Other stuff
Contact Me

Reports @

3) May 3rd, Austria - The old lady of Vienna

Have completed the "London to Vienna" part of the trip. Infact, have decided to change the title of my homepage to "Turn right for Austria" and go home....

Of course not! You'll probably be disappointed to know that things are going rather well. The thermal underwear is off (don't worry, I still retain the outer clothing), and there have actually been a few days where I've haven't had to mentally repeat the mantra of "No pain, Steve, no pain". I even seem to have gained 5kg in weight, and I'm having a hard time convincing myself that it's all muscle on my legs...
But don't delete me from your bookmarks just yet - things are set to get harder from here on. In the meantime, a brief rundown of the last couple weeks ---

22 Apr, Fri:   Bloody freezing last night - ice covered my tent and filled my water bottle. Then followed a horrible muddy track sending me all over the place except in the general direction I wanted to go. One thing I've noticed here is that everyone likes telling me off - "get off the pavement!", "get off the road!". Order is maintained. Even the dogs know it - I'm whizzing by on my bike and with just the slighest nod of the owner's head, the dog sits down and patiently waits for me to pass by. Amazing!
Into Mainz and things got really complicated - went down several wrong rivers taking me ages to get back to thr Rhine, followed bike-paths to dead-ends, ... arrghh! Carried on south through to Oppenheim at last, and some really nice villages inland a little from the Rhine. After the weaving crappy riverside paths, the inland paths were a dream - long and straight, making their way through vineyards, the river seen in the distance ...really nice.
Distance: 85km. Overnight in Worms.

23 Apr, Sat:   Ermm, farewell to Worms ... today I broke the 1000km barrier! The precise moment was hurtling down from the mountains into Zeigelhausen, a little past Heidelburg.

When I got up this morning, this could have so easily been a Bad Day. Atrociously lost coming out of Worms - Bad. A puncture. Fixed it, got on the bike and flat again. A double puncture - Bad. But after Lamperheim, found myself on a wonderful forest road, infact part of quite a big forest with paths criss-crossing everywhere, and even cafes here and there. Good. Then Viernheim... Oh By the Gods, what a nightmare. I wanted to go south-east, but I just kept on going in circles. Every road led back to frigging Viernheim. I'd be going in the correct direction at first, but not notice the slow curve in the road that would then take me back to where I started. I thought I'd entered the Bermuda Triangle for bikes. Very Bad. It took me 2 hours to get out of that place, eventually spotting mountains in the distance. I knew that following the bottom of this range would get me to Heidelburg.

Eventually arriving at the bottom of this range I decided to keep going - over the mountains instead of skirting the bottom. Entered at Schrieshien and went up, up, up. Steeper and steeper, through lots of green forest. It was pure pain and it felt good! Only a 400m climb but it was the first decent climb this trip and the first proper downhill.
Heidelburg was impressive, with a big ol' castle up in the hills - though I am getting a little tired of these cobblestoned streets by now - but there were LOADS of tourists. Loads! No cheap accomodation here, so made my way further down the river, and somehow - through a town, into a village, round a corner, down a hill, under a bridge, up a beanstalk - somehow, I found a room, just as it started to rain.
Distance: 80km (to Neckardgemund, or something like that..)

24 Apr, Sun:   A disappointing "set" breakfast, with no as-much-as-you-can-eat muesli, meant that I couldn't use my usual "camel technique" to stock up on energy for the day. Followed the river Neckar - nice paths and cute villages. Very beautiful around here. Found an interesting off-road track under boughs of trees that skirted the river, which was very scenic. But after an hour it suddenly turned into a dirty muddy rutted track that I had no chance of negotiating with my tanker of a bike. The only alternative was a steep, lonely path winding up into the mountains, where the only sounds were birds - including lots of cuckoos. It took a painful hour to climb, and when I came down the other side I found myself a mere 2km further down the river. It was then that I noticed there had been a bridge... I was fuming, fuming.
After briefly considering staying in a dreary looking place called Diesdesheim for the night - the fact that the centre of the town for drinks & entertainment seemed to be a table in the petrol station kind of put me off - I moved onto Bad Wimpfen (don't you just love these names?!). Very quaint - cobblestones (oh not again!), wonky buildings... and chucking it down with rain.
Distance: 80km

25 Apr, Mon:   Not the best of sleep last night - the hotel was in the main square, as were also three churches, each with their own set of bells, timed to ring every half-hour, all day, all night.
It was raining, which meant that I had 30km of cycle path between here and Mockmul all to myself - some nice scenery with green hills, mist, winding rivers, etc. The rest of the day was pretty miserable as the rain got heavier and the bike-path led onto main roads. After passing Dorzbach, the heavens really opened up. Swam back to the town and found a nice farmhouse, run by a really friendly family. The wife was speaking to me about my trip, how 8 months alone is a long time. "For a woman", she said, "I think not a problem. She is patient. But for a man, Oh! It is a very long time without..". I mumbled something about the lovely meal and scuttled off to bed.
Distance: 70km (half in torrential downpour)

26 Apr, Tue:   Decided to go the "scenic route" to Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, today's chosen destination. This first went up to Bad Mergentheim, winding up and down through open countryside overlooking fields and forests. The recent rainfall made it look all the greener. Here, it joined the "Romantische Strasse", a route through Western Bavaria that links a series of picturesque towns and villages.
The cycling path variant of this is fantasically scenic, following rivers and streams across hills and farmland. Again, this is very up & down, mainly up, as Rothenburg stands at 426m. Despite the dark clouds massing overhead, this is such a pleasant route. The town of Rothenburg itself is enclosed by castle-walls, inside of which all roads are steep, twisting cobblestones, and all houses are kept in their medieval look - not just the exterior as the inside of these houses are also old dark wood and cosy softly lit nooks & crannies. At night, the flickering of candles and low lights can be seen behind windows.. quite enchanting.
I'd heard about the "Christmas Museum" which was meant to be a kind of Christmas wonderland, and was really looking forward to visiting it. I saw the twinkling christmas lights inside, big cuddly toys and cute little elves ... then I realised that a single bloke in his thirties going in there would look particularly sad, and disappointed, gave up on the idea. Went to the Torture museum instead.
Distance: 69km

27 Apr, Wed:   A quick wander around the castle walls - very impressive. A big white rat came up to me bold as brass from the nearby drain and just wouldn't leave me alone. I was afraid he'd run up my trouser leg so I had to get a move on.
A spur of the moment decision pointed me east, cross country, instead of continuing on the "Romantic Street" south. Right up to Ansbach there was a seperate bike lane most of the way going through farming villages - these places seems a little more "real" than the places along the previous routes, which are spruced up for the visiting tourists, I guess. After - surprizingly - navigating through Ansbach with no problem, continued cross-country, mainly on the roads, through Windsbach, Abenburg, Roth... it had been looking like it would rain all day and it finally did. After Ansbach the scenery had started to change from mainly open fields to forests of tall pines. There were some lovely roads passing through the arches of these tall trees, the serenity only momentarily disturbed by a bee flying up my sleeve and stinging me.
Staying the night in Hilpoltstein, another pretty town. This area is considerably less touristy than the previous few days, and the people more friendly and laid back.
Distance: 94km

28 Apr, Thu:   Days like this make it all worthwhile. Blue skies and I managed to set off before 9 o'clock. Followed the Main Donau Kanal - the Danube Canal - on a gravel path all the way through to Kelheim, taking most of the day. Really nice day, very relaxing, and NO GETTING LOST! It also avoided taking you into the towns, so I could really get into a rhythm. Carried on to Regensburg - a nice looking city - threaded my way through the centre effortlessly, and decided to carry on. Already done over a 100km so far today, but with such beautiful weather it seemed a shame not to make the most of it, so I pressed on.
While stopping for a break, a guy speeding by on a mountain bike slowed and came back. He lived 25km away, up in the mountains (the wrong direction!) and invited me to stay. After some hesitation on my part ("mountains" he said, "mountains"), I thought, why not! Lotta, his name was, and I stayed with his wonderful family up in the tiny Upper Wald village of Sussenbach - "Sweet Brook". A big ol' farmhouse, and a seperate wooden guesthouse for me! Really beautiful house. And the climb up to the village was out of this world! 20km on forest tracks, through deep forest, following sparkling streams and green pastures. Lotta - "ah, it's not bad" - had clearly been spoiled by seeing this kind of scenery every day, but for me it was amazing. I wouldn't have been at all surpised if Frodo Baggins himself were to step out onto the path.
Anyway, a great time. My thanks to Lotta and his wife & kids, and I really hope he can learn how to fix a puncture before his trip to the Alps...
Distance: 146km (120km off-road)

29 Apr, Fri:   A good night's rest and a solid breakfast made up for yesterday's exertions. Followed the embankment of the Danube all day, and unfortunately the weather had returned to it's overcast state (and a little rain). Eventually made it to Vilshofen, and considered pressing on to Passau, or even crossing the Austrian border... but saw an Indian restaurant when passing down the high street, so the decision was made for me.

One thing I have noticed over the week is that this is a very church-going area. The first sign you usually see on entering a town or village is a list of churches and the times of the services. There is also a propensity to put crucifixes everywhere - there was even a slightly disconcerting lifesize one by a picnic table on the Danube!
Distance: 121km

3 May, Tue:   IN VIENNA!
Well you'll be sorry to know that the last few days have been fantasic cycling - I've been feeling guilty that things can be this good. Blue skies, scorching temperatures, deserted campsites... wonderful. After getting through Passau - clean, beautiful buildings, pleasure boats lining the Danube, teaming with tourists - I finally entered Austria. Things soon started looking more "alpen", with steep hills enclosing the Danube and houses & little villages perched in the upper reaches. Very relaxed, pleasant cycling. After camping at Feldkirchen (a clear moonlit sky, and thousands of frogs croaking away in the next field), spent the next few days cycling to Vienna with a couple from Holland, Roleka and "You ain't much it you ain't Dutch" Harry. Despite their horror stories of ticks and other nasty bugs around the place ("pulled a big one out of my skin just the other night") they were great, and their insistance on regular beer stops has encouraged me make a few minor adjustments to my own cycling routine ...
All in all, a great little holiday (for that is what it felt like, at last!) and with the views of the Danube, vineyards and unbelievably quaint little villages, cool breezes, dandelions blowing in the wind... very nice.
Distance: 103km to Feldkirchen, 110km to Ypps, 98km to somewhere near Melk?, 58km to ... VIENNA!

...And now the cycle computer says 1967km. Seriously considering riding around in circles for a couple of hours to reach 2000km...

Return to top of page To next page