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Category: Europe Cycling 2015

Holiday cycling in Europe – Dresden to Orpington

Monday 8 June – Beautiful ride to Melk

Monday 8 June – Beautiful ride to Melk

The stretch we did today – from Vienna to Melk is the most scenic so far along Eurovelo 6. We had an early start (trying to beat the heat) and it took about an hour to work our way out of the city proper (around 10km). We were going against the Monday morning traffic.

We saw the place where the Danube canal joins the Danube. Also lots of street art cycling along under bridges – ranging from crude graffiti to sophisticated graphics.

Once out of the big city, the entire route was along dedicated flat bike paths, making for easy riding. The trail was generally along the river bank, but periodically meandered through small villages.


There were hundreds of other cyclists. More than half are older then us and a lot look well to do. The Austrians have clearly put a lot of effort into the cycling infrastructure and it is paying off in attracting many tourists. Most seem to be German, but we also came across some British and American people.

There were many signs along the cycle route offering accommodation and some cafe’s geared to attracting cyclists – we stopped for an ice cream at this one and also re-filled our water bottles at a tap they provided.


Tulln was one of the most attractive towns we rode past, with bright gardens along the river bank. It used to be the site of a Roman fort.


We crossed the Danube from south to north bank at Altenworth, where there is a water turbine power station.


The ride from here to Krems is directly along the river bank. We had thought that Krems may be a good place to stay. It was still early, and some of the areas we traveled through were industrial, so we had lunch from a supermarket bakery and carried on.

Kris decided we should cross to the southern bank of the Danube at Krems, as would be more scenic (there were fewer cyclists on the northern side). We got directions on how to get across from a little man passing on an electric bike. He ended up riding ahead of us to show us how to get across the bridge. He was very helpful, evidently just cruising around on his new bicycle. He told us that the castle up on the hill is at least 900 years old.



The flat riverbanks began to give way to hills, dotted with vineyards and incredibly beautiful little towns every now and then. We considered stopping at one with a camping site and a castle on the opposite bank but decided to go on to find place with a better shop.


This is such a scenic stretch of the Danube that there were a number of flat bottomed tourist boats going up and down between Melk and Krems.


In the end we went all the way to Melk (a 125km ride, our longest day so far).

Melk is very lovely, with a huge monastery up on the hill overlooking the town (it evidently has a library with 85,000 books).



The old town has a lively pedestrian area with cafes. The town is clearly doing well from cycle tourists – there was a bit of a rush of cyclists to get reasonably priced accommodation (two pushy women that arrived with their husbands at the tourist center after us, managed to get to the pension before us, luckily there were enough beds). Our room has a view of the monastery (if you lean out of the window and look through the hotel sign!).

view  viewnight

The layout of the pension has obviously evolved over time. We had a bathroom on the other side of the pension corridor and the pension was obviously old as the outer walls were half a meter thick.

The pension has a large cellar (maybe an old wine cellar) with about 20 bikes parked in it.


We had our supper from the nearby supermarket – the quality of the food in Austria is excellent – we had freshly baked bread, cheese and ready made salads. Later on we had a beer sitting outside a cafe (it was still 26 degrees Celsius at around 8pm). We could identify the people walking past who had also done a long bike ride through their mincing walk and browned forearms.

Tuesday 9 June – a cooler ride to Linz

Tuesday 9 June – a cooler ride to Linz

It was a relief to wake up to a cool overcast morning. There was actually a very light misty rain as we left – but not enough to drench us. For a while we just cycled ahead of a dark rain cloud. The weather gave the river a moody magical look to it – you could imagine mythical Danube creatures lurking just under the water.

The first 25km or so of our journey was along the southern bank. There were stunning views of the towns on the other bank.

river1   river2

We crossed the river at another power generating station (at Ybbs – Persenbeug) – according to the info sign, this is the oldest surviving hydro generator in Austria.


The weather cleared mid-morning but unfortunately a little head wind also came up, meaning that some stretches required a bit more effort.

The river began to narrow as we approached the towns of St Nikola and Grein, with steep slopes on either side.

stnicola    grein



After Grein the path took us away from the river again and through some fields. There were information signs about the work that had been done to contain the town from flooding as it was flooded in 2002. The vulnerable part of the village is shielded by a 7km wall and the main roads going through the wall have a metal frame that be closed when the water rises. The town wall protects the villagers from floods and not from barbarian hordes. We had to cycle up over some of the walls.


Parts of the cycle path were right up against the river, just about at the same level as the water. We noticed that houses we passed by were mostly built on stilts, so obviously the area is prone to flooding.

The route took us up and through town areas after Mauthausen, with a few little hills (had almost forgotten what hills are). Eventually we were alongside the river for the last stretch to Linz. There is quite a bit of quarying and other industry on the opposite river bank as you approach Linz (at around Steyregg) – not very pretty after all the beauty of the rest of the ride. The last stretch to Linz was a push, with head wind and at the end of a long ride (105km in all). When we got to the tourist information we were told that accommodation is in short supply due to a convention and the tourist season. However we were able to secure one night in the youth hostel (we wanted two). When we arrived here they told us that two nights were now available – so we can have our planned rest day.

Wednesday 10 June – Rest day in Linz

Wednesday 10 June – Rest day in Linz

Good to have a rest day today – leisurely breakfast and meandering around the city. Catching up on the blog in the afternoon. Planning for our upcoming route.

linz1           linz4


Linz         linz7    linz6        linz8


linz3    linz5




My hands were getting progressively more painful from clutching the bike handlebars – so we bought some beautiful new grips at a large sports store. Kris had cracked one of his pedals (too much standing pedaling up hills), so new pedals as well.





Thursday 11 June – Schlogener Schlinge

Thursday 11 June – Schlogener Schlinge

We started our day with an interesting discussion with other cycle tourists at the youth hostel breakfast. One was a German psychiatrist from Cologne and the other, from Berne in Switzerland, was on an open ended tour – going to Istanbul, then maybe further.

It was a cooler day again today, slightly overcast, so perfect conditions. Even so, we saw another snake warming itself on the cycle path – this one a little smaller then previously.

We started out on the north bank of the river and the ride out from Linz to Ottensheim had long stretches with the road into town between the cycle path and the river. We are becoming spoilt, so even though this is an excellent cycle path and totally separated from the traffic, our enjoyment really started when the cycle path went directly onto the river at around Ottensheim.


We back-tracked a little to cross to the south bank at the Ottensheim Wilhering power generator so that we could visit Erferding. This is because I read in the tourist brochure that “its’ main square is counted as one of the most beautiful in Upper Austria, as the houses haven’t really been altered since the middle ages”.

Anyway, we followed a detour off the river to visit this town, which was a big disappointment, seeming to be nothing special compared to all the other towns we are seeing.


We lost the cycle path trying to hunt fantastic old towns, and did a detour through some of the outskirts of the town and industrial areas before finally getting back to the river. We did find a nice cheap kebab shop though. There was a drive through cigarette shop right next to the kebab shop – the first time we have seen such a thing (photo below). This probably added about 20km to the day – so no more tourist brochure detours from now on!


The following town, Aschach, was even prettier, just from the river bank. We stopped for a quick ice cream.


Next up were some bends in the river, called the Schlogener Schlinge, most of it part of a nature reserve. The river narrows and the sides steepen. It does a full S bend at one point. You ride along a bike path with the river on one side and a forest on the other for most of the time. The banks are at more than a 45 degree inclination at various points. There are cycle paths on both sides of the river. There are also castles visible every now and then up on the top banks and one or two small towns, such as Inzel. The whole section lasts about 20km. It was getting hotter at this point and there were lots of flying insects in the air too.

castle   bends1


bends2   bends3

bends4  bends5

There is a camp site, hotel and yacht basin at Schlogen at the end of the bends.

bends6  danube1


There is a bit of a hill climb just after Schlogen (we were on the wrong bank as it seemed flat on the other side) – up and down about three times until Wesenufer, where we crossed to the north bank along another power generator. A huge barge was going into the lock of the generator as we were crossing.

We stayed on the north bank until Engelhartszell – passing through a few small towns which seemed pretty dead. We wanted to stay at Engelhartszell so we crossed to the town on the south bank using a pedestrian/bicycle ferry. We had to ring a bell to summon it to our side of the river. It took us and another cycling couple over.

town         ferry3

ferry1         ferry2


The tourist information office was closed but there were brochures available outside outlining accommodation in town. The first place we tried was about 100m away and directly on the river. It is in a 400 year old house, with thick walls and a very friendly proprietress. Also good value. Only downside is no wifi, but we decided we could live without it for the evening. The house used to be a farrier shop, which shod the horses that pulled barges along the river. There is a museum in the house with a forge that is hundred’s of years old.


We had a picnic on the river and enjoyed looking at the tourist and commercial ships go by.


We then had some special beer from the nearby Trappist monastery. The monastery is struggling, but its beer is famous. It contains honey as well as hops and malt and is beautiful – kind of like drinking a liqueur. Obviously a change of the corporate mission statement is required.

monestary     trappistbeer

Friday 12 June – a long hot day in Germany

Friday 12 June – a long hot day in Germany

Today was another heatwave – and we rode far too long looking for accommodation – We ended up doing 95km.

We had a good start to the day with a conversation with the husband of our inn-keeper. He works on the river enforcing regulations (like a traffic policeman). We learnt that the maximum draught on the river boats is 3m, although they can sometimes exceed this when loaded. The locks were built to only take draughts of up to 4m. The larger passenger boats are over 100m in length. They can still turn around on the river as it is wide enough.

boat               boat2 boat3             anotherboat

More than 100 metric tons of water flows by every second.

On parts of the river there are no specific rules for the side of the river boats need to keep to on. On other stretches they have to keep to the left.

We crossed over to Germany from Austria at the Jochenstein hydroelectric power station and locks. The border is in the middle of the river. Kris had to push the bikes up 90 steps to get to the other side (My bike is too heavy for me too push up the steps). Those steps probably help to keep the passenger and bike ferry at Engelhartszell in business.

germanborder       boatinlock

There is an education centre directly on the German side of the river, and a lot of children and their teachers were very involved in outdoor education programmes.

The next big town of Obernzell was very neat with paintings on many buildings and a lederhosen factory on the outskirts, reminding us that we are in Bavaria.

Another 20km along the river and we reached Passau. The city looks wonderful as it appears around the bend in the river with it’s various onion sharped turrets. Then you see a castle up on the hill to the right, with walls built along the cliffs. We entered the city via a bridge.

mermaid             passau

We obtained a basic map for the Eurovelo 6 route beyond Passau at the tourist information office, had a quick ride through the old town and an ice cream. We headed back onto the northern bank of the Danube by passing over the power station just beyond the city – this one had no steps.


Our next stop was Vilshofen, where we crossed to the south bank of the Danube over the bridge into town. The Vils river joins the Danube here, so the Danube is slightly smaller up stream.


We considered stopping here, but decided it was too early as it was only 1.30pm. This may have been a mistake. We decided to do another 20km to Osterhofen, the next big town. When we arrived at Osterhofen we found that the tourist information had closed at 12. It was unbearably hot standing in the town square trying to make sense of the information boards. There were signs indicating that some town celebration was happening over the weekend. Kris asked at one of the Pensions on the square and they were full. He was referred to another a few doors down, and it really didnt look that flash. I thought this would surely be reasonably priced, being in a small town and all. But they wanted to charge 90EUR – more than we paid anywhere else including Vienna and Budapest! So we decided to ride on.

We stopped and spoke to a man on the street who said that Moos was a good town, with a brewery where you can stay. We stopped at Moos – unfortunately the brewery was all closed up (with no sign that you can stay there), however the town had lovely gasthauses. We stopped at a promising looking one, but they had become only a restaurant with no rooms! It seems there were no rooms in the town. The proprietor was apologetic and even filled Kris’s water bottle up with soda water.

So we rode onto Plattling, another 10km in the heat – although it was already beginning to ease by now. At Plattling we got some help from the library (referred there as tourist info was closed) – they gave us the names of a few hotels that seemed affordable. When we got there the first one was expensive and didn’t have internet. We went with the second, which was also expensive but at least had wi-fi. So we felt we were overpaying for a very ordinary accommodation in the end – and we were exhausted.

We cheered ourselves up with some delicious food from an excellent supermarket. European supermarkets are like heaven when you have been riding the whole day in the heat – they are cool and full of great food – hovering near the fridges is a cheap treat. We had a picnic and then a couple of beer’s at outdoor cafe on the town’s main street.



Saturday 13 June – beer with the inn keeper

Saturday 13 June – beer with the inn keeper

Today we set off wanting to do a shorter route – which we achieved at 70km. The weather was also a bit cooler than yesterday with some cloud cover and a breeze in the afternoon.

It was a bit of a navigational mission to get out of Plattling, across motorways and back on the Danube. This all went according to plan and we were back on the river, on the north bank, after about 20km. From here it was reasonably easy going. The route varied from easy tar sealed bike routes to compacted earth on stop banks.

town   solarpower

We stopped for ice cream from the supermarket at the town of Bogen (should be the sister city to Lower Hutt?).


We decided to start looking for accommodation earlier today – and we first stopped at Kirchroth – which advertised some rooms from the cycle path. When we got there it was pretty dead. The advertised gasthaus had a sign on the door saying they were on holiday. The gasthaus opposite looked good, but no one responded when we knocked. So we rode on.

A few km further we passed a sign that said radler hotel. We wondered whether there were any shops nearby, but Kris decided to stop and ask the proprietor. We learnt that the nearest shop was 3km, but that they could provide beer and wine and bread and cheese, so we we stopped.

pension2      pension3


pension1      supper

This has proved to be a very relaxing place to spend an afternoon/ evening. We have our own little house and porch next to the big house. The owner is retired but building a swimming pool out back. He came and had a beer and chat with us. He used to be a German traffic policeman. He showed us this photo of the fish his son caught in the Danube near Regensburg. It was 2m long and 100kg. The fish was released live back into the river after the photo was taken.



Things cycle tourers rarely discuss

Things cycle tourers rarely discuss

Cyclists need to rinse or wash their clothes every night and always look at how an accommodation can be used to wash and dry clothes (washbasin, plug, hangers). You can hang your wet stuff in the shower or in various other spots (we have been forced to hang them on the bicycles).

Things balance out. When it is hot, the breeze from the front will help to keep you cooler. When it rains the heat your body creates from the exercise will warm you up. You inevitably develop sore spots. Some of these may be a sore wrist, sore aching muscles and saddle sores. On the flip-side your body also adapts and become more effective each day.

Food tastes better when your body really needs it. Many cyclists drink beer. Beer provides carbohydrates and alcohol and liquid. Beer is a triple whammy that makes your body purr after you have done a days cycling.

You need fewer belongings and simple stuff become more valuable, like rope and tape. You depend on your bicycle, so the state of your bicycle becomes important. This is common to all cyclists, so it is very normal for inn-keepers to initiate the first interaction by saying they have a place where you can lock your bicycle. Conversely it is reassuring that you can replace your whole bike for a few hundred dollars if you need to (for the cost of renting a car for a week or two). It seems like the hotel community is keen on cyclists. Cyclists leave early and they drink a lot of beer. They will also eat almost any food after a ride.

You become adaptable. If you travel by bicycle and you are finding your own way and accommodation, days can be a little chaotic at times. Random things happen. A kid in a very small village threw stones at us. We used water bottles to store left-over red wine. A sip of wine is useful to improve the mood when you a close to your destination but you are struggling. Bicycles and equipment break. The towns where you planned to stay may not have suitable accommodation. The people you stay at or road users may behave in an unexpected manner. Your main source of locomotion is your body, which may have an injury or feel off. Some days you will get lost while you are trying to find accommodation. You learn that life is not on rails. Your stable job and the next five years of your planned life is a chimera.

When you cycle tour every day you start dreaming regularly at night. I discussed this phenomenon with a fellow cycling psychiatrist. He reckoned it is because the brain has received many inputs during the day which it has not had a chance to process, There are decisions about routes, interactions with other road users and glimpses of interesting surroundings. Cyclists think about their bicycle, bodies, and contemplative thoughts on a straight stretches. Your mind tries to catch up with the processing by staging varied dreams

Sunday 14 June – Sunday ride

Sunday 14 June – Sunday ride

This morning we worked our way to Regensburg, along bike paths. At the start we were riding through lots of cornfields, also wheat. A lot of the bike paths are bike and walking paths between villages.

There were lots of people out on bicycles or walking, particularly around Regensburg, being a Sunday. Also lots of people fishing on the river. 


We continued on the north bank after Regensburg, but found that the path petered out. We decided to backtrack and crossed at a railway bridge (that caters to cyclists). From here there was a smooth run with hundreds of bicycles and walkers.

riverpath      BadAlbach


We stopped at the small town of Bad Albach – and discovered that supermarket are closed for the whole day on Sunday in Germany. So we had an ice cream at a shop in the old city, which was so exceptional that we had two. As we stood there eating our ice creams lots of people came to that shop – it is obviously the place to eat ice creams!

We continued along the Danube to Kelheim.

Kelheim2      Kelheim1

This is a nice old town but we found the hotels expensive, so we rode across the river and a bit out of town until we found a cheaper place – Pension Carl Bauer. Two other touring cyclist couples arrived just after us. The place may be more affordable, but it is also very good, with big rooms including kitchenette and attractive gardens (would recommend). Here is a photo of all the touring bikes in the bike shed.


In the evening we had a beer at a posh brewery beer garden in the city.


Then we went to a more casual beer garden just a few hundred meters from our pension, alongside the Danube. We had some traditional beer garden food – including bratwurst and sauerkraut.


Monday 15 June – an unexpected detour

Monday 15 June – an unexpected detour

We woke up this morning to rain and our hearts sank. We needn’t have worried as it had almost stopped by the time we left. We were also cheered by an exceptional breakfast at Pension Carl Bauer, Kelheim – we loved it that our hostess was wearing a Bavarian dress.

We tried leaving town this morning on the south of the Danube, which appears to be the standard route from the maps. However we were foiled by roadworks and ended up going back over the bridge to the northern bank. We found ourselves in a nature reserve with the Danube on one side and forest on the other. The river looked very misty and moody due to the rain, and the path was muddy. In fact we were riding through puddles that covered the entire path for some of the route, getting the bicycles, breaks and our shoes all dirty. The river is much narrower here and it has cut big vertical drops into some of the rocks along its banks.

reserve1    reserve2


This was a wonderful ride for a few kms until we reached a dead end!


So we had to back track to a turn-off, to the Kloster Weltenburg, that we had passed. A tourist passenger boat came down the river while we backtracked.

The turnoff took us up a steep gravel road through a forest and we pushed our bikes for part of the way. Every time we stopped, swarms of aggressive blood sucking mozzies alighted on our arms and legs, so we had to keep moving. Eventually we had a nice downhill run and found the Kloster, standing alongside cliffs on the other side of the river. There were a lot of people (presumably tourists) milling around outside.


We continued around the bend in the river to the little town of Stausacker, where a ferry was waiting. We decided to cross. The ferry did not require power, as it was moved across the river by facing the ferry in the direction using the current to push the boat along. The boat is prevented from going downstream by a pulley on cable running across the river.

ferry2               ferry1

ferry3              ferry4

From here the route took us away from the river a bit and through farmlands and small towns. We saw strawberries and hops growing. We went through Bad Gogging to Neustadt. We met up with another cycling couple who had stayed at the same Pension – they are a German couple and have been to NZ on a 9 week tour. He rides an electric assist bicycle because he is 80 years old. They invited us to stay when we are at the Bodensee.

We bought some pastries and ice cream at the Neustadt supermarket, crossed the Danube and carried on to Ingolstadt.

We cycled into the old town centre of Ingolstadt, which looked very nice, with lots of cafes. However when we got to the tourist information she said that there is no accommodation during the week. What there is, is very expensive at over EUR100. This is because the Audi factory and its workers are taking up accommodation. She advised us to either stay in the camping park or ride onto a smaller town. It was just starting to drizzle again so we decided to carry on. We bought some food at a supermarket on the outskirts and found a pension soon after. The pension is only about 5km from the city, and still not cheap. However neither of us were in a mood to spend more time riding around – our day was a manageable 73km, which seemed about an ideal length to us.

Tuesday 16 June – we walked into a Bavarian bar…

Tuesday 16 June – we walked into a Bavarian bar…

Our route from Ingolstad to Donauworth started on the southern side of the Danube. We notice that the Danube is not quite as big as it was at the start of our journey, though it is still a sizeable river.


We crossed over to the northern side just before scenic Neuburg.


The route took us a bit away from the Danube and through many little villages.


We ate some cherries off a tree on the side of the road at one of the villages.

When we reached Danuaworth, we found a lovely friendly town with a helpful tourist info (in contrast to the previous day). We arrived early (the ride was only 66km) and they quickly identified a reasonably priced “privat zimmer” for our accommodation. Also some detailed information about the town in English.

We spent some time exploring the town, which was one of the first centres of the Knights of the Teutonic Order, founded in 1197. Most of the buildings along the towns “showcase” road – the Reichsstrasse, were rebuilt after being bombed in 1945 – Donauworth being one of the worst hit towns in Bavaria.

donauworth4                        donauworth3

donauworth2     donauworth1


On our wanderings we noticed a small “beer bar” near our zimmer and decided to return in the evening after we had eaten, which we did.

When we entered, it was obviously all locals who knew each other in the bar (about six of them). Two men sitting at the bar immediately made space for us and invited us to sit down. Then we began to discuss the types of beer on tap. They declareod that beer is classified as a food in Bavaria. One was an Englishman who had been living in Germany for 15 years, so it was nice for me to talk English with him. He had a sweet little dog called Max (a Daschund Fox Terrier cross) sitting under his seat. He used to work with the other guy, at the nearby Airbus helicopter factory but is now retired. The other guy was also very friendly and could speak a bit of English too.

The barmaid was welcoming, giving us different beers to taste and bringing some (free) Jagermeister chasers out at one stage. It was a night to remember, thank goodness the zimmer was only a few hundred meters away and we didn’t have to ride back on bicycles. We did not have an early start the next day.