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Cycling Along the Danube

Cycling Along the Danube

Our day began, as usual, with a meeting to go over our route for the day.  I knew something was up when I looked at our route directions.  Normally we get two pages of directions for each ride but I was looking at a mere half page of directions.  We would be following the Route 1 bike path for the entire ride.  YAY no tricky turns!  Then Richard, our guide, told us to remember one rule today, “If you are going uphill, you are going the wrong way.”  WHAT?!  I’m jumping for joy.  Today is going to be SWEEEET!!!

Route 1 bike trail along the beautiful Danube River.

Route 1 bike trail along the beautiful Danube River.

And sweet it was.  We first travelled by bus to Schlogen, Austria and hit the Route 1 bike trail which runs right along the Danube River, through the forest, small campgrounds and villages.  Every day I keep thinking that the riding can’t get any better and the scenery can’t possibly get any more beautiful.  I keep being wrong about that.  Everything today was astoundingly perfect… the scenery gloriously lovely, the trail flat, the setting serene, the weather comfortably brisk, the few drivers we encountered patient and courteous.  Every minute of my life I have spent longing to be outside riding my bike was craving this day… all bicycling perfection wrapped up in a 5 hour package of wonderful.

Can this get any prettier?  Can you imagine living there?

Can this get any prettier? Can you imagine living there?

The first half of our ride took us through lovely forests and campgrounds.  The Danube River here lies at the bottom of the valley and softly forested foothills slope down to be perfectly reflected in its still water.  Our bike trail runs along the southern shore. It feels as though we are pedaling from postcard to postcard.  Too beautiful to be real.  The woods here are damp and quiet.  I cannot imagine a more peaceful and tranquil place. It was a spiritual experience; I didn’t want it to end.

Lunch in the sunshine

Lunch in the sunshine

Lunch was in the town of Aschach an der Donau at a cute little bakery.  We all sat on their outdoor patio in the sunshine devouring their delicious sandwiches on fresh baked bread with pastries and cakes for dessert. The trail here is well used by other cyclists, joggers, walkers, and inline skaters.  Austrians seem to be very healthy and active folks.

The MCT Trails of Austria

The MCT Trails of Austria

After Aschach, we left the forest and cycled through neatly mown fields, always with the Danube to our left.  The trail here reminds me so much of the MCT trail system in Illinois.  We often cycle on the hundreds of miles of paved off road cycling trails just across the Mississippi.   I love the juxtaposition of familiar and foreign here. The topography of the land and all of the vegetation here correspond to my Missouri home.  I recognize all of the trees and plants; I even spied poison ivy on the side of the trail. It is easy to lose myself in the pedaling and imagine I am cycling at home.  Then we round a bend and a medieval village appears on the opposite shore, a 700 year old castle in the distance and I know I am in a place so ancient but so completely new to me.  I am amazed by the ancient-ness of this place.

Crossing the Kraftwerk Dam

Crossing the Kraftwerk Dam

We crossed the Kraftwerk Ottensheim-Wilhering Dam to the northern shore and cycled our remaining miles to the town of Ottensheim.  The dams of the Danube are engineering marvels.  The Danube has essentially become a series of lakes.  It is the second longest river in Europe and passes through ten countries.  I am a river girl.  I have lived next to the mighty Mississippi much of my life.  But the Danube feels different to me.  Its power is calmer, deeper and darker.

Our hotel in Weissenkirchen

Our hotel in Weissenkirchen

Our ride ends at Ottensheim and another fantastic bike ride is history.  We travel by bus to Weissenkirchen where we’ll be spending the next two nights.  The scenery continues to be breathtaking as we enter wine country.  The little villages are now  nestled between terraced hillside vineyards.  Our hotel was built in the 1500s and our rooms center around an open courtyard.  The flower gardens here are so lush and thick.  I wish I knew their gardening secrets; my own garden has been waning for weeks although it is colder here than back home.  Dinner tonight is in an underground wine cellar where we will dine in the traditional Austrian family style and enjoy local wines.  How will I ever be able to return to my normal life after such magic as this?!

Another exquisite view from our hotel room

Another exquisite view from our hotel room

I posted a bunch more photos from this day on my Crazy Guy on a Bike journal HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craig made this little video of our magical day along the Danube. Enjoy!

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