Wednesday, 22 August 2012

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.

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