Thursday, 23 August 2012

28. Waltzing around Vienna- worst pun yet.

Vienna is a fantastic city. There is a great deal to see but all the locations are within walking distance of each other and in the walk from place to place you are always coming across new sights and places of interest.

The abiding feeling that I get from Vienna is that it was the centre of an empire and therefore the buildings and whole layout of the place is designed to impress- and it does.

My sister Caz, describes it as the city with the three 'C's'- coffee, culture, and cakes. This seems pretty accurate to me.

After meeting at the airport and making our way back to the hotel we decided that we would have a meal and a bit of city exploring, then go as a group on the Monday and go our own ways on Tuesday.

The Gods must have finally been smiling on us because these proved to be the best two days for weeks and we were able to explore the city in warmth and sunshine.

I thought that a few photos and one or two comments would give a flavour of our short Viennese break.

 First evening in the hotel- showing our route to Anthea and Hilary.

Champagne to toast the trip and the reunion.

Went for a big meal that evening- decided that we still needed carb loading. Mind you, it is nigh on impossible not to load on the carbohydrates in Vienna. I read in some guide book that it is described as ' the city of the knife and fork.'

Three views of St Stephen's Cathedral. We took a lift up to the roof hence the shot of the ornate tiling.

Three typical views of the museum section- everything is on the grand scale but it works and all blends in together.

Shame about the cars but this gives some idea of the scale of the place.

A typically modest statue.

After our extended tour of the high culture venues we then visited the large fun fair. The ferris wheel is iconic, so much so that when we got home we got a DVD of 'The Third Man.' In watching the film it is obvious how much reconstruction went on after the war. Post war Vienna really didn't look like a place one would like to visit.

The horses and carriages do give the place a certain atmosphere but I'm happy to leave it to others to pay the forty pounds or so for the ride.

We were determined to have our meals in typically turn of the century Viennese settings- this we achieved admirably.

And so, after two sunny days in Vienna we awoke on the Wednesday to rain. Anthea and Hilary took a taxi and all the luggage to the airport and we took the bikes by train.
Checking in bikes is not easy and it took the counter staff a good ten to fifteen minutes to do so- we could feel the weight of disapproval from the increasingly long queue behind us. Couldn't be helped. We then had to wheel the bikes to the other end of the airport and pack them into bike bags- not easy. However, all this was achieved and a good flight back took us to Gatwick where we wheeled the bikes onto the airport bus, loaded them onto the car and drove home.

After two very good days in Vienna was a fitting finale to a memorable journey

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

27. July 22nd - Vienna. Trains and bikes and planes.

We packed up for the final time. All the cyclist campers seemed to pack up at the same time so the site was a scene of quiet purposeful activity as people put their tents away, loaded up their bikes and so on. When all this was finished people started to talk to each other and find out about routes and destinations. One couple were on their way to the Black Sea- now there's an idea.

I felt slightly mean but I decided that my relationship with the tent  had broken down  irrevicably.  I had upheld my part of the bargain and not chosen to sleep in other tents [ except for sleeping in Bruce's tent for our night under the Rhine bridge], and the tent had managed to provide a spacious shelter, but letting the rain in had proved that I could not rely upon it to behave itself at nights.  I knew that we would not go out together again so I folded it up and left it in a corner of a foreign field. Sorry tent.

Had we been able to have a conversation I think that I could have justifiably said, ' It's not me, it's you.'

So, with a somewhat lighter bike the journey into Vienna started. We had only gone two miles or so when we came upon the 'Wien' sign. This wasn't the grand 'Welkommen to Wien' sign we had imagined but it was certainly worth a stop and a photo. There was a lot of swapping cameras so that we each had a Wein sign photo as a memento. We had also put our tee shirts on specially for the occasion.

We didn't break into a chorus of 'Wien will we meet again' , but we were tempted.

After a time the cycle path took us beside the Donau canal which skirts the old city. Unfortunately the cycle path is also set way below the road so the only view you get is that of the two banks of the river. This is the excuse I am offering for the fact that we cycled more miles than we had anticipated  and slowly realised something was wrong. This feeling was reinforced when we started to cycle through a fairly built up, industrial landscape and all the signs said ' Bratislava'. We had cycled through the city without realising it so turned around and resolved to go across the next bridge suitable for cycles so that we would be on the right side of the river.

Unfortunately by now it had started to pour down with rain so we spent a considerable time enaged in one of our constant behaviours of the last two and a half weeks- sheltering under bridges.

We eventually made it to the other side of the river and after stopping at the one open cafe- Vienna might be renown for its cafe culture but there is very little evidence of this early Sunday mornings- and having great difficulty in ordering just a simple cup of coffee, we found our way to our hotel.

Anthea had done us proud, the hotel was about five minutes walk from the old city, had large comfortable rooms and was a fitting and welcome destination after all our time on the road.

After locking the bikes up in the hotel garage, then reassuring them that, unlike the tent, we were not abandoning them, we made our way to our rooms. We then had the luxury of spreading our luggage around in a big space and  getting ourselves clean and tidy in comfortable surroundings.Suitably clean and refreshed we set off to meet Anthea and Hilary at the airport.

We thought we would go by train because that would show us where we needed to go and what we needed to do when taking the bikes to the airport later that week. This is when the beauty of our location really struck home because the hotel was less than ten minutes from the station.

While waiting for the train we realised we were near the  Pratter [ I think that's it ] Park, home of the Harry Lime ferris wheel and a host of other rides and amusements. We took photos of this and also of what I imagine to be one of the scariest rides in the world- you'll see what I mean from the photo below.

Bruce, Fred and I couldn't decide who was the third man.

Would rather do another 800 miles on the bike than go on this ride.

While we were waiting for the train Fred picked up a newspaper- the headline translates as 'Austria sinks under rain.'  We'd agree with that.

Tell us something we don't know.

After a vending machine had swallowed my last two euros and then told us that it was out of order we got on the train and took the half hour journet to the airport.

Anthea and Hilary were due in at 3.20 and we got there at about 3.10. The board told us that their flight had already landed and we only had to wait for a very short time before they came out of the arrival gate- a very welcome sight.

We had put on the Crazy Dreamers tee shirts again [ just in case they didn't recognise us], and Anthea had put on a tee shirt with a bike on it as recognition of our achievement, and also to make us smile- which it did.

Crazy Dreamers and two thirds of their spouses reunited.

That then was the end of that part of the trip, we'd got to Vienna in time, the travel arrangements [ organised by Anthea] had worked perfectly, and we were now ready for a few, non travelling days in Vienna. We also realised that while we were having a good, irresponsible, Mr Toad existence bowling along through Europe, Anthea, Hilary and Mary had been the ones who had been doing the work and they are the ones who really enabled us to take the trip. For that we are very, very, grateful.

Anthea had also had the small matter of retiring to deal with which could not have been easy on her own- particularly having to sort out my lost wallet problems on her last day. Thanks and sorry Ant in equal measures.

So, with greetings and a great deal of catching up and the sharing of news, we caught the train back to the hotel ready for our short Viennese break.

26. July 21st- Nearly there

The rain, which had started at about half past two the previous afternoon, continued all night and well into the morning. At about three in the morning I heard Fred plaintively call out, 'God, I wish it would stop,' my sentiments exactly.

The situation was not helped by the fact that my tent had, by now, given up all pretence of being waterproof, and every now and then I would get dripped on from the roof. I was also very aware that the water, running down the sides, was forming a puddle around me. I had taken the precaution of lining the inside with paper towels I had liberated but once they became soaked through the water began to seep into the rest of the tent. I was lucky in that my self inflating mattress just kept me high enough off the ground to prevent me from being soaked but by half past five I had had enough and went for a shower.

In the shower block I met a disconsolate German lad who had been sitting there since three o'clock because water had seeped up through his groundsheet and soaked his sleeping bag. His mattress had not been thick enough, unlike that of his companion who was still asleep in their tent.

After a time I was joined by Fred and Bruce and we set about the washing machine and tumble drier and spent a very companionable couple of hours doing the laundry, speaking to other campers and waiting for the rain to stop.

At about half nine the rain finally ceased and we packed up and went in to Tullin for a coffee and a pastry- the town had few of the charms displayed by the other towns along the Danube so we set off for the short ride to Klosterneuburg.

We were three miles out of Tullin when we stopped to record a memorable event- the eight hundred mile mark. Fortunately, and with great foresight, the Austrians had placed a bench on the very spot so we could prop our bikes up and record the moment for posterity.

Bruce was clever enough to work out the timer on his camera so all three of us could be in the photo. The aforementioned bench is acting as a camera stand.

These are included because they show the bench- if we had known it was there we would have taken a brass memorable plate or something.

 We made the eighteen miles to Klosterneuberg by two thirty. On the ride we had stopped and ridden onto a bridge over one of the huge locks on the Danube. These locks impress both by sheer size and as feats of engineering.

Having got to our last site on the trip we were pleased to find that it had excellent facilities and was only about eight miles out of Vienna.

Arriving at such an early time gave us the chance to do the tourist thing and actually walk around the town. As in lots of the locations along the Danube and Rhine, the town was dominated by a huge abbey that had been added to over the centuries. Therefore there was a strange and not entirely harmonious blending of the Roman [ some of the walls], the medieval, and the 18th and 19th century imperial styles.

After wandering the town for quite some time we sheltered from the rain in a bar and went back to the campsite prior to going to the town once more for a meal.

We selected a small pizza cafe run  by an Asian gentleman and his family. We ordered pasta and were treated to an excellent meal, freshly cooked, and with a perfect creamy sauce. The ironic thing about this is that it was the sort of place where normally you wouldn't contemplate going for a meal and yet the friendliness, the freshly cooked food and the price all made this meal memorable. This was a lesson we had absorbed during the trip- don't be fooled by the outside look of a place- some of the best food we had was freshly cooked and prepared in very unprepossessing surroundings. That being said I still don't think we would be able to get Anthea, Hilary or Mary into some of the places where we ate.

Anyway, after yet another trip to a bar we returned to the campsite for our last night under canvas- or whatever tents are made from these days.

25. July 20th- Melk to Tullin- a memorable day.

July 20th  Melk to Tulln – memorable day

Dave has already set the scene for Melk  and its indifference to campers, even the Crazy Dreamers, but there was much more in store.

We were woken at 4.00am by shouts and a scream form a tent near us, occupied by a young Canadian couple and their very young child.  It appeared that the wife had been woken to see two intruders rifling through their possessions in the tent’s fly sheet.  We joined a couple of campers from nearby tents and we searched the length of the campsite with torches, but found no trace of the intruders.  The time this took, though, allowed the Canadian couple to regain their composure and for a sense of solidarity to develop between us all.

We all eventually went back to sleep and awoke under another leaden sky ready to explore Melk, which had many attractions as an historic town with examples of Baroque architecture.  We had brief conversations with the Canadian couple and the Rory, the English guy who had helped look for the intruders, and noticed a police car come on to the site and call in at one of the camper vans, no doubt to discuss the events of last night.

 It was at this point that Dave realised he couldn’t find his wallet.  Two fruitless searches of all his gear, and of the area near the table we had used in the restaurant last night [now occupied by the Canadians], as well as the environs of the campsite confirmed that the wallet was well and truly missing.  We had incredible trouble trying to contact a range of numbers in Britain, banks, card companies etc., and ended up with Hil, Fred’s wife being asked to contact Anthea, Dave’s wife, to contact him.

Once the cards had been cancelled, we set off for a late breakfast at the same restaurant which had proved to be the very opposite of a fast food outlet last night.  We had been told that we needed a crime number, and a phone call to the police station [where no-one spoke English] allowed Fred to use the word ‘Unterschied’, meaning ‘difference’ for the first time in decades.  The difference was between the wallet having been lost or stolen.  We went into Melk and found our way to the police station, where Fred’s limited German led to him announcing ‘My friend has stolen a wallet!’.  A brief correction from the policeman, and very vague memories of the passive voice cleared up the misunderstanding and we were pleased to learn that the wallet had been handed in by someone on the campsite – THAT’s why the police car was there! – minus cash but with cards.

Another coffee in a café where everyone gave us a respectable distance, quick photos of the wonderfully ornate, but garishly coloured abbey at Melk, packing of wet tents, and we were off at 12.30.  The going was good, although the weather was overcast, and we made good time, stopping at Mautern for a really good goulash soup, hot, spicy and delicious.

We set off again and spent part of the route riding through vineyards, apricot orchards, and picturesque villages way off the beaten track.  It was wonderful to be so close to such well-tended and productive areas and to be able to admire the neat, narrow roadways through the villages, with beautiful houses painted in a variety of bright colours.  Eventually we caught up with the rain we had been trying to avoid, getting the second most serious drenching of the trip, despite sheltering at a bus stop [which were also our friends] to let a heavy squall pass over.

We arrived, dripping, at Zwentendorf, the first of two possible campsites for today.  It was small and had no washing machines, which meant it failed one of the vital criteria, and we left for Tulln.  We continued through the rain with gritted teeth, but were rewarded with finding that the Tulln site was huge and had all the facilities a damp cyclist could wish for [washing machine, tumble dryer and restaurant].

We pitched damp tents in the rain and then sauntered over to the restaurant, looking forward to joining the obvious festive atmosphere that we could hear [live duo playing, laughter and conversation] and smell – the food, that is. 

We were turned away. Nothing to do with our dishevelled, wet-through appearance, rather the fact that all the tables were taken for the rest of the evening.  Out we trudged [cue mournful violin. . ] wet, tired, hungry, and clearly unloved, into the cold night air.  We set off in what we thought was the direction given by the jolly waitress who had shown us the door, and further confirmation from a passer-by led us to the yacht club, which was far more welcoming, and served good beer and food in prodigious amounts.  

When we and our stomachs decided it was time to leave, we discovered it had started to rain again, heavy, persistent and inescapable as we walked the quarter mile back to the camp as briskly as we could.  We scuttled into our tents as fast as we could, trying to keep the interior as dry as possible and then lay there listening to the rain hammering down on the tent for hours and hours and hours.

 The abbey of Melk – more colourful than the sky

Damp but undefeated

Who could have turned us away?

A few additional comments.......

Fred does himself a disservice- his ability with German made all the difference. Without him I think I would still be trying to make myself understood. That being said, one of my abiding memories of the trip will be the look on the policeman's face when Fred marched in and declared, ' My friend has stolen a wallet!'

I felt bad about the time it was all taking, that I had to contact and bother Ant on her very last day at school, and that I had been stupid enough to have lost the wallet in the first place. Basically this just cast a bit of a shadow over the day. What did make it better was that after whoever had found the wallet, extracted the money and dropped it again, it was found and handed in by a Herr Fink from Vienna. We did send him a postcard thanking him for his honesty.

Fred mentioned the rain. Just after we had eaten at about half past two we passed another huge building on top of a hill- I took a photo of it and you can see how the rain had begun to move in, it then stayed like that for the next eighteen to twenty hours.

The start of a very wet afternoon, evening, night and morning.

One thing Fred didn't mention was that there was a cycling party of about forty French schoolchildren at the campsite- we were extremely pleased to find a spot some distance away from them because, even at a distance, we could hear them way into the night.
There had been better days.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

24. July 19th- Cycling in the sunshine.

We had breakfast at the campsite and packed up in the sunshine- a rare and welcome luxury. An added bonus is that there were benches near the tents. It's surprising how much easier packing away is when there are benches around on which to spread ones stuff. - Just thought I'd put that in as a handy hint for all of you who are now inspired to go on a cycling/camping holiday.

We left the site at 9.20 and made good time in getting to the town of Grein- Bruce had to take his shirt off because he was a bit sweaty- hence the expression 'Grein and bare it.' all that is , of course a complete fiction because Bruce is far to cool to get all sweaty - although he did turn sharply into the cafe where we were having an ice cream and tripped over the small wall that he hadn't noticed.

                                               The view on coming into Grein.

   A few shots of Grein, a quintessentially pretty [ pretentious, moi?] Austrian town.

After admiring the architecture and buying new handlebar grips for my bike- the original ones had by now started to fray- we set of for Melk.

Despite his misadventure with the wall Bruce had had the foresight to talk to an elderly Austrian couple who advised us to take the ferry to the other side because the road was far less busy and was also shaded by trees. This proved to be very good advice and we enjoyed riding along our side of the Danube and watching all the cars on the main road which went along the opposite bank.

With it being a sunny day, having what wind there was on our backs, and not having to navigate through any traffic, we covered nearly fifty miles during the day and still got to the campsite at Melk by four o'clock.

The campsite proved to be a disappointment. It was over the road from the area where tourists got off the river cruisers and were then coached into Melk [ all of three quarters of a mile away]. The campsite belonged to the one bar by the river and it was obvious that their attention was on the tourist and not the camping trade.

After the handy tip about benches let me give you another essential camping tip. Unless it is absolutely unavoidable never camp at a site that has only one shower and one flush toilet. The single shower is exasperating but the single toilet is very, very, undesirable- I will say no more.

Due to finally accessing the aforementioned one shower, Bruce was not in his tent when a tremendous thunderstorm and very strong winds swept through the campsite. Fred and I were in our tents and were impressed that they didn't blow away because the winds were so strong and powerful. After all this had died down Bruce emerged from the shower completely oblivious to the dramatic weather.

We ate at the campsite bar, and, in fairness the food wasn't bad, but bars and restaurants where there are very few customers,  take your drinks order and then arrive with your drinks twenty minutes later should have their licenses revoked. Or at least suffer some form of punishment- like giving you your drinks for free perhaps?

Anyway, after forming an orderly queue for the one toilet we then bedded [ sleeping bagged?], down for the night. Probably the last person to use the facilities in not such a good and settled frame of mind as the other two. Again, I will say no more.

23. July 18th- Waltzing along the Danube.

July 18th

Apologies-had real trouble in cutting and pasting Fred's entry- when saved, his entry wouldn't open due to my aged and temperamental computer- therefore I had to go way beyond my skills to try to rescue what he had sent but the end result is that the photos and the captions are somewhat distant from each other- sorry Fred [ and, of course, to our army of readers].

We had eaten a restaurant meal and I for one slept well and felt that the sunshine which greeted us when we awoke was no less than we deserved.  However, the sun was weak and eventually lost out to the grey cloud which looked down on us as we set off.  A fine drizzle set in and became more persistent over the next hour and a half as we made our way to Aschach.

Our route took us along the Danube on a winding but level road under trees which offered effective shelter.  It was 16 miles to Aschach, but the fact that Dave’s rear tyre was worn through and needed replacing gave the journey an extra level of excitement.  We counted the miles down and found a small cycle shop on the outskirts of Aschach, which avoided a lengthy and confused search in the town itself.  The owner was a real craftsman and the tyre was replaced in no more than 20 minutes, which gave us chance to talk about the forthcoming Tom Jones concert advertised on the outside of the shop.

Ashach itself was on the bank of the Danube, and resembled a sea side resort.  We enjoyed a good breakfast and stocked up on fruit and breakfast bars before setting off again, this time for Linz.

The riding was good and we kept up a good pace, noticing that we had left the mountains behind.  The Danube had become broader and more like its muscular cousin the Rhine.  We stopped at Offensheim, intrigued by a view of its castle and the unique design of its ferry, and enjoyed a good salad nicoise lunch – a rarity.

By the time we set off again, the sun had come out and the afternoon became increasingly hot.  The Danube even began to look blue rather than the brown/grey we had become used to. We paused briefly at Linz, which had an Eastern European look and some impressive public sculptures on the opposite bank.  It was reminiscent of the industrial German towns we had passed through, and we rode past slag heaps on a long, long cycle path following the bank and used by lots of other cyclists and joggers.  It was not always easy going, with a headwind and long straights which ran the risk of sapping interest and enthusiasm – how joggers run straight, featureless paths for so long was a topic of more than one conversation.

However, we kept up the best pace yet and arrived at a busy and friendly campsite at Au in the late afternoon, putting the tents up on the sunshine for the first time in days.  We had time for laundry and a shower before eating – another first – and rigged up the Birkett/Saunders patented cycle washing line that has already featured in photos.

Offensheim – scene of a salad lunch

 - in trying to make things better I have now made things worse- no surprises there then. I attempted to move the photos around and put the captions nearer the photos but, as you can see, I have only succeeded in putting the same caption in twice and I can't get rid of the one below. I could argue that that is what gives this blog its own peculiar charm. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

22. July 17th- We become part of the Passau- Vienna crowd.

We thought that we might give ourselves a break and ride the mile or so into Passau and leave the tents and the panniers at the campsite. Unfortunately, it was raining in the morning so we  packed up as normal because there didn't seem any merit in adding to our mileage in the wet.

We packed up and cycled into Passau. The town was a lot busier than I remembered it from more than ten years ago - it must have been that long because it was pre euro when Anthea and I were there. The bulk of the population seemed to be made up of parties from the Danube river cruisers- this meant they milled about a lot but slowly and erratically. At the other end of the scale there were  countless parties of schoolchildren. They milled about quickly and were also noisy with it. We felt that the charm of the city had been rather trodden under by these two different hordes.

After pushing the bikes around the town for a time and inadvertently spending some time walking along the bank of the Inn, we were very good and settled town under and umbrella and wrote postcards for about half an hour solid. There was a fair degree of smug satisfaction emanating from our corner, although to the schoolchildren passing by [ noisily] it probably looked as if we were writing lines.

Obviously not from a river cruiser or a schoolchild.

Fred had been given the duty of taking pictures of Barney Bear throughout the trip. He was very conscientious about fulfilling this duty.

We had decided that we would not do very many miles because we wanted to get to a very picturesque campsite on the Schlogen Loop. This plan proved to be both fortunate and sensible  because we spent most of the day sheltering in bus shelters and in cafes waiting for the very heavy bouts of rain to subside. One unintended outcome of this was that we met and spoke to a number of people who were doing the Passau to Vienna route and were staying in hotels along the route- now where's the fun and challenge in that?

There was a very pleasant Dutch family and an English father and son along with others who stopped to shelter and remark upon the weather. As all of these people had just set out from Passau this was their first day of the trip. When they found out where we had cycled from and camped all the way they did tend to regard us with a degree of respect and looked upon us as hardened veterans. We did very little to dispel their image of us. In our defence I must say that we did nothing to deter their admiration but we did so with our natural  modesty and grace.   ahem.

Although we only cycled twenty nine miles I had found it very hard going and my bike didn't feel right. When we got near to the campsite and had to take a ferry to cross the river, I looked at my back wheel and found that it was completely bald. This probably accounted for the poor handling but it also made me nervous about doing any great distance because of the weight on that tyre. However, that was now a problem for the morning and we set up in a beautiful spot and treated ourselves to a meal in the on site restaurant. We had three courses and, as I had been longing for a fish dish since we entered meat laden Germany, I had zander, a river Danube fish. And very good it was too along with the bottle of wine we  also felt we deserved. Because it was raining and not particularly warm we opted to eat inside and therefore spent the next two hours indoors- the longest we had been inside since we left the ferry. All in all despite the weather and the small mileage we felt very content and civilised.

Take my word for it- the views were impressive.

Sunshine and warm weather would have helped but the campsite was a good place to be and it was an excellent spot with the river twisting around the folds in the mountains.

Although the weather had not been good the scenery was very impressive and it is obvious why this Passau, Vienna tour is so popular.

My Yul Brynner back tyre. Didn't fill me with confidence once I realised that instead of having a little tread, it had none.

21. July 16th. Passing through Passau

July 16th.    Passing through Passau

We awoke to a grey, cold overcast morning which threatened rain, but allowed us to break camp without getting wet.  We were encouraged enough to go into Deggensdorf for some exploration, and fund it quite an attractive town, although obviously not on the same scale as Regensburg.

We did find a rather exclusive café for breakfast and, after being shown away from the window table we chose without realising it had been booked, partook of Kaffee und Kuchen with as much refinement as we could muster.  Bruce, however, remained unconvinced about the choice of venue and, to be fair, we did see other, more reasonably priced cafes afterwards.  Anyway, it was a moment of luxury.

We sauntered up and down the town square and stocked up on some essentials before setting off towards Passau, some 50 miles distant.  There was one shower which forced us to shelter [yet again], but then the sun shone and we had an enjoyable ride with a good tail wind for most of the route.

The signs were generally good, but let us down in a little town called Peitling, where we need up doing a loop and arriving back at the place we had passed some 30 minutes before.  This was the only time we had such an experience, but it was enough.  We ended up riding 2-3 miles on a major A road, where the skill of the heavy goods vehicle drivers in avoiding us they overtook deserves an honourable mention.

Arriving in Passau was memorable and very peasant, although we had a couple of false starts, one of which included a very steep hill.  It was wonderful to see the barges and the tourist boats moored together, and the whole place, bathed on sunshine as it was, gave off an atmosphere of energy and the holiday spirit. 

It was Bruce who suggested we had a beer – a perfect idea for the time and place, already recorded in one of Dave’s photos.  The nice lady explained that we should go for the half litre rather than the full litre measure, and she was right.  It was a good drink, though, marking the end of a good ride that day and encouraging us to set off in completely the wrong direction for the campsite.

Coming back the mile or so down the hill proved, again, to be harder than going uphill – a phenomenon I still don’t understand - but we eventually arrived at our campsite for the evening, beautifully set on the bank of the Danube, and similar to the Canoe club we had stayed in at Regensburg.  There was a tumble dryer as well, and the option of food.  Choosing our food demonstrated just how difficult it can be when people speak different languages, but more importantly have different mind sets.  The lady just could not understand that we did not want a huge meal, just a snack, and we went over the same conversation at least eight times until we thought we had  explained clearly what we wanted.  The problem was trying to avoid giving offence by suggesting we didn’t like the food, and the more we tried to reassure her, the more she seemed to get the opposite impression.  It was the most frustrating, yet entertaining conversation we had in the whole trip, and the toasties that it led to were delicious.

Deggensdorf in the morning – another town, another tower.

                                                                    Another view

                                    We obviously took another ferry today – note the sunshine.

                                                               Passau from the riverside



                                                   Let’s see those beers again!

        Passau as it looks when you cycle purposefully and with conviction in the wrong direction.

One advantage of cycling past our intended destination was that we came upon the confluence [ it's that word again] of the Inn [ as in Innsbruck] and the Danube. You can just make out the different coloured waters of the two rivers.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

20. July 15th - Baroque [ Obama ]- ignore the bit in brackets, my - very - little joke.

We packed up fairly early and cycled the few miles into Regensburg. We had been impressed by the town the night before so decided to spend some time looking around.

There is a good feeling to a town just waking up of a Sunday morning. There are very few people around, there is an air of quiet calm and the whole atmosphere is conducive to wandering around at a leisurely pace- which we did. Also, because there is very little traffic early Sunday morning, it does give a feel to what towns must have looked like before the advent of the motor car.

I tried to be clever and put a link to  Regensburg website... but I failed. However, there are a number of websites about the town and they are well worth a visit, as, indeed, is the town itself.

After wandering around and taking in a number of the town squares and the medieval buildings we decided to stop for a coffee. Unusually, it was not raining so when we sat outside a very upmarket, elegant, hotel and ordered coffee we didn't do our usual trick of lowering the tone by sitting there dripping wet and drying clothing on the back of chairs. That's not to say we didn't lower the tone slightly but it made a change having an early morning coffee and pastry in a leisurely manner and not having to huddle under umbrellas.

After this civilised interlude we set off and hoped to get half of the way to Passau. As we were leaving the town a couple, he dressed as a medieval yeoman, and she dressed as as his female counterpart were walking over the bridge and leaving the town. Obviously the revels that we witnessed on the previous evening had lasted all night.

Various views of Regensburg- it is, unsurprisingly, one of the Unesco Heritage sites.

After doing our sightseeing bit we set off following the Danube and made good progress until it started raining heavily. As we were out in the countryside we sheltered under trees which offered some relief until the leaves started to shed water and we got comprehensively soaked- again.

Setting off between showers we headed for the town of Straubing. We nearly made it to the outskirts when the heavens opened again but luckily we just made it to a bridge and therefore avoided another soaking. By this time the sky was looking fairly evil but the rain relented for a short time which gave us just enough time to cycle as fast as we could into the town and found a restaurant.

This was a restaurant/ bar just outside the main part of the town and, following the advice of the owner we ordered goulash and had an excellent, and very substantial,  meal. The place had just been taken over by a young couple and they were insistent that we took their business card- we really didn't have the heart to tell them that we seriously doubted that we would be going that way again. However, if you want a good meal if you happen to pass through Straubing then I can recommend Zur schonen Aussicht- email -

There, I've done my bit to promote their establishment.

We then went through the town proper and a number of very attractive towns. The signposts for the route we were on proclaimed it to be the 'Route Baroque', and by the photos below you can probably see why.

Attractive and well preserved- the buildings, not us, unfortunately.

Having done just over sixty miles we ended up at a campsite just outside Deggendorf. This was next to the Rhine but was also next to a railway track and a construction site where they were obviously time limited and so worked all night. The site had a very thin layer of grass on top of a gritty, shale base. It is also where I had the salad comprising of 90% sliced sausage.

On the upside, it did have a washing machine and a tumble dryer and to compensate for the poor surroundings we had three beers and so had a good night's sleep.