Danube River Tour - Weeks 2/3

Here are some brief notes from the road sent back by Joanne.

…continued from last week.

Day 9 - Budapest to Esztergom 50km + boat cruise.

We started the day with a 25km group ride from Budapest to Szentendre with Kornel. Coffee break and then a two hour cruise to Visegrád along a very quiet stretch of river. Most had lunch in Visegrád (goulash soup being the order of the day) before cycling the last 25kms into Esztergom (and a head wind unfortunately). A very easy day all in all. In the afternoon we had a group tour of Esztergom Castle. Very pretty town, popular with families holidaying from Budapest.

Day 10 - Esztergom to Gyor 97kms

Today was a tough day. Usually on a long tour like this there are a few challenging days when things don’t go your way. It was mainly that the roads weren’t as good as expected which made the going tough but other things just didn’t fall into place either. The town was pretty I guess, and we had dinner on a moored boat - but I’ll be accepting this day as a challenge and moving on!

Day 11 - Gyor to Bratislava 73kms

We were expecting a few showers today so we set off with the appropriate rain gear and it turned out we needed it. Still, it’s not so bad riding in rain when it’s not cold. A nice pizza at lunch and an extra coffee while the heaviest of the rain passed kept us going until we got to Bratislava for our one and only night in Slovakia. We had the afternoon and evening to ourselves and some of us had dinner at the Slovakia Pub as recommended. The traditional soups and dumplings were sensational, great recommendation! Lesson learned today: always carry passport in its plastic sleeve when riding in the rain, getting back in to Australia may be a problem ☹️

Day 12 - Bratislava to Vienna 73kms

A little more rain forecast today and again the prediction was right. There was some lovely cycling along the Danube and through a national park known for its nudists, but it was a little chilly and wet for any nudist sightings. The quality of the roads improved dramatically after we entered Austria. No passports required today as we were entering an EU country. Morning coffee was at the impressive Eckartsau Castle. Some improvisation was needed by Andrea the route marker (or chalkie) for the day as some of our bike path was under construction. This added 5kms to our day but that’s the adventure of Expeditions and at least we didn’t have to figure out a detour ourselves. We entered Vienna via a spiral path to a bridge and then cycled through Prater Park along its amazing vehicle-free promenade as wide as a 3 lane street. Dinner to celebrate the end of Stage 1 of our tour was at a very fancy local restaurant. We also said our goodbyes to Kornel our Hungarian guide who was leaving us early the following morning.

Day 13 - first Vienna rest day

We started the morning with a guided walk of the city from local guide Ulli who introduced us to the history of Vienna from the Celts and Romans through to modern times. We had the afternoon to ourselves and Richard and I visited the Roman Museum which is underground and has preserved ruins under the centre of town. Street level is around 3 metres higher than it originally was due to ruins of various civilisations being leveled and built on top of.

Day 14 - second rest day in Vienna

For the first time, we are having a second rest day between the first and second stage of our Expedition. We all had the day completely free to do our own thing. Everyone got out and about exploring places like the Hofburg Castle, gardens, the very interesting public housing project that is Hundertwasserhaus, St Stephens Cathedral and the many opportunities for shopping and eating.

We’re all now refreshed, laundered and ready to start stage 2 with our three newcomers joining us and two new tour leaders in Justin and Anje.

Day 15 - Vienna to Dürnstein 93kms

What a beautiful ride day! The Danube was our constant companion today as we rode through gorgeous Austrian villages on fantastic bike paths. Everyone agreed this was the best 90kms we’ve ridden so far. Our destination of Dürnstein is an extremely pretty town of cobbled streets and is the epitome of old world charm. Some of the group hiked up the hill to the ruins of the 12th century castle where Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner in 1192. It was a lot of stairs for weary cyclists but well worth the effort. Our hotel was in a converted convent and was filled with interesting relics.

Day 16 - Dürnstein to Bad Kreuzen 91kms

Another gorgeous day spent beside the river. The bike path that we are predominately cycling on is hugely popular and we are seeing all sorts of people using it, from day trippers coming off the cruise boats to whole families holidaying on bike carrying all their gear in panniers (even the kids carrying their own gear).

With our two new guides on board tour leader Andrea was able to ride with us for the first time which made for a very happy tour leader! Our route today took us to an impressive abbey in Melk, an interesting bike museum in Ybbs and finished with a 5km climb to our destination of Bad Kreuzen (bad meaning bath or spa) where we stayed in a lovely hotel with a wellness spa. The view from our perch on top of the hill was quite stunning.

Day 17 - Bad Kreuzen to Linz 68kms

A shorter ride today (with a couple of short climbs) and a more sombre day as we paid a visit to the former concentration camp at Mauthausen. It was very moving to see the history there and the memorials that family members have placed in the museum, pray it not be repeated.

Our stop for the night was Linz, a city of over 200,000 people. We had the afternoon and evening to explore by ourselves as there was no group dinner. We happened to be in Linz at the same time as Pflasterspektakel (street performers festival) so there was no shortage of acts of every type to check out.

to be concluded…