strudel ( absolutely Austrian) stop by the river . We knew then that we had only to do another 18-20 and we'd be in Vienna . The approach was on a trail through an island in the river which is set aside as a reserve - so we didn't hit road traffic at all , only lots and lots of Bank holiday leisure seekers . Our Air bnb is right in the heart of old Vienna and was easy to reach , as the whole city seems to have dedicated cycle lanes - phew , we were pleased to arrive and find a frozen yoghurt parlour right opposite our apartment !
Monday 5 June Today was the longest ride , between sleeps, of the whole journey. After a thunder storm early evening in Krems , we awoke to a cloudless sky . By the time we breakfasted and saved some for a lunch stop , paid and loaded the luggage , it was 8.45 am when we set off from Gasthaus Klinglhuber for what we anticipated would be a long day in our saddles. It took a few kms before we were back near the big river , with the cycle trail following the road and some shade until it meandered through forest , the way easy so far .After 22 kms we crossed The Danube via a dam then stopped for a cold drink with dozens of other cyclists at a roadside cafe . It is a bank holiday here and the weather glorious , so a great day for cyclists of all ages , kinds of bikes and speeds! We saw a bike which we reckoned we could pick up with one finger ! Envy took over ..... only briefly, as I climbed purposefully back on my mount and pushed on๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ƒ

4 June 2017

Today's kms were leisurely,through solid little villages and towns , cobbled streets , past houses , castles and churches with hundreds of years of history to tell. A backdrop of steep terraced hills and flats planted with wine grapes , apricots , cherries and other fruits completed the scene - got it ? This area is known as the Wachau where some excellent Austrian white wine is produced . The great river was always there to our right , making its way towards the far distant Black Sea . Meanwhile working boats push huge barges full of I don't what , maybe grain - and river cruise boats carry travellers on day trips and longer between various points on the river . Our main stop was in Durnstein - such a beautiful village where another Stift ( Abbey) ,cafes , wines, preserves and other local produce draw people to visit . We arrived at our destination of Krems mid afternoon - but Sunday means closed here so not much to see .
Saturday June 3 We slept across the river in the small village of Emmersdorf. Reaching it involved a very steep 18% ascent from the riverside onto the road bridge spanning the Danube , so 3 very happy bunnies sped down the other side to Gasthaus Egger , a comfortable guesthouse overlooking the river . We dined at the restaurant of the large hotel nearby , white asparagus for me , a fresh delicacy at this time of the year . Here, as elsewhere in the area , we saw locals dressed in traditional Austrian costume - the man sitting opposite us wore his leather Hosen complete with bone handled knife in a sheath sewn into the trousers. His wife was wearing the flare skirted pinafore dress with over apron and white blouse . Lovely !

3 June 2017

Grein to Emmersdorf - 60 kms Yet another hot, cloudless day - we set off by 9 a.m and took a ferry across to the south bank . The cycling was great - today there were trees , we popped up and down through villages just away from the river , wherever the trail took us , then back . It was so quiet by the river that all I could hear was bird song , (cuckoos among them ) the smell of fresh mown hay further tickled my senses - a great day to be out and feeling in tune with nature. Each day we see towns and villages which just seem to be more quaint , more traditional and more well preserved . Today's highlight was a visit to Melk Abbey . It is a vast , painstakingly restored Benedictine Monastery and centre of learning , sitting above the drop dead gorgeous town of Melk, a veritable tourist trap. The Abbey houses a Library of 100,000 valuable books dating back hundreds of years - so so stunning , but photographs are not allowed - then there is the church ,ornate , gold & awesome
As you can imagine, visiting Mauthausen was a confronting experience -, even as sterile as it is now . I could imagine the scene 75 years ago , as described in the museum - a chilling reminder of man's ( continuing ) inhumanity to his fellow man . On a happier note , we freewheeled down that hill and back to the serenity of the Danube . The path moved away from the river for a distance and passed through pretty villages and agricultural land , which made a pleasant diversion . We had some lunch at a small marina on the river , taking some extra time so Reno could top up his E battery in the path side charging point . We were pleased to see Grein in the distance and arrived at our guesthouse in the centre just before a violent thunderstorm . A delicious Italian dinner with a crisp dry Austrian white almost finished the day , but we found it impossible to pass the Gelato cafe on the way home !

2 June 2017

Friday 2 June - Linz to Grein - 70 kms . After a good nights rest in the Pension Antica Locanda , another good choice of accommodation by Claudia- we set off on today's long journey, with adjusted saddle and high hopes of a comfortable ride . Once we were away from the city limits and the industrial zone on our right , the path was soon back by the river , with fishermen , joggers , and walkers all doing their own thing . Another gorgeous day and all was good. We were heading for Mauthausen first , the notorious concentration camp from the Second World War . After 25 kms we detoured to the site , which sits on top of a steep hill overlooking the river and villages . STEEP is an understatement , given the bike I am riding , the luggage and age ! Reno had his E power, but we girls had to push on foot- that was tough .
Thursday 1 June - After a shower and short break, Claudia and I set off to explore a little and visited the 'New' Cathedral ( built only 200 years or so ago) which is gorgeous - classic and much less ornate than the typical style of churches we had seen so far . Later Claudia, Reno and I met up with friends from Langkawi who live in this area and we shared a delicious typical Austrian meal and good Austrian wine from the Wachau region - we dined in The Promenaderhof - a large traditional eating establishment right in the old heart of Linz .
Thursday 1 June - another stunning day , sunshine & mid 20s temperatures- we set off from Schloegen at 9 a.m and took a leisurely ride the 58 kms downstream - through more picture postcard scenery and villages .The last stretch was long and hot , with no shade , right by the banks of the river . Bottoms hurt and stamina was getting to be in short supply on my bike . The last 10 km push into our destination city of Linz was alongside the busy highway , and I struggled . Then I saw Linz sitting atop a hill ! Yes but somehow I made it , as the incline was not too bad and my Langkawi training came to the rescue .
Day 2 cycling from Schloegen to Linz -58 kms Cycling has taken on a whole new meaning - seeing the fit young ( & old) cyclists on their light weight , speedy road bikes flying past us on the trails makes me realise just HOW MUCH harder it is to do what we are doing . I am riding what can only be described as the sort of bike you would take shopping with a basket on the front - ' sit up and beg ' style - It is heavy - and I am carrying about 11-12 kgs of luggage in 3 panniers on the back . It is hard work on any small incline , but easy on the flat . Of course , I can only travel at about 13-15 kph . I really had no idea just how challenging this ride would be , and at the end of yesterday's journey I had such a sore backside , - really ! I have my own saddle with me , which , comfortable at home has become seriously painful to sit on . Today I adjusted the height , tilt and back / forward of the saddle and I am glad to say it is a bit better, bit still hurts ....
The remainder of the ride was totally picturesque, and we arrived at the crossing point for the ferry to the south bank where our overnight stop was , around 3.30 pm . Schloegen is on a big loop in the Danube where it has had to bend back on itself to bypass impenetrable granite . My first taste of Austrian cuisine was very palatable- I love the dumplings - which I have already had in two different dishes ! It was early to bed for me , in the hope that a good night's sleep would be transformational.
We headed back to the north bank on the local ferry and continued on the river side trail towards Schloegen
The total distance this first day was 46 kms and enough for my poor tired , sick self . There was the coffee stop , followed an hour or so later by a side trip across the river to visit a Cistercian Monastery and church in the cute little village of Obernzell . The monks make alcoholic drink , but we were only able to go into the shop . The church was interesting in that it contained glass cases with ornately adorned skeletons inside , at intervals around the church - something new !

31 May 2017

31 May After a broken night's sleep, brought on by the facts that I was still unwell with a cold & anxiety about carrying about 11 kgs on a bike I had never ridden , it was time to get going and just do it ! We set off from Passau at and once I had got how the load fitted in the mechanics of keeping a bike upright, I was absolutely fine ๐Ÿ˜. We followed the north bank of the river and once we were away from the city , the trail led us into another world . I can only describe the feeling as if one is part of 3D tourist postcard - so much beauty & what appears an idyllic life - The sun was shining , a few other cyclists passed or met us , no cars , wild meadows blooming with bright red poppies and other flowers . Honey bees loving the feast , settled on flowers as we passed .

30 May 2017

And now at 10 pm there is a thunder storm raging - we shall see what the morning brings for our first leg of cycling along the Danube to Budapest .
Today was leisurely , as we took the back roads through small Bavarian villages to Passau . My past three days have been dampened by a cold which I assume I picked up in flight last Friday , so I was happy to have an easy day before we start our cycling adventures tomorrow. The day has been hot again - perfect for wandering around the old town of Passau - checking out the fabulous architecture, the cobbled streets ,churches and of course , the icecream! The most spectacular visit for the day has to be St Stephan's Cathedral - An immense plain white building , rebuilt in baroque style by Italian builders after the city fire of 1662 , with an interior so ornate and intricate that one could spend hours studying the detail. It also has the world's largest church organ, with 17,974 pipes !

29 May 2017

A visit to a beer garden is a 'must do ' in Bavaria so we walked to the Augustiner Keller , the vast garden of which was full to bursting . There must have been around 1000 people all enjoying the beer ,delicious food and the traditional ' oompah ' band on this balmy evening.We too , enjoyed the atmosphere, freshly baked pretzel bread , meals and litres of beer , all served with flamboyant enthusiasm by our waiter.
The three of us set off from Abondance in France yesterday, in warm sunny weather with our goal being to reach Munich in Germany by early afternoon. The drive was long and fairly hot , one bike in the back and the other two firmly attached to the rack behind the car made no difference to the good time we made .We were at our central city hotel in time for Reno & Claudia to attend to some personal business , and for me to make my way on foot along Marienstrasse to the Marienplatz , where I watched the clock strike 5 , with it's attendant historical clockwork characters strutting their stuff in the tower .