On to Scenic Austria with Friends

 

Wednesday August 23, 2017          Ceske Krumlov, CZ to Passau, DE

We left our exquisitely located rooms  located at the river’s edge at the base of the castle, in Ceske Krumlov 

and took a shuttle to Passau, DE.

The van trip from Ceske Krumlov to Passau took almost 3 hours, about an hour longer than we expected in part due to a long construction detour. We stopped a few times for pictures as the ride through the mountains separating Germany and the Czech Republic are really beautiful.

The landscape changed dramatically when we left the Czech Republic and entered Germany. It went from mountains that were filled with trees and little cultivatible land to much more gentle and welcoming farmland with rolling hills and pastures.

The wind damage done by the rain and wind storm one night last week was amazing. Ed slept through the storm that night, but Maggie was awake and recalls how loud and long the storm was. The thousands of trees that were down on our drive of about 100 kms was testament to the fury of that storm. Those trees that we were able to see near the highway were only a small percentage of the forest and crop devastation that the storm caused. Every few hundred meters there were crews with chainsaws and loaders cutting the fallen timber and stacking and loading it and the branches into trailers to be hauled away. In many places some of the work had been done and logs about 8-10’ long were stacked waiting to be taken away. Many of the trees had trunks exceeding a foot in diameter. The carnage went on for miles. The corn crop in many places was blown down and the stalks stripped of leaves and the cobs of corn themselves and appeared to be  a total loss. Trees were pushed over as if an avalanche had struck. We were dumbstruck many times during the ride that a storm could do such damage to healthy trees for such a long distance. The guard rails along the highway were bent, bruised, and in some cases severed by the force and weight of the trees that fell on them. Maggie saw one house that was hit by a tree, although there were many lucky homeowners. Over and over again we were amazed at the damage. Fortunately for us all of the debris had been removed from the roads and there were only two temporary traffic lights set up to control the traffic around a work crew.

We arrived in Passau and stopped off at our hotel in the old city to leave our panniers. While Maggie waited outside with our stuff, Ed made arrangements to leave our gear and asked the front desk person if she knew where we could get haircuts. While we unloaded, the front desk person made an appointment for us for 2:15 (speak about coincidences) with her husband who has a barber shop/salon just on the other side of the river Ilz.  After our coiffeur we had our afternoon coffee and visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral which sits at the very top of the hill in the old section of Passau. It is a spectacular church inside and out    

and has the largest church organ in the world, with almost 18,000 pipes and more than 230 stops. All 5 parts of the organ can be played from the main console individually or simultaneously. From there we walked down (the only way to go) to the tip of this island which is the confluence of 3 rivers, the Inn, the Ilz and the Donau (German for Danube.) that continue downstream as the Donau (Danube for the uninformed.

Downstream from here, the Danube flows through Austria to Vienna, then on to Bratislava, Slovakia, to Budapest, Hungary, through Romania to the Black Sea. It just gets larger and larger.

 

Thursday, August 24, 2017        Passau, Germany  to  Schlogen, Austria

After packing up we visited a baroque church just across the street from our hotel rivaling others we have seen and without the clutter and over the top decorations that overwhelm many other churches of the period.  Hans and Gerti’s son, Martin and wife Natasha (Netty), arrived on schedule about 9:15.

They said their goodbyes, and Hans, Gerti and Ed and Maggie rode off down the Danube in the direction of Vienna. It was a beautiful day with many other riders on the path. We stopped for coffee mid-morning and continued riding along the river with mountains on both sides.  It is difficult to describe just how pretty and wide (with the Colorado River as a standard), the meandering river with low forested mountains on both sides is, even with the occasional commercial barge and river cruise boat in our view. We had the same beautiful landscape all day.  The remainder of the day we enjoyed our memory of the many places we had seen on our Danube River bike route ride 4 years ago. In 2013, there were few people on the route and no vessels on the river because of the huge flooding that had taken place just 3 weeks before. Before we left Passau we photographed the marker listing and marking the worst flooding on the Danube. The flood in 2013 was the second worst since the 1500’s and we were there, about 3 weeks after high water. The city, which was devastated by the water that rose one and a half stories above the lowest street level which itself was about 20 feet above the river has recovered beautifully. We were lucky then to have been essentially by ourselves (all of the river traffic had been stopped and all the bike tours had canceled) on the bike route and not particularly inconvenienced by the flood.

Now Passau is a bright, beautiful city with tourists from the large tour boats and bike riders anxious to ride west to Vienna. The buildings on the first level have been reclaimed and the stores are crowded with potential buyers.  We took a couple of small ferries back and forth across the river at strategic places.  We had no reservation for this evening, so Hans spoke to the ferry operator at our last ferry ride who made a reservation for us at a lovely pension only 4 kms from where the ferry dropped us off. The place and the owners were fantastic. We had dinner at the same place which was convenient and very good. Typical Austrian food. Ed washed some of the road grime off the bikes with their garden hose and all was right with the world.

 

Friday Ausgust 25, 2017        Schlogen to Linz

63km of sunny, beautiful riding along the Danube route.  Everywhere you look it’s a party for your eyes.  We casually rode along chatting and enjoying being together for the first time in 4 years.  We had our usual mid morning coffee break along the water.  At this time Ed decided to use the ATM to withdraw  more Euros.  After 3 tries, he determined there was some problem with the card or account so called the bank and found out that because of some  “suspicious activities,” they’d put a hold on the card. Thank goodness for cell phones and computer banking as after waiting on hold quite awhile, they cleared it up, and we were back on the road flush with cash.  The four of us arrived in Linz around 3pm, hot and sweaty from the heat and humidity and went straight to the main square for iced coffees,   It was 31 degrees (around 92F.) and we used this as an excuse to have ice cream, chocolate, and whip cream in our afternoon coffee! (In this part of Europe, that is what “ice coffee” is.  After being refreshed, we went the last 6K to our hotel on the southwest side of Linz.  Our hotel is about a block from the Traun River which is our next route to follow.

We walked about 1k to a shooting club for dinner that was recommended by our hotel desk clerk.  It was very good traditional German food.

 

Saturday August 26, 2017               Linz to Gmunden

The Traun Radweg #4 access was just down the block from our hotel so after breakfast we headed southwest along the river.   For the first 30K we rode in the shade of trees along the river bank.      It was already 30 degrees by the time we stopped for our morning cappuccinos.  In fact, it was so warm that without asking we were served a pitcher of water with our coffees to rehydrate. While sitting on the patio along the bike path, we struck up a conversation with an Austrian couple and ended up inviting them to Colorado.  They have been thinking of coming to the US around the Super Bowl next year, and would love to ski in Aspen while here.  Who knows if we’ll meet them again.  It was a beautiful day for a ride with quaint villages and houses, churches, flowers and the mountains punctuating the landscape along the way.              

When we’d ridden about 65K we were in LaaKirchen a small village in which we hoped to find a place to stay and looked for lodging.  After searching, talking with locals (Hans and Gerti, of course speak German like natives <of course they are natives>) in person and on the phone, we determined there were no rooms to be had.  Hans called a hotel on Traunsee in the mountain village of Gmunden another 10 kms further on and booked rooms for us.  As you can see, that last 10k to the place was beautiful.  The high mountains just kept getting larger           and more beautiful.      The hotel complex is very nice and situated with our patios overlooking the lake.  After dinner we walked back to the hotel in the dark. A few minutes after we arrived we were treated to a brilliant lightening storm with many lightening strikes over the mountains. The show lasted about 45 minutes with lightening lighting up the sky.  It was a beautiful, warm evening and the storm put on a spectacular display for us captured on a point and shoot digital camera through many attempts.

 

Sunday August 27         Gmunden to Bad Ischl

The storm passed in the night and we awoke to brilliant sunshine on the lake. The first 20Km were right beside the Traunsee on Route #2.  We stopped at a ceramic street fair           and a castle, now a restaurant, on an island in the lake    and took many pictures of each other and ourselves before leaving Gmunden.  About 15Km down the lake we stopped for coffee and ice cream.  This ended up being a banner day for Hans as he had 3 ice creams before the day ended.  No surprises on the ride to Bad Ischl, just more lakes, rivers, and mountains, and misc. beautiful for our eyes to behold.  We held off on having lunch as we’d seen posters for an International Food Festival going on yesterday and today in the center of Bad Ischl.  We pulled into the mountain village around 2pm famished, but it was worth the wait.  There were at least 40 booths with cuisine from all over.  We parked our bikes along the fence and wandered around till we each found what we wanted to sample and dug in for a delicious lunch.  After that we checked into our apartment which was only 4 blocks from the festival.  Our hostess, Sabine, was very friendly. At the time we booked the apartment we told her, via email, a little bit about ourselves.  She said she figured we’d be hungry and tired when we arrived so she decided to bake us the cake as a welcome.  Hans and Gerti were leaving to go home today so we walked back to the park where their son Martin and wife Netti had come to pick them up.  The 6 of us walked through another street fair which was all hand crafted items on our way to Bad Ischl’s most famous coffee/pastry shop for one last afternoon treat together.    It was very sad for us to say goodbye as we never know after these visits when or if we’ll see each other again.  We’ve been fortunate and have been able to get together every 3 or so years, but who knows.  When they all took off, we went back to our apt. to clean up and relax a bit.  Dinner was back down at the food fair later in the evening, yum yum!

Monday, August 28, 2017       Bad Ischl – St. Wolfgang

We awoke to a heavily overcast day but no rain. Our host saw us off with a present of 2 large chocolate bars to sustain us on our journey. We rode at a leisurely pace as we left town and happened upon a line of stores akin to our Factory Outlets although with only about 10 shops. Ed managed to find a light down jacket before we left. The route we were following is Route #2. It was well marked and meandered away from the heavily trafficked roads cluttered with trucks and tourists. The farms and houses were scattered along hillsides with lots of green pastures,       clumps of trees and typically Austrian houses and barns (many times attached to and larger than the houses) with balconies and colorful flower boxes.  We had coffee shortly before noon about halfway between Bad Ischl and St.Wolfgang sort of in the middle of nowhere but at a large and very pretty Gastof with a good sense of humor.

Close ups of those pictures

We finished the ride into St.Wolfgang about 2pm, bought drinks and had lunch sitting on a bench on the main street in the middle of town before descending steeply down two levels to lakeside and going to our hotel.

Our 300 year old hotel. Our room is on the top floor left with the longer train of flowers. 

We arrived and finished unloading the bikes about 5 minutes before it started to pour, which lasted about an hour and was accompanied by frequent loud barks of thunder. Our bikes got washed, but we stayed dry as our room is on the 4th (highest) floor and has a balcony that more than covered by the scalloped roof overhang.  We sat and watched the waves of rain and the water cascading off the roofs. Eventually we tired of watching the rain and ventured out to do some reconnoitering just as the rain stopped. Our first stop was the cathedral which is reputed to have the oldest intact church altarpiece in Austria. The cathedral is plain old cathedral from the outside, but that all changes immediately upon entering. There are many altarpieces but the one on the pulpit (above) is the one that gets the most attention. The pulpit and organ are also worthy of mention. From there we wandered around the lower part of St. Wolfgang admiring and taking pictures of the many beautiful Austrian buildings adorned with flowers and/or with paint accented features.

We had coffee in a bakery that does not permit smoking. We were under the impression that EU members had pledged not to allow smoking inside any building open to the public, but were disabused of that when we went into our first coffee shop in town only to discover a man sitting at the bar and other people seated inside smoking. We inquired of the waitress whether this was allowed and she informed us that it was but only into the room about half way. It is bad enough that they allow smoking on the patios which wafts into the interior, but now they allow smoking inside. We got up and left without ordering anything.

In the evening we attended a free classical music concert in a conference center near our hotel. The music was lively and the 10 musicians were enjoying themselves as was the audience.  Most of the selections were waltzes.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017          St. Wolfgang to Eugendorf

The morning started out foggy from all the rain and very humid with low slung clouds covering the valley, BUT, by the time we finished breakfast and packed and were ready to go at 9:30, the clouds were lifting and larger and larger blue patches of sky were showing. The humidity hung around all day, but the sky became exquisite as was the water in the lakes. The short ferry ride took us across Wolfgangsee in about 5 minutes. We rode about 10 kms. to St. Gilgen as the sky got more and more clear.   St. Gilgen is another picture book Austrian village which attracts scores of tourists on tour buses. We did not tarry in St. G. The climb out was the hardest we have encountered this trip, not simply because of the grade, but because of the distance, about 3.5 km into the hot sun. Much of it was walked. Once we reached the top,  the going got somewhat easier, although there were still 3 big climbs to go.  The views were spectacular. No other word describes them. The scenery included many beautiful farm houses festooned with flowers and happy cows with bells ringing around their necks. The flowers were on display not simply on tourist attractions, hotels and businesses, but everywhere. To make matters even better, there is no errant trash or litter anywhere. Although we try to describe what we experienced, only our memories assisted by photographs can really do justice to this country’s jewels.

We had a late lunch which was a mistake as the result of a longer than usual coffee break at a beautiful hotel in Fuschl am See where we met and had a lengthy conversation with the owner. He is an avid biker and skier and had been to Vail for the World Cup a few years ago. We admired some bike shirts that were on display and ended up each buying one. The owner gave us matching water bottles and neck tubes as well. He is doing the Kona Iron Man but hopefully will keep in touch and join us for skiing some time.

We had lunch at nearly 2:30 in Thalgau after a long descent, but were revived after our P,B & J”s

for the last 10 km most of which was flat or slightly downhill (except of course for the 2 uphill sections!)

Our Zimmer was easy to find on the route into town and as a consolation for not getting the “quiet room” that we requested, we were given a room with a balcony facing the mountains, a table and 3 chairs on the balcony, a large double bed and two twin beds, a dining table with 4 chairs, a lamp above the table, a refrigerator, a second sink and cabinet as well as a double armoire, three bedside tables, a chest of drawers, a small trunk, a rocking chair, two floor lamps, two bedside lamps, and a refrigerator. If we removed the furniture we could have played football in the room. Dinner at the hotel restaurant and then to bed.

 

 

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