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.