It is pleasant to have been at a place the way a river went. – Thoreau
Tulln to Vienna -25.5 Miles
Based on the fact that the daily mileage information was given in “approximate” distances and those, for the most part, have been about as accurate as a carny guessing my weight at a fair, Mike said the mileage today would probably be at least thirty and not the 24-ish listed. Wonders of wonders, we came close to the actual estimate!
When we woke up we weren’t sure which way the weather was going to go. We dressed more or less the same way we’d been dressing for the rain and cold, except we didn’t put on our rain pants. All of our stuff was dry after a night on the towel warmer-even my shoes. It was so nice to not squish when I walked in them. By the time we had breakfast and got ready to go, we were feeling like we might actually avoid getting wet today. Life is good! It didn’t end up raining, but there were times when it looked like it was seriously thinking about it. It was still cold and it was windy. While it wasn’t going to exactly be a tailwind for us the entire way, the good news was that it was not going to be a headwind.
So with all day to get to Vienna and not being soaking wet, we were ready to stop and smell the roses today. Unfortunately, the route was really quite rural and there wasn’t much to see other than nature -which was still nice to see.
The one larger town I thought we’d be passing through was Korneuburg. I was looking forward to having the time to check out the sights. They have a legend very much like the Pied Piper of Hamlin and have a fountain and other things to see relating to that.
We had pulled over for a quick water break just outside of the town and they had a cute sign about their Pied Piper and fortunately I snapped a picture. I’d expected we’d continue into the city to see the rest as we followed the route, but then we came to a place that said Korneuburg with an arrow pointing left and Korneuburg/Wien (Vienna) with an arrow going right. We figured we needed to go toward Vienna so we turned right. It must have been a bypass because we never saw the city at all.
Not long after that we were able to cross over onto a large island in the center of the river that was several miles long and would take us all the way into Vienna. It was quite undeveloped and obviously used for recreation. There were several trails crisscrossing through it for people to use. If we’d taken the right bridge we would have practically landed on our hotel’s doorstep. As it was, we left the island one bridge too soon and had to piece together a trail on our own along the riverside, which was still park-like and had a bike trail available.
I was pretty impressed by the network of paths for both biking and walking in Vienna (and all along the route really). They were quite extensive and made it easy to navigate around high traffic areas. The bridge we needed to get to our hotel had a separate bike pedestrian bridge on a level below the road level.
We realized that we were on the wrong side of the road and had to backtrack a bit to the riverside and up the ramp to the bridge again on the side we wanted. We had about a ½ mile to go at that point and never had to cross or ride on a road with traffic. Very convenient.
We left our bikes locked up for the last time and checked in to the hotel.
After we got settled, we grabbed the city map and took a very long walk in search of the old part of Vienna. The first sign that we were getting closer was a bridge over a narrow river or offshoot of the Danube where several river cruise boats were lined up. I said to Mike, “I bet the restaurants around here have English versions of their menus!“ Quite soon we found a restaurant with something better… pictures!
After we had a bite to eat we continued into the older area of Vienna and found St. Stephens Cathedral.
We walked around the area for a bit.
Lots of tourists and luxury brand type stores – Rolex, Valentino, Armani, Escada, Hermes, etc. Good thing I didn’t have an inch of space available in my suitcase -ha ha. Actually, I’m sure alarms would go off if I tried to even step into one of those stores and the sales ladies would shoo me away immediately. It is patently obvious that I’m fashion-impaired.
We wandered into another small church nearby called St. Peter’s – really gorgeous. (We were a bit mystified by the sign out front -but realized they must be putting the scaffolding to use by taking on advertising.)
We considered this afternoon a reconnaissance mission for more walking around tomorrow and before long we were ready to head back to the hotel. When we’d walked into town, we’d had to cross back over the Danube using the same pedestrian bridge we’d used coming into town and we’d noticed there was an Underground/Subway stop in the middle of the bridge (pedestrian/bike level). We decided it might be nice to figure out the subway system and return to the hotel that way. It was a much faster trip back. 🙂 The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful …we just sort of had an “end of the trip” laziness going on, especially knowing we didn’t have to get up and go in the morning.
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. -Henry Miller
We took our time in the morning and then took a stab at taking the subway a few stops beyond the station we’d used to go back the day before hoping it would get us closer to the area we wanted to start at today. It worked out great. We ended up a few blocks from the Hofburg Palace, which was on our list of things to see. We saw a few things as we walked:
We arrived at what, at first, looked like a park, but it was the Hofburg. One of the first things we saw was a Mozart statue with a musical note flower garden in front of it.
The Hofburg is a very large, rambling, edifice that has functioned as the seat of government through many regimes since 1279. It has also functioned as a residence for the leaders and rulers of Austria over the years, such as the Habsburgs and, in present times, the President of Austria. It’s just plain big. There are museums, offices, a chapel, and is the location of the Spanish Riding School – the Lippizaners. For some reason when we were in Linz, I said to Mike -I think we’ll be seeing where the Lippizaners are on this trip, maybe here in Linz? Mike says – Oh I saw them in Pentwater last year with Tom Izzo. I said -that was the Clydesdales, dear! We did poke our head into their gift shop/display area at the Spanish Riding School, but didn’t get to see the horses.
There are a couple of museums in the complex. We went into the Imperial Treasury -which held quite a collection of old knights outfits, some crowns, jewelry, and other accoutrements of court life. It was interesting to see.
We wandered through a couple of small courtyards and popped out into a large enclosed courtyard with a restaurant and sort of a main square feeling.
On one side of it, there was essentially a road that passed from one side of the square to the other. At one end, the passage opened out onto a regular street.
Through the other end you arrived at another side of the building which faced a large open park like area with some very large statues.
Just as we found the courtyard, we heard a band and saw them come marching along. They set up in the courtyard and began giving a small concert, starting with (to my ears) the Monty Python Flying Circus theme song. (Just kidding!)
There was something else that needed to be taken off of Mike’s food bucket list: apple strudel. Since there was a restaurant conveniently located in the square we decided that time and strudel wait for no man… or something like that. (The real quote is: Time and tide wait for no man)
We eventually wandered out through the pass-through to the street beyond and started weaving our way back toward St. Stephens.
Back at the cathedral, we went inside briefly. I got a bit claustrophobic due to the crowds.
There was a mini-craft show going on around the cathedral so we looked at some of the booths. There was a small carousel near the booths. Behind the cathedral we saw an adorable carousel that was bike powered. All of the “rides” on it were made of junk pieces – one being an old tricycle and another being an old bathtub. I didn’t take a picture because they wanted donations for any pictures taken -which I thought was a bit much.
Mike said we should probably buy a pretzel before we went home -so we found a booth for that. Just as we were getting ready to eat our pretzel,
I looked behind Mike and saw these two women dressed up in historical costumes walking through the crowd on stilts. I threw the pretzel at Mike (they were coming up from behind him) and said, “be right back” and went out ahead of them to position myself to get a picture of them coming toward me and when I turned around to frame my picture they had actually stopped to flirt with Mike! Then before I could get back closer to him for a picture they started to move on again.
Many of the buildings and sites we saw in the old section of Vienna were too big to really get pictures of -so sometimes I took pictures of a bit of them…or no pictures at all. At first I didn’t think I was really “feeling” Vienna -but it did grow on me as we wandered around. Both the Hofburg and the area around St. Stephens were swarming with people and also what I refered to as “The Beethovens”. They were trying to get people to attend a concert that evening. Not sure what was going on -but they sure were enthusiastic!
We took the subway back to our hotel and then walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. After a final packing -and repacking again for me- -and sitting on my suitcase to get it closed -we declared ourselves ready to go home. Our plane the next day didn’t depart until early evening, but we decided that we’d seen what we wanted to see and spent the next morning quietly relaxing in our room.
On our last day of riding, I found myself being somewhat philosophical about how to reconcile the two parts of a trip like this. There’s the physical aspect -the biking being the mode of transport and that brings concerns about distance, weather, conditions… And there’s the tourist part -wanting to explore a bit. On many levels, I was just happy to ride along and see the countryside and the various views/scenes we came across without stopping to tour anything, although there were many places I would have liked a closer look at given the time. If we had the chance to do this again, we’d probably change the timing of the route so that our shorter mileage days would be on days where there’s lots of reasons to get off the bikes and smell the roses. It seemed that our route (which was set up by the tour company) often had longer mileage on the days we would have most liked to have been able to take our time.
All in all – we had a great trip! Getting home had it’s own challenges, but we made it! (When we checked in at the Vienna airport -Mike had disappeared from the booking. We had to call Iberia and they had to find him again. We had to stay overnight in Madrid. And then running all over O’Hare due to gate changes and having a late departure to Grand Rapids.)
Definition of ‘adventure’: extreme circumstances recalled in tranquility. -Jules the Kiwi
Categories: The Danube Bike Trail 2014